God's Gonna Cut You Down: An Interview With Frank Catalano (Concert Preview: Frank Catalano and Jimmy Chamberlin Live at Andy's Jazz Club - Thursday, April 16 Through Saturday, April 18, 2015)

God's Gonna Cut You Down: An Interview With Frank Catalano (Concert Preview: Frank Catalano and Jimmy Chamberlin Live at Andy's Jazz Club - Thursday, April 16 Through Saturday, April 18, 2015)
Album cover art by Tony Fitzpatrick

Riding high on the success of his series of collaborations with former Smashing Pumpkins drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, Grammy Award winning saxophone player, and Chicagoan, Frank Catalano celebrates the duo's most recent release God's Gonna Cut You Down Thursday through Saturday at Andy's Jazz Club... 

Last week, God's Gonna Cut You Down, the second in a series of collaborations between saxophone player Frank Catalano and former Smashing Pumpkins drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, debuted on iTunes as the number one "new instrumental jazz album" and as the number two "overall jazz" release.

What began last summer with the John Coltrane inspired Love Supreme Collective continues in the form of a new release that continues to cover diverse musical ground thanks to the inclusion of the Hammond B-3 organ playing of Demos Petropoulos, the guitar work of Eddie Roberts, the vibraphone contributions of Mike Dillon and more.

What follows below are highlights of a conversation that I had last month with Catalano on "The Rock N' Roll Radio Program" following the successful launch of a PledgeMusic campaign to support last week's official release of the new album God's Gonna Cut You Down - a wide ranging conversation that touched on the benefits of a PledgeMusic campaign in a continually changing music landscape, exploring new sounds with artists like Les Claypool of Primus and former Megadeth guitarist Chris Poland and just what's in store this week as Catalano and Chamberlin celebrate the successful release of God's Gonna Cut You Down...

Frank Catalano on last summer's Love Supreme Collective collaboration with Jimmy Chamberlin... 

Frank Catalano:  Our last [album] that came out over the summer was called Love Supreme Collective and that was a tribute to John Coltrane’s Love Supreme album which turned fifty years old this year.  [It debuted] at number one on iTunes.  That [album] also featured Chris Poland of Megadeth, Adam Benjamin from Kneebody and Percy Jones from Brand X.

I was pleasantly surprised [by Love Supreme Collective's debut].  The week leading up to it, Louis [Marks] who runs Ropeadope Records said, “Wow. We’re doing really well.”... I guess, basically, enough people had begun pre-ordering it that it was beating albums that were already out.  And then at the time of its release, basically as everyone got their albums, it just sent it through the roof.

When you’re competing against Tony Bennett and all these people on the charts - I used to play for Tony Bennett.  I love him very much, he’s awesome – But I never figured that, at least for a small moment in time, I would sell more than him.  So it was very cool.

On working with Jimmy Chamberlin and Demos Petropoulos on the new album God's Gonna Cut You Down... 

FC:  The title of the new album is God’s Gonna Cut You Down...  This is truthfully where it kind of came from: I came across the Johnny Cash version and the Odetta old school version and I was like, “Wow!”  Somehow this song popped in my head and I mentioned it to Jimmy.  I wasn’t thinking we’d actually do it but Jimmy was like, “Oh, I love that song!”  Jimmy came up with a really cool drum groove and [the song itself is] very different from the Johnny Cash version.  But I’ve always loved this song for various personal reasons.  I love the lyrics…

So, musically, I dare anyone to say our version sounds like any other version out there... That’s thanks to Jimmy’s cool drumming... He’s an amazing drummer.  Jimmy can play any thing at any time.  I would definitely say he is my favorite drummer at this point.  The more we get to play together, I just feel very fortunate.  Really, he is my favorite drummer to play with.  Hands down.

And Demos [Petropoulos] came up with a really cool, unique organ part... I actually have known him since I was fourteen years old.  I think he was maybe a senior in high school when I was a freshman – just a great player.  He’s a great Hammond B-3 organ player.

I’m pretty certain you’ll never hear [this music] in an elevator or hotel lobby... I think the music stands on its own and I love it.

On past work with Les Claypool of Primus and the vibraphone contributions of longtime Claypool collaborator Mike Dillon on God's Gonna Cut You Down... 

