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Published: 2010/02/08
by Randy Ray

Night Speaks to a Woman: Trey Anastasio Band’s Jennifer Hartswick

Photo by Jason Kaczorowski

Jambands.com sits down with trumpet player, vocalist and solo artist, Jennifer Hartswick, longtime band member in the Trey Anastasio Band, 70 Volt Parade, and now, the Classic TAB formation, which begins its tour today in Charlottesville. The talented Hartswick has been a prominent fixture in Anastasio’s solo work since her teenage years in the late 1990s, and we catch up with her for a brief history of Classic TAB, her origins as a musician in Vermont, her solo career, including 2003’s funk-fueled Fuse, 2007’s jazz standard collection True, and a recently completely album, to be released later in 2010, followed up by solo dates with her own crack band of veteran musicians. Hartswick is a warm and friendly individual, and while that comes across in her engaging brass and vocal work, it certainly shows up when one is speaking with her. Hartwick’s words are often laced with laughter, which is quite contagious. Indeed, one can see another reason why Anastasio has valued her input and company over the years.

RR: How have rehearsals been for the tour?

JH: We’ve been pretty much rehearsing for the entire month of January.

RR: How unusual is that for Trey?

JH: That’s very unusual. That’s a huge blessing. Things are much more organized. We want to make sure we go out being the best that we can, and it’s fantastic. Our last rehearsal was a few days ago, and we’ve had a week to hang out and let things stew, work on whatever we need to work on. We all fly out tomorrow [Saturday, February 6].

RR: Obviously, there will be new songs mixed in with more familiar material.

JH: There will be, absolutely. We had a week of rehearsals for the horns. Trey has been working with Don Hart [his orchestral arranger and collaborator on “Time Turns Elastic,” as well. See Site Editor Dean Budnick’s feature with Don Hart ]. He worked with him on all the string and orchestral stuff. He’s really just a brilliant guy, and an incredible guy to have in the mix. He came out the whole first week the horns were there. A lot of those horn charts are written for five horns, and now we have three so we have to revisit every single thing, and make it appropriate for three horns. We can’t just play our old parts because there will be something missing. We had to revisit every single old song, and really make it perfect, make it sound really great. Don was there the whole time to make sure that that happened, which is awesome.

Don also took a lot of the new songs that Trey had brought to him months and months and months ago, and he had written really beautiful and elaborate and involved horn parts that essentially was written like an orchestra, like a string section would be. The difference is that during the entire song, the horns are playing the entire time, and not just sounds at the end of the jam. It is a really, really beautiful thing, and exciting, and he writes such incredible parts that every time we got new thing, we’d open it up and read through it, and just melt. “Don, you’re AMAZING!” The new songs are really orchestrated and together and beautiful. The old stuff is just as killin’ as it always was, and a little more rehearsed. I think it’s going to be the best by a mile.

RR: What older songs are you really looking forward to playing again?

JH: Ummm…(laughs)…I don’t know…(laughter)

RR: O.K. What songs are you going to hate playing again?

JH: (laughter) “Stop making me play C sharp.” No. No. No. All the old really good Russ and Tony ones that only they can play because they wrote those grooves. It just sinks in, and makes your heart melt. Those guys are just so good, and the pocket is so deep. To hear Tony start “Burlap Sack and Pumps” we all cheer. (laughter) It’s unbelievable. Anything that starts out with Tony, or Russ and Tony, is my dream.

RR: Jeff Cressman, who has played with Trey before, could not play with the band on this tour because of commitments with Santana. His daughter, Natalie Cressman joins TAB on trombone and vocals. How did rehearsals go with Natalie? Ironically, she is almost at the same age you were when you began playing with Trey.

JH: With all due respect to Jeff, Jeff just lost his job. (laughs) I love Jeff. (laughs) Natalie is absolutely incredible. She is really a gifted young woman, and she fits right in. From day one, she just popped right in, and was so comfortable, and so smart, and such an incredible player. She also sings her butt off. We’ve been having a blast creating vocal parts and horn parts together. She’s really an incredible young lady.

RR: Had you known her at all before she joined the band?

JH: No. Trey called me and told me the situation—I happened to be in New York for a gig—and he hadn’t met her, either. I said, “Why don’t I just call her, and have her come down?” So, I called her, and she came down after class. She’s a freshman at the Manhattan School of Music. She’s 18. She came down with her horn, and we instantly hit it off. She sat in, played a couple tunes, and we hung out for a couple of hours. I called Trey the second she left, and said, “She’s exactly what we need.”

RR: It also helps that you aren’t part of the all-boys club. In 2005 and 2006, you had Christina Durfee, on vocals and keyboards, with you, as well.

JH: Yeah. At that time, when she was around, I couldn’t imagine doing it without her. (laughs)

RR: Obviously, everything was new to Natalie Cressman. How much new material did you have to learn for this tour?

JH: There’s a total of about 55 songs that are really well-rehearsed. I’d say a good 8 or 10 tunes are brand new.

RR: Are there plans for more TAB dates later on in the year?

JH: Can I plead the 5th? No, just kidding. (laughs) There’s some talk of, certainly, some stuff later on in the year, for sure. We’re all so excited about how the band sounds that there is no way that we’re going to do one tour and stop.

RR: Yes, I hope TAB comes out to the West Coast, too.

JH: Yeah, we definitely will by the end of the year. We’ll certainly be out there.

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