The latest musical offering by Ari Joshua, “Dragons Layer,” delves deep into the confluence of progressive jazz and alternative rock, creating an entrancing soundscape that beautifully marries the two genres. This track, carefully crafted with an acute attention to detail, mesmerizes the listener with its intricate layers and impeccable bass lines that pulsate through the composition. The experimental tonality weaves seamlessly throughout the melody, enhancing the immersive experience of the track.
A journey through experimental jazz soundscapes
“Dragons Layer” is a testament to Ari’s progressive songwriting skills, showcasing his ability to transcend conventional musical boundaries. The song navigates through complex rhythmic patterns, harmoniously balancing moments of intense musical fervor with subtle, introspective interludes, ensuring a captivating and dynamic listening experience.
The meticulous engineering of the track results in a carefully balanced stereo field, where each instrumental layer finds its perfect place, creating a rich and immersive sonic environment. Ari Joshua’s meticulous approach to sound production is evident in the way every element is given ample room to breathe within the mix, allowing the listener to fully appreciate the intricate nuances of the composition.
In conversation with the artist – Ari Joshua
IMF had the opportunity to catch up with the artist to discuss some intricate thoughts behind crafting the masterpiece that is his latest studio effort, Dragons Layer.
Ari Joshua’s name has become synonymous with experimental indie jazz. Share your thoughts about your vision for your latest number, Dragons Layer, with us.
My vision for the “Dragons Layer” was to compose something special for two of the players John Medeski, and Billy Martin, two people I have loved and who have inspired me for decades. The session was initially just us as a trio, but as fate would have it, Jason was nearby playing with Cyro Baptista, one of our professors at The New School. It’s a colorful piece of music, and one with a moreless informal form. The Dragon is a symbol that has a lot of meanings. The title itself is purposefully ambiguous. For example it should be or could be ‘Dragon’s Lair’ or ‘Dragon Slayer’ but it’s like I want it open to the listener, and for me composing it I was thinking of the quantum realm, but there is for sure fire, and flight, and terror, and delight. Life has its twists and turns, and sometimes you encounter times you wish you could ride the dragon, tame it, or approach it for one reason or another. My vision was to kind of capture that, the melody and the harmony came to me. I am so thrilled with how it turned out. Jason Fraticelli the bass player, and John and Billy slayed this track, and all the sounds were all captured at Applehead Recording in Woodstock.
What does your workflow look like inside the studio? Let us know what it is like working alongside John, Billy, and Jason.
I try to show up with a batch of music to pick from. I rarely show up knowing exactly what will happen, but I prepare for the possibilities. On this session it just felt like I was playing with some old friends in a garage, that’s really my best case . There was a level of professionalism, like focus, and determination, but it didn’t feel like there was anyone bigger or better in the room. I really loved it so much, reflecting on it. I wanted to hear all the ideas everyone had as we were going along, and I felt like all my ideas landed really well. Billy and I were on a call about the possible direction of the session, and he was like, let’s just be present for each song at the moment. That’s what we did. I picked a song that spoke to me, and we just were there with that song, it didn’t take much to get things down on tape. After 2 takes everything felt about as good as it needed to, at any point we could have dug deeper into a song, but instead we chose to make room for free improvisation and other material..
The amazing thing is we were able to go through alot of material and it just felt laid back. John and Billy are masters of improvisation, and being in the now. There is something about the way they approach the art with so much courage, and determination to be uniquely who they are. It’s amazing to see cause so many great musicians are trying to fit inside the box, and these guys are sort of intentionally saying let’s get away from the box. In some ways it was like jumping out of a plane, but you got two guys that are experienced enough to catch you mid air if needed. Jason and I went to school together and would meet up and turn the lights off in the practice rooms and play free for hours, even though it’s been decades since then, it still feels like he’s the same open minded musical wizard he always has been. Overall it was a dream come true, a real learning experience, and I am left just wanting to do this as my day job all the time every week forever. I hope folks buy the music or use it for film or tv.
That heavily saturated guitar tone sounds menacing. Almost like it pierces through the entire sonic spectrum. How did you manage to achieve it? Do walk us through your signal chain.
The guitar tones on this session were mostly from using the in house gear at the studio. They have a lot of old pedals, and stuff. I brought a suitcase out of my favorite units as well. The distorted tones are from this bit commander pedal which gives the guitar a bit-crushed sound, maybe also from this ‘Death By Audio’ pedal I had. I used my Languedoc Custom Guitar for the basic tracks, maybe with a little chorus, and the dubs were all on this old Hagstrom Surf Guitar from the 1960’s. That thing just had all these switches which all had these really intense sounds on it. All said I may not be able to say the exact signal path, but I do have pictures of the set up. Chris Bittner the engineer, he is also brilliant, he recorded a number of Medeski, Martin, & Wood records including the Scofield stuff. I know we went through a few amps to get the sound, and for the Hagstrom overdubs, we mic’d the live room as well to get a vibe. The bit commander is probably what you are hearing though.
The album artwork for the track is a masterpiece that aptly symbolizes the vision of Dragons Layer. What made you collaborate with Martin Ontiveros for the same?
