J.D. AND THE SONS OF RHYTHM
In the spring of 2002, I received a
phone call from Randy Hetherington of
Midtown Recording Studios in Erie, Pennsylvania. He
asked me to participate in a completely spontaneous recording
session with players I had never met. I of course immediately
said, "Sure!". Having played and recorded in free improvisation
groups before, I looked forward to flexing those chops again.
The initial session consisted of
Smith (guitar), Jim Nordstrum (bass), J.D.
Hopkins (electronic drums), and Rickie Hopkins
(drums). Having been invited as a keyboard player, I jumped into
the session on an old Fender Rhodes. This first jam became track
4 of Family Values, Frank
Enters. I played two more evenings with the group on keys,
guitar and guitar synth, with Mike Ohm (guitar, guitar
synth), Scott Cravener (guitar), Kenny Cornelius
(bass), and Jayson Hopkins (electronic drums) all being
present at one time or another. Along with other musicians on
other tracks, this music all ended up on Family Values.
Over the next few months,
invited me to several more of these sessions, including a few
overdub sessions, where J.D., Jayson and Rickie
had pre-recorded drum and percussion tracks. Two of these cuts
became tracks 1 and 7 of Primate
Gestures, Prelude and The Mind of Frank
(thanks, J.D.). All of the other sessions were collective jazz
improvisation, bringing back Mike Ohm, Randy
Hetherington and J.D., Jayson and Rickie. Keith Homerski (electronic drums) joined the crew for a
cut, Jeremy Quezada (guitar) for two cuts, and the
album features four different bass players. Tony Stefanelli of Cat's A Bear,
Mike Chin of One World Tribe, David Blaetz of
and Ralph Reitinger of Mambo all contribute to the
collective, and each one brought a unique sound and feel to the
By the time January 2003 rolled
around (or in Erie, stormed in via icy blasts), the group was
gelling, and cutting more tracks at Midtown. Mike, Dave,
Tony, Kenny, Randy, Scott, J.D., Jayson, Rickie
and myself are joined by Potato Battery guitarist Sheldon
Peterson on the fifteen-track double CD
Music From Another Planet.
The group began playing live gigs in
2003, first at
Hall, then the Roadhouse Theatre, and at the Frontier
Park Jazz and Blues Festival,
held very summer in Erie, PA. Early that summer, J.D.
and the Sons of Rhythm released Quantum Events,
featuring 11 cuts of very intense jamming. Joining the ensemble
for the first time were Mambo percussionist Joel
Polacci, Wierdo Theatre's guitarist Joe Popp,
and Ambitious Noise bassist Mark Chulick. Joel
and Joe stayed in the mix for the next two CDs as well.
In 2004, J.D. and the
Sons of Rhythm recorded material for these two albums,
Smoke Shadows and
Imagination Doctors. Smoke Shadows
portrays the open, spontaneous way that the group plays live,
with full, epic jams featuring grooves, meshed layers and solos.
The bulk of this CD, and the 45 minute A.D.D. jam from
Imagination Doctors are from a series of sessions done in
delightful sweltering heat, at a very intense time locally and
globally. This intensity plays out in the music as ideas are
'discussed' via instrument.
side 1 builds on the overdub concept begun on Primate Gestures,
with drum tracks laid down first or with the first pass of
melodic and harmonic instruments. One thing that began here is
the interactive overdub. Since more than one person is
overdubbing on a pass, and the dubs are improvised, there is
still a great deal of spontaneity using this typically more
commercial technique. Ten cuts make up the first side, all the
result of some form of overdubbing. In addition to the A.D.D.
cut, side two contains two more typical J.D. and Sons jams,
the first a more rocked-out jam and the last a 'talking-guitar'
sound theme, both with Tony on bass.
In February of 2004,
J.D. and the Sons of Rhythm recorded a live performance at
Forward Hall, which is directly attached to Midtown Recording
Studio's digital recording facility.
Live at Forward Hall was released in the fall, and showcases
the ensemble's ability to play this music consistently, no easy
task in collective improvisation. Bassists Tony, David, Kenny
and Ralph, guitarists Mike, Sheldon and Joe, and myself on
guitar and keyboards joined drummers Rickie, Jayson and J.D.,
Joel and for one cut, guest drummer Allen Chaffee.
In the early spring
of 2005, two more double-disc CDs brought the total to 9.
Beyond Attention and
Crossing Oceans of Time were released
as a set, with original artwork from J.D. and the same group of
players on both discs. These two discs add new players, new
dimensions and new techniques to this innovative project. Phil
Papotnik (sax) of Cat's A Bear, Chad Garrison (tpt) and Joe
Frisina (guitar) join bassists Kenny, Tony and David, guitarists
Mike and Sheldon, percussionists J.D., Rickie and Jayson and
myself, playing guitar and guitar-synth, keyboards, and on
Crossing Oceans of Time even a track of bass (Headhunter).
As well as the
addition of live horns, these albums combine live jams with layered
overdubs. These cuts were then distributed among the CDs with
some edits using direct transitions between songs. The result is
a storytelling effect that creates true albums instead of song
collections, similar to the John McLaughlin album Extrapolation
Since January of
2005, studio sessions with Cat's A Bear members and One World
Tribe members have taken place, and some incredible things have
come about in these sessions, some of which is contained on
double CDs ten (Moving Through The
Elements) and eleven (Astral Worlds). More
recently, in the late summer of 2006, disc 12 (Near
Journey's End) was released. This CD contains 19 tracks, and
commemorates the passing of artist James Hall, who did the cover
art, and Mike Smith, jazz drummer. Both died in the spring of
'06, during the release process for this CD, and were close
friends of J.D.'s.
In late 2008, Colors of Tyme
became release number 13, bringing the total number of sides to 26.
This prolific body of work peaks in this disc, encapsulating the best of
what these musicians could accomplish.
This CD was well worth waiting for, ending with title track number 14.
[ visit the
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Richard Carl "JD" Hopkins passed on April 4, 2016.
is a testiment to his creativity and generousity.
Every musician involved benefitted from this project in
countless ways, and we are forever grateful.
Thanks, JD. You will be missed, my friend.
the J.D. Hopkins website
Colors of Tyme
Near Journey's End
Moving Through The Elements
Buy Crossing Oceans of Time
Live at Forward Hall
Music From Another Planet
Buy Family Values
Frontier Park Jazz and Blues Festival
Frank and J.D. Hopkins
Tony Stefanelli and Rickie Hopkins