JIM YANDA
A Silent Way
(Corner Store Jazz)

 

Back in 1969, jazz fusion maestro Miles Davis released his historic album In A Silent Way. It has been over 50 years since that breakthrough album, yet in 2021, N.Y. based guitarist Jim Yanda released a double album of fresh improvisational music called A Silent Way, that takes the spirit of Miles at his most unique to a whole different level. Jim released his double album Home Road back in 2017, so his fans should be quite eager to delve into the experimental fusion direction of A Silent Way. The Miles connection is not an accident on A Silent Way as Jim joins forces with long-time collaborators Herb Robertson (trumpet) and Phil Haynes (drums).

Speaking about the Miles connection, Jim explains “The connection is a little oblique, but it’s definitely there in the approach, the openness, which I think gives people a reference point to draw them into its world.” Not only does trumpet master Robertson gives the album another Miles-inspired reference point but Herb further peppers the album sound with his additional performances on synths and what he calls “assorted” instruments. Drummer Phil Haynes, an artist that also worked with Yanda on Home Road adds further verve and vitality to Yanda’s guitar-esque approach and improvisations, plus he is also credited with producing A Silent Way. Phil Haynes is a co-founding partner in Corner Store records, which Phil and Jim started back in the 1980s.

A most unusual follow-up to his 2017 double CD Home Road, the 2021 release of A Silent Way was recorded in the living room of Jim’s living room in New Jersey, although he has since moved to the town of Woodstock in Upstate New York. While the music for A Silent Way was recorded pre-pandemic in 2019, the serious editing of the album sessions fell to drummer Phil Haynes who, in addition to turning in a remarkable performance on his “drum set” also assembled and structured the album sessions into what became a most unique-sounding double CD set.

In the spirit of the progressive, avant-garde jazz groups of the 1970s, the music on A Silent Way is both compelling and challenging at the same time. For example, the sound of tracks such as “Consciousness” on disc one somehow merges jazz and rock guitar playing to come up with a totally unique sound while the sprawling “Odyssey” that closes disc one, is a veritable cornucopia of wildly ecstatic avant-garde sounds. CD two is equally as beguiling with further adventurous extrapolations that finds the trio recording in peak form, especially on the title track, that just sizzles with sonic suspense and rare musical interplay.

The title track, “A Silent Way” is simply a tour-de-force introduced by the most incredible percussive effects along with theremin type recorder sounds. Stretching out at just under 12 minutes, the song is further punctuated by Yanda’s intermittent, stabbing guitar sounds that almost serves as an undercurrent to the psycho-sonic overtones, care of the bizarre sounding instruments that Herb Robertson uses to change the overall mood and dynamic. It’s a good example of this particular bent into avant-garde land by Jim Yanda.

While noting all the over the top sounds they conjure in each other’s company, Yanda, Robertson and Haynes clearly have a killer sense of humor. After listening to the sprawling sounds of A Silent Way, you’d be hard-pressed to find a trio of musicians with a more in-tune approach, while embracing the not-so-gentle art of jazz improvisation with a full music score that is described by the artists themselves as being "quiet to riotous". Those that have followed guitarist Jim Yanda’s one-of-a-kind music releases on his Corner Store label will find A Silent Way to be a most astonishing, ear-opening listening experience. jimyanda.com   

 

 


 

mwe3.com presents a new interview with
JIM YANDA

mwe3: I know you recently moved from New Jersey to Woodstock, so how are things Upstate in Woodstock New York? Can you compare it to living in NYC?

Jim Yanda: Good to be with you again Robert! Woodstock is a great place for a musician as I’m sure many of your fans know. It has a vibrant music and art scene and a strong social justice community. There’s a venerable history of new music primarily via Karl Berger’s Creative Music Studio and now through a number of newer organizations and venues. And being a two hour drive from New York City means one can participate in the scene there as well. And did I mention the beautiful mountains and nature? Woodstock is a best-of-all-worlds kind of place.

mwe3: Tell us about recording your new double album A Silent Way and can you compare it with your album from 2017 Home Road and other album releases on your Corner Store Jazz label? Would you describe A Silent Way as totally experimental and free form compared to your other albums and was it challenging to record and release A Silent Way during the pandemic?

