"I take walks a lot," says Jim James, "and as I walk, songs kind of build in my mind, and I start adding and subtracting things. So I had a full vision for a lot of the songs on this album before I even recorded one note."
These visions have now manifested as Regions and Light and Sound of God, the first solo album from the singer, songwriter, and guitarist for My Morning Jacket. Over the course of fifteen years and six studio albums, James has been the focal point of a group that has grown into one of the most acclaimed and successful rock and roll bands in the world. With this project, he reaches into new territory that extends, but doesn't break from, MMJ's accomplishments.
James has maintained a steady, bordering on voracious, flow of work alongside the band's recording and touring. In 2009, he released the Tribute to EP, with his versions of six George Harrison songs. He has also lent his voice to albums by the likes of the Decemberists, the Roots, America, Booker T. Jones, and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and recorded and toured with the Monsters of Folk—which teamed him up with Conor Oberst, M. Ward, and Mike Mogis—and participated in this year's Woody Guthrie tribute album New Multitudes and its accompanying shows alongside Jay Farrar, Will Johnson, and Anders Parker.
But until now, James had never felt the call to create a longer-form album on his own. "I’m very lucky to play in a band with guys that I love, who are great at what they do," he says, "so on MMJ records, I don’t have a need to play bass or keys or what have you. But as a person and as a musician, I love to play every instrument under the sun, and I wanted to make a record where I played all the instruments and engineered it myself."
As much as James was interested in exploring new sonic directions, he was also drawn to a different kind of process, something he could control as an individual rather than as part of a band. "I wanted to make a record right away, instead of making demos for a record and then recording," he says. "I would just start building on ideas from the ground up, at my own relaxed pace. I used the 'building block' method, laying down one piece at a time myself—to build a tower or a house—whereas in MMJ we make a sound that’s all of us playing together, more of a live performance type of thing, although several of the songs on this record were captured in live performance, too."
The location also helped inform the feel of the recordings. “I fell in love with the stories of Les Paul and Mary Ford recording in their home, as well as thinking of Sly Stone slouched down in an armchair, smoking a cigar in a rented house for There's a Riot Goin’ On,” says James, explaining his choice to record at his home studio in Louisville. “I wanted to make it comfortable and make it homey homey."
The results are nine songs that resist easy categorization, from the hazy space-funk of the opening "State of the Art (A.E.I.O.U.)" to the chiming, operatic pop of "A New Life." On Regions of Light and Sound of God, nothing is what it seems—touchstones from old- school R&B or island folk or hip-hop flicker into focus and then disappear; a delicate instrumental is titled "Exploding." It's complex but cohesive, intimate and hypnotic where My Morning Jacket might turn more wide-screen and epic.
"I wanted the album to sound like it came from a different place in time," says James. "Perhaps sounding as if it were the past of the future, if that makes any sense—like a hazy dream that a fully-realized android or humanoid capable of thought might have when it reminisces about the good old days of just being a simple robot."
James says that his inspiration comes from many directions, but mentions Marvin Gaye’s incomparable classic What’s Going On as a perpetual influence (it might be felt strongest in the soaring concluding track, “God’s Love to Deliver,” in which the singer addresses Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.). “To me, it’s the greatest record of all time because it speaks to everyone, of any race or creed,” he says. “It speaks to the soul and the body; it uses all forms of music, merging soul and funk with rock and classical; it is nameless gospel, holy essence. I always want to try and make music like that.”
For Regions of Light and Sound of God, though, there was one specific source that shaped many of the songs, and even figures into the album title—a pioneering 1929 graphic novel called God’s Man, by Lynd Ward. Told entirely through wordless woodcuts, the book chronicles an artist’s struggle with temptation and corruption, along with finding true love. As work on the album proceeded, James was inspired to write music that could accompany the book. “God's Man came to me at a very important time,” he says. “Some of the things happening in the book were happening to me in real life, in a very strange and painful, then a very beautiful way.”
Also meaningful to James was the fact that the album gave him the opportunity to work with Dave Givan, who played most of the drums on the record. Givan has been a friend since childhood, and was part of the first band James ever played with, Mont de Sundua. He and James also currently co-host a radio show called “Sir Microcosm."
Now James is facing the challenge of finding the musicians and arrangements to conjure the sound of Regions of Light and Sound of God on stage. “I’m currently putting together the band to bring this to tour in a fun, celebratory, and danceable way,” he says.
