All Photo Credit: Carl Vernlund
Last week, I had the opportunity to speak with Jaimoe Johanson of The Allman Brothers Band about his most recent project Jaimoe's Jasssz Band
. The group has recently released Renaissance Man
, their first studio album. Previously, the band released only live albums. This new record includes original work as well as several covers. Jaimoe talked about Jasssz, his experiences in various bands, and opinions on the evolution of music and musicianship.
Zoe: What sparked your interest in the drums in particular?
Jaimoe: Certain things were kinda like stuck at you as a kid -- you had things you were influenced by or something like that. There was like a week when I wanted to be a fireman because a firetruck came and put Ms. Daisys house out after a fire and so I wanted to be a fireman. Anyways we used to have this jazz festival- great names, great cast of people. They had like Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong. So when school started I decided I wanted to join the band. I figured I wanted to play the drums and the trumpet. Now Sears had this old marching drum and a steel guitar. So Im going to buy myself a drum. So I pass by the storefront and they have drumsticks for like a dollar, dollar-seventy. So I went back one day and bought a pair of drumsticks.
You used to tour with Otis Redding and then later with the Allman Brothers Band. How is touring today different?
The difference is they gave you a hundred-fifty dollars for lodging, food, transportation -- now we've played weddings, parties and all they ask is cash or check. They dont want to know how much it is, they just want to know cash or check.
Why did the Allman Brothers Band have more than one drummer?
I asked Gregg once and he told me it was because Otis Redding did.
Jazz, I guess is American music. Jazz music is basically improvisation. Its not playing continuously the same thing just cover and over and over. I wanted to play jazz, like jazz, as in bebop jazz, because when I heard that music play I thought all musicians played like that. Jazz is a style of music not weighted down by all those chords.
About the band's name -- Jazz was originally spelled with Ss- did that spelling prompt the bands name?
Once day I was watching one of those Ken Burns documentaries. Ken Burns did this documentary on Jazz that ran for a couple of nights a week. One of those nights, there were these two guys, they have the music in the background blasting away and because they basically had sounds that they had put to the picture. So my wife always said that if I wanted to say ass I should just say it. I should just say what I wanted to say. Well on this guy's bass drum was jass.
So how did the idea for Jaimoe's Jasssz Band come about- was it something you always wanted to put together?
Sometimes you can't because you become so in demand that you don't have time to do a lot of the things you want to do. So I wanted to have my own band so basically I could play what I wanted to and it seemed like nobody would do it and then everyone got brave and started doing this and doing that and music has come along way because of it.
When I want to play with the Allman Brothers or play with my own vocation or whatever...then I want to play! Then there's nobody to play with. There are a lot of musicians and I find out whos going in this direction, whos going that direction and you wanna find people who are more experienced in all kinds of musical personalities, you know? Thats what I call rhythm and blues or country or jazz or what have you -- theyre personalities. And people who can go in all those in all those different directions make much better musicians. Music today I say is a lot of fun and one of the reasons is because years ago basically New Orleans and a few other plays musicians played whatever that was going on- thats what they played because thats what they made their money in. So they played a lot of different kinds of music. So music today is a lot more interesting that it was fifty years ago. The only difference is, and this gets into this whole new generation- theyre more on par with whats going on. The training that you go through, whether its school or its experience especially for vocalists, so a lot of musicians combine the two. Theyre going to be much better off. How theyre going to eventually going to write music exactly as it is. You can have written as written and written as played. Its a written interpretation. So when musicians learn to do a lot of different things, they can express themselves a lot better. Musicians today dont have the skill they did back then.
How is the dynamic of JJB different from ABB? What would you say is the difference between the two groups?
The Allman Brothers Band had two volumes loud and too loud -- my band doesn't play loud. You can sit and carry on a conversation and listen and that's basically the only difference. And the Allman Brothers made a lot of money and my band doesn't make any money [laughs]. Taking a band on tour, making a record- those things cost money. Musicians have lives and families and bill to pay just like the rest of us.
How did Jaimoe's Jasssz Band form?
I met this guy Junior Mac. I had never heard the guy and my friend said, I'll get one of his CDs so you can hear what he sounds like? So one day I see the CD sitting on the table and I played it and I was very impressed. So I called him up and I said would you like to play a gig? And we played birthday parties, weddings and whatever.
You had an album released recently, Renaissance Man, which features covers of "Rainy Night in Georgia" and "Leaving Trunk." Why did you mix original music in with covers instead of releasing two separate albums?
We were playing and I thought it sounded great, so I was like let's record that.
And it does sound good
is out now.