JEFF PEVAR -
CROSBY, STILLS NASH AND CAVES!
Jeff Pevar remains a much sought after session player, with over two decade's experience recording and performing with a wide array of music's finest. In 2010, Jeff was asked to write the music for the PBS documentary, “The Marble Halls Of Oregon” about the Oregon Caves National Monument. Without preparing as much as a note of music and armed with a couple of acoustic instuments, Jeff spontaneously conceived and improvised twelve tracks that evolved into "From the Core," his long awaited debut cd.
VG: Tell us how "From the Core" came about?
JP: A friend of mine named Greg Frederick asked me to record music for PBS documentary on the Oregon Caves. About a week after I agreed to take on he project, he told me that he'd gotten the OK from the Oregon Parks Service to actually record inside the caves, if I wanted to. A voice inside me told me YES!....,and "DO NOT PREPARE ANYTHING IN ADVANCE" . Somehow I knew improvising in such a sacred space would be an inspiring, evocative experiece and would influence the music profoundly.
VG: The fact that you conceived this music on the spot is incredible...what inspired you?
JP: My intention was to just go and have the caves influence the music I was improvising. When I got there, it all just happened organically. I used an A Davis 6 string acoustic and an Ovation 8 string mandocello. Knowing this music was going to used for a filmed documentary, I thought it would be a good idea to record a diverse cross section of feels for whatever mood might be happening with the video. Music just came to me the very moment the red light went on. I used different tunings, feels and grooves. The only input given to me was the fact that the caves were formed by the shifting of tectonic plates and if I would consider writing a song about that, too. "Plates," became the opener. On that tune I decided to use a few pick slides along with hitting the strings with my right hand, to try to evoke the feeling of the shifting of the earth.
VG: So somewhere along the line you decided to take these base tracks and add the other acoustic instruments. What other instruments did you play on this?
JP: The solo acoustic tracks recorded live in the caves were used for the PBS documentary, as they went down. After the people from the National Parks Service heard the music, they asked if I would consider putting the music recorded in the caves out as a cd of its own. While I was flattered and excited by this prospect, I knew that there was more to be brought out from the frameworks of these compositions by adding other sonic elements to them. I decided to overdub numerous instruments, depending on the song….fretless basses, a fretless acoustic guitar a friend made for me, some accordian, some banjo, uke, harmonica, a variety of percussion instruments for sonic color and other elements.
VG: One of the album's standout tracks, and one of the few vocal tunes, is your collaboration with Jon Anderson called "River of Dreams." How did this track blossom?
JP: Of all the tunes on the cd, it was the sparest, and I thought it really needed something. At first I overdubbed about 8 wineglasses filled with water to various pitches to emulate a vocal choir sound for the intro. I was curious about adding vocals to the piece and I originally contacted my friends David Crosby and Graham Nash, but they were out on tour and unavailable. And then all of a sudden it hit me! I should send this to Jon Anderson of YES!!! Jon had been in the audience one night when I was playing with Rickie Lee Jones and after we met he told me that he would love to collaborate with me sometime. I've always been moved by his musicianship and vocal qualities. So one Sunday morning, I sent Jon "River of Dreams," which I had already titled, and 2 other tunes from the project so he could get a feel for the project. Three hours after leaving my inbox, all three songs came back with lyrics, harmonies and a letter saying "You made my morning...this music is beautiful, thank you!" And I just flipped out...my goosebumps had goosebumps! The song came out incredibly. I sing some harmony wih him on the song, as well. A dream come true!
VG: The last time you were interviewed for VG back in the late '90's, you had just joined CPR with David Crosby and James Raymond. How did that morph into you being guitarist for Crosby, Stills and Nash?
