born / New Jersey based guitarist Jim Yanda recorded his double
CD set, Home Road in 2014 although it didnt come
out till 2016. For fans of Jims excellent guitar skills Home
Road is time well spent. On the double CD set, recorded by Jim
Yanda Trio, Jim receives backing from his trio mates, Drew
Gress (bass) and Phil Haynes (drums). On Home Road,
not only does Yanda shine as an improvising jazz guitar instrumentalist
but the album also shines a light on his compositional skills. All
the tracks were composed by Yanda except for a trio cover of My
Ship, written by Kurt Weill to which Jim adds, "It's
a beautiful, poignant song that can be interpreted in myriad ways."
Asked about comparing his post-modern, mainstream jazz sound
with harder rocking fusion music, Jim tells mwe3.com, "I want
everything I play to swing, regardless of the context or style of
music. Its wonderfully hip and exhilarating to swing over straight
rhythms." Like a colorful scenic sonic journey spread over
two CDs, Home Road embraces a range of musical attributes to
which Jim adds,"I'm interested in deep-folk traditions, modern
classical music, new music, early American music, and world music.
Those are some of the sounds and styles I want to incorporate into
my playing." Not exactly fusion and not quite hard bop jazz
either, Home Road takes the jazz-based and modern guitar instrumental
genre into deep yet calm sonic waters. Also recent on CD from Jim
Yanda is a 2017 CD release of his trio album Regional Cooking,
recorded in 1987. Guitar fans into timeless, jazzy improvisations
will find much to like about Jim Yanda and Home Road. www.cornerstorejazz.com
presents an interview with
Can you tell us where youre from originally and where you live
now and what you like best about it? Can you compare growing up and
studying music in Iowa with moving to the tri-state area? Seems like
youve been in the NY/NJ area for over 25 years now. Does the
city still have the same magic and lure it did in the early 1980s
and what area do you like best in the NYC area?
Jim Yanda: I was raised in the small Midwestern farming community
of Anamosa, Iowa. It is incidentally, the home town of the famous
regionalist painter Grant Wood. I came to New York after college,
lived in Brooklyn for some years, then moved to New Jersey, where
life is a little more relaxed but still close to New York.
Its wonderful that nearly any sizable town now has some kind
of jazz scene, if only a handful of players, and so it was in Iowa
back in the 1970's and 80's. Jazz was clustered around the college
towns, Iowa City (U of I), Cedar Rapids (Coe), Cedar Falls (UNI),
and Des Moines (state capital). The better musicians were teaching
at the colleges, as university jazz programs had begun to flourish.
There were a few gigs, and you sometimes had to travel a good way
to hear someone great who was passing through. We used to car pool
to a club in Ames where I heard Jim Hall and John Scofield. It was
an incalculable measure of good fortune that the great trumpeter and
teacher Paul Smoker was on the faculty at Coe College where I somehow
got accepted into the music program. He changed my life completely
and I became thoroughly immersed in music because of him.
New York seemed almost like a different country to me. It is so hip
and vibrant, with abundant art and culture, and so many of the great
players are drawn there. There's so much fine music happening daily,
it is a paradise for a jazz lover. There were a lot of musicians in
my Brooklyn neighborhood and we were always having jam sessions. I
would go to the clubs and hear the greats and meet them and try to
get lessons from them. It was a fantastic experience and remains so
today. I'm still learning.
You started up your company Corner Store Jazz way back in the 1980s
in Brooklyn. Tell us about your idea behind starting Corner Store
Jazz and how does the label / web site operate these days? Are you
happy with the way the internet has changed music, both information
wise and sales wise and what do you feel could be done to improve
sales of CDs online and how about the impact of music streaming, mp3
and downloads and now the resurgence of vinyl?
Jim Yanda: Our record label, Corner Store Jazz, got its name
from the Brooklyn rehearsal studio/apartment I shared with drummer
Phil Haynes in the 1980's and 90's. It was literally a corner store
prior to our renting and converting it to an apartment with a performance
space. We added Corner Store to our address so the postman
would know where to deliver our mail.
