Dance Of The Shadow Planets
(Alchemy Records)


New England-based guitarist Jon Durant returns in 2011 with his his most impressive recording to date, entitled Dance Of The Shadow Planets. Commenting on the title of the CD Durant adds, ‘Dance Of The Shadow Planets is a line borrowed from Shalimar The Clown, Salman Rushdie’s epic novel set in Kashmir. The shadow planets represent love and hate, and the dance is their interplay within us all, and their influence over our actions on a daily basis. These themes are woven throughout the nine tracks of this recording, exploring passion, tension, chaos and magic.’ Durant is a true guitar master of what some aficianados call the futuristic, sonic edge of instrumental New Age jazz-rock. Back in 2004, Durant released his fifth solo album entitled Things Behind The Sun—a stellar trio album with King Crimson’s Tony Levin and drummer Vinny Sabatino. That album was followed up in 2007 with the CD release of Flood—again featuring Levin and Sabatino. For his seventh solo album, Durant enlists the aid of top players including Colin Edwin (fretless bass), Caryn Link (violin) and Jerry Leake (percussion). In the spirit of genius Euro guitar heroes such as Robert Fripp and Terje Rypdal, Durant creates intense, gigantic sounding, invisible sonic glaciers that simply tower overhead. Like Fripp and Rypdal at their instrumental best, Durant’s daring instrumental music will leave you stunned and speechless. Mixing together a staggering array of sequential sonancies, Durant approaches his music much like a scientist looking for the best possible outcomes. And while Durant had not yet played with this particular group of musicians, he adds, ‘The whole point of this was to play it live. It needed to be a real group dynamic, and it needed to be spontaneous.’ Rock fans who thrilled to the instrumental side and sound of progressive bands like King Crimson and Pink Floyd back in the ‘60s—as well as jazz-fusion fans looking to set sail on uncharted musical waters—are both strongly advised to give a listen to Jon Durant's sonically majestic sounds on Dance Of The Shadow Planets. presents an interview with

mwe3: After the critical acclaim of both Flood (2007) and Things Behind The Sun (2005), both recorded with Tony Levin and Vinny Sabatino, you went for a kind of different sound with a new lineup of players. What did you set out to achieve on Dance Of The Shadow Planets and how do you describe the chemistry between you and this line lineup of players?

JON DURANT: The first thing is that I wanted to record the whole record “live” with everyone together in the studio. Also, I had written the music with the idea of having Jon Hassell doing his very unique trumpet work. Unfortunately, while he was intrigued by the idea, the timing didn’t work out so I had to find a way to replace him. And because his thing isn’t something that any other trumpet player could do, I was searching for a different voice to fill the void. In a fluke of timing, Caryn called up to say ‘hi’, not having spoken for a while, and I immediately knew that she was the answer. She has such a unique and cool approach to the violin, and it was exactly what I was looking for.

As for Colin Edwin, we’d been communicating for a while. I’d really liked his work outside of Porcupine Tree, his solo album and his Ex-Wise Heads project. And he really enjoyed my records, so when I started writing this material, I realized the bass lines I was composing were perfect for him. Fortunately, the timing was perfect for him—as Porcupine Tree are on a much needed break—so he was able to fully immerse himself in the music.

Then, about a month before the sessions, Vinny had a conflict and I needed to find a replacement, and fortunately Jerry Leake was available. I had played with him on a Randy Roos gig that we both sat in on, and I’d heard him with Club D’Elf and really thought he’d fit perfectly. As soon as he heard my demos, he asked if I’d been writing for him, so clearly it was a good fit.

The chemistry was incredible, right from the start. We set up on a Sunday night, and my plan was to set up, go get dinner and let everyone get to know one another. Randy suggested that we try one of the tunes, so we started with “Forbidden Ardor”. The second take is what’s on the record. The whole record went that way—in two days we cut all the basic tracks.

mwe3: The title Dance Of The Shadow Planets is quite intriguing. It sounds quite befitting your mercurial guitar performance and ensemble sound to say the least!

JD: The title actually comes from Salman Rushdie’s book “Shalimar the Clown.” I was really taken with the image of these shadow planets that represent love and hate within each of us, and the way the forces play off each other. Couple that with the imagery of Kashmir and you get the setting that is very much a part of this music.

mwe3: You’re renowned for what you term your “Cloud Guitar” sound. How would you describe the Cloud Guitar sound on your CDs and how do you capture that highly ambient, electrifying, near stratospheric guitar sound on disc?

JD: The term “cloud guitar” refers to the way the sounds hang in the air like clouds, with no discernible beginning or ending. I achieve it by utilizing a series of delays and reverb, often with other effects as well, coupled with volume swells. It’s become an integral part of my playing and while I do it live, and play over the top, on record I record them separately so that we can have more control over mixing.

mwe3: How has your choice of guitars changed over the years and what amps, pedals and other sonic effects help you enhance your sound? Are there any new developments in the guitar world that currently interest you?

JD: On my first couple records, I was playing a PRS Custom 24, which I really loved, until I got my hands on a Klein electric guitar. Once I started playing the Klein, I didn’t play anything else for nearly 10 years. But eventually I felt a need to move on, and began to look at other instruments again. On Flood, I also used a reissue ‘57 Les Paul Goldtop on a couple tunes, which I like, but not having a whammy bar left me feeling like it wasn’t right for me. Then I decided to get back to playing PRS, and now it’s all I’m playing. I used a limited edition Custom 22 Semi Hollow, and Custom 22, and an Experience 24 with a rosewood neck that I really love.

