Jake Clemons w/ Shlomo Franklin - 9/16
at City Winery New York City
- 10:00pm (Estimated End Time)
Our first glimpse into the heart and soul of Jake Clemons came in 2013 with release of his debut EP, Embracing Light. With just a few original songs, this gifted singer and multi-instrumentalist offered a bewitching hint at how much he had to say and the intricate way he said it. Now, with Jake’s current full-length album Fear & Love (released in January 2017,) we are allowed a deeper appreciation of what Clemons has to offer.
There’s the hair, then there are the glasses, but ultimately there is a person who is a magnet for positive energy, emotion and creating stories. In short, Jake continues to make a deep connection in the present by living life to its’ fullest through a musical journey.
Growing up in Virginia as the son of a Marine Corps band director and as the nephew of the legendary Clarence Clemons, Jake began his musical career studying jazz performance at the Virginia Governor’s School For The Arts. Over the years while crafting his skills in writing and recording, Jake’s musical ability evolved to include vocals,guitar, piano, drums and of course, the saxophone.
The Jake Clemons Band was created in 2010 and since then Jake has been living on a perpetual world tour, traveling throughout the U.S., Canada, Australia and Europe, performing at venues and “Legendary Living Room” shows across the globe. Jake has graced many stages performing alongside a variety of artists including Tom Morello, Glen Hansard, The Swell Season, The Roots, Roger Waters and Eddie Vedder to name a few.
Dividing his time between touring the world with his own music and spending the last five years as the tenor and baritone saxophonist with Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band (stepping in for his Uncle, the late Clarence Clemons,) Jake had time to think of the sound and the direction for Fear & Love, laying the first parts of this album’s foundation at the same time that his EP Embracing Light was in progress.
“When I put Embracing Light together, I changed the way that I approached recording. A lot of that was due to a conversation that I had with Bruce about having a theme and a concept for each record. Because some of the songs he had written did not quite fit the “Embracing Light” theme, Clemons set them aside knowing that Fear & Love was going in a different direction. “It’s more introspective,” he explains. “Instead of looking up at the moment and carrying hope to the next moment, this album reflects the ‘right now that you feel inside’ as opposed to the ‘right now” that’s external.
Reflecting on his late father’s influence on his own musical experience, Jake notes: “My father was a bandleader in the United States Marines and a very observant Southern Baptist so we always had music in the house and would all gather around the piano and sing...although we weren’t allowed to sing anything but gospel. Still, he was and still is a humongous influence to me. He was a great band director and no matter how it started, every band he worked with was first- class by the time he’d finished. That affected my approach to leading a band and feeling out what I’m going for. Even now, although I like to think of myself as a bit of a rebel, I operate better when there’s some sense of parameters that I am working in.”
Jake took these experiences and by July of 2015 had decided to focus all of his energy on Fear & Love. To chart a musical direction that would complement the messages he wanted to convey, Clemons followed an unlikely muse. “I listened to a lot of Beethoven, a lot of heavy, emotive classical music,” he says. “I immersed myself in it on almost a daily basis. I wanted to compose my songs so that they could really convey emotions, so you could feel the lows and the highs. When it came from a deep, dark place, I wanted it to sound deep and dark. And when it came from a light and exciting place, I wanted that to come through the music as much as through the lyrics.”
The title Fear & Love frames the range of emotions that Clemons explores through the eleven song album beginning with a cacophony of hurricane warnings leading into “Hold Tight” and culminating in an exhilarating collision of restlessness and romance of “Move On.”
“Clearly,the first half of the record is darker and heavier,” he says. “On the first track, ‘Hold Tight,’ the lyrics begin with ‘Hold tight, she’s a hurricane.’ Then it goes to a song called ‘Janine,’ which deals with an abusive relationship. The chorus is, ‘Get out while you can. This isn’t love.’ Eventually we get to the up-side of the record, with the “Move On” and “A Little Bit Sweet.”
Singing, playing guitar and a multitude of other instruments (including some of that muscular tenor on “Just Stay”, “A Little Bit Sweet” and “All Undone”), Clemons gives voice to intimate doubts and conflicted feelings through a long and powerful crescendo on “The Burning” and shares fear and hope on “Fear & Love” (“I was born to break hearts/If you get too close, you’ll get torn apart/ By the way, what’s your name?”) and creates a disaster-ridden metaphor for falling in love on “SickBrokenBroken” that’s somehow light-hearted, hilarious and painful at the same time Fear & Love is clearly but one step in what promises to be a long path leading ever deeper into the poetic essence of Jake Clemons. Already he is an artist in his own right, with an eloquence and passion that’s rare even among the legends of music. Perhaps the most exciting part of this picture is its confirmation that much more can be expected from this extraordinary talent.
“There are things I’m still sorting out, things I’ll be exploring in years to come,” he affirms. “Even now, I’m still a work in progress.”
Fear & Love was released January 13, 2017.