Jerry Velona

Smooth Jazz dot com review

There’s always room for out-of-the-box excursions, and Boston-based singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Jerry Velona magnificently travels down that road with DREAM GIRL. It’s cool and charismatic music you should give a try! Velona is a pro: His voice has been featured in TV commercials and independent films. And his songs, which span the full range of American music from jazz to rock and soul and country, have been featured in MTV and HBO productions. On his fifth solo CD, Velona combines a number of jazz styles, from smooth and contemporary to classic, Dixie and swing. There are two versions of the cover track and hit single, “Dream Girl,” the first a noir-ish Smooth Jazz track with the enchanting sax of Paul Ahlstrand. The vocal version showcases what Velona’s about: a refreshing songwriter and singer who shuns clichés and tells amazing stories! The Big Easy is represented on “Wishful Intuition”: You’ll love the trombone and the boy-sees-girl story with a twist! Whimsy is key to Velona’s muse, and he ends the disc with a cover of a classic: “If You Stub Your Toe on the Moon.” (Don’t forget to check out companion video on YouTube!) Jerry Velona rocks!

Smooth Jazz dot com

Metronome Magazine/Dec 2012

DREAM GIRL - 5 song CD

 

Singer-Songwriter-multi-instrumentalist Jerry Velona returns with a new CD sampler of three well written jazz numbers that vary in style (and delivery) from traditional NewOrleans jazz (Wishful Intuition) to smooth contemporary pop (Dream Girl) to finger snapping and toe tapping swing (If You Stub Your Toe on the Moon). On Dream Girl, track one, Velona assembles a stellar band of players that feature guitarist Duke Levine, pianist Brad Hatfield, drummer Marty Richards, bassist Richard Gates and saxophonist Paul Ahlstrand to deliver a dreamy instrumental version that could be heard on TV commercials or a movie soundtrack. The second version of Dream Girl features Velona on lead vocals, lending a John Pizzarelli feel to the song.

Tracks three and four offer a big band and small band arrangement of the Velona penned Wishful Intuition. The track three version is inspiring and fully realized with its brash New Orleans big band sound featuring Dave Harris on trombone and tuba and Billy Novick on clarinet along with pianists Dave Limina and Larry Luddecke, bassist Jesse Williams, guitarist Kevin Belz and drummer Zac Casher. If you love the new HBO show Treme, you'll certainly love the track.

The album closes with the Johnny Burke/Jimmy Van Heusen song If you Stub Your Toe on the Moon. This number highlights the best of the classic jazz idiom and Velona along with Dave Limina on piano, Billy Novick on clarient, Jesse Williams on bass and Mike Williams on guitar nail it. Great feel and sound by Velona and a stable of top notch players.

Metronome Magazine Interview

JERRY VELONA INTERVIEW - METRONOME MAGAZINE - February 2013

Jerry Velona is a self professed musical chameleon.  His love for all styles and genres of music have led him to release five albums of music that range from pop, rock and folk to New Orleans jazz, funk and bebop. His latest offering, Dream Girl, finds Velona heading up a cast of Boston area heavyweights that include Brad Hatfield, Dave Limina, Duke Levine, Marty Richards, Zac Casher, Dave Harris, Larry Luddecke, Billy Novick, Jesse Williams, Paul Ahlstrand, Richard Gates Kevin Belz and Michael Williams. Jerry and I spoke one November day and he outlined how the project came to life...

METRONOME: You'vebeen busy since we last spoke in February 2010.  What exactly have you been up to musically?

Since then I tried to play out the Random Emotion CD as much as I could with regard to airplay and gigs. I did pretty well with that.  That was something that had been a long time in production. The songs all varied from the different points in my life. It was a compilation of all that.  In a way, that freed me from finishing a lot of loose ends that had been kicking around song-wise and musically.

Since then I have had a lot of ideas that come to me for new songs or for covers, so I've just been following my muse in that regard.  After Random Emotion came out, I wrote a song called "Locked Out and Loaded" which, these days, would be more of a country rock song along the lines of Driveby Truckers - that kind of thing.  That syle of music to me (and probably you), would be thought of as rock, and it is rock, but these days it's so segmented and formatted in the music world that you hear that type of music more on country radio, like Outlaw Country, which is one of my favorite Sirius XM stations.

Then for the B-side, I don't really remember what inspired me to do a cover of a Beatles' song, but I always loved to do "Little Child".  It was not a song that had been covered by anyone else that I was aware of.  I just thought it would lend itself to a redo in that same style as "LOAL" to make it easier to promote.

METRONOME: Where did you record that?

That was my first trip in to Q Division studio.  I had never recorded there before, although I knew some guys who worked there before and people who actually worked there.  It was alot of fun and a great experience.  I worked with Ed Valauskas and Pat DiCenso. I brought in alot of the same folks I had been using on my stuff like Duke and Kevin, Zac Casher, Anthony Vitti and Rosie Rosenblatt, who I met through my friend Larry Luddecke. He played harp on it. Rosie killed it. He was great.

