At Jazz Fest one year, New Orleans music royalty crossed paths with a Baltimore songwriter while sitting at a poker table. Ivan Neville and Cris Jacobs have since built a musical rapport manifesting itself in a collaborative nine-song album, Neville Jacobs. Due September 28 via Harmonized Records, the album’s debut single makes its first appearance today (September 3), on OffBeat.com
“City Rain” is but one of a series of songs borne out of the pair’s Baltimore songwriting sessions. There, the two spent ample time getting the feel for each other’s approaches. As Jacobs recalls, “When we actually found a few days to hang out and try making some noise together, that’s when we realized it could be something real. Sometimes things sound good on paper but don’t actually work in reality. But we get along and that the vibe is relaxed and comfortable was a great start. When Ivan had a few days off to hang in Baltimore with me, we played some cards, ate some food, and hung in the studio for a few hours.”
Neville attributes the success of their sessions to good, old-fashioned chemistry. “There’s a mutual love for music (listening, performing and writing)…add to that the fact that we both like to play poker,” he says.
Jacobs adds, “I think we both come from the same approach, where songs come together any way you can find a way in, be it a musical phrase, a lyrical idea, or whatever. It varied song to song. Some were fully written from each of us separately. I wrote ‘The Stakes’ with this project in mind specifically. But in the co-written songs, they all started as Ivan at the piano and me with a guitar and the tape rolling and us just making sounds until we landed on something cool. From there we went back and found the pieces that we liked. Some might’ve just come out of a word – Ivan sang the ‘Wasted’ hook over a cigar box guitar riff I was playing and I later wrote some verses.”
“The songs came together very naturally,” says Neville. “The only song that had a pre-conceived theme was ‘River Behind Me,’ which is a song about my mother Joel Roux Neville, who passed away in 2007. Which reminds me of how writing that song together forged a bond that is pretty significant.”
The duo has theoretical plans to tour as Neville Jacobs in the future, and Jacobs is eager to perform the music in New Orleans. “I love the deep soul of the city and the deep cultural lineage it preserves. You can’t be up there faking some jive ass shit when you get called up to play, and more important you need to develop the ears and open spirit to handle the looseness and spontaneity of that music. So hopefully some of that has rubbed off over the years.”
Elsewhere on Neville Jacobs, fans are treated to the bass playing of Tony Hall and drumming of Brady Blade. Shreveport musician Theresa Andersson brought along her violin for some of the sessions and Mr. Aaron Neville lends his voice to “Makeup of a Fool.”