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Conversations with Jamie: Artist-To-Artist Series
Hailing from Toronto, Canada, guitarist/composer Jamie Bonk has graciously agreed to become a contributing editor to NewAgeReporter.com. Jamie will be conducting a series of interviews entitled Conversations with Jamie: Artist-To-Artist Series. We look forward to his contributions for they are both insightful and offer a unique artist-to-artist perspective over the typical interview. We hope you enjoy them.
Other Conversations with Jamie: Artist-To-Artist Series:
A Conversation With Stephen Hill, Jul. 2005
A Conversation with Jeff Bjorck, Jun. 2005
A Conversation With Patrick O'Hearn, Jun. 2005
<<-later interviews | earlier interviews->>   <<- all interviews ->>
Jamie Bonk
A Conversation with Jeff Oster
July 2004
In his producer's perspective (see end of this conversation) Will Ackerman (williamackerman.com) writes: "I get a lot of emails. A lot of them come from people who talk of their dreams, but I know they will never have the guts to actually try to live out those dreams. Jeff is the very rare exception."

I think it's safe to say that At Last is flugelhornist/composer Jeff Oster's dream come to reality. A reality that is, in many ways, equal parts Jeff and Will. As Jeff says about Will in our conversation: "At Last is OUR project, not his and not mine."

Jeff also gives high praise to all those who worked on the record, including: Philip Aaberg (synthesizer), Jeremy Mendicino (guitar), Happy Rhodes (vocals), Bryan Carrigan (engineering, drum programming and percussion),Lindsay, Caroline and Lauren Doyle (themselves), T.Bone Wolk (guitars - acoustic, electric and bass), Charlie Bisharat (violin) and Will Ackerman (parlor and acoustic guitars).

If you'd like to learn more about Jeff and his music, please visit his web site.


NAR Editor Note:

Check out RJ Lannan's review of At Last


Jeff Oster
"I can only be true to myself, to what I love." - Jeff Oster
Jamie: I don't usually start an artist-to-artist conversation discussing album art, but in the case of your new record, I think I'll have to make an exception. The cover art, which features a turtle, a flugelhorn and the title At Last, seems to me to perfectly tell your story -- that you've played trumpet and flugelhorn for almost forty years and that you're just now putting out your first record. As Will Ackerman writes in the liner notes for At Last: "Jeff did not leave his dreams behind and the proof of it is contained in the passion and brilliance of these pieces." I would definitely agree with that statement. How much of a challenge was it for you to keep that dream, and that passion, alive?
Jeff: The dreams and passion were pretty easy to keep alive, it was the believing that they'd come true that was the hard part.

I have always loved to play, and when I moved to Los Angeles to play music full time back in 1979, I really felt that if I worked hard at it that it would finally happen. For the first 10 years I lived there, I did the whole Top 40 and Vegas lounge act thing, doing whatever it took to play music for a "living". This of course meant being a limo driver, selling office supplies, and all the other day jobs you do to actually survive making a living as a musician.

It finally got to the point where I just knew that I didn't want to be 50 years old playing "Proud Mary" in some dive bar in the Valley. So, I quit the cover band life, and found a day job that worked, as a financial planner of all things, and told myself that I'd save up the cash that way to hire the musicians I wanted, and the studio I wanted, to do original music.

And although its taken nearly 20 years to actually pull that off, I have just now begun to do it. The catalyst was when I bought a computer last year that came with Sonic Acid software on it. Once I figured out how to actually use it, the horn playing part was relatively easy. It helps a lot that technology has advanced to the point where I can create some beautiful sounds and loops with the click of a mouse, and that there are places on the web to share what you create with people all over the world. The immediacy of all of it is pretty amazing.

Looking back on this all now, it really has taken me this long to really find my voice as a player. I still play a lot of Motown and Tower of Power horn music, just like I did 20 years ago, but now, instead of trying to be a hard bop jazz player, or a lead chair high note player, because that's what I was SUPPOSED to be, I now know that all I have to do is do what I love, what feels good to me, and that people will respond to that.

And what I love is a rich smooth tone, mixed with beautiful chords and melody. I don't have to scream, I don't have to play a million notes, I can just play exactly the way I like to, and that's enough.

