The heyday of jazz rock was the 60s and 70s. Wolfe is showing us there are many more relevant paths to explore in 2014 and beyond.
Like a wild dragon, and equally daunting- consciousness is the most difficult beast to tame and control.
What was your last thought before sleeping last night?
Most of us ride our thought trains strapped squarely on- but never really seeming to have lasting control or even expectation of where we’ll end up, but we’re always sure of where we are- in the so-called ‘now’.
Thought-trains are roller coasters: travelling fast or slow, looping, jerking left then right, climbing up then racing down. Beyond the brief moments of ‘now’ that we’re living in, everything is a vapour or hologram a mere two steps beyond where we’re coming from and where we’re heading.
Many years ago as a pre-teen, I discovered my future. I met with clues, hints...relics of another time like encoded messages- ghostly outlines of musical paths I’d yet experience.
It happened in the 70s. I was a young Beatles fan- nearly worshiping their melodic pop rock at the tender age 3 or 4. They’d recently broke up, but there was no lack of their presence on the radio, in music stores, or in our home. I recall stumbling upon a Beatles radio documentaries with delight only equalling treasure hunters discovering caches of diamonds. I danced and played the tennis racquet like a guitar.
My mom’s vinyl collection served me well over those years too: soundtracks to James Bond films like Goldfinger; country music by Glen Campbell; classical piano collections like Glen Gould, canadian folk icons like Gordon Lightfoot, and jazz by Oscar Peterson; and my mostly absent dad’s favourite: surf rock electric guitar mavens: the Ventures.
At age 10 I started composing prolifically on my mom’s white upright piano which I taught myself to play- inspired hugely by Mike Oldfield’s mega- successful “Tubular Bells” released on the young Richard Branson’s New Virgin Record label.
But as important as the sweeping composition was, it was the process by which his album came into being that was the clincher: One man, adding track after track, building layer upon layer. It seemed a momentous feat to me. It was like discovering the Great Pyramids: awe inspiring, breathtakingly inspiring, and creatively tickling. It literally was a monumental analogue achievement predating the digital era of recording software sporting unlimited tracks.
In this short pre-guitar phase of my life, I sought out dreamy ambient keyboard synthesizer music like Tangerine Dream in the electronic instrumental pioneering days of the 1970s. This naturally led me to the bold, flamboyant and symphonic progressive rock outfits like The Alan Parsons Project, Yes, Genesis, Saga.
And so the guitar beckoned: it promised to be a new compositional tool- a new brushstroke on my slowly expanding musical canvas. In fact, once I got past the two year mark of playing guitar (and quitting for the last time), it was obvious I was destined to be a multi-instrumentalist. I could play almost any instrument that crossed my path- bass, mandolin, drum kit, violin, cello. (It’s worth noting humbly, however, I still can’t use a pair of chopsticks and usually resort grudgingly to a Western fork). Had my mother the resources, I probably would have booked a studio and recorded my own multi-tracked Tubular Bells and shopped it to Virgin Records.
One more great twist: after searching- i.e. hiring and firing about ten different guitar teachers- I found one that met all the needs of my hungry guitar soul: a JAZZ GUITARIST. He set me up on a foundation that I didn’t really know the significance of at the time. In fact, I didn’t really take full advantage of that training until 30 years later.
You see, I never thought I could do jazz. I thought it was out of my league. And yet in my 40s I’d harken back to the the 1980s when for a short period I was exploring jazz fusion: with a small handful of key figures: Pat Metheny, Allan Holdsworth, the Bruford band, Al Di Meola and Weather Report. I recognized that I’d denied myself that path. I’d made the conscious, and foolish decision, that jazz was too difficult, too abstract, too demanding.
I don’t regret it. But that was then. This is now. I embrace jazz into my world. It’s true, I’m no jazz purist: mine is a hybrid of rock and jazz. But it’s abundantly clear: it feels good to be here.