We’ve been around since day one for Jesse Fischer & Sly5thAve‘s Head Hunters tribute project. What started out as a concert back in 2013 has now blossomed into a 4-track re-imagination of one Herbie’s most beloved albums featuring Fischer and Sly5thAve at the helm. “The original Head Hunters LP was one of those records that made me want to push further,” Sly reveals. “It came at a time when I was first discovering the world of improvised music and really got me excited about the different possibilities. It was in that spirit we re-imagined these songs in a more modern day context.” We caught up with Fischer and Sly5thAve over coffee to get the complete low-down on their Vein Melter EP. Scroll down to read our convo.

Album Stream: Jesse Fischer & Sly5thAve - 'Vein Melter'
Revive: How did this project begin between the two of you?

Sly: I guess we met at APAP?

Jesse Fischer: We met briefly at the APAP conference during 2013 in January.

S: I think I came up to you and was like, “Oh you’re Jesse! What’s up man? I came to see your show at Winter Jazzfest.” From there we just started hanging out and we both collectively had this idea of a Head Hunters redux/tribute show kind of thing. It was just supposed to be a tribute show at first, but then Jesse had the idea to have a track to release with the show. So we did the show and we released the track and it went really well so we ended up doing another one. Somewhere along the way it morphed into an entire record.

R: So it’s been a two-year process from the first show to the present day?

JF: Yeah. I think I heard Sly’s Club Casa remix of the Kendrick song and thought it was really unique, but I had not met him at the time. So then, Brad Williams – who produced Sly’s jazz album – sent me a copy of the album. When I [listened] to it I thought that it was an incredible depth of concepts. When we got to meet in person I said to him, “Let’s do something that would be the Club Casa thing but with a bunch of crazy electronic rhythms.”

R: Is this project sort of a meeting between Club Casa and Soul Cycle?

S: I think it’s a meeting. Do you think so?

JF: I don’t know because my stuff is just different. The stuff I did with Soul Cycle didn’t have programmed drums and they’re pretty much live with acoustic instruments. I haven’t really put anything out with Soul Cycle since 2012, so for the past two years I’ve just been focused on doing remixes and electronic production and I think that’s where this [project] is coming from.

S: It’s a mixture of both of our musical sensibilities that given birth to the Vein Melter Ep.

R: Out of all the Herbie albums you guys could have worked on, what made ‘Head Hunters’ stick out? Was it just timely that 2013 happened to be the 40th anniversary of the album?

S: I think the 40th anniversary had to do with a lot of it, but I think it’s also a record that everybody looks to. This record changed my life. It’s different you know? That record opened up everything that I thought jazz could be. I was like, “Wait… I thought Herbie Hancock was the guy who playing the swinging stuff? But he did “Rockit.” But this album is kind of the centerpiece for me. “Chameleon” is a song that I played everyday from freshman year in high school to senior year in high school.
JF: I think the anniversary was just a hook to put something on. I’ve been obsessed with this record since high school when someone lent it to me and said, “You need to check this out.” For me, Head Hunters is the centerpiece for Herbie.

R: Was there a conscious effort to release an EP within those two years?

JF: I think it’s a miracle that it got finished at all to be honest.

S: Well it came down to the wire because we finished two songs and we kind of took our time in between then because Jesse is busy and I’m busy. It was like “Alright bro, we gotta get this done in two weeks.”

JF: We had this opportunity to release the record on Tru Thoughts. It was supposed to be for Record Store Day. But to make the Record Store Day deadline, we had to write, record, mix and master the two other songs in two weeks. So that’s what kind of got us motivated to finish and we ended up missing the deadline anyway. But if we didn’t have that deadline then it wouldn’t have finished it.

S: We would have finished it, but it would not have been as quick. I think it was cool being under a deadline. After the two-week period we looked up and we were like, “I can’t believe we just did this.” Between L.A. and New York it was just kind of crazy.

JF: Yeah, it was around Thanksgiving. That was the week before Thanksgiving.

R: And both of you were in different coasts at the time?

S: Yeah – for part of it.

JF: Everything that ended up on the record was recorded in person with the exception of little outros.

R: How did these arrangements come about?

S: For “Watermelon Man” we kind of just met and we both were like, “How should the song sound like?” Then I sang Jesse some tone-deaf thing and he sent me a demo a day later or later that evening. Then I came out with some rough horn parts and we went to the studio and re-did everything and kind of just bounced ideas back and forth.

JF: It’s interesting because I never had this relationship with someone because no matter what I came up with Sly was always like, “Okay. Yeah, that’ll work.” It just inspired me because it was one of these never-say-no situations.

Purchase your copy of Jesse Fischer & Sly5thAve’s ‘Vein Melter’ EP via iTunes. Cop the 12” physical via bandcamp. Be sure to catch Jesse & Sly at Meridian 23 as they celebrate the release of their newest record. Tix + info, click here

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