As for effects I use a bunch of different things. On this record I used a Lexicon MPX-1 and a Jamman, plus a Moogerfooger Ring Mod, and a Boss DD7. I’ve recently picked up a Dwarfcraft Shiva fuzz box that does some really cool and crazy stuff and I’m enjoying that enormously. My amp is a Mesa Boogie MK V.

On new developments, I really haven’t spent much time looking at things, mostly because the money very quickly gets ridiculous, so I try to keep my gear purchases minimal.

mwe3: What other instruments do you use to enhance that perfect sonic edge? In the past you worked with different guitars, including 12 string, and even mellotron.

JD: I love the 12 string as an additional texture. I used it a lot on Flood, and there are some sprinkles on “Boonyi,” which is the only tune we didn’t track live on the new record. I used a mellotron sample on Flood that I played on guitar synth, and I’ve also done things like playing a Duduk sample on guitar synth as well. On the new album, given its live nature, I tended to avoid all that and simply concentrate on the guitar itself.

mwe3: How does Dance Of The Shadow Planets differ from your earlier albums and what was it like working with sound man Randy Roos at Squam Sound on the new album?

JD: On prior albums, I had recorded my parts and demos of the bass and drums/percussion. Then Vinny would come down and we’d work out his parts before finally getting Tony to replace my bass parts. Which is an OK way to work, but I really wanted to capture the spirit of a group playing live this time, and I think it really comes through on Dance Of The Shadow Planets.

Having a brilliant engineer like Randy allowed me to not have to worry at all about the sound, and just play. Randy is an amazing musician—I studied guitar with him back in 81-82—whom I’ve admired for many years. And, his studio (Squam Sound) was perfect for setting the band up, where we could all have visual communication, and everyone apart from Jerry was in the room together. To communicate with Jerry, when he was on the floor in his room playing tablas, we set up a mic so that I could tell him what was coming up. It worked great.

mwe3: Your music is described as sonic instrumental rock for jazz fans and artful fusion for rock fans. How do you balance your love of both fusion instrumental and the more adventurous instrumental rock genre that your albums feature?

JD: One of the things I have always tried to do is make music that I enjoy. I figure that if I don’t like it, how can I expect anyone else to? So I blend elements from everything I hear into something that I hope seems fresh and new. So there will be elements from, say Jeff Beck, next to Steve Tibbetts along side Porcupine Tree or Sigur Ros. And it never really sounds like any of them specifically, despite their impact on me. I just interpolate the elements that resonate with me, which aren’t necessarily those that someone else might get from the same music.

mwe3: You sometimes feature a number of near indigenous world music instruments on your albums. How would you describe that combination of ancient sounding instruments with your generally futuristic approach to recording?

JD: Especially with percussion, I really feel like you cannot replace the organic feel of say, the tabla, played by a master like Jerry Leake. Electronics are fun, but they simply cannot replace the vibe that these percussive instruments create. I’ve also explored using things like the duduk, which is a really cool reed instrument from Armenia. I have a couple decent samples which I played on guitar synth which created a really nice feel on one of the tunes on Things Behind The Sun. And the music I have always enjoyed most is that which blends the musics from around the world into something new. So, I will likely always be bringing these different elements together.

mwe3: What music and artists influenced you most early on in your career and what artists do you listen to these days? Also can you say something about any current or upcoming activities for your Alchemy Records label?

JD: My earliest influences musically was the prog-rock scene from the ‘70s—Yes, Genesis, King Crimson, Gentle Giant, etc. Fusion went right alongside with Weather Report, Mahavishnu, and Randy Roos. From there I got really into the ECM recordings, especially Terje Rypdal, Eberhard Weber, then Steve Tibbetts, Bill Frisell and David Torn. Along the way there was also a fair bit of Tangerine Dream and Brian Eno thrown in, so somehow it all got mangled up a bit! These days I listen to a lot of Porcupine Tree, and still a lot of ECM stuff, old and new. As for Alchemy, unfortunately, the current economic climate has made it impossible for me to release work from other artists. There are lots of things I’d love to do—Randy Roos being a great example, he’s got some amazing stuff he’s done recently with the bassist Victor Bailey.

mwe3: I hear you’re planning a rare performance at the EquinOxygen festival on October 1st. Can you say something about that show, for instance who’ll you be with and music you’ll be performing. Also can you let us know about any other upcoming plans?

JD: This festival came up as a nice surprise for me. I hadn’t anticipated that I’d be asked to do an electronic/experimental music festival, but I think it’s going to be very cool. I’m going to be playing with my son, Harrison, who is quite a good young guitarist—he’s 15. We’ll be doing some new material that we’ve been creating for two guitars and an iPad. It’s given us an opportunity to explore some things that combine our mutual interest in electronic music, and do some pretty outside guitar stuff. He’s got some really cool things he’s doing, which I think people will really enjoy! From there, I have no idea what will be next. Jerry and Caryn would love to do some live work with the material from this record, but Colin wouldn’t be able to do it, so we’d have to find an alternative. We’ll see. It would be very cool if we can pull it together.

Thanks to Jon Durant @


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