Jeff Richman on Big Wheels
35 years of experience, 17 albums, a Berklee College of Music education, and Jimmy Haslip in the producer’s chair. There was no way Jeff Richman’s newest album Big Wheel could be anything but spectacular. The album opens with a funky groove that never lets up for the rest of the album, and features a great cover of Stevie Wonder’s That Girl. Richman talks with Abstract Logix about what went into making his new album Big Wheel and what influences and inspires him as a musician.
Abstract Logix: You have a created a larger discography. What sets Big Wheel apart from the rest of your catalog?
Jeff Richman: If you had to label me, I guess I would be known as a jazz fusion guitarist, and composer. I have had the incredible opportunity to work with some of the best musicians on the globe on all my recordings. What sets this new collection of songs apart in “Big Wheel” is that even though my compositions and solos are similarly familiar, the underlying pulse of the music seems to be void of “fusion”!! Not that it is a pop or smooth record, because it just isn’t. My writing is too complex for that. It feels to me that the music is coming from a different place, another home, different city, different setting. But it’s still me writing the same music. Kind of hard to explain…….
JR: My mom played folk guitar and sang, so I was listening to music and guitar at an early age while growing up. I think the first guitar sounds that started me up were “The Ventures” and all their guitar driven, twangy “surf” music. Then came Jeff Beck with the Yardbirds, that did it for me! I was fortunate to have grown up in area where I got to see lots of life changing live music. One of the most mind blowing concerts was Led Zeppelin on their first tour. After that I started buying some “jazz” related records which were fascinating. When I bought Miles Davis’ “Bitches Brew” I didn’t know what was going on. At about that time I realized I wanted to learn more about contemporary music, and in particular, jazz. Berklee was at that time, the only music school for this kind of music, so it was an easy choice to go there. I was lucky to be surrounded by incredible teachers and classmates. Just to name a few: Pat Metheny, Bill Frissel, Mike Stern, Mick Goodrick, Vinnie Colaiuta, and Jeff Berlin. I also saw many incredible live performances that were unforgettable: Miles Davis, Whether Report, Chick Corea, Keith Jarret, Herbie Hancock, Bill Evans, Ornette Coleman, Charlie Mingus, The Brecker Brothers, just to name a few.
JR: I think its the collective years of influences I have had. All the listening to live and recorded music, and all the gigs and recordings I’ve done have make me realize that every note is very important, that’s why I’m careful not to over do it. The well known phrases “less is more” and “the notes you don’t play are just as important as the notes you do play” are useful here. The other thing is, I don’t have amazing chops (speed and technique) so I have to rely on other things to get over. Things like phrasing, sound, time, feel, and melody. Most importantly, I focus on the compositional aspect, I am constantly trying and working towards creating a unique voice through my writing.