Jazzhole records ambient soul music in a New York City apartment.
Jazzhole is a collective of New York City session musicians led by keyboardist Warren Rosenstein, vocalist Marlon Saunders, and guitarist Jon Pondel. The group met while recording acid-jazz albums in the early `90s. Rosenstein says that Jazzhole's formation was atypical: "We made a two-song demo, got a deal [with Mesa/Blue Moon], and then became a band."
In 1999, the band established their own label and recorded their third release, Blackburst (Beave Music, 2000). "We're doing a better job than the labels have done for us in the past," Rosenstein comments. Blackburst is an album of old-school soul music with shades of trip-hop and electronica. "Several of us - particularly Marlon and myself - have a real affinity for `70s soul music," Rosenstein says. "We wanted to update that sound and, at the same time, get back to a songlike format with verses, choruses, and hooks."
Unlike the band's first two albums, Blackburst (a reference to the term for digital silence) was produced entirely in Rosenstein's Greenwich Village studio apartment. "When we had a little bit of money, we decided to make the next record at home. For what we would have spent [on booking studio time], we could purchase the equipment, own it, and then make records forever," Rosenstein says. "I have all the equipment in my house, so we were able to indulge ourselves endlessly in terms of details. Even though we're doing it in a dinky, ratty, run-down apartment, the path from the singer to tape is world-class."
The band began the album by organizing existing demo tracks. "We had a bunch of songs on ADAT tapes, demos of things we had written in various stages," Rosenstein explains. "I bounced them back and forth on my two [Alesis] ADAT-XTs until everything lined up, and wound up with a one-hour multitrack tape.
"My dream was to make a seamless recording where all the songs segue into each other," he continues. "I got the idea to lay out the whole album in order on one very long piece of multitrack tape and then have people come in and just play over the transitions so that it would become almost one continuous piece of music. I figured out the transitions in my head and then put the next song on. The album was mixed in one pass from beginning to end. It's a great feeling to hit Record on the DAT machine, and then an hour later, your album's done."
Blackburst features Rosenstein's Fender Rhodes piano, E-mu Vintage Keys synth module, Alesis D4 drum module, and Akai S2800 sampler. Drum parts were sampled from DAT tapes of drummer Peter Mark and looped on a PC in Voyetra's Sequencer Plus software. "The thing that freaks most people out when they come into my studio is that I use a DOS-based sequencer," Rosenstein says. His home studio is rounded out by outboard effects processors, an Apogee AD-1000 digital converter, an API 512B mic preamp, and a Neumann TLM 193 condenser mic. "We have only one microphone, and we use it for everything," he adds. All the instruments and vocals went through a pair of Mackie CR1604-VLZ mixers.
The vocals, acoustic and electric bass, saxophone, flute, and French horn were overdubbed. "When other people come in to play, they hear the song in a somewhat finished state because all of these decisions have already been made. It's a lot easier for the players to respond to music so close to being finished," Rosenstein says. He also stresses quality performance over a meticulous recording process. "We want to move quickly, have fun, and not go for too much overkill on the fidelity end of things."