METRONOME: Did you find it hard shifting gears from the material you recorded for Random Emotion to your country flavored EP?

No, not at all.  My problem is that I grew up listening to all styles of music. My parents were jazz buffs.  I think I mentioned when we last spoke that my uncle Tony was a songwriter.  He wrote "Lollipops and Roses", a standard from the 50's. Then my uncle Ted played drums and percussion for a lot of the jazz greats.  So I grew up with jazz and of course rock with the Beatles and Stones, etc.

I honestly enjoy and listen to all types of music.  A lot of musical heroes from the 60's were guys like Frank Zappa, who were all over the map, which stylistically, you could get away with back then.  Obviously you can't do that now, if you want any kind of commercial success. So for me, I hear this stuff and I feel it. It wasn't that I made a conscious decision to write in that style.  The lyrics lend itself to that musically and that's just how it came out.  It wasn't anything I had to work on.  It just happened!

METRONOME: I think it's built in to your DNA too, being from a family of jazz musicians.  Don't you find it to be an advantage having an appreciation for different genres of music?

I feel that way.  The years that I was doing a lot of GB work, I was very much in demand for that type of work because I could sing in just about any kind of style.  In a GB band, that comes at a high premium.  The fact that I could sing, I could croon, I could do standards, James Brown stuff, and rock all came natural.

METRONOME: I remember that single release sounding very good. Q Division really did you justice on that project.

They're great. Everything they do sounds really good. Pat, the engineer was so fast. He just knows his software like the back of his hand, and he's got great ears. He couldn't have been easier to work with.

METRONOME: Tell me about your new recording project, Dream Girl. When did you come up with the concept for it, and how long ago did you start recording it?

The song Dream Girl was from Random Emotion.  That was one of the songs that was on the full length record with a vocal version.  In the back of my head, I always thought the music would lend itself well to a smooth jazz format.  I had the idea that I might want to rerecord it as an instrumental with a sax doing the melody.  then I was reading the Berklee Alumni mag and one of the factulty did a smooth jazz recording and had some success with airplay.  He mentioned a music promoter, Cliff Gorov, who promotes exclusively to that genre.  He and his brother Jason - I think it's called Gorov Music Promotions - are in Hendersonville, Nevada.  that intrigued me and caused me to think, maybe I should bring someone in to lay down the melody instrumentally on Dream Girl. Now that I have a connection who could promote it for me in that way, maybe it might work.

I brought in Paul Ahlstrand, who I know well , and who is a friend of mine and recorded that song with Larry Luddecke at Straight Up Music. It came out great. Then coincidentally, around that same time, I came up with the idea for the tune Wishful Intuition.

When I go out lyric writing, I go out on my own into Boston. I'll find a pub or restaurant, somewhere I can be alone in a corner, away from everything.  I'll have my note pad or IPhone with me and write lyrics that way.  When I would do this, half the time I would end up having a crush on the waitress at the various places I would happen to be in.  At some point it was distracting (laughs). I'm a happily married guy, but that caused me to come up with thie lyrics to Wishful Intuition. It's about a guy who falls in love with every girl he sees, but has some idea that the next one is actually going to be the one - you always have that "wishful intuition" so to speak.  One thing led to another and I sat down at the piano.

When I compose on the piano, I tend to come up with jazzier ideas or more complex chordal or harmonic ideas. As I was fooling around with it, it sounded like a jazz tune. In that case, I plunked it out as best I could on the piano and sent it to Brad Hatfield, another good friend of mine who I went to Berklee with.  He's a great musician and player who plays with the Boston Pops. He fleshed it out for me and said, "How does that sound?" I said, it sounds great!

For that tune, there's a guy named Michael Anderson who is a national songwriter and screener at Taxi.  He wrote a book called the little Black Book of Songwriting, which is one of my songwriting bibles.  It's a great book of basic instruction and guidance on how to write songs.  You can e mail him with song ideas and put some money in his paypal account and he critiques your song for you.  He gets back to you with 48 hours. It's phenomenal and he's a great guy who obviously knows his stuff.  He's written hits in the Nashvile market.

He actually helped me to really hone the lyrics for Wishful Intuition.  He comes at it from the Nashville school which is telling the story and maybe having a liste twist at the end which has never been a way I've written lyrics. It opened up a whole new world for me in that regard.  With a little help from Brad, a little help from Michael Anderson, and a little help from Larry Luddecke, we came up with that tune.  It's like a classic New Orleans jazz, Dixieland kind of thing.  We recorded that at Q division and brought in Billy Novick, the great clarinetist. He's played for years with Guy Van Duser; they have a duo.  He also plays with the New Black Eagle Jazz Band and Jesse Williams, who I know well - a great bass player.  Then this guy I never knew named Dave Harris who is a Berklee guy who plays tuba and trombone, played both on the song.  It sounds like a happy New Orleans funeral (laughs).

METRONOME: The track really sounded great especially with the big bandWere you going for that feel originally or did it fall in to place as the recording process unfolded?