JP: I was working on a Crosby / Nash record that featured one of the songs that I wrote with Graham, called “Jesus Of Rio”, when Graham Nash said that he wanted to play these new tracks on a forthcoming CS&N tour that summer. Graham said he wanted to bring me on the CSN tour to play our song and the other guitar parts that I played on the record. I suggested to him it would be a good idea for me to hang out with Stills to get aquainted before rehearsals. I went to Stephens house and we hung out, jammed a bit and after playing a blues together he said, "I didn't know you could play like that!" We instantly hit it off. This was such a thrill for me as he has certainly been an influence on my playing. I am a self taught musician and learned how to play guitar listening to records and CSN and CSNY records were on the turntable a lot during those formative years. I ended up touring with CSN for 2 or 3 years and I was honored to share the stage with one of my early guitar heros, trading guitar solos!
VG: From the 80's and 90's, when you were doing alot of guitar for hire work for people like Ray Charles, Rikki Lee Jones , Joe Cocker, Jackson Browne and alot more, up through the present day, how do you think your playing has evolved?
JP: I'd like to think that my playing has become more refined, and I don't play as busy. I am playing more lyrically, more relaxed and composing parts on the fly rather than just playing licks. When you're learning guitar, you tend to learn licks first... For me initially it was John Fogerty, Johnny Winter, Duane Allman, Jeff Beck, Hendrix ….and I learned a lot of their licks. As time goes on, licks become part of your musical vocabulary and your own music comes from that knowledge. I can listen to solos of mine on record and sometimes recognize various musicians I emulated along the way…."There's Jim Messina" and "There's Lowell George" and "There's Ry Cooder..." It’s pretty cool how the musical baton gets passed around between guitar players and musicians in general.
VG: Speaking of Ry, "Flying Caves Blues" has a sort of Ry Cooder, bluesy feel...
JP: I just adore Ry's work, and that piece became sort of an homage to Ry. One day, while taking a jog, I was listening to the music for this track and I heard the chant in my head, "There's a bat….. flyin’ in the cave." And it was Ry's vocalists, Terry Evans and Bobby King, who I tried to emulate singing these gospel parts. The music on “From the Core” is quite varied, and this track is a little bit tongue-n-cheek as comparted to some of the more hypnotic and serious mood pieces.
VG: Back to our first interview, you had mentioned that one of your goals was to record a cd of your own music....after finally getting a chance to do that, how does it feel?
JP: It's unbelievable to finally have a Jeff Pevar CD out into to the word and the reviews are off the hook! It certianly took a while but better late than never. Some artists are able to record their debut records at a very early age. They are fortunate to be able to direct their focus to realize a musical direction they want to pursue. I think the thing I wanted to do at a young age was to moreso, play with as many of of the best musicians that I possibly could. Through those various opportunities, the music I improvised that became my debut recording was enchanced from all the varied musical influences from my career. I'm most excited that I had no idea I was making my debut record while I was recording in the caves for the PBS documentary. So I was very relaxed at the time and all this varied music just poured out.
VG: David Crosby once gave you a beautiful vintage Martin D-28. Did you think of bringing that into the caves as your main acoustic?
JP: I didn't take that D-28 into the caves because I was concerned about the condensation in the caves, as it's an expensive instrument, plus I had numerous other choices. Carl Giese, the CEO of A. Davis Guitars, is a dear friend of mine, and I wanted to support him and Art Davis by using the A Davis guitar. It recorded amazingly, well I thought!
VG: The last time we spoke, we covered your numerous influences...looking ahead, how has guitar playing in general changed over the years?
JP: It's amazing to see the level of musicianship with youngsters now, mostly due to the level of information available to them at their fingertips with you tube, instructional videos, etc. When I was a kid, you had to drop the needle of the record on the part you were trying to learn, over and over again which made the records unlistenable over time. Ha ha.
VG: You've been around in the business long enough to see many changes...care to comment on the state of the music business today?
JP: The fact is that no matter what happens with the music business, there is always going to be great music that is going to make its way to the light of day. With the invention of the internet and the personal computer, musicians now have the power in their own hands to put out their own recordings and utilize social media to their creative advantage. I started promoting my new record through my website, www.Pevar.com and various other social media sites. I am thrilled to report that the project paid for itself within the first week! Now that "From the Core" is out, I plan to put out at least one cd per year. I have a Jazz Is Dead record I played on and produced that is almost ready for release! Check out www.pevar.com for updates!
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