There's a quote from Dizzy Gillespie that says, "I've spent my whole life learning what notes NOT to play". I love that, and it's been true for me.

Maybe that's what Will heard when he finally listened to my demos.
"The dreams and passion were pretty easy to keep alive, it was the believing that they'd come true that was the hard part." - Jeff Oster
Jamie: Well, I can't speak for what Will heard in your demos, but what comes through to me on At Last is sincerity. Playing what you feel, believe and love is a lot harder than it sounds. I think Dizzy's right, you have to learn "what notes NOT to play". It can be such a challenge to step back from whatever it is that you're creating and say, "Did this section really need that 64th note atonal run? Did it help (or hurt) the story that I'm trying to tell?"

"Because that's what I was SUPPOSED to be". really hits home for me. And "supposed to" can be deadly for musicians in general. Overpowering every aspect of what a musician does and, in the end, defining the music that they make. It can be tough going following your own path, and letting go of "supposed to", but the rewards are immense.

To me, one of the great things about At Last is that the synths/beats are so beautifully integrated with the acoustic instruments and vocals. Was this part of your original conception when you started working with Acid a year ago?
Jeff: I suppose every musician has their own process of creating, much of which I'm sure is influenced by the tools they use. Once I got familiar with the Acid software, I used it to build up the basic song structure, and then lived with it for a while. I'd burn a CD and play it in the car, and at home, letting it sort of sink in, until a horn line came to me that seemed to fit.

I have a polyphonic Toys-R-Us piano that my 6 yr. old boy plays with, and I'd use it to lay down some scratch (VERY scratch) melody and harmony lines in Acid, so I could get an idea of how it all fit together. Then I'd lay down the actual horn tracks, (usually at 3 a.m. while my kids were sleeping, which accounts for the fact that many of the early demos were done with a Harmon muted trumpet!) and process them with the software to get a balance between the electronica and acoustic that I liked.

At Last was truly a collaborative effort. Before I got to Imaginary Road, Will Ackerman's studio in Vermont, we had basically decided to use two of the songs I had created here, "Matt's Mood" and "Big Sur". We had also decided to create two other songs, one from just a drum track which became "Haleakala", that features Happy Rhodes, the amazing and otherworldly vocalist you hear on three of the four tracks on At Last, and one that I had hoped to create with Will, featuring his guitar and my flugelhorn, which turned out to be "At Last", the title track of the EP.

Will recommended Bryan Carrigan, who had worked with him previously, to engineer the project. Bryan, in addition to being a master of all things Pro Tools, is a phenomenal drum programmer. He created the drum tracks for "Matt's Mood", "Big Sur", and what became "Haleakala". I really had not paid much attention to that aspect of the tracks up to that point, and what Bryan created added a whole new dimension to the music.

Will's choice of musicians really transformed this into something quite beautiful. Phil Aaberg's work on "Matt's Mood", and what he did on "Haleakala", which was to create the entire bed from which Happy and I played off of, is just incredible. When you fall off of the cliff in the middle of "Haleakala", Happy's voices are like sinking into a bed of feathers - we left a space of pure silence in the middle of the drum track, and had her fill it. Just amazing.

T.Bone Wolk's work on "Big Sur" and "At Last" adds a feel, matched with precision, that makes those tracks come alive. And when you add the young blood of Jeremy Mendicino on guitar on "Matt's Mood" and "Haleakala", and the melodic sensibilities of Charlie Bisharat's violin on "Big Sur", it all adds up to this rich blend that I still listen to over and over.

Sounds like a Colombian coffee commercial, doesn't it?

I think a good producer is like a master chef; they combine the right ingredients, in their own unique way, to create a signature dish all their own. I bet Will has never been compared to Wolfgang Puck in all the years he's been doing this!
"At Last was truly a collaborative effort." - Jeff Oster
Jamie: HaHaHa... well, no one has ever brought up Wolfgang Puck's name in any these artist-to-artist conversations either!

