Jacob Varmus, trumpet, cornet
Toru Dodo, piano
Nate Radley, guitar
Yoshi Waki, bass
Brian Woodruff, drums
Chris Komer, french horn
recorded by Jim Clouse, Park West Studios
August 4th and 5th, 2004
produced by Jacob Varmus, Crows' Kin Recordings
"Jacob Varmus's music is lyrical and self-assured."-Paul Goldberger, The New Yorker, 12/08
"Jacob Varmus, west coast raised and New York based, has released a new record, a first as a leader, and one that I’ve listed as a favourite for 2006. The new recording by Varmus, All The Things We Still Can Be, features his excellent trumpet playing and his compositional skills, which are evident on six of the eight wonderful compositions on the CD. The lead-in track, a Varmus original with a catchy title, “Ecstatic Little Porpoises”, is a bluesy tune with great drum breaks, fantastic guitar passages, striking piano comping and Varmus, swimming, in and out, over and under the melody with a beautiful, warm, full, round cornet sound." -Paul J. Youngman, KJA Jazz Advocate
"Prior to hearing his first major release, All the Things We Still Can Be, I was unfamiliar with trumpet player and composer Jacob Varmus. I have to admit that it will often take listening to a few tracks before I warm up to, or can fully appreciate, the style of an artist that is unknown to me, but with Varmus I was drawn in from the first cut.
"He plays with a pleasing round and full sound, and his improvisations are lyrical and musical.
"His compositions have a sense of purpose and structure with very listenable and memorable melody lines.
"I am personally eager to hear what he offers up next."-Scott Hockenberry, Jazz Improv Magazine
"On Jacob Varmus' debut recording he proves to be an exciting trumpeter, composer and bandleader."-Michael P. Gladstone, All About Jazz
"...an awesome trumpeter alleviates my perpetual thirsty ear for horns. Gosh! Jacob Varmus burns quite enough on All the Things We Still Can Be to reawaken my ore-idealism...a powerful trumpet utterance.
The Jacob Varmus band astounds us with a euphonic elaboration including plenty of ardour, reverberations and candle luminance. Varmus is more than generous here. His musings lay on the music of monstrous jazz creators such as Shorter and Monk. Yet Varmus sounds unique among as his peers. That said, Varmus’s inspiration on Chet and Miles is brilliant, gently marked and pushed along by be-bop and post-bop oriented structures."-Dr. Ana Isabel Ordonez, JazzReview.com
"One person who trumpeter Jacob Varmus has mentioned more than once when discussing All the Things We Still Can Be, his first official album as a leader, is Chet Baker. When he was alive, Baker was far from a jazz critics’ darling—many jazz critics of the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s wrongly dismissed Baker and other Cool Schoolers as lightweights—but Baker’s impact has outlasted critics’ barbs, and this 2004 date is a prime example of Baker (who died in 1988) influencing someone who is young enough to be his grandson. That is not to say that Varmus spends all of his time going out of his way to emulate Baker; Varmus has other noteworthy influences, ranging from Miles Davis (Baker’s primary influence) to Tom Harrell to Art Farmer to Don Cherry. The only time Varmus flat-out emulates Baker is on “Everything Happens to Me,” which is one of the standards that Baker loved to play; Varmus, who is very much an instrumentalist, even includes a little Baker-ish singing. But Varmus’ own compositions dominate this post-bop-oriented effort, and most of the time, Baker’s influence—although certainly evident—is no less important than the influence of Davis or Harrell. Further, Varmus generally favors a bigger tone than either Baker or Davis, whose mid-‘60s output has had a definite impact on his writing; compositionally, Varmus gets a lot of inspiration from the Davis period that was post-standards but pre-fusion—the Davis who was no longer playing “Someday My Prince Will Come” and “My Funny Valentine” but had yet to kick off the fusion revolution with In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew."-Alex Henderson, All Music Guide
"...a different kind of jazz is played by talented trumpeter Jacob Varmus and his band on All The Things We Still Can Be. It's original, exciting and inventive - a great listen. Visit www.jacobvarmus.com to find out more about this artist, and I do mean artist." -Norman Famous, The Dotted Line
"Here's a new trumpet player that will simply blow you away. Falling in love with trumpet at 2 years old, he has carried his life long love affair with the instrument to extremes that have really taken him places along the way. This set shows him falling right in step with the masters and the greats. While he might be paying a debt of gratitude, he mostly stands on his own two feet with a smooth, round tone that's all his own and will earn him stature right next to the greats that have come before. A pure player that doesn't go in for farce or overwrought chops displays, Varmus is one solid jazzbo to keep an ear out for because he's too good to miss." -Chris Spector,Midwest Record Recap
"Be all you can be' is the feeling you get when you hear the jazz trumpet of one Jacob Varmus...And, as you take in his talent as well, Jacob's artistry is 'all that he is.' Jacob's bebop concept has very traditional leanings as seen through the musical eyes of his fine mind & original compositions. In addition to his obvious abilities as a stylistic consolidator, he explores elements of jazz that he exults in performing with a certain passionate energy, interpreting his music with equal ease, while he emits the sheer joy of making art, music, et al. Check him out!!"
