Jimmy Stewart 2007 – Umphrey’s McGee
Chicago jammy jammers Umphreys McGee enter their tenth year as a band this year and, in commemoration, perhaps, they have released a double-disc set of some of their most jammin jams. Thats right: theyve taken the improv-heavy instrumental sections from a number of 2007 live recordings and pasted them together into a giant mixtape of jam. Its pretty cool.
A little background: since their inception, it seems, the Umphers have devoted a portion of each live show to either the act of spontaneous composition or the act of improvising on new or undeveloped material. This portion, dubbed Jimmy Stewart, can occur during almost any of their tunes, and is orchestrated through a series of hand signals inspired by Frank Zappa.
Also, a number of songs have emerged from Jimmy Stewart moments, including In the Kitchen, Intentions Clear and Bridgeless. So, these jams are more than just excuses to noodle. As one member remarks during the interview track (What is Jimmy Stewart?), its an exercise in writing, trying to write, with a band, onstage, in front of a crowd.
But mostly, these Jimmy Stewarts are opportunities to dive headfirst into different styles, like their Phishy forefathers often did. Disc one opens with a techno groove from February 2007 that segues neatly, through post-production, into a pre-composed hair-metal rager. Elsewhere, they dig into downtempo acid jazz, reggae and an improv initially inspired by the immortal Rappers Delight (In the Kitchen, recorded December 1st, 2007 in Ann Arbor, Michigan).