One thing that I am getting better at (or at least trying to get better at) is giving up a certain degree of control in what I do. You seem to have a real handle on it -- giving people who are excellent at what they do the freedom to create great music. I imagine there was quite a difference between your demos and the tracks we hear on At Last -- which can be a challenging thing for some artists, particularly if they're inflicted with "demo love". Clearly, you're pleased with the performances and production on At Last, but did you find it difficult to let go of your demos? And just to add a second somewhat related question, has working with Will changed the way you currently approach your compositions and music in general?
Jeff: The demos were recorded in my office at home, on a Sony Vaio desktop, using the tiny little mic that came with it to record the horn tracks. One of Will's first comments on the demos were that they lacked dynamics. I didn't argue, as you might imagine. On top of that, as I mentioned earlier, the horn tracks on "Matt's Mood" were Harmon muted, because as I said I played them at 3 a.m. while everyone was asleep. My office isn't at all soundproofed, so that's the only time that it's quiet enough to record anything acoustic.

Now, all of this didn't stop "Matt's Mood" from being #1 on the Ambient charts on MP3.com for three straight months, so I did feel that there must have been SOMETHING about the demo that people related to. Will told me toward the end of the sessions, after we knew that what we had been working on was sounding pretty good, that there is always a risk that you don't capture the magic of the demo in the new recording. Pretty smart of him to tell me that at the END of the sessions, eh? But I knew that what we had done had really transformed them into something much deeper and complex, and I was and am satisfied with the way they all turned out. It's easy to let go of the old when you love the new.

If you are at all familiar with Will's music, you'll know that Imaginary Road has some of the best mics and mic preamps in the world. I'm not sure how many trumpet/flugelhorn sessions have been done there, but I knew that the lack of dynamics, especially in the horn tracks would disappear pretty quickly once we began recording.

When we recorded "Matt's Mood", we laid down the horn tracks with Harmon mute, just like the demo. We thought we were done with them, until near the end of the sessions when Will suggested that they sounded kind of thin compared to the rest of the tracks. Having Phil Aaberg's chords and melodic style will do that to you, I guess. So we overdubbed open trumpet over the muted lines, and that's what you hear today. You know, it's funny how many people tell me that they sound like bagpipes, or that they are electronic, not acoustic. The combination of the open and muted trumpet sounds rather unique, I guess.

Charlie Bisharat's violin on "Big Sur" completely took that song to another level. Both Will and I, after we finished the nine days recording there in Vermont, felt that "Big Sur" needed something more. So, Will had me call Charlie to see if he'd want to contribute to the track. He lives in Los Angeles, so he downloaded the demo at his home, and Will and I called him up on a conference call one night and listened to his ideas as he played the violin on the phone.

Bryan Carrigan also lives in LA, and has a wonderful studio there, Hyperion Sound, where we mixed a lot of the tracks. Charlie came down and we recorded him there, and began to integrate his work into the mix. It added so much in terms of counterpoint, and harmony with the flugelhorn, and that of course took it way beyond anything the demo had originally.

One of the coolest parts in creating "Big Sur" was when we were doing some additional mixing at Spark Studios, up here where I live in San Francisco. Will and Bryan came up to finish off most of the mixing, and as we were working on "Big Sur", Will had the idea of pulling out the tracks Charlie had done and putting them together as the intro you hear today. That string intro you hear was never played as such, but was basically created by us out of the tracks in the body of the song. When I played the final version for Charlie, his comment was something like, "Wow, I didn't remember playing that!" Ahh, the magic of Pro Tools and a good producer.

Working with Will has changed a lot of things for me, as a musician and as a human being. You have to understand that I had listened to this guy's music since 1979, and had spent countless hours playing along with his records, and just listening as I drove up Highway One to Big Sur, or late at night in LA.

So, after I had created these demos and had seen 40,000 streams and downloads in three months, and these songs were charting like they were, I felt compelled to see if I couldn't get some record company attention.

I was on the Windham Hill website, and I surfed over to Will's site, and saw that he was offering his services as a producer. So, I sent him an email, out of the blue mind you, talking about how I was this trumpet player in San Francisco, and how I had this music on MP3.com, and how I thought it would be great if he produced my music, etc. etc. etc. You can only imagine how many of these he gets.

And two minutes later, he wrote back . Something like "What are looking for in having me produce your music?" I couldn't believe it really. Just sat there and stared at the screen. Now what?

So I answered with the whole it's time for me to do this, that I told myself that I would 10 years earlier, and that now was the time. The whole story of At Last, really.

