My new album, The Moon Threads a Needle, weaves elements of rock, blues, jazz, and folk into an intensely personal album. With the record starting to garner national airplay and the official CD release party coming up (March 16 @ Martyrs in Chicago), things are heating up for this lifelong musician and Oak Parker.
I describe the process of recording Moon as a frenetic but rewarding experience. There were times where, after being at it for hours, I'd take a look around my studio and see total disarray. Instruments everywhere. Clarinets, saxophones, microphones, guitars and amplifiers. Even glockenspiel and timpani drums. Recording definitely brings out the eccentric, mad-scientist in me.
The album is a showcase for my eclectic, multi-instrumental approach to songwriting. Gritty slide guitar and quirky saxophone pepper the sonic landscape, and acoustic guitar-driven songs are surrounded by lush winds and piano. Catchy grooves and melodies found on "Everybody Says" are balanced by the haunting, layered vocals of the tribute to my deceased sister, "When Molly Got Lost."
In addition to recording and mixing, I play most of the instruments on the record. The result is a microscopically unified sound with a new depth of nuance, I hope, revealed upon each listen, touching the listener both emotionally and intellectually. I intended Moon to be poetry framed by music.
I need to be challenged by my music but I also need any given song to be unique. I sit down with the guitar and search for something I've never heard before. This ensures that each song creates its own context. As I layer instruments and write lyrics, I have the same stringent requirement: Taking this approach allows the song to reveal its true nature as it doesn't have to stay within a given paradigm. It's very important to me that the song enters the ear and mind easily but also that the listener doesn't know what's coming next.
As for what style or genre my music fits into, I take issue with the question though I suppose "acoustic rock" would be the closest mainstream definition. I had a trumpet-player friend who went to a prestigious music school on the East Coast and now works in New York. He was always talking about the importance of the "tradition," i.e. the importance of playing the music the way his predecessors did. I would always argue that this is a recipe for stagnation and ask him how he thought we got the music in the first place? I think emulation has its place in the learning process but, as artists, we are obligated to break tradition in the name of evolution. So to answer your question, my music doesn't really fit into any one genre. This is by design. Talking about music is like dancing about architecture.
There are some guest appearances on the record, including longtime friend and collaborator, guitarist Chris Siebold (A Prairie Home Companion, Howard Levy), pianist/conductor Jo Ann Daugherty (Motown: The Musical, Victor Goines) and drummer Dan Leali (Tributosaurus, Under the Streetlamp).
A District 97 and OPRF alum (class of 1989), my early experiences in Oak Park music programs formed the bedrock of my unique skill set. Once caught improvising on clarinet over Pachelbel's Canon in an OPRF wind ensemble, I was given a tenor saxophone and invited to join the jazz band by Dr. Ron Holleman. I was playing and recording professionally shortly thereafter.
The Moon Threads a Needle CD release party is on Thursday, March 16 (St. Patty's Day eve) at Martyrs (3855 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago). Tickets are available at www.martyrslive.com. The album is available for purchase at numerous online locations including iTunes and is streaming on all major platforms, including Spotify. You can also keep up at www.wjcmusic.com.
Guitarist/saxophonist/singer/songwriter Wes John Cichosz (Chee-Hoas) is an Oak Park resident and musician.