Solo albums by members of bands, especially lead singers, can often be scattershot, collections of odds and ends built up over the years
with no true sense of purpose. But Regions of Light and Sound of God is precisely the opposite—the clarity with which Jim James came into this album rings from first note to last.
“The album knew what it wanted to be,” says James. “The songs would tell me what they wanted to be, and I just had to search around and find those sounds to bring them into this world.”
John Oates was destined to be a musician. Singing from the time he could talk and playing the guitar since the age of five, his calling in life was never in question. Born in New York City, his family moved to a small town outside of Philadelphia Pennsylvania in the early 50‚'s, a move that would change the course of his life. Like most kids at that time, the impact of the early days of rock left an lasting impression on John. At the age of four he witnessed his first live concert: Bill Haley and the Comets playing their classic rockabilly hits at a local amusement park. Then there were the records.
He began to collect 45 rpm singles treasures from Little Richard, Chuck Berry, the Everly Brothers, Gary U.S. Bonds and of course, Elvis. He spent countless hours twisting the dial on his AM transistor radio trying to tune in the local R&B stations and listening to DJs like Jerry Blavat spinning obscure Doo Wop records and B sides.
When it came to influences John was open to more than just the top 40 hits, his friends & older brother turned him on to the nascent folk music scene that began to sweep the country in the early 60's. John's interest in traditional American music began and he immersed himself in the Child's Ballads, Joan Baez, Rev. Gary Davis, Dave Von Ronk and all the rediscovered bluesmen who began to make appearances at the Newport and Philadelphia folk festivals. Absorbing it all developed a kind of musical split personality. One night he might be wearing a shark skin suit playing everything from Doo Wop covers to the big R&B hits of the day with his band and the next night he would be playing his acoustic guitar in a local coffee house singing Appalachian folk ballads - to this day the very same roots and influences still can be heard in John's original playing and singing style.
In the late 60's John moved to Philadelphia to attend Temple University and check out the city's music scene. In 1966 he wrote and recorded his first single "I Need Your Love" which was released on the label owned by a local music store called the Record Museum. The song was arranged by Bobby Martin who at the time was producing and arranging for Gamble and Huff. The single received airplay on Philly‚Äôs R&B radio stations and John began to divide his time between being a student and a professional musician.
Around the same time he met an influential guitar player/ teacher named Jerry Ricks who had spent time on the road with Mississippi John Hurt and Son House. Jerry took John under his wing and introduced him to many of the newly rediscover folk performers, such as Doc Watson, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee and Mississippi John for whom Philadelphia‚Äôs folk venues, like the Second Fret and Main Point, were frequent stops in their concert schedules.
John had the unique opportunity to play alongside some of these seminal musicians learning first hand, their finger picking and flat picking styles.
When John first met Daryl Hall it was their mutual love for urban rhythm and blues blended with the more rural roots of American music that created their unique sound.
Since the formation of their partnership in the early 70'sHall & Oates have gone on to record 21 albums which have sold over 80 million units making them the most successful duo in rock history. They have scored 10 number one records, over 20 top 40 hits and have toured the world for decades. Their involvement in the original "Live Aid" concert and the ground breaking "We Are The World" charity recording have further established them as legendary artists who have personally and through their music, stood the test of time. Their influence on modern pop music has been cited by numerous contemporary bands, like the Gym Class Heroes and the Killers, who have credited and acknowledged H&O's considerable contribution to American music.
In addition to their numerous American Music and MTV awards, in 2005 they were inducted into the American Songwriters Hall of Fame and in May of 2008 will were presented the prestigious BMI Icon Award for their outstanding career achievement in song writing.
John continues to support many national and local charities. He has recorded three solo albums, the most recent entitled ‚ÄúMississippi Mile‚Äù, in Nashville featuring an amazing collection of some of the world‚Äôs top musicians.
In 2009, in association with the Historic Wheeler Opera House in Aspen Colorado, John created a singer/songwriter series entitled: The Stories Behind the Songs‚Äù. Performing with Patty Griffin, Tift Merritt, Jimmy Wayne and other well known songwriters in an acoustic setting. The series was such an overwhelming success that it has been expanded into an annual event.