Jim Yanda: A Silent Way grew from the free improvisation sessions I was doing with Herb Robertson and Phil Haynes. The music sounded special and we agreed it should be documented. For the recording session we simply got together and played in the same fashion we had been, while having engineer Jon Rosenberg join us to record it. There was no rehearsal, or written music or arrangements as on my prior CDs. The recording was done in June of 2019, fortunately pre-pandemic. Phil did most of the editing by the end of that year, and Jon completed the mastering in early 2020, so we were lucky to have nearly everything completed before CoVid hit.

mwe3: People are comparing A Silent Way with the Miles Davis album and because you have Herb Robertson on trumpet, you describe Miles as “an oblique connection”. Could you expand on that? Miles went through so many musical changes in his career. Was Miles an influence on your music and if so what era did you find his most interesting? In addition to Miles, are there other sonic signposts so to speak regarding A Silent Way?

Jim Yanda: The title offers a clue to our mental approach - as we clear our conscious minds of clutter and venture as directly as possible, from silence into the artistic 'collective subconscious' realm/zone.

The results and our striking instrumentation happened to harken back to the surprising mood and aesthetic impact of Miles' revolutionary In A Silent Way, and, please note the subtle, but important, difference in the two titles.

Miles' own instructions to the band, as to their approach to their instruments, inspires us still. In the “Jazz Stories Project”, John McLaughlin shares that during the Silent Way session, Miles said "Play it like you don't know how to play..."

That was a catalyst for the musicians to let go of preconceptions and reach an open, uninhibited mindset. This sensibility helped encourage me to explore pure improv on my amplified acoustic guitar, with prolific practitioners Robertson and Haynes.

mwe3: It’s quite impressive that you released A Silent Way as a double CD set. Even though your album Home Road is also a double CD set, tell us how and why you decided to go for a 2 CD set and tell us about the amazing artwork on A Silent Way? It’s truly incredible looking. Like a kaleidoscope.

Jim Yanda: The chemistry in this band is amazing and it was especially great over those two short days of recording. Rather than a highly selective culling through hours of material, as is often the case, the edit was a quick trim of the striking music created by the trio. About half of the recorded music was selected for release. The end result happened to be two CDs, and probably could not have been otherwise. It’s a testament to the innate creativity of the musicians.

The musician/artist Nick Horner did beautiful album art for A Silent Way. He has done the art for all of my albums. His work brings a visual perspective to the music that augments the overall experience of the project. He’s also an incredible musician, composer, and producer who is doing great things.
Please go to his site and support his work: nickhornerfamily.com

mwe3: Are you still working with Phil in Free Country and the Hammond Brothers groups? Tell us more about your record label and what it’s planning this year and next? I know you’re very into the Americana approach to jazz and rock. There’s such a wide context and contrast in your music that you strive for. Can you compare A Silent Way in the context of Americana or is it something totally different and unique?

Jim Yanda: Yes, I continue to work in all of our various groups. And our label at cornerstorejazz.com will continue to be the focal point. I’m also developing things at improvisers.com and jimyanda.com. These sites are our platform. It’s a work in progress. We’re on Bandcamp and Spotify and so forth, but we want our sites to be the primary destination. I’m trying to minimize dependence on platforms over which I have no control.

I’d like to think the broad scope of our music – from Americana to avant garde free jazz and many genres in between and beyond – is simply a reflection of all the great traditions that have enriched our lives and that we are celebrating. We hear it and internalize it, and it comes out in the music. The last century alone has been incredible for music. Just a few of the artists who have influenced us are Armstrong, Parker, Coltrane, Coleman, Ayler, Braxton, Schoenberg, Ives, Cage, and Stockhausen. It’s humbling and enough to keep a musician learning for many lifetimes.

mwe3: A Silent Way lists the tracks as being composed by Yanda, Haynes and Robertson. How did you all three collaborate on the tracks and how did you and Phil collaborate on the production and mixing / mastering? Also can you tell us something about the assorted instruments that Herb plays on A Silent Way? I hear recorders and tell us about Herb’s synth.

Jim Yanda: Since we all played on everything, and it’s all improvised, we are all listed as composers. Phil is also the producer and did all of the editing. He and Jon worked together for the mastering.

Herb’s instruments are: trumpet, cornet, pocket trumpet, assorted mutes, voice modulator, bull-horns, prepared clarinet, Yamaha PSR-170 electronic keyboard w/presets, melodica, recorders, flageolets, slide whistles, bells, castanets, clickers, small percussion, toys, and voice.

