After releasing four solo albums, bassist Shawn Cav knew the time was right to record an album with a full band.
Cav, of Palmer Township, then went through the rigorous process of finding the right players to make the formula work. The search paid off and now Cav can check one of his bucket list goals.
The Shawn Cav Ensemble will celebrate the release of their debut album, Glass Houses, on July 30 with a performance at The California Drum Shop in Bethlehem.
"When I first started writing the tunes, I didn't have a band. I was writing the stuff on my own," Cav said. "I've done the solo albums. It's rewarding in some senses, but I always wanted to do a full-band album."
Putting together an ensemble was more difficult and challenging than Cav anticipated, he said. But the venture proved fruitful. The first piece of the puzzle was connecting with guitarist Steve Collins, with whom Cav had previously recorded.
"I could tell he knew how to play," Cav said. "I kind of just meshed really well with him. He was able to pick up everything I was writing really fast and he was able to contribute as well ... As much as it is my ensemble and my music, I definitely let everybody else have their input and shape what it's going to be."
Cav's band-mate in local improvisational group The Now, drummer John Sanfilippo, soon joined the fold. (Cav is also a member of the band Acoustic Bite Trio.) Saxophonist Matt Truscott eventually came on board to round out the current lineup.
"It gave me a little more freedom in what I wanted to play because I don't have to do the same thing every time, which is a nice part about playing jazz in general," Cav said of recording with the other musicians. "You have your structure, but you can weave in and out of the tune as you please, and quote things and it becomes kind of fun that way. It always stays fresh, which is fun."
Cav admitted he had some reservations going to the recording of the album, describing the process as "scary." "I finally had something I was proud of. I was really proud of how everything sounded and I was nervous that something was going to fall apart," he said, with a laugh. "Everybody's been really helpful and supportive ... It's been great working with everybody."
The strength of Glass Houses lies in the chameleon-like nature of the music. Songs weave in and out of a traditional jazz framework, sewing together threads of jazz fusion, jazz rock, funk, and Latin rhythms.
Cav pointed out the song "Glass Houses" as an example of the sort of in-the-moment, spontaneous vibe he was striving for on the album. He said the idea was to capture a jazz fusion sound with a heavy post-rock influence.
"Every time that you see us perform ('Glass Houses') it's always going to be different," Cav said of the title track. "The bass line is basically the only that's the only melody that's consistent from beginning to end. Everything else is improvised. I didn't give them anything to play, other than dynamics."
Cav said he and the rest of the ensemble are already working on material for the follow-up to Glass Houses. "I'm really fortunate to work with the guys in the band," he said.
Glass Houses is available for pre-order at ShawnCav.com and on iTunes.