7908 THE ASPEN SONGWRITERS FESTIVAL
The festival, now in its third year, takes place in Aspen Colorado and has featured songwriters such as: Keb Mo, Shawn Colvin, Allen Toussaint, Matt Nathenson, Jim Lauderdale, Kenny Loggins, Gary Burr and many others.
When, not touring with his solo show or with Daryl Hall, he divides his time between Nashville and his ranch in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, with his wife and son along with 3 dogs, a flock of Emus, Llamas and Alpacas. In his free time he enjoys driving his tractor, riding his mountain bike, hiking the backcountry and telemark skiing.
Joseph 'Zigaboo' Modeliste is a master drummer, rhythm innovator, percussionist, and New Orleans legend. The most highly acclaimed drummer ever to hail from the Crescent City, Ziggy's creativity has been a wellspring of funk influence for three decades and inspired many Hip-Hop tracks. His innovative work as a member of the internationally acclaimed R&B group, The Meters, as well as his side work with artists like Keith Richards, Robert Palmer, and Dr. John, has garnered him an unparalleled level of respect among musicians and fans. Ziggy's style is unique. He is a master of creating funk grooves and new concepts for funk drumming. Zigaboo's music consistently demonstrates that Modeliste is the most brilliant American Funk percussionist of the Contemporary Era!
The original The Meters LP's were all recorded with Ziggy at the drums and his work has been sampled many times over from artists such as Musiq, Queen Latifah, Run DMC, NWA, Ice Cube, Salt N' Pepa, Cypress Hill, EPMD, Public Enemy, A Tribe Called Quest, Beastie Boys, Naughty by Nature, and Tweet just to name a few. Ziggy is a BMI award winner for the Young Gunz track, "Can't Stop Won't Stop" and his drum sound also provided the main loops for Amerie's "1Thing" which was nominated for two Grammy's and was #1 on the R&B charts.
Ziggy has written over 200 songs individually and collectively with The Meters. His songwriting displays both his musical genius and original funk style. Zigaboo's songs have been released on over 56 albums nationally and internationally. His tunes have also graced such movies as "Two Can Play That Game", "Jackie Brown", "Drum Line", "8 Mile", "Hancock", "Red", a Nike Commercial for Footaction, and Zig is currently featured in producer Mark Ronson's Re:Generation Music Project where he wrote and performs the original song "A La Modeliste" with Erykah Badu, Mos Def, Trombone Shorty, and members of The Dap Kings.
Zigaboo's latest release, "New Life" in 2011 was praised as an amazing slide of funk and proof that Modeliste's fountain of rhythmic imagination shows no signs of running dry. Ziggy's first solo CD, entitled "Zigaboo.com" was released in 2000 and was reviewed as one of the most outstanding comeback records of the year. In 2004, the follow-up CD "I'm on the Right Track" featured special guests Dr. John and Bernie Worrell. "Funk Me Hard Live" is a collection of funk originals recorded in 1980 and released in 2009. All these ever-grooving solo iconic albums were released on Zigaboo's own label, JZM Records and is available for download from iTunes and on CD at Zigaboo.com and CDBaby.com. In 2013 Drum Channel and Zigaboo Modeliste's released a DVD "the Originator of New Orleans Funky Drumming" which is a history/biography of Zigaboo's New Orleans Style Drumming approach and technique.
The King of the Funky Drums, Percussion Maestro, and Godfather of Groove, Zigaboo Modeliste takes listeners to funk depths only he could possibly reach! Preservation Hall Jazz Band:
The Preservation Hall Jazz Band derives its name from Preservation Hall, the venerable music venue located in the heart of New Orleans’ French Quarter, founded in 1961 by Allan and Sandra Jaffe. The band has traveled worldwide spreading their mission to nurture and perpetuate the art form of New Orleans Jazz. Whether performing at Carnegie Hall or Lincoln Center, for British Royalty or the King of Thailand, this music embodies a joyful, timeless spirit. Under the auspices of current director, Ben Jaffe, the son of founders Allan and Sandra, Preservation Hall continues with a deep reverence and consciousness of its greatest attributes in the modern day as a venue, band, and record label.
The building that houses Preservation Hall has housed many businesses over the years including a tavern during the war of 1812, a photo studio and an art gallery. It was during the years of the art gallery that then owner, Larry Borenstein, began holding informal jam sessions for his close friends. Out of these sessions grew the concept of Preservation Hall. The intimate venue, whose weathered exterior has been untouched over its history, is a living embodiment of its original vision. To this day, Preservation Hall has no drinks, air conditioning, or other typical accoutrements strictly welcoming people of all ages interested in having one of the last pure music experiences left on the earth.