George W. Carroll,The Musicians' Ombudsman
"New York-based trumpeter and composer Jacob Varmus releases his debut album as leader with All the Things We Still Can Be, presenting seven originals, including one from bassist Yoshi Waki and one time-honored standard in the Tom Adair/Matt Dennis composition “Everything Happens To Me” in one straight-ahead contemporary session of jazz. For this project, Varmus assembled a small combo of some very fine musicians consisting of Nate Radley (guitar), Toru Dodo (piano), Yoshi Waki (bass), Brian Woodruff (drums) and Chris Komer (French Horn) on the finale “Perpetual Motion".
The group plays a set of terrific bouncy and very boppish melodies including the title piece featuring one of many stellar solo performances by the leader. He plays slower and softer on this version of “Everything Happens To Me” and is backed up by some fine piano and guitar playing on other notable tracks like “What is This Thing We Still Can Be?,” “Why Don’t You Dance” and “Perpetual Motion.”
There are no high-pitched screaming trumpet sounds or hard swinging rhythms here, this is a disc of warm, gentle and light jazzy harmonies full of beautiful color. A truly enjoyable session of tasteful jazz and an impressive album for Jacob Varmus and crew. This is one CD that you will listen to often."
-Edward Blanco, Ejazz News
Jacob Varmus, trumpet, cornet, vocals
Nate Radley, guitar
Toru Dodo, piano
Yoshi Waki, bass
Brian Woodruff, drums
About Jacob Varmus
Being pushed in a pram along the banks of La Scala in 1976 the two-year old Jacob Varmus suddenly emitted squeals and shrieks of unmasked delight. The most rapturous sounds he'd ever heard were bouncing off the plaza stone: a lone trumpeter's warming up from within open stage doors at the local opera house.
Ten years later Jacob Varmus had a trumpet of his own and began winning top marks at all the California Music Educators' Association festivals for his work as soloist (Haydn's trumpet concerto and Goedicke's Concert Etude) and chamber musician.
Evolving parallel to his love of music was an interest and talent in using language artistically thru poetry, critical essays, and autobiographical stories. In high school he won awards for poetry and sports journalism (an avid San Francisco Giants fan) as well as music. His first year of college, Jacob was admitted to the undergraduate Iowa Writers Workshop for poetry where he studied closely with MacArthur grant recipient Jorie Graham. At Iowa he also had the good fortune of studying with classical trumpet virtuoso David Greenhoe.
An initiation to the music and mastery of John Coltrane, as well as inspiring lessons with progressive trumpeter (and Iowa alum) Paul Smoker led Varmus to focus primarily on learning jazz music to the fullest. In 1994 he decided to move to New York to finish his BFA at the New School Jazz program where he received timeless lessons from a long list of artists including Arnie Lawrence and Billy Harper. Here he became known to his peers and elders as a composer of harmonically intricate yet compellingly simple and striking tunes.
In his senior year he was selected by the Jazz Composers' Collective to write a suite combining jazz quintet with string quartet which featured Ted Nash and Frank Kimbrough.
Continuing with his interest in developing as a composer (and helping others do the same) he founded Workshop 39, a jazz composers' workshop in Long Island City, and found work as an incidental music composer for theater companies like Yankee Rep. In 2005 he won a commission from the Queens Council on the Arts to present 'Queensboro Plaza' a suite for jazz quintet drawing on the types of rhythmic cross currents associated with Steve Reich, a harmonic language close to Stravinsky's and Scriabin's, and the collective improvisation of early jazz.
Track Notes by Jacob Varmus
1. 'Ecstatic Little Porpoises' is a phrase I like that my Aunt Caroline, an astrologer, used in her book 'Making the Gods Work For You'. I'm sorry I don't recall the exact context, but it refers to a good attitude to have when a daunting prospect lies ahead and one knows he's been enlisted somehow to rise to this challenge. Accept it and dive in, 'like ecstatic little porpoises...whoosh!' That I remember--the 'whoosh'.
This is for you, Aunt Caroline.
2.All the Things We Still Can Be is a play on All the Things You Are. I felt the nature of the lyrics to that old song are possessive and deluded ('that moment divine when all the things you are are mine! Mine!'). I think most songs are this way, unfortunately. I wanted to refer to a healthy relationship-and by that I mean one in which change is not feared but relished, and a couple can look outward and ahead without having to ascribe everything they desire/detest unto the other. And one in which improvement is a real possibility.