FC:  I, unfortunately, haven’t played with him as much as I’d like.  But me and Les definitely have musically, and personally, hit it off.  He nicknamed me “Ballpark Frank” during his first kind of solo tour and then into the Frog Brigade – almost fifteen years ago now (because I lived by Wrigley Field and my name is Frank, I became “Ballpark Frank”).

I met Les Claypool through my buddy Skerik who’s a great saxophone player and a really close friend.  But I was also fortunate enough to meet Mike Dillon who’s an amazing vibraphone player and is currently touring with Primus.  Mike was kind enough to give some vibes tracks to me and Jimmy for our new album.  It’s more textural stuff but it really fills out and blends nice with the organ and guitar.  It’s really cool stuff.

On the idea of stepping outside of the jazz genre a bit and exploring new sounds through work with a wide array of artists more well-known for their "rock" backgrounds... 

FC:  Well, I guess a lot of the people that I play with – while they might be known in rock circles and have been part of huge bands – they’re jazz musicians at heart and they started as jazz musicians.

[Former Megadeth guitarist] Chris Poland had a jazz-fusion band in the eighties called The New Yorkers.  I believe that was with Gar Samuelson and they both, together, joined Megadeth shortly after that (I’d have to doublecheck that specifically).  But Chris Poland is a great jazz guitar player.  So it’s not really that I’m doing anything or trying new sounds as much as it is letting great players have fun playing more jazz music. And I think true jazz purists would probably find a lot of the songs that I write to be not “traditional" jazz enough.

I think people just need to play the music they feel most passionate about and it seems like everything follows in a good way from there on out.

On eschewing a major label for the release of Love Supreme Collective and launching a successful PledgeMusic campaign to support the recent release of God's Gonna Cut You Down... 

FC:  To me, this is really, really cool. Columbia Records, who I was signed to as of about four years ago – and was still signed to at the time we recorded Love Supreme Collective – didn’t like that album because it wasn’t long enough.  They wanted me to cram some more tracks on it so they could charge a dollar per track [on iTunes].  They said they loved the music and loved all the musicians on it – but it was the fact that it’s hard to make money from a four track album… Even though John Coltrane’s Love Supreme was only four tracks.  I’ve gone through this my whole career.  My Bang! [album in 2008], I wanted to be eight tracks.  It ended up being twelve.

I got dropped from a major label because I was trying to stand up for myself musically.  [I’m] not talking about financially and royalties like everyone talks about – I just wanted the songs that I wrote, that I liked on [the album] and no other ones – not some kind of stuff that was left over just so there could be more money coming in from it.

So what is so cool about the PledgeMusic stuff is… it’s not a crowdfunding thing.  Meaning – the album has already been paid for and recorded.  We get to take people that want to buy it, and fans and friends, into a few candid studio shots.  We talk about the mixing process.  This is pre-order.  We’re just saying, if you liked the last album, please buy it and pre-order it here... Everyone [seemed] happy that we put it out there for them to get kind of a sneak peak out of…

What I’ve been real happy about is that people can actually chime in and give feedback on the stuff they’ve heard so far… This [was] a very short [campaign]. We started it a little later than most people do.  Quite honestly, if the last Smashing Pumpkins album [December's Monuments to an Elegy] hadn’t also done a similar thing on PledgeMusic, I don’t know if we would’ve tried it now.  But I’m very glad that we did.

More than anything though, [the idea was] to offer some exclusive things.

On this week's album release shows at Andy's Jazz Club...

FC:  [This week's shows at Andy's feature] me [on saxophone], Jimmy Chamberlin [on drums], Demos Petropoulos on Hammond B-3 organ, and Eddie Roberts from the band The New Mastersounds [on guitar].  I played with [Eddie] at House of Blues a few months ago and I’ve known him forever.  He guested on two tracks on God’s Gonna Cut You Down and he’s flying in from San Francisco to play with us for those shows at Andy’s.

- Jim Ryan (@RadioJimRyan)

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(Details on this week's Frank Catalano / Jimmy Chamberlin shows below)


Frank Catalano and Jimmy Chamberlin

Thursday, April 16 - Saturday, April 18, 2015

Andy's Jazz Club
Two shows each night at 9:30PM & 11:30PM
Each show $15

Click HERE to purchase tickets

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