ALTHOUGH SEATTLE - based Jaiman Crunk has been playing for decades, the middle- aged guitarist and composer released his first album only a few months ago—and he didn’t cut any corners while realizing his dream. Not only does Encounters [Origin] showcase a host of legendary players such as saxophonist Ernie Watts, bassists Ron Carter and Buster Williams, trumpeters Wallace Roney and Randy Brecker, and drummer Will Calhoun, three pieces feature a chamber orchestra of musicians from the Seattle Symphony. “I came to the point where I said to myself, ‘You’ve worked with a lot of great musicians, playing other people’s music, but who are you and what are you all about?’” explains Crunk. “So, I decided that I would record an album to express what I had to say both from a guitar and from a compositional standpoint.”
The eight harmonically sophisticated, sonically rich, and typically swinging compositions on Encounters have a decidedly old-school jazz feel, as do most of Crunk’s guitar tones and his engaging but relatively linear and straight-ahead approach to soloing—though the backstory is more nuanced. “I was born in Oakland and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, playing a lot of blues and R&B and even gospel, so you hear that in everything that I do,” he says. “And I also lived in Europe, where I was exposed to classical music performed by the Berlin Philharmonic, and some of the arrangements on the album reflect that—though every note of the music on Encounters, including the parts for instruments such as bassoon and violin, was conceived on the guitar, which is like a mini orchestra unto itself.”
Crunk played a two-pickup hollowbody custom built to his specs by Bryant Trenier and a tremolo-equipped solidbody Gene Baker b3 on the album, though he also has a modified ’60s Guild X500 that he favors for solo jazz gigs, and a black ’50s Gibson Les Paul Custom. Some of the synth sounds on the album were created with a Godin guitar and a Roland VG-99. Crunk’s amplifier of choice is a Mesa/Boogie Mark III that was modified almost beyond recognition by Kevin Hilbiber at Condor Electronics in Seattle.
Crunk paid for the entire project out of his own savings. “The studio costs and the mastering were the greatest expenses,” he says. “You might think that all the brilliant musicians would be difficult to afford, but the truth is that what they asked for to do the sessions was scandalously low in my view. They brought the most and cost the least, which is really weird, but that’s the way it is with this music. Of course, it works the same way on the other end. I only made this album because I had something to say musically, and I strongly encourage other musicians with something to say to do the same thing— just don’t imagine that you’re going to be driving a Maserati as a result of making a jazz record, because you aren’t.”