Article by Miles Hurley
Photo Courtesy of Mixtape Media
Composer and guitarist Chris Combs is currently underway with his current tour in support of his newest band, Combsy. The tour comes in support of the group’s self-titled record, Combsy, released last fall, which both the jazz world and beyond fell in love with right away.
You probably recognize the name Chris Combs as the longtime guitarist for the Jacob Fred’s Jazz Odyssey. The new record showcases that signature JFJO sound, a distinct style of Combs which has gotten even more of a modern revamp here. Combsy melts a nostalgic old school feel with psychedelic sounds and a dark, indie edge.
Combsy’s tour started last week in Nashville and has so far hit Tulsa, Little Rock, and New Orleans, with the two New Orleans dates featuring Trombone Shorty’s Dan Orestreicher on sax and Reed Mathis’ Electric Beethoven’s Josh Raymer on drums. Starting on Monday May 28, the tour will pick back up in Oklahoma City and move through Colorado and New Mexico through the middle of June.
In between touring dates, Combs was able to sit down with The Poke Around for a Q&A and discuss the record and his band.
What are some differences you’ve found between recording and composing for a solo project, rather than some of the things you’ve done past?
This was the first thing that I’ve written, arranged, and produced on my own. I really enjoy the freedom and challenge of making everything come together. I knew I wanted things to be more hook-based than things I’ve done in the past. There is a lot of improvisation and open playing on the album but its all tied together by strong musical themes and presented in almost a rock band format.
Having started your this current tour, how has the process of bringing the new album to the live setting been?
Its been a blast so far. There is a revolving cast of musicians from Oklahoma, Colorado, and New Orleans that make up the touring band. Each run of dates is different. There is a lot freedom and room for improvisation written into the music so the songs sound vastly different depending on who is in the band at the time. Its been really enjoyable to hear the music change and evolve.
If there were anything specific you wanted someone to experience or feel from your album, what would that be?
One of my favorite things about instrumental music is that it can be interpreted by the listener in so many ways. The compositions are written about specific experiences, times, and places from my life…but I like to interweave a bit of vagueness so that the listener can have a more personal experience.
Listeners of your Combsy project seem to be digging your style of ‘jazz with an edge’ — combining an old school sound with folk and grittier rock elements. When did these different styles of music start to influence you as an artist?
Yea…I think a lot of my earliest musical inspiration came from my family. My dad’s side of the family all played music. Lots of old school country and folk music. My mom’s side of the family is from New Orleans and I started going to there to visit them at a super young age. I think somewhere in there are the musical genetics that make up my style now.
What do you like about your bandmates’ playing, in the context of either what they contributed to the record or what you just like about playing with them?
I love hearing people’s personalities and individual interpretations of the music. I like giving people to freedom to do what they hear…we dont spend a ton of time talking about what we’re going to do on stage…so there’s an inherent freshness and always an element of surprise. My favorite moments are when unexpected things happen on stage and the band surprises itself.
To learn more head to http://www.chriscombsmusic.com.