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Album: Real Feels Live Vol.2
Label: Sunnyside Records
Vertrieb: Good To Go
VÖ: 8. Februar 2019

John Raymond hat Real Feels ins Leben gerufen, um ein kleines, fokussiertes Ensemble mit einer starken Banddynamik und Identität zu schaffen. Zusammen mit dem Gitarristen Gilad Hekselman und dem Schlagzeuger Colin Stranahan hat Raymond drei Alben aufgenommen, darunter Joy Ride von 2018 bei Sunnyside Records. Wie bereits bei ihren früheren Veröffentlichungen war Real Feels über vier Monate auf einer ausgedehnten Tournee unterwegs, auf der das Ensemble sich und das musikalische Material weiterentwickeln konnte. Ihr letztes Konzert auf dieser Tour, im Blue Whale in Los Angeles wird jetzt als Real Feels Live Vol. 2 veröffentlicht.

An aspect of the jazz music business that tends to be ignored is touring. There are only so many venues with budgets and booking agents. Artists who manage to find both are either popular sensations or lucky, especially in a country as spread out and diverse as the United States. It takes a lot of motivation, courage and a devil-may-care attitude to strike out on the road on your own. Brass wizard John Raymond felt that the investment he and his Real Feels bandmates had put into their music should be heard by a larger audience, no matter the cost.

Raymond instituted Real Feels in an effort to create a small, focused ensemble with a strong band dynamic and identity. Alongside guitarist Gilad Hekselman and drummer Colin Stranahan, Raymond has recorded three albums, including 2018’s Joy Ride on Sunnyside Records. As they had done for their earlier records, Real Feels hit the road for an extended tour over four months that allowed their material, along with the ensemble, to grow and refine itself. Their final concert on this tour, at the Blue Whale in Los Angeles, was preserved, and is now released as Real Feels Live Vol. 2.

Originally from Minnesota, Raymond brought his Midwestern sensibilities and flugelhorn to New York, eventually leading to the formation of Real Feels with Hekselman and Stranahan. The music the trio makes is forthright and listenable. The band found that as they played more and more their approach to music making became more and more oriented toward serving the tune, akin to a rock song rather than the typical blowing jazz pieces. This honing mostly came on the bandstand, where the trio would respond to the reactions of the crowd to inform where the music went.

When Real Feels recorded Joy Ride, the pieces they played were in nascent form, some only having been played in rehearsals. By the end of the tour, which spanned the United States, venues of all types and sizes, and audiences of all description, the pieces began to have new personas, the road and routine shaping them in different ways that can be heard on Live Vol.2.

The recording was made at Los Angeles’s home for fresh and outstanding jazz performances, the Blue Whale. The venue had previously played host to Real Feels a number of times and had provided young and enthusiastic audiences for the band. The group recorded a number of performances while on the road but weren’t very surprised to find that the best of the bunch was done at their favorite West Coast venue, which provided a perfect blend of sound and vibe.

The recording begins with Raymond’s “Follower,”  which has settled into a faster tempo, the resultant groove a perfect space for Raymond’s solo feature. Bon Iver’s “Minnesota, WI” has really opened up for Hekselman and Stranahan. Their development of introduction and outros showcase the stretching of the band’s aural identity, which features more electronics, effects and looping, as can also be heard on Raymond’s arrangement of “Be Still, My Soul.” The change in “Be Still” is striking as Raymond’s expansive pedal and looping setup has allowed for some beautiful ambient explorations.

Hekselman’s plectral guitar musings set the stage for Raymond’s plainchant horn on the leader’s “Joy Ride,” done here in an expanded and moving performance. The recording concludes with Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” a piece that remains as vital today as it was when it was originally conceived, and is done here in a heartrending rendition  by a simpatico ensemble of sensitive performers.

John Raymond found that getting Real Feels on the road and in front of as many people as possible had as much of an effect on the direction and sound of the band as the material that they played. Real Feels Live Vol. 2 shows how hard work, friendship and persistence are the keys to developing music that really speaks to audiences and that the evolution of the music can only come through the musicians and the music growing together. 

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