The four members of Fretless Brothers, each veterans of stage and studio, came together in 2012 to play a new kind of instrumental jazz. Each musician has had extensive experience playing music in Harmonic Series tuning, using the purely tuned ‘notes between the notes’ found in Nature instead of on the piano. This live appearance at The Cutting Room is the CD release show for the new record, titled ‘Footsteps’. The music both swings and rocks over a fresh Harmonic palette, combining the energy of rock with the improvisation of jazz, the form of classical music, and the subtle pitch sense of blues. Informed by the rich traditions of these styles, the Fretless Brothers use refretted guitars and tuned drums to play new pitches, melodies, and chords never heard before in this type of music.
Guitarist/composer Jon Catler started playing microtonal guitar in the late 1970’s while at Berklee College of Music, and gave the College’s first microtonal senior recital. Upon moving to NYC, he co-founded the American Festival of Microtonal Music, and this past May performed in the AFMM’s 31st season. Upon meeting composer La Monte Young in 1981, the two began working together, doing performances and recordings of La Monte’s music and in groups such as the Forever Bad Blues Band, the Theater of Eternal Music Big Band, and the Just Alap Raga Ensemble. Catler has designed his own fretting systems for guitar and released over a dozen albums of his own music.
In the 1980’s, Catler met bassist Hansford Rowe, who had played and toured with fusion group Gong for many years, as well as working with Mike Oldfield, Allan Holdsworth, John Martyn, Bireli Lagrene, and many others. Hanny immediately understood the possibilities of Harmonic Series tuning, and had the first Just Intonation bass made by Warwick. He and Catler have recorded and toured together through the years, and their work on this instrumental record takes them back to their roots.
Catler met guitarist Dane Johnson (Beninghove’s Hangmen, Prelapse) in the late 1990’s. Dane already had a fretless guitar and experience playing Indian classical music, as well as at Berklee, and he is the type of musician that can tackle any type of music and make it his own. Dane has delved deeply into the pitch spectrum and plays in tunings such as 31-tone and 19-tone equal temperaments, Just Intonation, and 12-Tone Ultra Plus. He also enjoys a challenge, and rose to the occasion on ‘Footsteps’ with his rhythm parts, solos, twin guitar harmonies, and synth sounds.
Brian Chase is the rare drummer who can swing and rock simultaneously, while being extremely creative. He might be best known as drummer for the band Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and is also a composer with an understanding of Harmonic Series tuning, as demonstrated on his new solo CD, Drums and Drones (Pogus). He and Catler met in 1999, and they started working together shortly thereafter. On ‘Footsteps’, he tuned his drums to be in tune with the songs.
The Fretless Brothers play in a tuning system known as 12-Tone Ultra Plus, which adds 13-limit Harmonic Series pitches to standard, for a total of 36 different notes per octave. The new CD was recorded live at Water Music Studios in Hoboken, NJ.