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The New Cool: Freudian Slurp approaches autumn with new music in full bloom

Freudian Slurp recording live at Chapel performance space in Seattle in January 2020. An album of the music is due early next year, with the new single "In Bloom" just released.
Allen Wong Photography
Ian Hughes
Freudian Slurp recording live at Chapel Performance Space in Seattle in January 2020. An album of the music is due early next year, with the new single "In Bloom" just released.

Ian Hughes, the leader and guitarist of Seattle-based jazz fusion group Freudian Slurp, will unveil the group’s new live album early next year. New Cool host Abe Beeson talked with Hughes this week about the band’s personnel changes and theirjust-released cover of Nirvana’s “In Bloom.” KNKX is proud to premiere the video here.

The upcoming Freudian Slurp album The Getaway Car will include otherwise all original songs, but Hughes says he looked to his earliest musical influences for the band’s first single.

“Nirvana was my first love,” Hughes says of his infatuation with the local rock band at 12 years old. “My first teacher was really the ‘Nirvana Unplugged in New York’ songbook. I went through that thing cover to cover!”

Looking beyond Nirvana’s rock power, Hughes says the acoustic presentation of the “Unplugged” show was a major inspiration. “It has a color and a texture that isn’t like anything else. There’s a certain vibe to that album that’s attracted me ever since.”

Hughes says he started arranging Nirvana songs a few years ago, which led to his first attempts at performing “In Bloom.” A couple years later, he says local bass player Eric Hullander “showed me a chart (of the song) that he’d done, kind of mashed up with (John Coltrane’s) ‘Giant Steps’ – that got me interested in playing the tune again.”

“So much of ‘grunge’ music is based on the power chord. It leaves a lot of wiggle room in what the melody ends up doing. There’s so much room for play and to experiment – for better or for worse,” Hughes explains. “It’s been a lot of fun looking at this first love of mine with more mature eyes and ears.”

Executing this song, and all the originals for the album, was a new experience for the band. They chose to record live at the Chapel Performance Space in Seattle. They played the full set before the audience arrived, then they recorded the set with the audience – twice, just to be sure.

Freudian Slurp’s lineup changed noticeably for this performance, with clarinet player Dave Dolengewicz and drummer Kyle Kirkpatrick being replaced by trumpeter Adam Robb and drummer Tyler Graves. Ian Hughes’ bass-playing brother Dylan and keys man Jon Goneau remain key members of the quintet.

Artwork for "In Bloom" single by Freudian Slurp
Kyle Kirkpatrick
Ian Hughes
Artwork for "In Bloom" single by Freudian Slurp

Hughes talks about the personnel changes as additions, as Freudian Slurp “played as a quartet for about a year, but it didn’t feel right.” He says with Robb’s added trumpet, “everything made sense. Something about having that air moving around stage, and the expressiveness of a wind instrument, makes a huge difference.”

“I want to hear the melodies that I wrote played by someone other than me, so I can take a reactionary role … getting in the middle of everything. That’s what I prefer to do.”

Robb’s acoustic trumpet style is formed by his work in the Ellensburg Big Band and more influenced by Wynton Marsalis than the effects-heavy work of modern trumpeters Takuya Kuroda and Theo Croker. “I find him to be pretty versatile, but effects on his trumpet isn’t really his style,” Hughes laughs, suggesting that pedals and horns shouldn’t mix. “You know those are guitar pedals, right?” he adds.

New drummer Tyler Graves strikes “a really nice balance between Jon’s keys and Dylan’s bass,” Hughes continues. “Jon sort of floats behind the music, carefully listening, following things in a nice way. Dylan is the anchor. He holds the whole thing together … and he also plays great solos.”

A great example is Freudian Slurp’s new Nirvana cover. “In Bloom” holds a fantastic melody that works great for jazz improvisation, and thundering drum breaks from Graves that echo the original recording.

The New Cool is proud to premiere the video here, and you can catch Freudian Slurp’s new single on the show Friday night. Stay connected for more Slurp singles coming soon, with the album due early next year.

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Abe grew up in Western Washington, a third generation Seattle/Tacoma kid. It was as a student at Pacific Lutheran University that Abe landed his first job at KNKX, editing and producing audio for news stories. It was a Christmas Day shift no one else wanted that gave Abe his first on-air experience which led to overnights, then Saturday afternoons, and started hosting Evening Jazz in 1998.