Phil and I started CSJ as a way to get our music out on our terms
without having to relinquish musical control or rights to our recordings.
We record, produce, press, distribute, and stream our music. The main
portal is www.cornerstorejazz.com.
I manage the web site and shipping and handling and Phil handles most
of the production, editing, and promotion. The digital revolution
has completely transformed the music world, obviously, and I think
it's been very positive. As with any paradigm shift, there are pros
plus side is the nearly complete elimination of barriers to getting
one's music out into the world. It used to require significant money
and the commitment of a record label, who in turn expected to get
a return on their investment. Artists can now be in complete control
of the entire process for relatively little cost.
A downside is that since nearly anyone can do it, there is a flood
of music, so some form of curation is required to narrow down the
sheer volume of work that one can possibly have time to hear.
Another drawback in my opinion is that with the advent of MP3s and
file sharing, individual songs are often stripped of their album context.
A stand-alone song is fine, and there are even new listening experiences
possible by grouping disparate pieces together. But there is also
value in hearing the song in the context of its album. When we put
together a CD, we are trying to create a contiguous listening experience,
where the whole is as important as the individual pieces. There's
also the tactile experience of having the album or CD in your hand,
seeing the artwork and photos, reading the liner notes and so forth.
All of that is a cherished part of the listening experience for me
and I hope for our listeners as well.
Few would have imagined that LPs would make a comeback and I think
its great. Who knows how its all going to play out? Our approach
at CSJ is both and. We offer CDs. LPs, digital downloads,
and free streaming at our sites cornerstorejazz.com,
There hasn't been a lot of money in it so far. Our primary aim is
to document our work and make our music easily available to anyone
mwe3: You recorded your 2017 CD set, Home Road in 2014.
Why was there a wait till the album came out on CD and why did you
decide to release Home Road as a double CD set? Are there two
sides to your musical approach and did your other album Regional
Cookin come out the same time as Home Road? I read
in the Regional Cookin CD liner notes that you held back
releasing your music early on because you were apprehensive about
recording? So what else have you been doing for the past 30 years
and why did it take so long to come out with the albums?
Yanda: Sometimes after recording an album, it can be a good thing
to put it away for a while and come back to it later with fresh ears
and I did that with Home Road. Distance helps your objectivity.
Also, to be honest, Home Road required more editing than usual.
We record all of our records live in the studio, direct-to-master,
which I think is mandatory for jazz. No overdubbing. The spontaneity
and interplay among the players is what its all about. You like
to get complete takes if you can, but sometimes its a challenge.
When complete takes are few, more editing is required. For those reasons,
it took little longer for us get Home Road finished.
We made Home Road a two-CD set because we had enough music,
and more importantly, we believe, in most cases, two shorter disks
provide a more satisfying listening experience than one long CD.
Yes, its true that I am simultaneously releasing two CDs that
were recorded almost thirty years apart, with the same band. In 1987,
I was striving to incorporate classic jazz melodic language in my
playing. I was listening to Coltrane, Miles, Bird, Wes Montgomery,
and Pat Martino, and so on. It can take a long time and a lot of work
to be able to play that language. I didn't think Regional Cookin'
had enough of that. We shopped it around to a few labels, and didn't
get any takers, and I put it on the shelf.
After a lot of years, I listened to it again and realized that while
it may not be what I was aiming for at the time, it has all of the
important things a good jazz record needs: It swings, the players
are interacting, reaching, and stretching. It has a great sound and
feel. There are some very nice compositions and arrangements on it.
In a lot of ways, Regional Cookin', my first record, is the
best I've done. I realized it should be heard. So it happens that
I have these two records, done many years apart, coming out at the
same time. Its very gratifying, and I suppose a bit unusual. Through
all those intervening years, I've continued to practice, perform,
and record. Its funny but I'm still working to incorporate more of
that core jazz language into my playing. Mastering jazz is a never-ending
You recorded Home Road as well as your other recent CD release
Regional Cookin with Drew Gress on bass and Phil Haynes
on drums. What is the sonic chemistry like with those two players
and can you recall how and when you met them? You also have some other
recent projects ongoing with Phil and Drew as well.
