Jane Getter Runs The Voodoo Down

See Jane. Now see Jane jam. She’s New York’s Jane Getter, and she may be the fieriest fretboarding female to ever strap on a Stratocaster. An A-list sidewoman for years, she’s been the go-to gal for “Brother” Jack McDuff, Joe Lovano, Slide Hampton, and Kenny Barron, and even logged time with the Saturday Night Live band. On her latest solo outing, See Jane Run [Alternity], Getter proves she’s a player and composer who’s ready to take center stage. Mixing high-octane instrumental workouts with smooth R&B vocal tunes, See Jane Run plays like a funkier, more urban Mahvishnu Orchestra. But Getter is careful not to tag herself with the dreaded “f-word”—fusion. “People have a pre-conceived notion of what fusion is supposed to be, and I don’t want to limit myself,” she says. “Weather Report-meets-Led Zeppelin-meets-Chaka Kahn-meets-Salif Keita is probably the best description of what I do.”

Originally a high-minded jazzer, Getter said it was Hammond B-3 master McDuff who converted her to the gospel of groove. “I used to approach jazz intellectually, focusing on complex harmonies just for the sake of it,” she explains. “When I went on the road with Jack, his laid-back straight-ahead funk created a party vibe that had everybody dancing and clapping their hands. I realized that playing music was really about connecting with people. From then on, my writing became more groove-oriented.”

The move paid dividends almost immediately. By the late ’90s, Getter had pocketed an ASCAP Gershwin Award for Music for Theatre or Dance, co-written Urbanator’s smooth-jazz hit “Hopscotch” with Lenny White (Return to Forever), and released her acclaimed debut CD, Jane. Getter’s back-to-basics approach can be found at the core of two lengthy instrumentals from See Jane Run. “The track ‘The Loop’ is built around a syncopated, two-bar 6/8 riff, while the tune ‘Leap Year’ stems from a one-bar, 5/4 guitar phrase,” she explains. “The idea was to take these basic themes and develop them through solos and group interplay.”

Much of See Jane Run’s mojo can be attributed to the fact it was tracked live with her crackerjack band (keyboardist/husband Adam Holzman, bassist James Genus, drummers Keith Carlock and Rodney Holmes, percussionist Abdou M’Boup, and vocalist Thulani), with Getter plugging a customized ’57 Strat reissue into a Mesa Boogie Mark IV. But it’s Getter’s uninhibited lead lines that put the intensity level over the top. “My approach to playing lead is to start out slowly and melodically, then build up the excitement,” she says. “As far as the notes I play, I say if it sounds right it is right. I know traditional harmony, but I like to develop my own scales with unusual note combinations. The solo in “Leap Year” is based on a minor pentatonic scale with a 6 instead of a b7 (spelled 1, b3, 4, 5, 6), for example. [For more on Getter’s scale synthesis tactics, check out her Sessions columns in the August 1999 and January 2000 issues of GP.] But even when I play ‘outside,’ I’ll return to something bluesy to put the dissonance in a familiar context. You can be as harmonically sophisticated as you want, but when you play soulfully, people respond more. It just makes the music feel right.”