What's up with the name change?
When we first started thinking about how to name our new CD
- Yes, we finally have a CD, YEAH! -
we figured that this would be the perfect time to also think about a more descriptive name for our musical project.
After a long and painful process (ouch!) we finally settled for Spicy Jazz Adventure. We think that it perfectly describes what we are trying to do musically.
Thomas: "Believe it or not, but for a brief time I seriously thought about calling our CD “Jazz for Jazz Haters”. Why? Because I really believe that our music also appeals to people that usually don't like jazz music at all."
How it all began
(as told by Thomas Gunther)
Before we started this project Pam and I have worked together in a well-known Chicago jobbing band for several years. That's when I first noticed her talent for singing cover songs in all kinds of styles and genres.
The story about the first song we wrote together
After one of those jobbing gigs I used to do with Pam, a baseline popped into my head. The next day I composed a song based on that idea. I decided to record it so Pam could listen to it. At our next gig together I gave her the recording. After just two days she called me telling me with great enthusiasm that she had written a song (melody and lyrics) a few years back which fits perfectly with what I did. The title was Last Night.
We decided to get together to try to merge my song with her song, which worked like a charm. By the way, this meeting was also a great dress rehearsal for our future musical collaboration.
After that, we got together more often, and during rehearsal breaks we talked about the idea of creating a band together, and what the music and band should be like. She told me that it has been always a dream of her to have her own band. Soon Pamela's Dreams was born, which is now called Spicy Jazz Adventure.
Timing is everything they say. This holds true in life and music.
At the time we both were fed up with reproducing other people's songs and arrangements, which is the typical thing you do in a jobbing band of course. And performing with jobbing bands was something we both did an awful lot at the time. Sure, jobbing gigs pay a lot of money, but it also is a softer form of prostitution if you play the same cover songs night after night, pretending it's the most fun thing you ever dreamed of doing. Unless, of course, it is actually the most fun thing you ever dreamed of doing. This said, I have to admit that if the musicians are great, playing in a jobbing band can really be fun. Confused? Me too, sorry!
Anyway, we were both more than ready to try something more original, something that allowed us to create music on a much deeper, more personal level.
The question was, what style of music this should be.
While we were driving to gigs together we often talked about music. During some of our conversations Pam mentioned that she really didn't like traditional jazz at all. Although this wasn't that surprising to me (considering the kind of music Pam listened to in her car back then), it sure made it clear to me that Pamela's musical preferences are quite different from mine. For example, I have played in many traditional and modern jazz bands in my life, and composed many Jazz tunes as recorded on my CD THE WINDY CITY (featuring German Saxophonist and long time musical collaborater Peter Lehel as well as Chicago's jazz icon Orbert Davis), or my cd Thommy Gunther's Taste Of Chicago life recording featuring Chicago Saxophonist Jim Gailloreto and singer Bobbi Wilson.
Considering our differences in musical taste it doesn't take a genius to see that this could have caused some serious problems regarding our collaboration. Fortunately, it turned out to be just the opposite. In our case however the old saying opposites attract perfectly holds true. We never really argue when working on songs. I see three reasons for that:
- We inspire one another with ideas the other could never dream up.
- We are both willing to compromise as long as we both love the outcome.
- We both have very different skill sets which complement each other perfectly. This may also be one of the more important reasons why we respect each other very much musically.
Oh, there is one more reason: We became like brother and sister over the years.
Knowledge versus intuition
I really believe that Pamela is extraordinarily talented, especially when one considers that she never received any musical training.
Everything she produces musically comes from a purely intuitive place. She has near perfect pitch and an almost photographic memory. Both can be a blessing and a curse, as I can tell you from working with her. For example, once she knows a song a certain way, it becomes very difficult for her to sing it differently. But good outweighs the bad big time.
I too started out playing jazz by listening and imitating rather then knowing what I was doing. It all began when my father's friend gave me a Lionel Hampton Trio record for my 8th birthday. I was crazy about this music. I could't go to sleep without listening to it, which is strange considering that in my family nobody ever listened to American jazz. I really wanted to learn how to play this music, but unfortunately nobody I new could teach me. Thankfully, pretty soon I discovered books on music theory and improvisation, and at age 12 I had lessons with some of the greatest music teachers in the world like Jamey Aebersold and Bill Dobbins. A few years after I finished high school I got myself a Masters Degree in Teaching and Performing Jazz and Popular Music, and for many years now I have been teaching music theory, pop arranging, music technology, and piano at College level.
Why am I telling you this? Because it explains why I am hearing and thinking music a lot different from Pamela.
We hear music differently
Working with Pamela is fascinating to me because she can still hear and enjoy music much like someone who is not a trained musician. In contrast, I am constantly inclined to analyze music on a theoretical level, although I also enjoy music performed with great feel very much. As a matter of fact, to me the groove and feel of the music take precedence over everything else. A song may have the greatest harmonies, the perfect melody, interesting lyrics, but unless it feels good I won't be able to enjoy it.On the other hand, a one chord jam can get boring real fast to me, even when it grooves like nothing else.
Considering all this, it certainly may appear strange to you that we work together so well. I guess you just have to take our word for it. Or wait, there is actually a way to see it for yourself. Just listen to our CD or see us perform.
(as told by Pamela Fernandez)
When I met Thomas I knew he was a jazz man. So I was really impressed when he played all these R&B and House and Techno songs for the band we we're with for years. Then he took the bass players role in all the songs when our bass player moved out of the country. So, it's like "Whoa"! Most of the time I couldn't tell the difference. The band was so tight with the same players at every gig that It made the songs a breeze to sing. We also had lots of gigs in the burbs and surrounding states so we rode together for most of them.
Well, at the end of every gig we were wired either from the gig being great or even if there weren't many dancers our band always seemed into it and we we're wired just from our own experience. Interwired, if you will!
Our trips back home afforded me lots of conversation to talk about music and what I don't like about traditional jazz and all sorts of musical mania. All of that shaped my views about forming a different type of jazz. Jazz that's urban, jazz that's truthful, and standard jazz that's totally made over. I have always been creative in my head.
Inventions, advertising ideas and especially smushing words together. For instance our style of music is "Jazziphopatining" (Jazz, Hip Hop, Latin and Swing). Smushed genres and words!
So, it was inevitable that Thomas' ideas would meet mine and we'd form a musical bond that was ahead of its time. Now I've seen several artists starting to change melodies the way we do. But not quite like us!!!!!
We've been doing it for a while and hopefully, our music reflects that. It's interesting cause When I hear the traditional Jazz songs the way they really go, they sound wrong now. My head is very much wrapped around changing these songs all the time and I now hear something totally different than the norm.
I pray that's a good thing.