He writes back, "So how can I help?" I gotta tell you, I sat there staring at that question for a half hour, even brought my wife in to help me answer it. Such a simple question. I finally decided that it deserved a simple answer - "I want you to produce my music." He writes back, "I ain't cheap" to which I responded, "Cost is an issue only in the absence of value."

And we went from there. I have a place in Vermont, about an hour north of Will's. I find it very strange that, after beating my head against the wall in LA for nearly 20 years, trying to "make it", that the answer was an hour south of my cabin in the woods.

Will has taught me the value of silence. These words are in the liner notes of my CD, and they echo Dizzy's words I spoke of earlier. Any time I played a solo during the sessions, he was always asking me to play less. Longer notes, notes that you could feel. We spent at least 45 minutes on getting the last five notes of the muted solo in "Matt's Mood" to end just so.

The fact that we created the title track together still blows me away. The validation that came from creating something that beautiful, with an artist like Will, has given me a certain confidence that I will carry with me, in my playing and in my life, forever.

It's kinda like getting called up to the majors in baseball. It's nice to know you can swing with the best of 'em once you get there.

Now, it ain't all peaches and cream working with him, mind you. He likes what he likes, and doesn't like what he doesn't, and lets you know it. I find that refreshing, actually - you always know where you stand with him. I found myself surrendering to a lot of what he asked for in the studio, and rightly so, but also found that I stepped up and asked for what I wanted when I felt strongly about it. And he respected that.

At Last is OUR project, not his and not mine. I sure hope we have a lot more where that came from. I know we do. He's a good friend, and that's one of the very best parts of this whole experience.
"Working with Will has changed a lot of things for me, as a musician and as a human being." - Jeff Oster



Will has taught me the value of silence." - Jeff Oster


The source of my tone really comes from the type of music I played growing up." - Jeff Oster
Jamie: Every instrument has its strengths and weaknesses. The guitar, as great an instrument as it is, doesn't allow for many of the possibilities that the trumpet does. I'm thinking specifically about long tones and the use of breath in general. You said earlier in this conversation that "what (you) love is a rich smooth tone" and I definitely think that your sound on At Last is superb. Could you talk a bit about how you get that great tone?
Jeff: If you listen to a lot of trumpet players, it's pretty amazing how different they all sound. I suppose this is true with all players and instruments, but in the brass world, to me you can really hear major differences. A lot of high note players can really give you that brassy intense sound, and a lot of technical bebop players can blow long complex lines, but you don't hear a lot of rich tone. There are exceptions of course, Marsalis for one, but all in all players seem to fall into certain niches that way.

A lot of trumpet players are VERY into the technical aspects of their instruments. I know many who can go on for days about the bore size of the lead pipes they have, the various models of trumpet they use, the mouthpiece they use for different types of music, etc. Maybe I'm missing a lot here, but I have never been that much of a student of all makes, models and sizes. I feel a bit like the emperor without clothes here, for the brass players reading this, but it's true. I play the same flugelhorn I bought, through the mail from Yamaha in 1978. Bought it without ever trying it out. I'd have to look at it to tell you the model number. OK, I looked - it's a YFH-731. After 20 years, I recently changed the mouthpiece from the one that came with the horn to a Warburton 3 FLX. It really darkened the horn, created a way more mellow tone. I did sacrifice some high notes though, but with a flugelhorn, and for my personal taste and style, it's fine for me. I play a Bach Stradivarius trumpet as well, it's a Model 37. I use a Purviance 6 C 3 /Bob Reeves custom mouthpiece for the trumpet.

The source of my tone really comes from the type of music I played growing up. My father, who was a great singer, really liked the standards - "Poor Butterfly", "Stardust", that kind of thing. I have several songbooks of those types of tunes, and he'd ask me to play them every time I'd practice. Every song included the lyrics along with the music, and in addition to that, my Dad would sing along with my playing. From that I learned to "hear" the lyrics as I played, and would shape my phrasing as if I was a vocalist singing the words. If you listen to most vocalists, other than those who scat or maybe Bob Dylan, they tend to sing in long flowing phrases in most cases. I think that I have developed a style of playing that mirrors a vocalist singing a beautiful ballad, and that this has carried over into all of the types of music I choose to play.

