John Raymond & Real Feels | “Real Feels Live Vol. 2” | January 18 via Sunnyside Records
John Raymond & Real Feels Document a Stellar 2018
With Real Feels Live Vol. 2, Recorded Live in Los Angeles
Available January 18 on Sunnyside Records
Compositions from 2018’s Joy Ride
Shine in Live Setting & Display Rewards of Relentless
Touring of Over 100 Performances Since 2016
An aspect of the jazz music business that tends to be ignored is touring. There are only so many venues with budgets and a limited supply of booking agents. Artists who manage to find both are either popular sensations or lucky, especially in a country as vast and diverse as the United States. It takes a lot of motivation, courage and a devil-may-care attitude to set out solo on the road, and since 2016, rising star trumpeter/flugelhornist John Raymond has done just that with his trio Real Feels, self-booking an astonishing 100+ performances with the band over the past three years.
From the beginning, Raymond’s goal with Real Feels was to create a small, focused ensemble with a strong band dynamic and identity. Alongside guitarist Gilad Hekselman and drummer Colin Stranahan, the group has recorded three albums together, including 2018’s Joy Ride on Sunnyside Records. As they have done for previous records, Real Feels hit the road for an extended four-month, 40-date tour that allowed their material, along with the ensemble, to grow and refine itself. Raymond recorded a handful of their concerts, and chose the music from their performance at the Blue Whale in Los Angeles, which is now being released as Real Feels Live Vol. 2 (January 18 via Sunnyside Records).
When Real Feels recorded Joy Ride, each track was in nascent form, some only having been played in rehearsals. By the end of the tour, which spanned across the United States and Asia at venues of all types and sizes — with audiences of all description — the songs began to develop new personas. Each song, in a sense, was born again from the road, which is showcased fully on Real Feels Live Vol. 2.
The album begins with Raymond’s “Follower,” a modern jazz-meets indie rock tune that features Raymond the entire way. The groove is a bit faster and has more of a “lived-in” feel than it’s studio version original, making for a fitting opening statement to the album. The group’s cover of Bon Iver’s “Minnesota, WI” opens up for both Hekselman and Stranahan. Their development of the introduction along with Hekselman’s solo showcase the full capacity of the band’s aural identity featuring more electronics, effects and looping. This can also be heard on the group’s rendition of the hymn “Be Still, My Soul.” The song notably begins with an expansive, ambient solo introduction from Raymond utilizing effects pedals and looping on his flugelhorn, an added aspect of his arsenal that is now an integral part of the band’s sound.
Hekselman’s plectral guitar musings set the stage for Raymond’s plainchant horn on the intro to the title track “Joy Ride,” done here as an expanded version of the original and featuring an extended drum solo by Stranahan. The album concludes with the group’s take on Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” a piece that remains as vital today as it was when originally conceived, and is done here in a heartrending rendition by a simpatico ensemble of sensitivity.
Raymond notes Real Feels Live Vol. 2 is, “the strongest, most cohesive statement this band has made yet.” Combined with the fact that he has become a model to many of his peers as to what a successful, DIY-bandleader should look like, the trajectory for Raymond and the group continues to reach higher and higher.