Jon Anderson talks new album ahead of Vilar show on Wednesday
Special to the Daily
Certain creative collaborations are worth waiting for: After nearly 30 years, Yes co-founder, vocalist and songwriter Jon Anderson finally finished and released the album “1000 Hands: Chapter One” – originally named “Uzlot,” meaning “a lot of us.”
Anderson began the album with Yes drummer Alan White and late bassist Chris Squire decades ago, but extensive tours with the band prevented Anderson from dedicating the time he wanted to the album. As commitments, projects and additional tours continued to mount, Anderson found himself releasing plenty of other albums, but only listening to the tapes for “1000 Hands”/”Uzlot” and thinking he’d finish it some day.
About two years ago, Michael Franklin, a Grammy-nominated producer with whom Anderson had started to work on orchestrations for the album, asked, “What’s happening with ‘Uzlot?’”
That’s about all it took for the duo to meet in Franklin’s studio in Orlando, Florida. Anderson laid down vocals to back his original lead tracks while Franklin gathered an amazing array of rock and jazz musicians, including Rick Derringer, Ian Anderson, Jean-Luc Ponty, Steve Morse, Jonathan Cain and the horn section of Tower of Power. Former Yes members Steve Howe, Rick Wakeman and Trevor Rabin also chime in on the record.
“When you work with a really well-experienced musician, they’re gonna bring their energy to the music,” Anderson said, using the example of bringing legendary drummer Billy Cobham into the project. “He opened up the music and made it 10 times better. You get these people on and all of the sudden the track becomes such an adventure.”
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Anderson named the album, released March 31, after the many “hands” that contributed to it.
The result is a collection of powerful, full-bodied, soaring songs depicting the joy of music and life, led by Anderson’s strong, clear, signature vocals. “Makes Me Happy” is a light and bouncy tribute to living authentically, while “Ramalama” provides insight into Anderson’s personal professional life, as it features his vocal warm-up routine.
“Anyone who’s a Yes fan will love this record,” he said, “but it’s not going to sound like an ’80’s band. It has a different tapestry … it made me realize that music is timeless.”
This year, Anderson tours with an eight-piece band to promote the album, as well as perform classic Yes tunes. The shows, which utilize a larger group, have “upgraded my thinking about working with more musicians,” he said, adding how wonderful the band is. “When you’re with bands you know, you get used to it; when you bring in an incredible violin player like Jocelyn Hsu, it lights up,” he said.
Touring band members also include Franklin on keys, Franklin’s brother Tim Franklin on bass, drummer Matt Brown, guitarist Tommy Calton, percussionist Steady Joseph and trombonist/keyboardist Joe Cosas and sax/floutist Billy Meethers.
“We recreate Yes and sound like a big band orchestra,” Anderson said. “It’s all about the performance.”
Meanwhile, Anderson is working on two songs for “chapter two” of “1000 Hands,” since he had a few songs left over after laying down the ten in this latest album. Anderson plans on adding another three in September and then finishing up the record next summer.
“I feel like I’ve got another 20 years of creating music — maybe till I’m 100,” he said. “Some great music is coming.”
If you go …
What: Jon Anderson
When: Wednesday, Aug. 21, 8 p.m.
Where: The Vilar Performing Arts Center, Beaver Creek
Cost: Starting at $75
More information: Visit vilarpac.org or call 970-845-8497