Jim Yanda: Phil and Drew are great musicians and have been
a premiere jazz rhythm team for many years. Miles Davis said that
to choose a bassist, just ask your drummer who they want to play with.
Phil heard Drew in New York in the mid 1980s and knew immediately
he wanted to work with him. Drew has a very advanced harmonic and
rhythmic vocabulary and is one of the few players who can feed your
music back to you in new colors and flavors on the fly. Together these
two artists explore the elasticity of time around a pulse. They create
tension and release by playing on top of or behind the beat. It takes
a lot of mastery, confidence, and trust to be able to do that and
keep a solid tempo. There's a vibrancy to their music. Anything can
happen at any time. And they are great people and dear friends to
whom I am grateful to work with.
I play in Phil Haynes' Americana Jazz-Grass band Free Country (www.freecountryjazz.org).
And we have a Hammond B3 organ trio, The Hammond Brothers (www.hammondbrothersjazz.com).
mwe3: The first track on disc one of Home Road is My
Ship, a song written by Kurt Weill, which Ira Gershwin wrote
lyrics for. Where and when did you first hear that song and what brought
about the cover? What kind of influence did Kurt Weill have on your
music and why do you think Weill influenced so many rock musicians
like Bowie and The Doors as well? Were there covers on Regional
Cookin too and what other song classics seem ripe to your
for future projects?
Jim Yanda: I first saw My Ship as a Jazz standard
in the Real Book fake book. There's a Miles Davis version with Gil
Evans on the Miles Ahead record, among many other versions
as you've pointed out. I first played it as a solo at a friend's wedding
and am still working on it. It's a beautiful, poignant song that can
be interpreted in myriad ways. A number of Kurt Weill's songs have
become jazz standards which is proof they are good vehicles for improvisation.
His songs are challenging and unique and different in a subtle, slightly
quirky way. His music has a character all its own. On Regional
Cookin' I played Thelonious Monk's Round Midnight,
a staple of the jazz tradition.
Lately I've been working on standards from earlier periods of jazz
that you don't hear played as often, such as After You've Gone
that Coleman Hawkins recorded in the thirties. I'm trying to expand
the historical scope of the material I play, by reaching both earlier
and later in jazz history: Rags, and Louis Armstrong, for example,
and the Art Ensemble Of Chicago and Anthony Braxton. Paul Smoker's
Trio in its early days would play music from the earliest beginnings
of jazz, field hollers and so forth, all the way up to modern day
composers such as Lester Bowie. That wider historical scope makes
everything sound so fresh and makes for a deeper listening experience.
Can you tell us what guitars you played on Home Road, as well
as amps and other effects, pedals you recorded the album with? How
has your choice of guitars changed over the years? How about your
guitars used during the recording of the Regional Cookin
album? What other guitars do you enjoy playing on record and for
fun including jazz guitars, rock guitars, classical guitars, acoustics?
What strings give your guitars the best sound?
Jim Yanda: Perhaps the primary element in musical expression
is tone. All of the great jazz musicians have a distinct tone on their
instrument. You can often tell who is playing after hearing just a
few notes. The electric guitar is interesting in that you not only
have the sound of the instrument itself, but a myriad of possibilities
to alter that sound through electronics. I love all of the incredible
sounds you can achieve with guitar using effects.
But I thought if, say, horn players and pianists achieve a distinctive
sound through embouchure and touch alone, then maybe I could do so
on guitar. I found that for every effect the guitar signal is run
through, despite what is gained, something of the original guitar
sound is lost. I stopped using effects, paring everything down to
the bare minimum.