The PHJB began touring in 1963 and for many years there were several bands successfully touring under the name Preservation Hall. Many of the band's charter members performed with the pioneers who invented jazz in the early twentieth century including Buddy Bolden, Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, and Bunk Johnson. Band leaders over the band's history include the brothers Willie and Percy
Humphrey, husband and wife Billie and De De Pierce, famed pianist Sweet Emma Barrett, and in the modern day Wendell and John Brunious. These founding artists and dozens of others passed on the lessons of their music to a younger generation who now follow in their footsteps like the current lineup.
THE PRESERVATION HALL JAZZ BAND IS:
Ben Jaffe/Creative Director & Tuba: As son of co-founders Allan and Sandra Jaffe, Ben has lived his whole life with the rhythm of the French Quarter pulsing through his veins. Raised in the company of New Orleans’ greatest musicians, Ben returned from his collegiate education at Oberlin College in Ohio to play with the group and assume his father’s duties as Director of Preservation Hall. Today he serves as
Creative Director for both PHJB and the Hall itself, where he has spearheaded such programs as the New Orleans Musicians Hurricane Relief Fund.
Mark Braud/Trumpet and Vocals: As nephew to two former PHJB leaders, Wendell and John Brunious, Jr., Mark is proud to further his family’s musical legacy in the company of so many historic players. Beginning his career playing with the Olympia Kids, a young players’ offshoot of the famous Olympia Brass Band, Mark has gone on to record, tour, and play with New Orleans legends of both traditional jazz and R&B, including Eddie Bo, Henry Butler, Harry Connick Jr., and Dr. Michael White.
Charlie Gabriel/Clarinet and Vocals: The musical heritage of Charlie Gabriel can be traced back as far back as the 1850s. Great-grandson of New Orleans bass player Narcesse Gabriel, grandson of New Orleans cornet player Martin Joseph, and son of New Orleans drummer and clarinetist Martin Manuel Gabriel, Charlie is truly a living legend. At seventy-six years old, the extensive list of musicians with whom he’s played includes well-known PHJB alumni Kid Howard, Kid Sheik, Jim Robinson, and George Lewis.
Clint Maedgen/Saxophone and Vocals: Though Clint is best known as leader of multimedia alt.cabaret group The New Orleans Bingo! Show, he has been in love with the sound of traditional New Orleans jazz since he was a small child. After studying with clarinet innovator Alvin Batiste at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Clint returned to New Orleans’ French Quarter where he cemented his reputation as an artist and collaborator through an ongoing series of eclectic and experimental musical ensembles. As a full-time member of the PHJB, he brings an infectious passion to both his playing and singing.
Joe Lastie, Jr./Drums: Born and raised in the Lower Ninth Ward, Joe comes from a long line of family members equally dedicated to music and the church. Having played his first job with a rhythm section backing the Desire Community Choir, he would go on to study jazz with Willie Metcalf at the Dryades Street YMCA with classmates Wynton and Branford Marsalis. After a brief move with his family to
Queens, New York, Joe returned to New Orleans where he was invited to substitute on drums at Preservation Hall in 1989. He’s been a regular with the band ever since.
Freddie Lonzo/Trombone and Vocals: Born and raised in New Orleans’ Uptown neighborhoods, Freddie was exposed to the music of the streets at a very young age. Having cemented his desire to play New Orleans jazz, these early Second Line parades would later offer him his first professional gig with EG Gabon and Doc Paulin’s Band. A true master of every style of New Orleans music, from marching brass to modern jazz, Freddie’s first appearances with Preservation Hall date back to the mid-eighties when he toured and played with Percy Humphrey and Kid Sheik.
Rickie Monie/Piano: Born and raised in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward to jazz loving church musicians, Rickie was inundated at an early age with the recordings of such great jazz and gospel pianists as Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson, and Teddy Wilson. After majoring in woodwind instruments at Dillard University, Rickie turned back to the piano and picked up work in every style of music. In 1982, Monie got his first call from Preservation Hall, to substitute for the legendary resident pianist Sweet Emma Barret after she suffered a stroke. To the delight of audiences around the world, he’s stayed onboard ever since.
