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I’ve always enjoyed the array of responses our editorial content inspires — especially lately with the addition of our weekly subscriber newsletters, to which readers can respond instantly.
A recent newsletter included a link to a podcast our online editor, Brian Zimmerman, hosted with Steve Van Zandt, a songwriter, producer and actor who’s most famously known as one of the guitarists in Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band. The conversation elicited a flurry of comments, both positive and negative. One reader wrote, “If I was really interested in the music of rockers like Steven Van Zandt, I wouldn’t be checking out JAZZIZ.” Another said he was thrilled that Van Zandt talked about his role in The Sopranos, his love for “real jazz” and his band the Interstellar Jazz Renegades, a group he founded with the help of drummer and fellow E Streeter Max Weinberg. I recently did a podcast with rock musician Peter Frampton. We discussed his new blues album, All Blues, which, as the title would seem to promise, features a version Miles Davis’ “All Blues.” We also talked about jazz and other topics, as well. Again, responses ranged from negative to positive.
Through the years, we’ve discovered that musicians’ stories are often as engaging and entertaining as their music. For example, aside from an affinity for blues music that Frampton sometimes showcased during his tenure as a singer and guitarist in the rock band Humble Pie in the late ’60s and early ’70s, it would seem unlikely that the man who later became a teen idol at the age of 26 (after famously appearing shirtless on the cover of Rolling Stone in 1976) and who is best-known as a purveyor of pop ballads like “Baby, I Love Your Way” and “I’m In You” would have any regard for jazz. But as Peter told me, “I was in a band before The Herd called The Preachers, and the leader of that band gave me a bunch of albums on a Friday and said, ‘We’re rehearsing Tuesday. I want you to learn all these.’ There was Kenny Burrell, Jimmy Smith, a very young George Benson playing with Jack McDuff, I believe, The Jack McDuff trio. Then I started listening to Joe Pass. My father introduced me to Django Reinhardt when I was 8 years old. It was a foregone conclusion that [jazz] would sink in at some point.”
When I asked Peter about his version of “All Blues,” featuring Larry Carlton, he confessed, “I guess people will say, ‘He does what on this album?’ But I’ve often said that if you told me that I could only listen to one album for the rest of my life … it would be Kind of Blue. There’s no guitar on it, but it’s one of those albums that’s just got a mood that draws you in. For me and [other] musicians, I think, there’s just so much to learn there and so much to love about every note and every chord and every phrase that’s played on that album. No one’s going berserk and shredding on that album; it’s just playing the right notes at the right time over a wonderful new chord that they’ve just changed to. That’s what just pulls me in. … I just gravitated towards that one, and I thought, “We’ve bitten off more than we can chew here.” It’s a testament to my band. We came in the studio that day — we’d all listened to it many times — and jammed on it.
When I asked Peter if he ever met or played with Miles, he replied remorsefully that he hadn’t, then added, “I would’ve loved to. Yeah, I doubt whether he ever thought of me in that way. He probably just thought of me as this guitarist standing there in satin pants.”
At JAZZIZ, we generally cover jazz artists and the music they create, both in our quarterly print issues and online (via articles, reviews, playlists, videos and podcasts). But occasionally we have fun covering artists who would seem to have little or no connection to jazz. When we dig a bit beneath surface appearances and preconceived notions, we usually discover that they have interesting and thought-provoking things to say about jazz and a whole lot of other things. When that happens, everyone, even the “that’s not jazz” crowd, benefits.
If you get a chance, check out the wide variety of podcasts at jazziz.com. We think you’ll be glad you did.—Michael Fagien