John Harrington Incorporates Jazz and Jay-Z on Stop Time's New Album

[Editor's Note: Spare Notes is a new Weekly music feature highlighting outtakes and personal stories from bands who just finished working their asses off to put out new music.]

John Harrington is a staple on the Orange County jazz scene.   For the first two years, Harrington was the musical director at the Commonwealth Lounge, and he's been gigging in the OC since he was attending college  at California State University, Fullerton.  Harrington's quartet, Stop Time, has been together since 2006, and on Nov. 7 at the at the Commonwealth Lounge, they'll be releasing their new album, Generations.  Clearly, the album resonates with an album title like Milestones — a name that reflects experience and history.  Well, the name couldn't be more appropriate, because Generations is a tour de force of every jazz style — incorporating bop, funk and hip-hop — that you can think of, including moments where you would swear you we're listening to a tamer Bitches Brew.  In jazz it's hard to sound fresh, but Stop Time finds a way on their new album.  So we caught up with Harrington, and he hipped us to the process and the evolution of jazz in the OC.
 What song on the album best represents Stop Time? 

“I'm going to go with “Escape Artists.”  We didn't rehearse any of these songs; we showed up and played.  “Escape Artists” was one that I wrote at my house, when my wife was having a conversation with a good friends of hers.  It came to me really quickly.  I wrote it down on the piano and took it down to my friends.  We didn't rehearse it.  We played it through once…It's sort of what jazz music is all about.  It's that negotiation of being in the moment and making those decisions right away.”  

01 The Message Final 

What place does jazz have in Orange County? 

“It's rather small.  We've got Steamer's Cafe…that's really one of the only places that has had steady jazz music for a long time.  The Commonwealth Lounge…It seems like jazz music has become different in Orange County.  It's much more integrated with funk and R&B.  People really want that hip-hop beat behind it instead of that swing beat.” 

08 Eye of the Storm Final

Does this change in rhythm take away from the quality of the music?  

“I don't know about taking away.  It's different.  Once you put that steady hip-hop beat, it becomes more straight in some ways.  Jazz music is much more free.  When you listen to the music from the 60s, especially Miles Davis as he moves to Bitches Brew and that kind of funkiness, it was a really free time.  Probably because it reflected the social concerns of people at that time…Today we have a lot of samples and a lot of repetition of the drum grooves.  So when you listen to the old jazz music or our new album, Generations, the drumming is not so strict.  It adds more color than it adds drive all the time.” 

What does this change in rhythm say about our culture today?  

“It's just what the people are gravitating towards right now.  They're looking for something to make them feel more rooted and more grounded.  The interesting thing about Stop Time's new album is that we move throughout  the gambit.  All the way from the old school.  There's a free jazz piece also.  “Eye of the Storm” is completely free.  One track later is a tribute to Jay-Z and hip hop.  It's much more straight and much more funky.”   

10 Jay-Z Final

What do you think makes jazz fresh today?  

“I'm hoping it's the vibration of the live music.  We live in a world where we're bombarded by sounds.  We're bombarded by the radio, by the music in the elevator, by the music in the hall, by the music in our cars, by the sounds on T.V.  I'm hoping when people hear us live, they can really understand and appreciate the virtuosity of the musicians performing it.  When you've got the real deal coming at you, it's got a certain feeling, a certain vibration that can't be compared to anything else.”

Another interesting thing about this album? 

“We recorded it on two-inch analogue tape.  We didn't it record on the computer.”    

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