The form is the same as All the Things You Are except for a 6 bar interlude in the middle. But who could tell? I think All the Things You Are has one of the most beautiful structures of all our standards which is why I used it as a model when I wrote this as a student in the New School Jazz Program. At the time I felt I really needed to understand the musical reasons for conventionally-lengthed (8-bar) phrases. I get it now.
3. Untimely Intrusion
When I was living on the Upper East Side I used to practice late after midnight. I figured the walls were thick. Someone came down and complained so after that I never played past 11. One night at 1:30 I wasn't playing but taking a bath with a Chet Baker record of love songs playing at a low volume. Aaah................
Suddenly, five loud, hard knocks on my door. I rose startled, water spilling over the tub and began to dress. A brazen woman's voice said with exasperation as though she had me in her view, "You don't need to get dressed. Just open up."
Pants and a shirt on, but still dripping wet, I peered through the peephole. I saw a pair of steel blue eyes glaring back with like laser-like precision.
I let two women police officers in and they began to poke around my apartment.
Someone below had called in, they said, concerned by hearing a woman's scream.
This piece is somewhat programmatic. You'll hear the five loud hard knocks expressed first as a high D minor major 7th chord on the piano interrupting silence after a dream-like introduction.
I wrote this tune as a challenge to put the above incident into a musical form. I don't write much music at uptempo but I thought the occasion warranted a burner.
I am surprised how many good musicians request to play this tune at jam sessions. They say they like the challenge of playing across the three bar phrases I constructed, and adapting to the alarm of the bridge which seems at times a rather untimely intrusion.
4. Everything Happens to Me
I can't help but feel something of Chet Baker when I play this song. I couldn't resist singing the last A.
5. Country Dave Tex Mex
I like the feel of those old Appalachian songs, I love how you can sense that it's something that's been passed down aurally over many generations. When I want
to get back to composing after time off I'll start off by challenging myself to come up with a melody with that feeling. To me it's a way to practice the art of creating spontaneous melodies.
The theme on this tune, a result of such practice, sat in a sketchbook untouched for several years. When I decided to make this recording I took it out and thought it would complement the repertoire well-if I developed it into a vehicle for jazz.
I took this one simple hummable whistle-able little tune and changed the harmony around it from section to section, so it takes on different guises. It's been suggested one adaptation suggests Ravel, the next Debussy.
Before and after these sections I use a rhythmic loop of a simple 3-note figure, where the trumpet, piano and guitar stagger entrances creating a sense of tension in the motion of the figure-like the relationships between three identical wheels that started rotating at the same speed at different points in time . After the third version of the melody on the whole tone chord (Debussy), we culminate in a festive montuno. All of this is conveying the scenery on a long drive culminating in a visit to Country Dave Tex Mex, a fictive restaurant just off the interstate in the Southwest somewhere. I'm talking about someplace to stop after driving from morning to night, juke box playing Johnny Cash, chimichangas, strawberry margaritas, happy waitresses that call you honey, guacamole and tortillas. Doesn't that sound like the mecca?
6. What Is This Thing We Still Can Be?
This one is a 60s Miles Davis/Wayne Shorter-like approach to the form of What Is This Thing Called Love. I don't think either ever recorded it. If you know of a version, let me know please. Maybe Wayne did with Blakey, or Miles with Bird, but that's something else entirely. We had fun reacting to one another around this familiar form.
7. Why Don't You Dance?
The title is borrowed from a Raymond Carver story of the same name. It's in 4/4 but there are places where the melody line rebels against the constriction of bar lines, and it's hard to differentiate the beats (1,2,3 and 4) from each other. That might explain why you don't dance.
The free-flowing quality of the melody owes a debt to Ornette Coleman, a melodist of the highest order, while the harmonic shadings are Bill Evans-like.
I sometimes make the joke that this is dedicated to John Ashcroft.
Then I tell them he is the highest ranking official of Assemblies of God, and it's against his religion to dance, so that's why. An alternate title for this tune might be 'Wallflower'. Ashcroft is known to be shy at most parties, as was/is (purportedly) Bill Evans, Ornette Coleman, and me. This is an ode to the inner life.
8. Perpetual Motion
I didn't know Yoshi Waki was such a fine composer when I first started playing with him but I might have guessed it from his instincts, taste and musical flexibility as a bass player. This is the only piece of Yoshi's I've ever heard. I'm glad he brought it in because it rounds out the album beautifully.
I recently wrote a prelude to this one, called Terminal Stillness. No joke!