I like playing the flugelhorn more than the trumpet. The warmth, fullness and richness of tone, plus the relative ease of playing it, fits me better. I know that when I pick it up to play, that I can fill a room with a rich tone, and that to me, most importantly, it's one of the most beautiful sounds in the world.

Recording at Imaginary Road really helped capture the true, full sound of the horns. Because of the solo guitar music that Will records, the mics and preamps are essentially without ANY noise, hiss or distortion, no matter what the level. You can really hear that on the finished product.
"...but how cool is it that I can get 40,000 streams and downloads in two months, from people all over the world?" - Jeff Oster
Jamie: Gear can make dramatic changes to the effect a record has on a listener. I like to think that a great musician can make great art with whatever tools are at hand -- maybe that's naive and probably somewhat untrue. For me, "better" tools allow me to concentrate more on the artistic and less on the technical and help me to come closer to the music in my head. I'm still undecided as to whether or not more tools are better, but it sure would be fun to try out having 50+ guitars for a while!

Just to carry on a bit with the tech talk... The net has made a huge number of changes in the way I work and do business. And I think probably the same can be said for you. The fact that you've had such success with your web site (especially in terms of downloads) and the fact that you first contacted Will via the net are just two examples of what I'm thinking about. Certainly the net is not everything to everyone -- will it ever be able to replace the feeling of seeing a great band in a live setting? Still, clearly there have been huge changes due to the net's influence on how some musicians create and how some listeners access music. What importance do you feel the net has for you from an artistic and business perspective?
Jeff: I look at the Net as the great equalizer. It's been phenomenal for exposure, for tools to create, for instant feedback on my music, for CD sales, for reviews and exposure throughout the world. I could go on and on.

Look at what it's done to the record industry. Sure, it's a double-edged sword, in that the health of the labels affects signings, amount of time they nurture a new act, etc., but musicians no longer are dependent upon them to get heard. They still control distribution, and certainly this has been one of the challenges I've had to face with my latest release, but how cool is it that I can get 40,000 streams and downloads in two months, from people all over the world?

Record deals are now at the point where an artist must actually BE a record company up until the point where a major can run with what's already in place. The only reason for an artist to sign with a major is to get the exposure and reach that they can't get themselves.

Every day I open my e-mail box is like Christmas or Hanukkah! I never know what will be waiting there. I have collaborated and released music with Chris Bishop (Project Overseer) in London, been interviewed on Radio Nonbiri and Love FM in Japan, seen streams and downloads in Vietnam, China, Zimbabwe, all over the world. How else in history would I have been able to do that?

I am able to research markets, reach out and contact people like Will and you through a medium that allows for instant, anonymous response, on THEIR terms. Imagine if I had left Will a voicemail or sent him a letter. Never would I have made contact, been able to send links to my music, all of the things that led to this record. It's probably not unreasonable to say that this entire project could not have happened with out the Net.

It's also NOT a lot of things. It will never replace live performance, it has the ability to rob a musician of income they might otherwise receive from their music, it's massive and unwieldy and has a way of living up to the name "web" when you are trying to get something done.

I never forget that the Net is used by, and IS, people. People who, if you could connect with all of them, could love and buy your music. That's the key - how do you connect? I have done a lot of marketing in my life, and I know that I am just beginning to tap the true potential of the web in terms of building a fan base.

That's probably the most exciting aspect of my musical career, next to actually creating and playing the music. I actually feel like I have control over my destiny - and I still own my masters
"...but how cool is it that I can get 40,000 streams and downloads in two months, from people all over the world?" - Jeff Oster
Jamie: And owning your masters is no small matter. Now, if only independent musicians could have the same control over mass media and touring, we'd be set. I can dream, can't I?!?!

And speaking of touring, any plans to take your music out on the road?
Jeff: I play here in the Bay Area with a 10 pc. band called the Bob Claire Orchestra. We do a lot of Motown, Steely Dan and some rock, with a jazz set or two thrown in. We do a fair amount of parties, weddings, concerts and things like that, but it's mostly local stuff. While this is a lot of fun, it really is separate from what I'd like to do with the music I've created on At Last.

