With layers of keyboards, guitars and woodwinds, Erik Deutschs Hush Money is not your usual jazz album. The keyboardist and composer, a co-founder of Fat Mama and known for his work alongside trumpeter Ron Miles, singer Erin McKeown and guitarist Charlie Hunter among others, brought together collaborators from his time in Colorado and New York, headed up by guitarist and co-producer Jonathan Goldberger.
I really set out to make an atmospheric record one that didnt sound like a sparkly jazz CD, Deutsch says. My last record (Fingerprint, Sterling Circle, 2007) was done on a Yamaha C7 [grand piano] and I was looking forward to achieving a much different sound. Bed tracks were recorded to tape at The Bunker in Williamsburg, Brooklyn with Deutsch and Goldberger doing overdubs up the street at Goldbergers home studio in Greenpoint. Analogue tape gives Hush Money a warmly saturated sound, as does Deutschs collection of vintage keyboards: an ARP Omni 2, Moog Source, and Casiotones augment the piano, Wurlitzer and Hammond organ tracks laid down at the Bunker. I decided it would be cool to feature these keyboards; theyve been in my arsenal since 95 or 96. One of the Casios I actually got when I was 13. A lot of people have seen me using these boards live over the years and probably associate aspects of my music with their individual tones. Im very comfortable with them, but I havent dug into them too deeply in the studio. With some tracks boasting as many as five keyboard layers, the blend between keys and reeds is a hallmark of the album. In a way, says Deutsch, this music is a tribute to my favorite keyboards!
Its also a tribute to some of his favorite musicians. While this incarnation of the group has been playing together for over a year, many of the relationships go back much further. Since Deutschs 2004 move from Boulder, Colorado to New York City, he has been colleagues with multireedist Mike McGinnis, whose versatile performances on flute, clarinets and saxophones shines on Hush Money, complementing Deutschs spectrum of keyboard textures. Guitarist Goldberger, Deutsch and bassist Jonti Siman are frequent collaborators, good friends and schoolmates Goldberger and Deutsch met in college in 1995, and Deutsch has known Siman since the fifth grade. All of them are alumni of Fat Mama, a group renowned in the national jam band scene through the late 1990s. Upon their relocation to New York, alumni of the group created A Big Yesand a small no, in which they play presently. Drummer Mark Dalio is another Colorado cohort, from Denver, and Deutschs bandmate in singer Erin McKeowns touring outfit as well as the collective effort of County Road X. Bassoonist Sara Schoenbeck is a more recent acquaintance, having met on the road a couple of years ago while Schoenbeck was on tour with Wayne Horvitzs Gravitas Ensemble and Deutsch was out with Hunter. Guests Eric Biondo on trumpet and baritone saxophonist Barry Saunders join the front line on Dirty Osso Bucco and Quittin Time.
The tunes on Hush Money have melodies that leave an indelible imprint upon the listener, decorated with novel arrangements and founded on infectious grooves. With Deutschs palette of keyboards, McGinnis various reed doubles, Goldbergers guitar effects and Simans ability on both acoustic and electric basses, the possible combinations are remarkable. Hearts for Purple Lions features a section of flute, bassoon, Wurlitzer, Hammond and acoustic bass; Get Out While You Can features another notable orchestration of piano, Casio, Moog, steel-string acoustic guitar, clarinet, bassoon and electric bass. Hunters friendship and mentorship to Deutsch is palpable on Hush Money, from the catchy melody of the title track to the Latin- and African-inspired beats of Black Flies and India Rubber. Charlies the one that got me excited to perform on the Casio, Deutsch says. I also learned a lot about the importance of groove in music, about performance energy, and about strengthening my foundation in the blues.
In line with the attention to sonic detail that characterizes certain strains of indie rock and young rock-influenced jazz composers, Hush Money is the result of longtime colleagues pursuing new avenues.