Prepared clarinet just means the assembling of the different sections of the Bb clarinet. Sometimes he leaves a section off, just playing half the instrument, and also altering the sound of it through the voice modulator. He also plays keyboard and wind instruments sometimes simultaneously, giving the illusion that there are more than three musicians playing.

mwe3: What are a couple of your favorite tracks on A Silent Way that stand out as a kind of ah-ha moment? Can you tell us something about the title track “A Silent Way”? Are there tracks that were easier to play and get a more spontaneous feel for with Phil and Herb? Your track “Meta” goes back to the Miles approach. Tell me about “Meta”. Can you tell us what other instruments Herb is playing on the title track and also on the track “Voyager” and also on the track “Possession”? That is totally the most bizarre sounding music! lol

Jim Yanda: There are many “ah-ha” moments on this record! I think overall, a primary insight I’ve learned from Herb and Phil is to take your time, let ideas develop and fully explore them before moving on. There is a lot of patience in the performance of this music.

I’m thinking of the piece “Consciousness”, where everyone really sticks with their ideas until as much gold as possible has been revealed. The title track is more about our approach than the actual sound of the piece. We’re trying to be in an empty, “silent” mindset so unexpected things can more readily happen. On “Meta”, we move into a post-sixties free jazz type of sound, so I can see where that would invoke Miles for listeners. It’s another example of how all of these influences over the years find their way into the music.

On “Voyager” and “Possession”, Herb uses the voice modulator – a small electronic bull horn device – along with his natural voice to get some of those unusual sounds. He also very deftly incorporates the percussion and voice sounds from the Yamaha keyboard. Some of the sonic spaces he creates are ancient, primordial, even a little spooky sometimes. I was using the slide on the Collings and found some great sounds in the upper register, where it kind of sounded like a human voice. When you combine all of those sounds the overall effect is powerful.

mwe3: Did you exclusively play your Collings OM3 guitar on A Silent Way and / or what other guitars are on the album? Are there any new amps, effects and pedals that you’re playing on the new album?

Jim Yanda: Yes, I played only the Collings amplified acoustic on the recording. I am trying to create effects using the acoustic instrument only, rather than using pedals. That constraint, I believe, induces me to find unconventional sounds on the instrument itself, rather than with electronics.

I use a slide on a couple of pieces, in an unconventional way. And I created some effects by playing around with the tuning of the lower strings. My thinking is that since horn players can get a lot of different sounds using only their chops and technique, not electronics, that should also be possible to do on guitar.

I love electronics. But the pedal or whatever can become an instrument in itself, or an extension of the guitar, and you want to have enough facility with it to be able to use it musically, like an instrument, and not have it be something of a crutch where you stomp a box and get a sound and it’s kind of a canned thing. Anyway, I’ve had my hands full just figuring out the straight guitar! I’m still working on integrating electronics into my playing.

mwe3: Are you listening or watching other musicians or guitarists these days? What do you think of the current trend in the music world? How would you describe your music? Experimental jazz or? It’s been really tough these past 18 months so I’m thankful you have been able to get these new recordings out there.

Jim Yanda: Yes I am listening and watching all the time to new things, old things and everything in between. Trying to catch up... There so much out there that’s good. So many amazing new musicians. It’s really inspiring. I hope the music I’m doing can be considered in the tradition of jazz and new music.

I have been extremely fortunate so far through the pandemic and am very grateful. Being able to isolate at home and keep working while staying safe was a luxury that many did not have. I hope the virus can be eradicated and lives saved and there can be a return to some semblance of normalcy, whatever that means any more. We were very lucky to have A Silent Way in the can before the pandemic hit. The remaining work could be done remotely so we were able to release it in spite of everything.

mwe3: Are you currently writing, recording, producing and/or planning new music in late 2021 and now as we go into 2022? Hopefully by 2023…?

Jim Yanda: I am practicing, writing, listening and looking forward to resuming live performance with Herb and Phil, and with my other groups, Regional Cookin’, Empathy Gene, and Blue Stone. I’m also developing our music platforms at jimyanda.com, cornerstorejazz.com and improvisers.com. I’ve recently been out hearing local live music again and that’s a true blessing. I hope the trend continues!

 

 





 

 
   
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