Creating music from loops presents some interesting challenges and possibilities when it comes to live performance. Do I bring a laptop, live overdubbing hardware, and my horns, and become the 21st century version of the one-man band? That certainly prices right in terms of touring expense, and would be a close to the recording as possible in terms of "live" performance, but where's the interplay, the surprises that can come from the interaction you can have in a band? Some of my best moments have come from playing in a band where there's that moment when you all play as one and ALL of you know it. It doesn't happen often, but when it does, it's just magic!

I think that a combination of the two is the way that I want to go. It would be fun to work with selected loops, mixed with some good live players. So that way, when the hard drive crashes we'll still be able to keep the good music flowing.

At this point in my life, I like to play music for the sheer joy of it. It is liberating to know that next month's rent doesn't depend on me selling CDs out of my trunk. At the same time, record companies want to see you out there on the road building a fan base and selling your CDs. Again, another fine reason for owning your masters! You get to call your own shots in terms of your pace and style of marketing.

I have had some pretty interesting conversations with my wife about how we're going to spend our retirement years. We both like the idea of concerts in Positano Italy, Lucerne Switzerland, Paris France, then moving to Red Rocks, The Greek in LA, and Central Park here in the states. Any suggestions for some Canadian locales? In the summer, please!
"Really from the beginning, for me it's always been about making the horn sound 'pretty'." - Jeff Oster




"I really MUST continue to write and record for my own sanity and fulfillment, so that's what I'm doing." - Jeff Oster
Jamie: Well... even though I'm a Torontonian, I'd have to say that Vancouver is just beautiful. And if you liked to go a little further west, try out Tofino -- definitely one of the most beautiful places I've ever been!

You say that your work with Bob Claire Orchestra is " separate" from your own solo music. Do you feel there's any crossover between the two projects? Anything you've learned from playing jazz and Motown music that you can apply to your own records?
Jeff: Most of my professional career as a working musician has been playing funk, jazz, Motown, Earth Wind and Fire, that type of music. I did a lot of work in Vegas, Tahoe and Atlantic City casino lounges, and all of it was in that genre. And in the VERY beginning, it was all about Chicago, Blood Sweat and Tears, and KC and the Sunshine Band (am I dating myself, or what!)

It's the type of music I like to listen to, as well as play, and certainly the horn charts in these songs have helped me get a better understanding of arranging for horn, as well as the basics (and more) of melody.

With the Bob Claire Orchestra, I'm involved in a pretty unique situation. Almost all of the players have families and substantial income aside from music, and do it for love as opposed to only for the money. Seems kind of utopian, but it actually is true.

It's fun being in a band where we put all of the gig money into a bank account, and spend it on limos and Steely Dan concert tickets for the band and our wives. Pretty cool. Plus, we get to play some really fun songs, Steely Dan, Marvin Gaye, Aretha, all of that.

Really from the beginning, for me it's always been about making the horn sound "pretty". Big tone, full sound, not a lot of fluff. All of that is essential in good horn section and solo playing, and really comes through in the kind of music I am doing on my own.

The ability for me to create these wonderful lush loop tracks, and to come up with melodies and harmonies that fit is just an incredible gift for me. I just work toward something that just makes me FEEL, and that inspires horn melodies to hopefully match.

Another great advantage of playing and rehearsing every week with BCO is that it keeps my chops up to some degree. It's sure nice to have a few days a week where it's a real workout for four or five hours. Believe me, Tower of Power and Earth Wind and Fire horn charts put the old embouchure to the test.
Jamie: That really does sound fantastic... Pretty much an ideal situation -- playing music that you love with a great band and you get to ride in limos!

So what's up next for you? Have you started working on a follow up release to At Last?
Jeff: As you know, At Last is an EP, with four songs in total, about 20 minutes of music. The only negative feedback I've gotten, if you can call it that, is that the EP is too short. While it's always good to leave 'em wanting more, I have found that a lot of distributors and reviewers are used to an entire 50-60 minutes worth of music.

One of the purposes in releasing At Last as an EP was to get some feedback from reviewers, radio and most of all from the listening public. And what I've received so far tells me that I am on exactly the right track.

Of course, no matter what ANYONE says, my music is what it is... I can only be true to myself, to what I love. I really MUST continue to write and record for my own sanity and fulfillment, so that's what I'm doing. I truly believe that the minute you change that, and start doing it for someone else, that you are on the way to lost.

