Jazz music, says guitarist, the Rev. Canon Chris Harwood-Jones of Vernon’s All Saints Anglican Church, is like wine, and rock music is like whiskey.
Jazz fusion – Harwood-Jones’ favourite genre – is like pure single malt scotch.
“It has all the layers and subtlety of wine and it kicks you in the gonads like a belt of whiskey,” smiled Harwood-Jones, 49, who has just released his first eight-song CD titled Unhooked, a jazz fusion labour of love written in about a year’s time, and recorded over a 14-month period, all in his spare time away from the church.
The album, he said, was something “I had to do; felt called to do and needed to do it.”
A trifecta of events led to Harwood-Jones’ epiphany.
First, his drum-playing son Matt asked him to jam in the family basement to songs from their mutually-adored Canadian music legends, Rush.
Second, there was the formation of the church band, Cross & Crown, with Harwood-Jones as band leader, to provide the musical support for one of the two services on Sunday.
“Now I’m gigging again. I’m playing every week on my guitar,” he said. “All of us (six band members) are excited. We’re all middle-aged. We’re putting out our second album.”
Then, in a month’s time, when he was 45, Harwood-Jones officiated at three funerals.
“Any one of those deaths could have been me,” he said. “I became acutely aware of the shortness and uncertainty of human life in that one month.
“If I had any regrets, it would have been not doing an album of my own.”
He wrote a song called Precious and Stinky, and, with this being the age of YouTube, Harwood-Jones and Matt recorded it and loaded it to the video website.
While happy with the recording, Harwood-Jones said the job was “amateurish.”
Enter producer Norman Robidoux, who Harwood-Jones met in the North Okanagan while buying a new speaker cabinet.
Robidoux, Harwood-Jones discovered, was a former Montreal music studio owner who retired to the North Okanagan.
“I gave him all of my individual tracks for Unhooked that was recorded at my home, and in five minutes on his equipment, he had it sounding like a million bucks and I said ‘I hate you so much,’” laughed Harwood-Jones.
“He liked the music so much he gave me unlimited studio time for a ridiculous price.”
The pair spent 14 months together with Harwood-Jones driving to Robidoux’s home every Monday.
His album received a huge boost when Harwood-Jones cold-called the agent for noted Montreal bass player Alain Caron (of Uzeb fame) and asked if Caron would play on a track.
Caron heard the tune and agreed.
Also playing on Harwood-Jones’ album are his son and a drummer from San Diego named Bill Ray, who Harwood-Jones met online on a jazz fusion fan club site.
Growing up in Winnipeg, a love of music was instilled early in Harwood-Jones.
His dad was a musician and minister who played jazz clarinet, so he grew up listening to jazz and church and choral music.
His dad was also a minister to hippies in the 1960s and ‘70s, operating a flophouse in the church’s basement. The hippies brought their rock music with them.
Harwood-Jones would listen to bands such as Yes, Genesis, King Crimson and, of course, Rush.
His favourite Rush tunes are the ones with no words, “just the band rocking out and when Geddy (lead singer Lee) stops singing,” which led to his love of jazz fusion.
“It was more about the sounds, the rhythms, the tone qualities and the beautiful noise I could put up to 11 on my headphones and forget the world,” said Harwood-Jones, who credits his wife, Andrea, and daughter, Alexa, for their support for his project.
“Andrea’s the best wife ever,” said Harwood-Jones. “Her husband is in a mid-life crisis and not a word is said about all the money I’ve spent on this obsession.”
Unhooked is available through iTunes, Harwood-Jones’ website, www.chrisharwoodjones.com, and locally at Eclectibles and Blenz.