An innovative, genre-bending ensemble based in Indianapolis.
Project Jumpstart’s theme for September is “Innovation in Improvisation” – and there’s no band more fitting for this theme than the Tucker Brothers, a forward-thinking contemporary jazz group based in Indianapolis, IN.
The Tucker Brothers Group is composed of four musicians: Joel Tucker (guitar), Nick Tucker (bass), Sean Imboden (saxophone), and Brian Yarde (drums). The group is co-led by brothers Joel and Nick Tucker, who, along with saxophonist Sean Imboden, are also Jacobs School of Music alumni! Nick received his masters in Jazz Performance here at IU while Joel finished his bachelors degree. Joel is currently finishing up his final year of his masters performance degree here at Jacobs.
This group has put out multiple records, and are releasing a new record on October 3 entitled Two Parts, which is already climbing up the national and international jazz charts. We drop in to ask a few questions about the record and the workings of the band for this school year’s first Entrepreneur of the Month.
PJ: Who handles the compositions and arrangements on the Tucker Brothers albums? How does the process of learning new music unfold between the four of you?
TB: We usually write separately, but we put the music together as a group. As Ellington did, we always consider our band mates as we compose. Having a consistent lineup of musicians in mind streamlines the writing process. When either of us bring new music into the group, we depend on feedback from Sean and Brian.
PJ: On your newest album, Two Parts, there are special guests on almost half the tracks. How did you go about selecting these specific people and why did you choose to have guests on the album?
TB: For Two Parts, we knew we wanted to branch out from our normal instrumentation. When choosing the guests for the album, we chose people whose musical voice would enhance the song. Amanda Gardier, Ellie Pruneau, Elena Escudero, and Walter Smith III are all really great musicians, and the songs they are featured on were chosen with their strengths in mind. We just picked great musicians and friends.
PJ: Multiple members of your band teach at universities around Indiana, and have large private studios. How does the group maintain a balanced routine/schedule with the extra demands of teaching, gigging, and still having time for personal activities?
TB: We are all busy, but we are lucky to have a regular weekly gig at the Chatterbox. This is a great “lab” for us, and provides us with the opportunity to rehearse on the gig.
PJ: How did you finance the cost of the album Two Parts?
TB: Learning how to save money and be frugal is pretty crucial in our current economic situation in order to make cool projects like this happen. Another general rule I live by is saving 10-20% of all earnings. Setting this money aside makes doing creative projects possible.
PJ: Which part of putting the album together was the most joyful and which one was the most taxing?
TB: Recording is a frustrating process. We really enjoyed putting the music together, getting a group sound on the original music. The Chatterbox is great for this. The most taxing part of the music itself is being in the studio. Most musicians will probably agree with this because once you record, there is only so much you can change after the fact. I am very happy with the final product though. Organizing the album art, digital distribution and getting physical CDs and albums pressed is stressful, but rewarding.
PJ: Was the album supposed to depict where the band is at right now, or was there a new vision for the group’s sound that you were trying to achieve/go for? What is your mission?
TB: I definitely think this album is a good snapshot of the current band. We weren’t trying to necessarily go for a certain sound other than our own. Having grown up in Indy and graduating from IU, we are both rooted in the Indiana jazz sound, but that sound will come through in any setting, whether we are playing modern jazz or more conventional post-bop.
PJ: What is the sibling dynamic like in different musical settings, and how does playing music together affect your relationship, and vice versa?
TB: The sibling dynamic is very rewarding! As you can imagine, it makes some things difficult but the bond we share is a net positive. Musically, we are very comfortable with each other and that works [to] our advantage. When you have been around someone your whole life, you reach a connection that transcends just music.
You can find the Tucker Brothers’ newest album on all streaming services, or purchase a hard copy on Amazon. Vinyl release occurs on October 3rd, 2019.