I have three new songs in various stages of development, one of which, "Final Approach", is up on my site. I have talked to Will about going into the studio again in the fall, to polish off these and a few others yet to be created.

By far the most popular track of At Last is the title cut, which is basically a duet between Will and me. We have discussed creating a few more of these as well, in addition to the more complex horn and loop tracks I have been working on so far.

One of the things Will and I have talked about is that on a record, it's good to have some space, some more sparseness musically in between the more heavily layered tracks. I would love nothing more than to release a record with a nice mix of these quieter, more acoustic songs mixed with some rich well orchestrated tracks.

My thoughts are to continue to let the world know about this EP, work towards getting some of this music into film and/or television, to continue working on these new tracks, and then re-release this as a full length album.

This way I'll have some new tracks to share with the radio stations, reviewers and listeners that have already embraced my music, to be able to approach the distributors that are asking for a full length release and build this beast from there.

There's a long road ahead, one that I am SO looking forward to traveling. At Last is really the first... the first step in what I am hoping to be a long and lovely journey of musical discovery, fulfillment and joy. So far, so good!
"At Last is really the first... the first step in what I am hoping to be a long and lovely journey of musical discovery, fulfillment and joy." - Jeff Oster
Jamie: Jeff, what a positive outlook! I sincerely hope you have the longest and loveliest of journeys. Thanks for doing this artist-to-artist conversation and please stay in touch!
Jeff: And thanks to YOU, Jamie. Very few performers, especially those of your calibre, take the time to branch out beyond their music the way you do with these conversations. I for one appreciate it very much, and I am sure that your readers do too.

I look forward to YOUR next release, and perhaps at some point you can get all of the artists you've "conversed" with to get together for an All-Star jam session! Now THAT would be interesting!!!
A Producer's Perspective by Will Ackerman


Jeff Oster and Will Ackerman


I get a lot of email. One of them came from a guy named Jeff Oster. Initially he was just another person dreaming about making a record, but it didn't take long to figure out that he was both serious about this dream and intelligent enough to pull it off. The CD he sent me of some rough mixes of his work not only impressed me musically, but perhaps even more importantly connected with me emotionally.

When you meet Jeff, you're greeted with a large male presence, lots of white teeth and a very substantial handshake. His years in business make him feel instantly like someone you want to have a beer with and commiserate about failed love and poor timing in the stock market. Sometimes that persona almost dominates the space and you forget from time to time that there is also a lyrical soul in there. Until he plays the horn.

Jeff flew in from California a couple of weeks ago. He came into the house with the white teeth glowing and gave me and Susan a hug. He had a new track he was working on and slipped it into the CD player in the kitchen and sort of disappeared. A typical Oster track started playing; a great rhythm track made up of samples and decorative sounds which create a lush and propelling bed for his horn playing. I stopped everything and found myself lost in this ambience wondering what the horn was going to sound like when the horn appeared in the air... not on the CD but from Jeff playing a room away. The melody came in like a dream, floating above this dynamic bed track almost as if the two musical parts had never met before. But they had met, quite clearly. I think this says a lot about Jeff's music. The bed tracks are conspicuously contemporary in feel and in their construction; the sounds are sampled and assembled the way every young kid today is making music out of the building blocks available on the internet. This isn't how the people I know are working. It's a younger perspective and it sounds that way. His horn playing, though, is rooted in a deep love and respect for jazz. It's straight ahead playing; no gimmicks, no flash. It's about melody and harmony and how that simple expressive instrument can make you feel. Jeff is blending these two worlds with a grace which is lovely to behold.

I get a lot of emails. A lot of them come from people who talk of their dreams, but I know they will never have the guts to actually try to live out those dreams. Jeff is the very rare exception. He could quietly go into that good night of riding lawnmowers and cocktail parties and talk wistfully after the fourth stiff belt about how he could have/should have been a musician.

We're in the kitchen again. Jeff is in the other room playing the horn. I peer around the corner. His body is swaying while he plays. Between pursed lips he smiles. He loves this. He really loves this. That's why he has to live this dream and why he will.

Will Ackerman
Windham County, Vermont
 
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