Cyro Baptista is a Brazilian percussionist and composer
whose vast talent and penchant for innovation brought
him to be praised as one of the most respected musicians the world.
Cyro’s endless sonic curiosity
and intense rhythmic drive has brought him to lead several ensembles and
record many albums of his own. He has also lent his sounds to many GRAMMY
award-winning records and over 300 albums with many of the most beloved
musicians in the world.
Cyro is mostly known in the rock’n’roll world as the
“madman percussionist” for TAB, Trey Anastasio’s band.
Together with Trey and Herbie Hancock, Cyro was nominated
for a Grammy Award for a composition entitled “Gelo na Montanha”.
He is very happy to
be back at Bonnaroo – he’s been there three times during the “old-Bonnaroo”
times – both with TAB and his band BEAT THE DONKEY.
As a solo artist,
Cyro has produced eight CDs of his own compositions and ensembles, traveling
around the planet spreading his unique brand of innovation, irreverence,
exuberance and energy to the most diverse audiences.
BANQUET OF THE
SPIRITS : a quartet featuring
three of the best young musicians out of the New York City downtown scene. The quartet embodies the philosophy of
Anthropofagia, a Brazilian cultural movement from the 1920's. The band, is a
musical manifestation of the process of eating, swallowing, and digesting all
the tendencies that are part of the sonic landscape and our environment. A Ritualistic, Anthropophagic, Ever-Surprising, Pan-Cultural, and ultimately
With BEAT THE DONKEY- PAU NA MULA, a phenomenally fun and
entertaining ensemble, Cyro gives free reign to his imagination, combining
music and humor with tap dance and martial arts, mixing instruments from
Brazil, America, Indonesia and Africa, and unusual inventions of his own. The
self named CD has been picked by the pop and jazz critics of The New York Times
as one of their ten favorite alternative albums!
first solo recording, VILLA LOBOS/VIRA-LOUCOS, a heady mix of his own
compositions with the work of the brilliant Brazilian composer Heitor Villa
Lobos, has been acclaimed as "the most courageous, bright, funny,
dramatic, and imaginative work in recent memory."
Cyro’s credits read like a "Who’s Who" of modern
music. His talent, credibility and versatily have led to associations with a
wide range of leading jazz, rock, pop,
classical, avant-garde and Brazilian artists.
From Paul Simon to Yo-Yo-Ma, Herbie Hancock to Kathleen Battle, Trey
Anastasio( from Phish) to John Zorn, Wynton Marsalis to Laurie Anderson, from
the legendary Brazilians Milton Nascimento and Caetano Veloso to Sting – they all wanted Cyro’s magic touch on thir
recordings or live performances.
Cyro appeared in Nicolas Humbert
and Werner Penzel's 1990 documentary film on Fred Frith, “Step Across the
Border”. Cyro also graced the silver
screen in Julie Taymor’s “Across The Universe”.
More recently, Cyro performed and composed for the camera in the Oscar
nominated film “Rachel Getting Married” by Jonathan Demme. Cyro’s music can
also be heard on Nickelodeon. He has
been composing music for programs on the children's television network for
several years now.
Cyro has constructed several
different styles of workshops that he conducts on a regular basis. His workshops are geared to the specific
audience he is working with; everyone from professional musicians to young
children have benefited from taking part in Cyro’s workshop. He has given master classes at some of the
most prestigious music institutions in the world including Julliard, Berklee
College of Music, Wesleyan University, New World Symphony Orchestra (Miami,
FL), Mannes College of Music (New York City), New School University, Kimmel
Center for the Arts(Philadelphia) and Rimon School of Music (Tel-Aviv, Israel).
cannot be reined in by any classification. He is simply one of the most
limitless musicians we have... Thom
Jurek (All Music Guide)
the barriers associated with seriousness… Baptista can bring his audience into
the special world where he makes the rules, expressing boundless and whimsical
creativity through any medium he sees fit.” - Nick Klagge, DIY Magazine
“[Banquet of the Spirits] is
constantly changing instruments and styles to crank out high-energy romps with
contagious enthusiasm.” - Sean Fitzell, AllAboutJazz-New York (now
known as the NYC Jazz Record)
exuberant band mixes voices and instruments from a dizzying array of cultures,
creating a thrilling
for eye and ear"
- The Earshot Jazz Festival
Baptista is an exuberant performer and bandleader comfortable with everything
from minutely detailed-free improv to explosive party-band revelry”