in which i chat with jesse harris & review his two new albums

so, a few weeks back, i blogged about jesse harris releasing two new albums, including a purely instrumental one. i’ve gotten a chance to listen to both albums in-depth.

some highlights of of the instrumental cosmo:
* little star – is, in fact, the star of the album: dreamy, sweet and romantic. there’s another song here called wedding song, but frankly, this would be my pick. future brides, take note.
* somewhere down the road – smacks of the new york night scene to me (and no, i’ve never been there, but this is what i imagine it to be like). slow piano, mellow beats, jazzy tinges. perfect for a dinner party.
* wish i were a bird – delicate and wistful. the horns add a twist of melancholy to the song.
* dear dorothy – has a folky-country vibe to it. makes me think of warm grasses that perfume the air and lazy summer days. lovely.

some highlights off of through the night:

* what am i doing out here – i love this song. it’s got a light, fun beat which contradicts the lyrics. what am i doing out here?/i wish that i had known/that when I crossed the ocean/i’d never feel so all alone.
* gone without a sound – a song about overcoming difficulties in a relationship. beautiful guitar lines. is there nothing we can say?/we won’t always feel this way/so keep on trying till the end/till we crash on down/till we fly around the bend/gone without a sound.
* trees in a fence – is all about coming to grips with the end of a relationship. the horns add something special to this one. it’s only rain i heard you say/and then you turned and walked away/i don’t belong/i don’t belong/is there a way to grow back down/and start all over from the ground?
* dreams of the past – possibly my favorite off the album. it’s very hard to resist the simple guitar lines and jesse’s heartfelt vocals. you could say i was wrong/to believe it for so long/but wouldn’t you have done the same/or turned around and changed your name?/then where would you be?/somewhere lost at sea

jesse was kind enough to answer a few questions about his albums for me:

how you met heather: cosmo is your first full-length instrumental album. why the decision to go with an instrumental record?

jesse harris: Instrumental music has been around me all my life, both in the downtown music scene in New York and the musicians I play with from that scene, as well as the household I grew up in, where a lot of jazz was played. As a songwriter I’ve often tried to make songs with lyrics that could also stand as instrumental pieces melodically, so I’ve always wanted to make instrumental versions of them. The times I had recorded instrumental music in the past – a couple of tracks on two albums, Mineral and Watching The Sky, and a score for a film, The Hottest State – were really fun and I wanted to do a whole album that way. Then John Zorn coincidentally invited me to make an album for Tzadik, and that was the final push. The concept we decided on was that half the album would be new instrumental compositions and half new instrumental versions of songs.

hymh: i’m interested in your writing process. take little star, off of cosmo, for example. was that a song driven by a particular melody or line or did you first have a story which brought you to a specific sound?

jesse: All my songs start out as instrumentals in some sense, but the ones that don’t turn into songs with words are the ones that seem to stand on their own instrumentally. Little Star and Cosmo are examples of that. Little Star reminded me, and was partly inspired by, the band Big Star, songs like Thirteen, so I wrote it for them. Cosmo I titled after the main character of Cassavete’s The Killing Of A Chinese Bookie (I like the 1978 version better, by the way).

hymh: i’ve read in other interviews that through the night, your other new album, is said to be an exploration of night-time experiences. what was it about that time of day which drew your interest?

jesse: This theme was something I discovered ex-post-facto. Once all the songs were assembled I realized that each one said something about nighttime or dreams. In recording and arranging the music we emulated the mood of night – in peace and chaos.

thanks, jesse!

have a listen to the very enchanting little star:

(mp3) little star by jesse harris

and watch the video:

buy cosmo HERE. buy through the night HERE.

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