The story of this record I want to tell you about today, began in 2013, at the moment I first listened to – just-released – Twist of Fate. I’ve heard four of the Gerry Jablonski’s concerts promoting this album. At home, I was trying to come back to those moments, but when I put the headphones on and pressed play, I wanted… to cry out of sorrow. It was the same with their previous records and 99% of available bootleg recordings.
A year has passed. Then a second and third, and the situation was still the same. I was utterly taken with the live shows but records – made me mad. During this time another studio record (Trouble with the Blues) and even concert album (Live Trouble) were released, and although they were better than previous ones, the feeling they gave me was still more a less light year away from the one I got from hearing the band live.
The first clue about what caused this disproportion came to me when they recorded the concert album. The guys were – Gerry at the most – visibly tense and the very show wasn’t too good. Even more – from today’s point of view I consider it the worst of those 20 shows altogether I’ve seen.
The guys and I got to know each other at that time, so they’ve asked me for my opinion of this recording. I have to admit – I contributed to the decision about its release. I was overwhelmed after first listening of the raw material and right there and then I told Pete about it and… that was that. It was a mistake but as it turned out also a blessing in disguise. What happened with this recordings in production is monstrous – the damage made it impossible to listen to.
It was almost too much for me – for years I was trying to make them record a concert album only to find it not satisfying. It wasn’t a comfortable experience, but it gave me some insight. First – you need to have a good producer, second – it would be better if the band… didn’t know the concert was being recorded.
Gerry Jablonski Band // Live at the Blue Note
The opportunity to make it all right presented itself sooner than I thought. One day, Jurek Hippman (Polish manager) called me and asked which club in Poznań would be best for the band to play in. He told me few names, and I didn’t hesitate to pick the Blue Note – band’s previous performances in this place were always smashing and sounded good.
15 minutes before it all started, telling no one anything, I had asked Kamil Neumann (sound guy) to record the concert and keep it to himself. Luckily, he agreed and didn’t ask questions.
When I had the recordings – initially mixed thanks to Kamil – on my computer, I chose six songs judging only by the right groove, energy and feeling. I didn’t think whether I like the song or if the song should be on a record because people know it. I didn’t also think if a song shouldn’t be on a record because of some imperfections. Finally, I gave it some time and listened to it all again. And for the first time, I started to believe that was IT. So I send the files to the band.
Their reaction was overwhelming. That was what Pete wrote me instantly: Oh, fuck it’s a hit! Fuck, Maciej! We have to do something with it! And although it sounded like a marketing suicide to release yet another concert album, we all decided not to worry about it.
Then I thought – if I was right about where and how to record them I should also find a producer. The band okayed it and in my head was only one name: LESZEK ŁUSZCZ
The reason was simple: some time ago 30th-anniversary box of records of Voo Voo (Polish group) was released a concert album from a tour of which I’ve heard six shows. This record decked me because it truly presented almost everything that Voo Voo accomplished on this tour. That’s why I’ve decided that the guy who produced it “has it” and knows what he’s doing. Most concert albums are only a poor substitute of a live show and even with the best ones you can only say that they show you some truth but not the atmosphere. And yet here was something even more than that. So I decided to call him. Just like that.
I didn’t do any research about the guy, didn’t ask anyone about him. I just wanted to tell him (in about 1.5 minutes) what I felt and wait for a reaction. His wife answered and after hearing my speech told me with a smile that Leszek will be pleased to hear all that. I relaxed after that and Iwona assured me that Leszek would call me back after 10 minutes. And he did. I don’t remember how long we’d been talking, but soon I realized that we understand one another. I wasn’t 100% sure but it all looked good.
It was Spring Break Festival, so Leszek came to Poznań, and we had some time to talked it over. When I got to the hotel, Leszek shook my hand and shot: Geez, how old are you??! And I thought that I’d blown all we’ve built during our phone conversation because I had shaved my beard and now looked like a child… but we’ve got along after all cause we just couldn’t stop talking. Then Leszek Biolik joined our table and…we couldn’t stop talking even more. Leszek quickly asked me to come and see Elements’ gig where he was working as a sound guy that very evening.
The show was fine – the music was not my thing, but the musicians were so good that it was enough (L. Biolik / A. Rajski / M. Gładysz). I was standing behind the mixing console, and it must have looked somewhat funnily – when I was swinging and going down the music stream, Leszek just stood motionless. And when I wasn’t so taken by what was going on, he was starting to bounce. It turned out we agree on what is important in music, but when it comes to aesthetics, we live in slightly different worlds.
Eventually, we said our goodbyes in great moods, and since we discussed the financial matters before the concert, our next phone conversation was very specific. I passed the news to the band and after just one additional phone call (Pete asked me to add one more song) between the band, me and Leszek it was all done.
The production process was in general flawless. Deadlines were met, on both sides, and I’ve only fought with the band twice. Later on, we’ve explained each other everything so now I can joke about it but then… let’s just say it was good that there were thousands of kilometers between us because most probably the fists would be involved as well. On the other hand – aren’t such high emotions essential in such a venture?
When Gerry and the guys listened to the mix, they were unanimously amazed. So am I today. One can see such a statement as a self-advertisement or a lie. Well, do as you please. I leave it all to you. In my opinion, the material on the record Live at the Blue Note, shows – just as the concert album of Voo Voo from Jarocin did – what you really can expect when going to Gerry Jablonski and the Electric Band’s concert. So much that if you don’t like the album you can skip the live show as well, but I hope it will all work the other way.
This record caught all the band’s most prominent features–there is lots of improvisation, ease, dirt, imperfections, you can see which music styles are an inspiration for them. And – finally – the most important, heard on no other record, unpredicted energy. Layer after layer of unstoppable, knock-you-in-a-chair energy.
What’s interesting, not long after all this, the band reached the same high level of performance in a studio. Stacy Parrish (Grammy award winner for producing one of Robert Plant’s album) was so enchanted with their live show that he immediately wanted to work with them. You can hear the final effect of this cooperation on band’s latest single. Of course, the sound is somewhat more polite, but it’s good nonetheless. I think you can hear it’s them, so the comparison between those two faces of the band (in a studio and on a stage) is fascinating – there are differences but no discord. In both cases, the individual way of playing of all the musicians is in the foreground.
All in all – it was a great, one year adventure, and a successful one. Finally, those live shows giants have irrefutable proof of their greatness. The first – very distinguishing – audio teaser is waiting below…