Real Feels: an espresso with John Raymond

Image Credits: John Raymond © Josh Goleman

August 6, 2019

Modern sound is anything that happens now


Real Feels Live Vol. 2 is the new album by the New York based trumpeter John Raymond who, with his trio, has recorded an album with a strong and personal voice.

> Ivano Rossato

The sound of the entire album is particularly lively and cohesive; do you think it is due to the live recording or exclusively to the chemistry of the trio?

I think it’s a little of both, quite honestly. I’ve always felt that this band is a “live band,” meaning that we thrive off of an intimate performance situation. There’s nothing like capturing that feeling and atmosphere, especially if it’s a great venue with people who are open-minded and eager to hear the band. That’s why we love playing at the Blue Whale in Los Angeles so much (where the album was recorded), it encapsulates all of these things. But, as you mentioned, I think the recording came off the way it did in part because of how much chemistry we have together as a trio. We’ve been playing together now for five years, and we’ve played a lot together in that time frame. Honestly, I believe we’ve been one of the most working “bands” in jazz during this period – meaning – the same people playing together all the time. That’s rare these days, and I’m proud that we’ve been able to do as much as we have. It’s led to a deep connection that we feel each time we play together. Obviously, every band has “off” nights and “on” nights. This just happened to be one of the “on” nights, and when we are dialled in like that, I believe we’re able to connect with an audience in a very special way.

I believe we’re able to connect with an audience in a very special way.

How were the original songs played on the album born?
“Follower” was a song I wrote that was sort of an exercise in voice leading and development. Sometimes compositional exercises turn out bland musically, but this one was one that I felt had some life to it. Over time it’s become one of my favorite songs to play. “Joy Ride” was a song that I wrote while thinking about the ups and downs of life and how to find joy in it all. It’s much easier to say than do, as we all know, but it’s something that has really stuck with me over the years. Musically, I wanted to write a song that didn’t use that complex of harmony but that had lots of interesting movement (both harmonic and rhythmic) to it. 
Why did you choose the two reinterpretations of Justin Vernon and Bob Dylan?
Justin Vernon – the frontman of the band Bon Iver – is honestly one of my favorite musicians and artists in the world. He’s able to write music that you feel viscerally and has depth both melodically and structurally. I spent five years in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, for school (which is where Justin is from), and I was able to witness the band take off upon the release of his first album in 2007. I’ve been a huge fan ever since, and the song we cover, “Minnesota, WI,” is sort of an homage to my home state and the state that I feel I truly grew up in as a musician. Speaking of my home state Minnesota, Bob Dylan was also born there. I only started getting into his music a few years ago, but once I did I was struck by how poetic but also direct his lyrics are. They tell a story, but they also are crystal clear with what they mean, especially in “The Times They Are A-Changin’.” In the arrangement I did for us, I tried to capture the sort of pastoral quality that the original recording has to me, but also capture the intensity and evocative nature of the lyrics.
The style of the trio is both classic and modern. Is it a natural and unconscious process or do you have precise artistic references?
For the most part, it’s a natural process. Ultimately, I don’t want to predetermine how I want to play or how we should play as a trio. I think we’re all influenced by musical things that one might consider “classic,” but we’re also influenced by plenty of things that might be considered “modern.” At the end of the day, we’re simply trying to play honestly and with sincerity to who we are and not trying to control however it turns out.
What does a modern sound mean to you?
Honestly, I think a modern sound is anything that happens now, in 2019. By that I mean, no matter who your influences are as a musician, you’re always going to sound “modern.” Yes, there are ways to work on your musical voice that are inspired by things or people that are contemporary. But ultimately, all those things or people are just recycling things that have come before them. Nothing is new! So, to me, a “modern sound” is simply one that has been influenced by many different things and is ultimately put together in a way that is personal to that person or group.I’m currently working on writing an album of original music with pieces for solo guitar, trio and quartet with voice. Optimistically speaking, I should be ready to record within a couple of years.
What future projects are you working on?
I recently collaborated with S. Carey, an indie-rock singer/songwriter (and sideman in Bon Iver), for an album that I think will come out next year. He and I go way back to my time in Eau Claire where we both were in school together, and the album is comprised mostly of new original songs that feature him singing and me playing.


Real Feels: an espresso with John Raymond copyright Jazzespresso 2019.
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