Martin is brilliant. Look at his works. He has his own style, and his works make you feel and think when you see them. His use of color is particularly tasty. I used him as well for two releases with Ray Paczkowski, and Russ Lawton, another organ and drum duo most known from Soule Monde, and their work with Trey Anastasio. The first album art we used was on the song called “The $1000 Question”, which had a multi eyed monster, and later on “Kambo Wambo” which is a song about frog medicine. I have a lot of respect and love for visual arts, and Martin’s style is just superb, and it fit’s my vibe. Top notch stuff always.
How has the response post-meeting of the minds been so far? Looking back down memory lane, what advice would you like to give your younger self to help navigate the indie industry?
Meeting Of The Minds was our first release. This is our third release. Later I plan to consolidate the projects into albums, but due to the way the industry is, the way we are doing it is serving the music and the times very well. Each release we seem to be finding more listeners, and it just feels really good in my heart and soul to be sharing this art, and expression. After MOTM, I put out my tribute to Elvin Jones called ’Let’s Do It Right Now’ and it landed a spot on Jazziz Magazine, a publication I have read since I was a teen. As far as advice, I would say, find and listen to the advice of your elders. I did that as much as I could. Also spend less time worrying about the industry, and the clicks that different scenes have, and encourage focus on finding your own voice, you are the gift of life itself, and you have all you need. Stay positive because there are definitely a lot of obstacles in this industry. I would tell myself to focus on why I am doing this work, and to breathe a little bit of faith and love into this all the time. Your job is to be creative, and alive, this path is really about giving and sharing, and society may not be set up to give back, but just have faith with everything and trust that there is a greater force at work.
Dragons Layer clearly pushes the boundaries of jazz music. What is your approach to such progressive songwriting? Also, who would you say your biggest influences are while chasing your sound?
To me being ‘progressive, pushing boundaries’ these are things that naturally occur by being authentic, and openly creative. By the nature of being human, all that has come before us has come already, and all that lies ahead is right here in our hands now. Part of being authentic and expressing yourself is the work that is part of evolution. Jazz is about mastering your instrument, and using your instrument to practice your mind, soul, and body, and not the opposite. I would never sit down and say ‘I am going to be progressive, or innovative’. But I do sit down and think what’s real right now, and what do I feel? I think many of the artists I love and celebrate, I can say they were progressive in their times, but even more I can say they were authentically expressing their emotions, and were relevant in this way to the time they lived in. As far as my influences, they really stopped mounting when I was about 22 years old, I had heard all I need to by that age. I still love all the music I loved from about ages 13-22. The legacy of the great jazz legends are a big part of my influences, as well as Hendrix, and Grunge music. I love a lot of classical music like Bach, and Debussy. This is something I could really talk about for 24 hours straight. So I will leave it there for now. The one thread if anything is the human emotional and spiritual density of my influences.
What’s next after Dragons Layer? Can we expect another full-length from camp Ari Joshua anytime soon? Let us know a bit about your immediate touring schedule and where your fans might be able to catch you live…
This session will eventually be compiled into a full length album. I would need some sort of backing, maybe from a label, or a crowd source, or a collective effort to really make a full album.That would be a real dream. I go deep when I make my art and I also do a bit of a round robin thing, I have so much music to still get out of my brain, and my heart. I maintain about 2-3 shows a week schedule, but I don’t publicize them all,but if you want to keep up with touring visit http://www.arijoshua.com if I am traveling I am more likely to post stuff. If you want me and my art to hit a town near you contact us there, as long as there is a budget I can make a lot of options happen. I really want to spend more time traveling this next 5 years, and doing clinics, and masterclasses, and talks, and figuring out ways to make a lasting positive impact.
What advice would you like to lend young indie minds who wish to venture into the intriguing world of progressive jazz in 2023?
My advice to young artists is to learn to be able to compartmentalize what is within your control, and what is not. Let go of the stuff that is out of your control, try to save your energy for the stuff you can control. Make yourself a small achievable list of goals you can make happen. It’s great to focus on the peaks and the big milestones, but the valleys are really what will define you. In those valleys how are you taking care of yourself, and your community? It’s not just about you, your art, your being seen, it’s also about the reason why you’re doing this. Give yourself credit, this is some of the work the world needs the most. Choosing to pick a career that isn’t sort of part of the machine, it’s not working for a paycheck, it’s about making this world a better place, and following your heart.
Seamless attention to detail in the latest offering by Ari Joshua
With its enigmatic and mysterious aura, “Dragons Layer” by Ari Joshua would find a natural home in the shadowy realms of films like “Chinatown” and “L.A. Confidential,” infusing their gripping narratives with its own sense of intrigue and mystique. This track’s enigmatic fusion of progressive jazz and alternative rock makes it a prime candidate for garnering attention within the indie music scene, promising to captivate audiences with its intricate musical tapestry and evocative storytelling.
Ari Joshua, Jason Fraticelli, John Medeski, and Billy Martin has delced deep inside the realms of experimental songwriting to offer their fans a brilliant piece of art, that shall be hence remembered in the world of sonic brilliance as “Dragons Layer.”