Jazzer Joshua Bayer is like, um, cool, uh, daddy-o. The 32-year-old multi-instrumentalist talks with the type of laid-back, jazzbo inflection you only encounter these days in Dobie Gillis reruns. Bayer’s excellent debut, Music for Dances, reflects his chilled-out demeanor; the album’s eight tracks are as smooth as Zambonied ice. While Bayer composes primarily on piano, he plays bass on Dances, passing the chording duties to guitarist Steve Herberman. I ask Bayer if it’s odd to hand off his songs to someone else.
“I guess you find…the proper mix. The guitarist on there is just fantastic, and so is the drummer, and we all get along as people,” he says in a soft-but-excitable California-cool tone (which Bayer must have acquired while getting his master’s degree in, well, Cleveland, before finishing his doctorate in composition at the University of Maryland).
Is this your normal trio?
“I guess so, though things change, ya know? I guess not. I guessI dunno if you can; I dunno. That’s a good question.”
Is there going to be a Joshua Bayer trio where you’re playing guitar or piano?
“I do guitar work here and there, yeah.”
But do you envision your jazz music with you always being the bassist?
“Uh, I dunno. Uh, I think I like the bass a little more, to be honest with you. So yeah, I guess so.”
You almost play a lead bass in a lot of ways…
“Oh, no kiddin’?”
But you don’t always hang back and…
“Well, when you’re walking a line, just keepin’ time underneath the music…”
Well, yeah, but you might end that line with a little dipsy-doodle…
“Well, yeah, I can’t….When you’re in a trio, just three people, sometimes you can’t just keep that time going 24-7.”
You need to fill up space.
“Yeah, basically, yeah. You got to do a little more the less people you have, but you still gotta do your job, I suppose. It’s a hard call, you know; it’s personal taste.”
Music for Dances is wonderfully recorded. It almost sounds as though the instruments are in your lap. I don’t hear a lot of jazz recordings like that. They tend to sound more distant to me.
“Interesting. What do you mean by that?”
I like how clear it is. It’s a very live recording.
“Yeah, I tell ya, Chuck [Ferrell, Dances’ engineer/drummer] did all that. It’s very live. He’s something else. He’s real good at what he does.”
Is this a self-released disc?
“Basically. Vanity press, you know, that type of thing.”
Is this your first album?
“Sure is. But I’m talking to some people about getting another label. We’ll see what happens. I’m not counting any chickens.”
What’s your day job?
“Music’s my thing.”
Why don’t you play out a lot with your trio?
“I don’t want to take a night of my week and play way out where people aren’t going to hear you…etc., etc.”
Bayer will head up the music department of Berry School in Silver Spring this fall, but he says he will continue to work with vocalists, do pickup gigs, score plays and ballets, write commercial jingles”crap like that.”Christopher Porter
Music for Dances is $11 ppd. from Joshua Bayer/Interlace Records, 5703 Seminal, Berwyn Heights, MD 20740. (“I sell it cheaper than Borders does. Can you dig it?”) Bayer’s trio plays two free sets Friday, July 25, 7:30-9:30 p.m. at the Borders in Gaithersburg. Be there or be square.