The tape has been rolling here at Three Hearted Studio in Hoback and the first official release is now in the airwaves—Life in a Minor Key via swing and old time blues trio The Minor Keys. Life in a Minor Key (listen here) was engineered and mixed by yours truly, and it was a real pleasure working with friends Jeromey Bell (vocals/guitar), Leslie Steen (violin) and Marty Camino (upright bass/vocals) with studio guests Jason Baggett (drums) and Lawrence Bennett (trumpet) stepping in nicely for a couple of songs. Sonically, I’m super pleased with the results. It’s empowering to have so many question marks in the recording process and have it work out beautifully in the end.
The four-track EP features the heart of what the trio does best—classic swing and old-times blues from a bygone era. While these are not the obscure gems from scratchy 78s that sets this band further apart from its contemporaries, it’s a snapshot introduction to a talented band with an inviting sound. Lead track “Dinah” exhibits the throwback vibe, having been previously recorded by a few of the trio’s influences Django Reinhart, Benny Goodman Quartet, The Red Stick Ramblers, and Fats Waller, among others.
“Word of mouth is the best way to discover those hidden gems, but once I got back into vinyl it opened the door to different versions of
songs,” Bell said. “Maybe there was a hot trumpet player on one version of a tune, and then read the liner notes to get his name and then search out other records he played on. It’s hard to believe Slim & Slam had a number one hit in the 30s and have since fallen into obscurity, whereas Louis Armstrong and Benny Goodman are household names. There were others too, like Stuff Smith and The Harlem Hep Cats that were not as technically flashy as Django Reinhart, though were more soulful and knew how to utilize witty innuendos in their lyrics that you couldn’t necessarily say in public. That has just as much resonance to me as the hot playing.”
“There’s a profound Django quote that has always stuck with me,” Bell said of the band’s namesake. “When someone asked him if he had a song that he could relate to his life and he said, ‘certainly life is lived in the minor key.”
The Minor Keys CD Release Party, 7:30 to 11 p.m. Thursday at Hole Bowl. Free, all-ages. 201-5426. You can also catch the trio 8 to 10 p.m. Mondays at Jackson Lake Lodge throughout the summer.