The guys who form the jazz trio Framework clearly believe in doing a thing right instead of just doing it right now. Chris Bates (bass), Jay Epstein (drums), and Chris Olson (guitar) didn’t release an album until after they’d been at it together for 12 years, performing in and around the Twin Cities. The results, whether or not they were worth waiting more than a decade for, definitely impress. With a world of finesse and a rich palette of aural colors, they make sweet music, ranging from ballads to swing to avant garde to rock—all of it strongly anchored in good old reliable jazz.
The album is called Framework and, drawing on the writing of all three members, also showcases a few covers: Wayne Shorter’s “Valse Quick” and “Valse Triste” (actually, two distinct takes on the same tune), and Argeninean guitarist Carols Moscardini’s “Comino de las Tropas.”
Jay Epstein has a solo CD, Long Ago, on which he’s joined by such heavyweights as bassits Anthony Cox and pianist Bill Carrothers and, in fact, he goes out on tour in Europe with the Bill Carrothers’s Armistice Band. He’s also accompanied a laundry list of big names, including Sarah Vaughan, Toots Theielmans, and Barney Kessel. Chris Bates studied with Cox and has worked with, among others, Mose Allison, Carrothers, Lee Konitz, Holly Long, and local wizards the Atlantis Quartet. Chris Olson, who’s also a regular member of the quartet Maintime, has played with the likes Bobby Vinton, Terry Gibbs, and Bob Mintzer.
So, while the album was waiting to get made, these guys weren’t exactly sitting around cooling their heels. Framework is an example of what kind of quality flavor you get when you let the soup sit long enough in the pot.
Chris Bates answered a few questions by e-mail.
What drew you to join Framework?
I was playing with jay in a couple of other groups back in the mid-90s. He played with Chris Olson on a Twin Cities guitar society showcase concert and I felt like the three of us would connect in a really musical way. Thirteen years later, we are still playing together and finally putting out some music for people to enjoy at home.
That’s a long time. Have you always felt you were making progress?
I’m not really sure. When you have a musical connection with people that feels great it doesn’t often matter if you are progressing in any perceptibly commercial way. We have remained a band through children, divorce, and all sorts of other life events. We also tried to record a few times over the years and never felt strongly enough about what we had recorded to put it out into the public arena. When the opportunity came up to record at McNally Smith College of Music we knew we should take full advantage of this, and I think the results are a really great representation of this band.
How did you guys arrive at the decision of what was going to go on the CD?
We knew we wanted the focus to be on our original music and so we started out recording those songs. We did four sessions at McNally and by the time we got to the third session we had enough songs and shapes that we started adding other songs from our repertoire to round out the feel of the CD. We decided to try the Wayne Shorter tune faster just for variety. It ended up being on the record twice because we thought both versions were very unique. It offers a nice little window into our performance practice of treating all of our tunes in lots of different ways just to create variety and challenge ourselves musically.
How pleased are you with the CD?
I feel it really represents this band in a beautifully organic way. As with every project you can always nit-pick the details to death, so there are certainly moments on this recording that we would all want to go back and change. But the spirit of jazz is in the moment and we all accept the results of this recording in that way. Most of these tunes were recorded in one to three takes and we knew within a few minutes of listening back which takes were acceptable to us. The sound of the record is very satisfying for me as a bassist because we were able to record live but in separate rooms so the bass sound is really huge and warm. In the past most of the CDs I’ve recorded have been about managing the bleed of other instruments into the bass microphone because we were all recording in the same room. I think the overall sound of the record is very representative of this group’s sound.
More gigs. Maybe some traveling. Now that we have the CD out we can give promoters and booking agents something to promote us with. We will see. We already have several new tunes as well. So, maybe we can work on another record in a year or so.
Dwight Hobbes is a writer based in the Twin Cities. He contributes regularly to the Daily Planet.
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