I settled on a Collings OM3 acoustic guitar, with a Bartolini pickup
plugged directly into a Fender Bassman head driving two Harry Kolbe
speaker cabinets. I'm striving for as pure an acoustic guitar sound
as possible, while amplifying it enough to be heard in a live band
setting. Ironically, this opened up a host of available sounds within
the instrument itself, using touch, attack, and extended techniques.
Without electronics, numerous other possibilities became available.
Its somewhat akin to Jim Hall famously saying that using an amplifier
allowed him to play softer. Sometimes less really can be
It is also a kick to be playing an acoustic guitar in a power trio
setting which my bands tend to create sometimes. It seems like it
should not be possible, but I've been able to make it work and its
On Regional Cookin' I used a 1958 Gibson L7C, which is a fabulous
instrument. I also love the Stratocaster, and I keep a beater Strat
copy around for fun.
How do you mix improvisation into your compositions? Describe the
process by which you write music. For example, do you first write
out your melodic lines and arrangements and then figure out the best
way the song lends itself to improv? Is a song only great when you
can extrapolate other ideas around it?
Jim Yanda: We generally use the standard jazz format when playing
my songs, which is to play the written melody, then different players
each take an improvised solo over the song, then we play the written
song again and end it. For some songs there's an arrangement that
mixes up that basic formula. But it is generally assumed that every
song is going to be improvised upon.
My songs usually come from noodling around on the guitar and stumbling
upon an idea that sounds good. You have to be alert to catch the good
ideas, and not let them get away! I keep an archive of recorded snippets.
Then I take one of those ideas and try to flesh it out into a full
piece. That's often the most challenging part. One technique I use
is to take a favorite jazz composition as a model, and try to write
a song like it. An example of that is Earth Way, on Home
Road, which closely resembles the Elvin Jones song "E.J. Blues".
It can be a good way to get the writing process going.
Great songs don't need any dressing. They are completely satisfying
just as they are. Duke Ellington's songs are an example. Someone called
them casually exact and I think that's an apt description.
They're perfect but feel natural and informal and kind of off-the-cuff.
For the jazz improviser there's perhaps a twofold response to a great
song: You are drawn to improvise on the song because it sounds so
irresistibly good, but you might also be a bit intimidated, because
a great song is difficult to improve upon. Sometimes you wonder, What
more could possibly be said? But jazz is about diving in and
seeing where it takes you, so you take the chance.
mwe3: What guitarists and composers had a big influence on
your playing and overall appreciate of music and when did the rock
influence give way to your appreciate of jazz? How would you compare
the jazz-rock approach to the more straight ahead mainstream jazz
sound of both Home Road and Regional Cookin? Are
there other styles of guitar performance and composition that interest
Jim Yanda: In my early days it was Chet Atkins, Roy Clark,
The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Allman Brothers, and Tony Joe
When I got to college I heard jazz and that profoundly changed everything
for me. I was first gripped by the horn players, Charlie Parker, Miles
Davis, John Coltrane. That led me to the guitarists Charlie Christian,
Wes Montgomery, Pat Martino, Jim Hall, John Abercrombie, and Pat Metheny.
want everything I play to swing, regardless of the context or style
of music. Its wonderfully hip and exhilarating to swing over
I'm interested in deep-folk traditions, modern classical music, new
music, early American music, and world music. Those are some of the
sounds and styles I want to incorporate into my playing.
What other plans do you have in store for 2017 and beyond as it pertains
to writing, recording, producing and performing your music? Now that
you have both Home Road and Regional Cookin out
on CD, have you given thought as to your next musical moves?
Jim Yanda: Home Road and Regional Cookin' have
received a positive response which is very gratifying. I hope that
will lead to more live performances for our bands. Playing live is
essential to continued musical growth and I'd like to be doing more
of it. We'd like to make a record of standards with my trio. And we
are aiming to record the second Hammond Brothers album sometime. There's
also the beginnings of a solo record I've had on the back burner for
a while that perhaps I can bring forward. I'm also involved with an
improvising collective that you can find out more about at www.improvisers.com