FIVE QUESTIONS FOR JAY REYNOLDS
Jay Reynolds AKA 4Track All-Stars, is one of the most unique voices in modern music today. Combining his vast experience as a Saxophone player, with his sonic explorations into the world of modular effects and experimental recording techniques, he has created a sound which is unlike anything else out there. In 2020 he released an album under 4Track All-Stars titled "5123" which was the result of years of experiments and some improvised sessions at his home in Austin, Texas. Most recently, he collaborated with the Sonixinema team to release a sample library titled Saxophone Explorations. It features a range of abstract saxophone textures combined with experimental modular effects.
Give us a brief history of yourself - what inspired you at a young age and how did you get into music?
JR: As far as getting started with woodwinds, I picked up the flute when I was 11 and then the saxophone two years later. I played sax through high school and majored in it for my bachelors degree. All in all, a somewhat typical trajectory. Getting started with electronic music and signal processing was a little more unique for me. When I was in elementary school, my family had one of those old Radio Shack cassette recorders with a built-in speaker. Somewhere around age 9 or 10, my friend Paul and I figured out that as you pressed down the play button—right before it fully latched into place— the transport would run twice as fast. That was fun for a second, making things play back at high speed. Then we noticed that if you had the record head engaged, it would record with the same accelerated tape speed. We discovered DIY varispeed recording! On cassette! Paul and I spent the next month capturing every audio source imaginable just to hear what it sounded like slowed down.
Tell us how you transitioned into combining your modular rack with your saxophones?
JR: Continuing that tradition, I had bought an original Digitech Whammy pedal back in the early 90s that I still have today. Tracks like a beast on sax and anything else for that matter. In fact I used it on some of the techniques in the Depths mood. So signal processing reed instruments wasn’t all that new to me. Around the same time I’d fallen in love with Jack Dejohnette’s album Audio Visualscapes, and I still feel like the sounds Greg Osby and Gary Thomas got on that project are second-to-none. It’s out of print now but I put it up on YouTube last year. Hopefully they’ll reissue it soon. The very first Eurorack module I ran the sax through was Rings by Mutable Instruments. I had put together this little Lemon Jelly-ish sort of patch with my modular and was going to shoot a video of me improvising over it and I realized I wasn’t using Rings so I just spur-of-the-moment added it. It’s still one of my favorite ways to use that module. Of course I had it on a few of the techniques in the library as well. Maybe as many as a quarter of them.
Tell us about your 2020 album, 5123. What inspired it and how did you create it?
JR: The original 4Track All-Stars album was the result of a few years in a basement in Cincinnati Ohio, mostly spent trying to make a Tascam four-tracker, a Fender Rhodes, an Arp Axxe, an Alesis HR16 drum machine, and a cheap Yamaha reverb sound like Dan The Automator. I was not successful in that specific goal, but I dove further into the idea of experimenting with parametric extremes. And after a while, with the help of a lot of really talented folks, it became a band and then a studio project in 2002. Fast forward to 2016 when my wife and I bought a house in Austin, Texas that had a really great-sounding living room. On a whim, I booked a couple of home-recording sessions with four people that basically split up into two different trios. I had a bunch of demos in Ableton that I’d collected over the years which I turned into extended and minimalist arrangements for the occasion. Once everyone was set up, I handed out reference charts and we just kind-of Bitches Brew’d out: collectively improvising over the first and only takes of each song. After that I edited it all down to more manageable lengths while trying to keep the loose feel we had from the original sessions. A few of the demos were songs I’d co-written with other folks like Elizabeth McQueen, and in some cases those songs had vocals. So I managed to trick my bandmates from Asleep At The Wheel into participating, including singing songs like “Wishful” and “Let Me.” After a while of basically having everyone I knew come through and contribute, it became pretty obvious that this project was the next 4Track All-Stars album.
How did you find the process of creating samples for your new sample pack - is it much different than recording for yourself or other artists?
JR: I had a lot of fun making this sample pack. I think I over delivered by around 20%, if that’s any indication of how much I enjoyed the process. The biggest difference for me was working on recordings that aren’t overdubs, which is to say, not going to be layered with other horns or over a music bed. I noticed a lot of “bad habits” that don’t come up when there are other elements around the sax. Like how I exhale after a note. Or pad noise. Not key noise, but the actual sounds of the pads closing the tone holes. It was a little frustrating at first, but it eventually turned into a good kernel of focus. Sampling became very meditative. I feel like it really informed the process on my end.
Tell us about a piece of music that you love that you think our readers should check out
JR: Aside from Audio Visualscapes, I’d direct folks to Ariel Kalma. Especially a piece called Ecstacy Musical Mind Yoga. The title is probably a little much, but it’s an amazing early use of sax and effects and I fall in love with it again every time I hear it.
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