Having grown up in the era of 1960s hit radio, I have a deep appreciation for the tightly arranged three-minute record. A great three-minute record glows like a gem. There's no wasted motion. It's like a dream that you can return to again and again.

Over time, and having listened to many other styles of music, I found that many hard-bop records of the 1950s and early 1960s, the early LP era, had such great vibe and hi-fi sound to them -- the whole band is performing live in the studio, and there's such great feeling and playing. The only trouble is, those records have so much soloing and take so long to get to the point.

The idea may not be original with me, but I wondered, what if you tried to get that great vibe and feel and musicianship of those great jazz records, but had the concise, tight structure of a three-minute pop tune?

When I had the opportunity to make my first record of instrumental pop tunes, "Side One," the sound engineer, Greg Duffin, understood all of this immediately. Greg had earned a degree in broadcast engineering, then worked for Lou Whitney in Springfield, Missouri, in an all-analog setting. Greg knows a warm tube tone when he hears one.

What's a bit odd about all of this is that the recording group of myself, Dennis, Paul and Lance is sort of a rock band. We can't help it -- we came up through the rock basements. As much as we may try to stretch away from a rock background toward other forms of music, the rock will always be there. So there's a bit of tension that I believe benefits the records -- a rock band stretching toward other forms.

The term I tend to use is "moody and instrumental pop music." Instrumental music engages the listener in a different way from vocal music -- you don't have to process verbal information. Plus, not too many people are making instrumental pop music in a non-retro way, so the field is wide open.

Since there's no vocal in the center, we're free to move away from verse-chorus-verse song forms. This opens up all kinds of possibilities and allows for bits of improvisation. If it gets "jazzy" at times, it's as a style, not as an art form. The composition comes first. This is pop music, and that means that anything can happen.

With the second record, "Mood Lit," the production is more stripped-down, more immediate, fewer overdubs, and the band may be swinging it a bit harder. We just grooved and rocked and had fun and tried to swing it as hard as we could. Some of that feeling made it onto the tape, I believe.

To make swinging, grooving and moody instrumental music in the form of three-minute tunes -- it seems like such an obvious thing, but not many people are doing it.

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Audio Playlist

Latest Release: "Pale Afternoon"

 The latest release  from Jim  Duffy is "Pale Afternoon," a  collection of 11  moody and bouncy  instrumental pop tunes. Buy CDs here.

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