In the unfettered world of the jazz musician, having a long-time working group with a unique identity and sound is a rare thing. But for over four years now, Minnesota-born trumpeter, flugelhornist and composer John Raymond has done just that. His bass-less trio Real Feels, which includes guitarist Gilad Hekselman and drummer Colin Stranahan, evokes a sense of home, companionship and comfort that his Midwest roots might suggest. However, bringing together three musicians from three distinct musical backgrounds make the group a model of what defines American music -- a melting pot of influences tied together by a close bond of warm-hearted kinship. Their newest album Joy Ride accomplishes this in its fullest sense.
The majority of the music on Joy Ride was written during a self-imposed, month-long retreat in which Raymond spent hours composing each day. Among the priorities for the music was Raymond's desire to connect to his listeners, so rather than compose "heady" or complex songs, he focused on simplifying and writing music that people could sing along with. When the group was ready to record the new music, Raymond brought in Matt Pierson as producer to help streamline the recording process and help craft a stronger musical presentation.
The recording begins with the title track, "Joy Ride," a jaunty original that keeps both the band and the listener on the edge of their seats for the entire tune. The group's interpretation of Paul Simon's "I'd Do It For Your Love" provides a perfect setting for Raymond's flugelhorn on the sing-song melody and intriguing harmonic underpinning. Raymond's "Follower" evokes a Radiohead-esque vibe, with a steady groove and winding, mysterious melody. Justin Vernon's music is a huge influence on Raymond, as he was in Eau Claire when Bon Iver was just in its nascent form. Taking hints from a live Bon Iver performance in Brooklyn, the trumpeter rearranged "Minnesota, WI" into an incredibly poignant and resonant piece which features Hekselman stretching over his own guitar loops. The group's take on the hymn "Be Still, My Soul" starts out calm but gradually becomes more edgy and dissonant, ending with a collectively improvised release of acoustic and electronic sounds.
The bare, yet moving original "Fortress" further reinforces Raymond's indie-rock influences. Peter Gabriel's "Solsbury Hill" is a perfect pop song set up with a repetitive guitar riff that the group modulates both harmonically and metrically throughout. Raymond's soulful "En Route" is a lighthearted piece that breezily traverses the musical back roads. A tribute to a Minnesota legend, Raymond's pastoral take on Bob Dylan's iconic "The Times They Are A-Changin'" (to this day, still a powerful political statement) subtly shifts and bends, yet retains, the essential sentiment of the song. The recording concludes with "Hymn," a duo performance with Hekselman leaving the listener with yet another simple and sincere melody resonating in their ears.
"From the very beginning this band has had a special connection, not only to each other but also to listeners -- both jazz and non-jazz inclined," Raymond states. "The process of recording this album gave way to an even more tangible realization of this connection, and upon completion we all remarked to each other how unique this music was going to be." The urge to create a band with a deep chemistry was of high importance to John Raymond. The desire to play music that develops a unique and memorable connection to the listener was also a priority. Both of these are on full display in Joy Ride, a distinctive and highly listenable new recording that will further establish Raymond and the group as an important voice in jazz today.
Originally from Minneapolis, MN, John Raymond grew to appreciate musicians who wanted not only a connection with their audience but also with their associates on the bandstand and, taking this to heart, the trumpeter applied the sentiment when he created his own band, Real Feels.
Raymond moved to New York City after spending some time time studying music in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. He was able to establish himself in the New York scene playing alongside well-known musicians like Billy Hart, Orrin Evans, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Dan Tepfer and Linda May Han Oh among others. He also began to establish himself as a bandleader by releasing four albums since 2012, all of which receiving critical acclaim including nods from the Stereogum, New York Times, and Downbeat Magazine who named him a Rising Star Trumpeter in 2016.
Raymond formed Real Feels in 2014 by piecing together a trio comprised of flugelhorn, guitar and drums. Influenced by albums done by Art Farmer and Jim Hall, as well as the collaborations of Ron Miles, Bill Frisell and Brian Blade, Raymond called guitarist Gilad Hekselman who was a frequent contributor in Raymond's past projects. Raymond's decision to play as a trio without a bassist allowed Hekselman free reign to interpret the harmony of the compositions any way he chose. Providing the glue between Hekselman's harmony and Raymond's melody would be drummer Colin Stranahan, a formidable but elastic timekeeper who had an instant connection with Raymond and Hekselman. Together, the group would go on to release two albums in 2016, the self-titled Real Feels and a live follow up Real Feels: Live, Vol. 1.
John Raymond & Real Feels Upcoming 2018 Tour Dates:
January 17 - 18 / Indiana University Residency / Bloomington, IN
January 19 / Rudy's Jazz Room / Nashville, TN
January 20 / The Velvet Note / Atlanta, GA
January 21 / White Horse Black Mountain / Asheville, NC
February 7 / Jazz Standard / New York, NY
February 10 / The Liberty / Cincinnati, OH
February 11 / Mabel Tainter Theater / Menomonie, MN
February 12 / The Icehouse / Minneapolis, MN
February 13 / Jazz Showcase / Chicago, IL
February 14 - 15 / Luther College Residency / Decorah, IA
February 16 / The Mill / Iowa City, IA
February 17 / Noce / Des Moines, IA
April 4 / Twins Jazz Club / Washington, D.C.
April 5 / The Bop Stop / Cleveland, OH
April 6 / Cliff Bells / Detroit, MI
April 7 / BLU Jazz / Akron, OH
May 10 / The Dark Room / St. Louis, MO
May 11 / Dazzle Jazz / Denver, CO
May 12 / The Nash / Phoenix, AZ
May 14 - 15 / Blue Whale / Los Angeles, CA
John Raymond & Real Feels · Joy Ride
Sunnyside Records · Release Date: February 9, 2018