Former Noisemaker Bobby Read shares Bruce’s passion for constant innovation and evolution, and the pursuit of learning something new. His new CD, Our Brief Span of Time, is testament to that. Incredibly, it’s almost all Bobby: vocals, horns, strings, bass, drums, keyboards and production…all Bobby, with help from guitarist friends. We contacted him about the project recently, and his response was a letter to you all.
A letter and new album from Bobby Read
Hi to all of you Hornsby/Noisemakers fans! I miss you!
You may, or not, have been wondering what I’ve been up to.
So after leaving the Noisemakers at the end of 2013, I dove back into studio work, producing and recording records, making music and sound effects for three slot machines :), doing a record and short tour with a chamber music/theatre group Musica Aperta, and various other stuff. And releasing two of my own CDs in 2016.
Truthfully, those 20 years with Bruce and the band were the best, and there was nowhere but down from there as far as being a touring player and band member, no one else I wanted to leave home to tour with.
So, cool, at 60 it was a fine time to leave the road, be with my family – kids then 7 & 9, and work in my great studio which has always been half my musical life. I decided to go back to my roots and write songs, draw from this lifetime of music loved, really use the studio to make recordings that represent the whole mess of me! A new CD of this material is out now – “Our Brief Span of Time”.
Si got in touch with me recently, was gracious and enthusiastic, and offered to send this out to you all. And he had some questions..
Of the records I’ve made under my own name, three have been original jazz records, and one more experimental/instrumental. Making the jazz records was fast and easy for me – each of those CDs took about 12 hours to record, thanks to the wonderful musicians I recorded with.
Of course there was the whole writing of the tunes part, but the recording itself is all about the tunes, and how the players play them. So three different sounding jazz CDs – “Monkfish” 2006, “Simbia” 2007, and “Saturn Blue” 2016. Then there was “Out of My Mind” 2016 – harkening back to the Modereko records (with Hornsby vets Molo, JT, and JV) with some of those same players here and there. I grew up with much of the same music that much of my generation listened to. We were lucky I think. Beatles of course, Bowie, Peter Gabriel, Pink Floyd, prog rock, Steely Dan, Zeppelin, Stevie, Todd Rundgren, Thomas Dolby, Jack Bruce, Bruce Hornsby, The Band, The Dead, Weather Report, Mahavishnu, Miles, and on.
The latest project
And then, with broad exposure to jazz and classical, I went to the conservatory, practiced and played, engineered and produced. Fast forward – so why am I doing this? Saxophone and winds, keyboards and the studio have always been great voices for me. But lately I’ve really wanted to sing, inspired by all the great music and records I’ve loved. Which meant writing songs/compositions to sing. So i’m attempting to blend all my pop and rock underpinnings with my thick threads in jazz and folk/loric and classical/contemporary musics. That’s why it took some time.
How long it took is hard to say, other than that I started working on this about 3 years ago, very hit and miss. I had to learn how to do it, and who I am doing this music. Both the writing and the technology. Why did I make this record mostly by myself? Well part one is easy – money. Hiring all the people is prohibitive in these days of streaming/little expectation of payback, sadly simple. And, all those records I love were expensive records! But also, since the process was so much about figuring out and defining this ‘sound’, it just made sense for me to handle as much as I could myself and really sculpt the whole thing. And, I love so many ‘one man or woman records’ from the past, appreciate the consistency they come from, a focused kind of intent. Avoiding generic is key to me.
I start with piano, rhodes, clavinet, some chord instrument, find the melody and chords and vibe, and whatever I can of the lyric right off the bat. Then I start building, trying to get the structure in place before playing too many other things. I put the bones in place. The sooner I can get a vocal on there the better. Sometimes my first attempts singing make it. Often there’s lyric tweaking, so redos or punches. Sometimes I rewrite/sing the whole vocal. But if the song sounds like something with just the chords and melody I think I’ve got something worth pursuing. When I know what I’m doing, actually recording any one instrument goes quickly. A couple of takes. Same with the vocals, though I have to fool with them more as I tweak lyrics.
But I’ve concluded that I can actually make this music as fast and as good by myself, better really because I can make all the parts just what I want. Then, having a great bench of guitars players is fantastic (other than electric arpeggiated parts, I get my friends to do acoustics, electric leads and parts), record them and I’m almost there. It’s fun, satisfying, effective, and musical. I don’t use loops in general – I record all the parts of a piece in real time, just like I’d have a session player do it, fixing/punching things the same way. I know what I would play if I was playing those instruments, so, using the incredible Native Instruments Kontakt sampling plugin and others, and the amazing libraries there are these days, I just go at it.
Learning new technology
The Handheld drum/percussion libraries, the P bass, organ, pianos and other keys, guitars and so much more in Komplete 11, the LASS string libraries, all the Arturia instruments, and then all the options I have with the wind controller – amazing string and wind models from Audio Modeling and Wallander, Matt Traum’s great programming of the Roland Sonic Cell and Yamaha VL-70, along with my rare midi harmonizer by Ingo Debus… it really is unbelievable what’s available to me. All the vocals of course and much of the woodwinds, all saxes, tambourine and more is live and human. But all the midi stuff is not ‘programmed’! – it’s played by a human (me) and recorded/tweaked, really like a live instrument.
Anyone who wants more details is welcome to contact me! Though I’ve made lots of studio recordings, doing this record taught me how to make this music, so looking forward to keeping on getting better. In the past three months since I wrapped up the new CD I’ve been writing and (mostly) finishing a song a month, taking a week or two of gestation and realization, and working it into everyday life with kids and whatnot.
So I really hope some of you all check it out. I’m proud of it.
Bobby Read, April 2019