Again, as I sit down with the guitar and piano, I just say, Yeah, that's it.  I just know it.  It just feels right. That's usually how it comes about.  I try not to go with any fixed idea. When we recorded it, Dave Limina, who played the spare version of the tune played great. Q Division has this old upright piano that's in great shape. Dave loved it. He wanted to take it home with him (laughs).  It had that certain old time sound to it which was perfect for that tune.  I thought we would do a second take with him doing the piano on it.  I was really happy with that.

Was the second version recorded on the separate day or just hours after the first one was recorded?

Larry Luddecke played the piano on the first version. I had Dave do the other one because we were also in the studio doing the cover song, "If You Stub Your Toe on the Moon".  Dave was on that session, so when he came in to do some overdubs, I asked him if he would do a take on Wishful Intuition.

Did you use the same basic tracks for Wishful Intuition and unplug Larry for the new track and unplug Billy's clarinet too?

That's what happened. I was thinking of having just the clarinet on there with Dave Limina's version, but the problem was, they were all in the same room when we recorded it, so we had to take out all the reeds.  But everything else is exactly the same, including the vocal.  We literally just cut and pasted.

Kevin Belz played guitar for that song. How were you introduced to him?

I've known Kevin for years. He played in my band back in the 90's and in the early 2000's.  He teaches at Berklee.  He's a very versatile player. He was in Mighty Sam McClain's band and he plays with Toni Lynn Washington.  He's very well known in the blues circles in the Boston area.  He's also a really good jazz player. He plays a Gibson ES-175 with that straight ahead comping thing.

I found playing with alot of different people, it's not that common to find somebody who can play rock and jazz really well.  Usually you get one or the other, but Kevin is one of those guys that can play in any style.  I just like his playing.  He's not the type of studio guy that you bring in and does exactly what you want.  He just does what he wants to and does it well.

I thought your choice of "If You Stub Your toe on the Moon" was a great idea for a cover.  When did you first hear the song and what made you say, this will definitely work for this project?

My mom was one of the original bobby sixers - a girl that used to go and scream at Sinatra concerts in the 1940's at the Paramount Theater in New York.  She literally was.  She was his biggest fan, so I grew up listening to Frank Sinatra.  He is still one of my idols.  She had a Sinatra rarities cassette that she gave to me.  She passed away in 2002 so I inherited her music collection. Sadly, she threw out her 78's.

I heard this song and I always loved it.  Part of it is the way Sinatra interprets it and part of it is the band has the Nat King Cole trio sound.  I have a feeling that was done deliberately.  It has a very childlike, whimsical quality that you hear alot from songs of that era and I miss that.  I feel like we got a little too jaded and a little too filled with irony for our own good (Laughs). I appreciate all that and can be as sarcastic as the next guy, but there's something sweet and beautiful about just singing about very simple things.  When you strip away all the crap in life, those the things tha really matter.  Those are the timeless things - trying your best...loving a woman. It reduces life to the bare essentials.  For that reason, I've always loved that song.

Then I started thinking about it as a video because obviously the lyric tells a story.  I did one for the song "Leave Me Alne" years ago and used a bunch of BU grad students at the film school and I approached this one the same way.  I was able to hook up with a couple of really talented grad students in their final semester who needed to do a video project.  It's on YouTube and has almost every member of my immediate family involved in some way (laughs).

Who were the students that helped you make the video?

Ginny Riley was the director of photography. She's from Virginia and was in her last semester at BU. She's now out in California interning, trying to make a career for herself.  Jonathan Caso assited on it and Laura Jennings did the editing.  They were all grad students at the time.  It took a whole to shoot at a couple of different venues and then more time to edit, but it came out great.

Where did you record "Stub Your Toe"?

That one, again, we recorded at Q Division. I really just copied the Sinatra version note for note because it was so perfect. I couldn't imagine improving on it.  Kevin Belz was supposed to play on it, but he couldn't make the sessions so I used Mike Williams who is a great player in that style. He helped to write the chart on it as well.

Were any of the players familiar with the song before going in to the studio?

No, nobody at the session had ever heard the song. It's a pretty obscure tune, but I gave them an mp3 and had a lead sheet written for it.  Mike was the one who wrote out a lot of those unison lines and harmony lines with the clarinet, guitar and piano.  It gives it that really cool, early Nat Cole trio kind of sound.  Mike really went above and beyond on it.

It's the first time I every recorded without a drummer. With the guitar player comping the quarter notes and the bass player pretty much playing the same, the rhythm just pops. I really didn't need a drummer.

How long did it take to record the project?

From the time I did Dream Girl through finishing up with Stub Your Toe it was about nine months.  The sessions themselves were two or three days at the most. I tend to like to record one song at a time, rather than record multiple songs. I work better that way.

Have you had a release party for the album?

I haven't scheduled anything yet.  I've been spending a lot of time promoting it.  It's doing pretty well radio-wise.  It was the #5 most added on the Billboard Smooth Jazz chart the week it was released.  Right now it's on 25 stations confirmed.  but I need to play.  I need to get there.