Jesse Shafer of the experimental rock band Inn Vinegar brings us another work of genre-bending jazz music through his newest release from last Friday, March 24th, titled Where The Fields Run Away. The album takes elements from blues, folk, jazz, forming them into something greater than the sum of their parts.
In an interview with Shafer, the curious composer reflected on his process, comparing the arts of cooking and music with a quote from his stepfather, chef Forrest Parker: “Season in layers for a greater depth of flavor.”
“I would hear him say this all the time growing up and I guess it just got ironed to my way of thinking- it’s funny to see it come back around like this.” Each track on this record is richly and ever so carefully “seasoned” with new sounds, boiling up on their journey to become something else.
Shafer listed a number of inspirations alongside cooking such as the visual arts, travel, and other musicians he finds interesting, tracing them all back to his work in this project.
He commented on how the surrealist painters Salvador Dali and Max Ernst pushed him to explore strange and abstract worlds in his music, coloring them with vivid strums in place of strokes. “They all have this level of expert talent that allows them to paint such detailed pieces, but it’s always been their visions that I truly admired the most. I just want the ability to create something where I can realize everything that I have in my mind.”
In the interview, Shafer told us about what started his vision for Where The Fields Run Away. “The album was undertaken with a focus on a people-centric project. I realized that people were still gonna sound like themselves no matter what instrument they were playing.”
Shafer says he composed the music of the album with this in mind, opening new doors to interesting instrumentation choices and the chance to make something refreshingly new.
“This album is a little out there, but it’s there for people who want something a little out there,” he says.
In January of 2022, Shafer assembled the talent of his friends into Tyler Ross’ (a mentor and engineer for the project) house and recorded the bulk of the 4 track release in one night. The album is a flood of creativity from the mind of Jesse Shafer, through the hands of his own playing alongside Tyler Ross, Zach Gilbert, Zoe Walker, James Cannon, Fisher Wilson, Mccarthy Fitch, and Kain Taylor.
The opening track “What Are You Trying To Tell Me” kicks off with a banjo solo from Fisher Wilson before trickling down into the sweet sounds of violin.
Although it’s an instrumental project, Shafer revealed how, to him, the song’s melody sounds like it sings its name, “What Are You Trying To Tell Me.” The way this track unfurls into a myriad of melded instrumentation reminds me a lot Black Country, New Road’s 2022 album, Ants From Up There.
In the title track “Where The Fields Run Away”, a beautiful saxophone solo from Zach Gilbert takes the spotlight. Shafer explains that the concept for this song was to have a folk song that’s blown totally out of proportion- which is exactly what we get to enjoy in this 10 minute epic.
As the track was coming to a close, a Shafer explains that a moment of artistry struck when Tyler Ross proposed that they add in an electric bass solo from McCarthy- up until this point, there had only been standing bass for the first 80% of the song. This addition twists the sound further into a faraway place. Shafer proudly claims this as his most artistically fulfilled piece of music that he’s ever created.
On “Painted Windows”, a track inspired from an apartment Shafer was living in that had- well, “Painted Windows”, he explores the idea of a contradiction between something beautiful that denies its own nature and is that valid? The song is jaded and psychedelic in tone, zigzagging through guitar riffs as flutes encircle the listener.
The final track, “Rangers of the Spring”, induces a state of trance with its jazzy chords as a saxophone blasts over top. The song beautifully waltzes through swirling symphonies of melted medleys, bubbling until it pours over the top like a cauldron. The turbulence in this track ebbs and flows like any other day on the sea. Waves of wildly weird sounds assault the listener from all directions while Shafer manages to maintain a sense of swing- it’s a song that might make you wanna dance across a ballroom floor after a long night of extravagance. It all culminates in one final blast of jazz to close out the album.
Stream the new project below.