Andrea Koziol: ‘Let’s just make a record!’ folkland? jazzland? Improvise!!

by Carey Rutherford

As to where she’s been geographically, Andrea Koziol has performed from the east to the west coast of Canada, and up north and down in the prairies as well. Musically, though, the trail has been less clear.

“Both of (my most recent) albums I worked on with my husband, Tom Neuspiel, who is a wonderful producer. But on I’ll Be Seeing You (2019)we all were there from start to finish (Andrea on vocals, Bill brennan piano, Andrew Downing bass): we were all making decisions, and it was almost like an album that produced itself. It needed a little steering, but then like a live show, it was just what it was in the moment, and then it was gone.

“So what we had was what we had, and what we tried to do with mixing and such was to just be true to that. tom did a lot in Half-Way Sweet (2010) and he was very patient.

Bill Brennan and I have been musical cohorts; for like almost 30 years we’ve been working together. We met a long long time ago, and had a jazz ensemble in Toronto, and it was the beginning of my career. He (later) moved back to Newfoundland, but we’ve always stayed in close contact.

“He was going to be in (Toronto), and I said ‘Let’s just make a record!’ We really didn’t pre-produce: we didn’t think too hard; we just came into the studio and played songs that we liked. We played them maybe 3 times and picked the 1 we liked best, and moved on; it took a couple of days.

“A couple of days! Some bands spend weeks and months going in and out of studios creating material! and THEN production begins.

“We knew we wanted to keep it sparse, and we knew we wanted to have our respective voices represented. So not to be thinking what would be the thing that sold a good record, just what felt the truest to us as artists, and what the conversation would be between us as artists.

Female vocalist, male pianistand bassist performing live onstage
This is the type of thing Andrea & friends want to capture in the studio: the Jam! Image by Aaron Winters.

“(In the studio we’d say) ‘Oh, now we should do THAT,’ and it happened, : we recorded about 18 or 19 songs in that session, and we had a hard time saying (what to cut): then it was just going to be really long! (laughs)

“It was just a beautiful experience: very very bare, very vulnerable, and really kind of exhausting and energizing at the same time.”

MUSICAlive! comments on the acoustic space around each instrument (including her’s), left for the sounds to occur: the piano, upright bass, and Andrea’s voice all untouched.

“In the context of a recording like this, that does have ‘so much space in it’, in between the notes, there needs to be a lot of breath. And You can’t use an electric piano (or bass) in a context like that, because you can hear everything! If you want one of those pure things, like a bass and a piano and a voice, the sound of the strings as Andrew moves from note to note on the acoustic bass, those are all part of making it feel like you’re actually there, with people playing for you.

“In the end we really hoped it would feel, like if a person had a pair of headphones on and then closed their eyes, they’d feel like we were all around them, with them, in the moment.

“I think that part of the way you can accomplish that, and the way that Thomas did so very well (and there’s ALWAYS an army of people there when you do things like this) . . . Before we started recording, we made really sure that we liked the way that the piano sounded, and we really liked the pre-amp that we were using: mike placement; having people positioned correctly; having the acoustics so that we could really have that intimate sound. Those were the decisions that were made at the beginning of the project, and then it was just ‘Play the show!’”

We will note for the reader who hasn’t heard such intimacy in a recording, it does sound like one is sitting in the frontmost row by a very small stage, with a trio of very engaged musicians digging deep into the songs.

Cognizant of the pandemic cancelled eastern gigs we’d seen on her website when contacting Andrea in July of this year, we ask her if she’s toured out west from her Toronto home base.

“I spent a residency at the Banff Centre, and I’ve done, in my career, a lot of folk festivals: I think people have a hard time figuring where to put me, because I fit tidily into a folk category a little bit, and tidily into a jazz category a little bit; maybe I’m an imposter in both worlds! (we both laugh) I’ve done a couple of fantastic tours in northern Alberta, and the Yukon and Alaska, and northern B.C. as well. I love that part of the world!

“And I’m still writing my own stuff: I’m not sure when the next AK (Andrea Koziol) record will come out, just solo AK: it’s a bit of a thing that, if you’re gong to drive that boat by yourself, it’s a fairly intense process. And rather costly, so I’ve got to be able to make my money back.

MUSICAlive! considers Andrea’s last wholly original album, Half-Way Sweet, to be a bit of a masterpiece, both from a songwriting and performance aspect, so we insist on continually comparing it with this very different performance of intimate covers.

5 different CD covers piled together in a montage
Don’t know how much longer musicians will release CD’s, but perhaps Andrea’s next release will be on vinyl? (hint hint). Image by the author.

“Half-way Sweet was recorded in 2010, and that record was made at an incredibly intense time of my life : those songs are beyond meaningful; every single one of them is so resonant for me.

“In essence Bill and Andrew and I are beyond feeling like ‘jazz’ musicians specifically: we’re improvisors. If you had the chance to listen to the different takes of those songs (on I’ll Be Seeing You), you would hear that we play them totally differently every time. It may be a thing that happened, and we just try to change: We all like to improvise, so we like to let whatever happens in the moment just happen, and that calls for intuition and for trust.

“I think maybe that’s the essence of jazz for me: when I think about it, jazz is that improvisation; it’s the ability to wander, discover, explore. Playing the same thing over and over again, while it can be incredibly rewarding, and technically very challenging, the idea of letting a song be whatever it is every single time is probably my favourite thing in the world.

“And THAT is the essence of jazz to me. When I think of the very very greatest jazz musicians, both modern and all the way back, they were people who could manage to pull out of the air music that nobody had ever heard before. And if you asked them to play the same song again, it just wouldn’t be the same.

“It can happen in other genres as well, but I think jazzers have that corner of the market.”

I guess Andrea’s a jazzer, then. The results are wondrous!

Author: Allen Thai

Allen has always been a fan of writing. Specifically non-fiction. But he didn’t start off being a good writer by simply just “wishing to be one”. Nope. He took the initiative to get schooled at the prestigious University Of Calgary, attaining a Bachelor of Communications. Not, however, before getting a high school diploma through a great amount of summer courses to make it possible. Afterwards he turned his attention to SAIT, something that he thought could benefit and tune his writing ability: he was dead wrong. Digital Graphic Communications did not focus on any writing whatsoever (that was Journalism). It moreso was about printing and press. So from the beginnings of picking up a novel at age 8, to now writing for MUSICAlive!, Allen carries through the same passion and grit, to succeed and excel in anything he does. And not to mention his physical appearance is as pleasing to look at as the David was, artistically/aesthetically sculpted by the great Michaelangelo. (That was a joke btw: LOL!)

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