By Robert Ham | Published April 2019
Albums like Real Feels Live, Vol. 2—a recording of an artist taking their most recent studio efforts out for a spin in front of a crowd and allowing the concert experience to inform and impact the material—are becoming rare commodities in the modern marketplace. The mood of the times seems to be to keep cranking out new material and, like a standup comedian, remove it from the live repertoire after an album has been released.
The compulsion of flugelhorn player John Raymond to release this live set was as thoughtful as the effort that went into crafting material for his 2018 studio album, Joy Ride. The songs are, in several cases, radically altered here with new tempos and textures, and entirely new moods applied. The best example might be the troupe’s take on the 2018 album’s title track: In its studio guise, the song begins with the gentle trot of a singing cowboy classic, before a broken-beat groove from drummer Colin Stranahan kicks in and points toward more modern territory. On this live take, guitarist Gilad Hekselman slows his opening ramble down to a crawl, layering fluttering atmospherics over top. When Raymond and Stranahan join in, the mood is late-night soul that slips smoothly into more abstract territory, while not losing one bit of its momentum.
What this live set also helps clarify is how much noise a contemporary trio can summon. Hekselman makes judicious use of loop pedals to help set the bass line for many of these songs, building up atmospherics. The density of his efforts is something easily achieved via overdubs and multitrack recording software, but here, he, Raymond and Stranahan are left to bring the same density of sound without a safety net. They meet the challenge, surpass expectations and turn in a spectacular work of art.
Real Feels Live, Vol. 2: Follower; Minnesota, WI; Be Still Intro; Be Still, My Soul; Joy Ride; The Times They Are A-Changin’. (53:55)
Personnel: John Raymond, flugelhorn; Gilad Hekselman, guitar; Colin Stranahan, drums.