Big Rude Jake
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Big Rude Jake is known by hard-core fans around North America and Europe as a truly original and intelligent song-writer and lyricist. He started out as a solo artist, playing acoustic guitar on the open stages and folk clubs in Toronto. Eventually, he assembled his first band, “The Gentlemen Players,” which, in time, became a legendary group with a legion of dedicated fans across Canada. To this day, many years after their last concert, people still come up to Jake and ask him, “what ever happened to those fabulous Gentlemen Players?” The central idea behind the Gentlemen Players was to do what many thought impossible: play traditional jazz in punk rock bars. Even now the idea seems outrageous, and it is hard to believe that, for a time, there were line-ups around the block to see Big Rude Jake shows in some of the seediest, most low-down, toughest bars one could imagine, not to mention some of the most famous and prestigiousrock and roll venues in the country.

You might ask, how could this have happened? How did Jake bring jazz to the alt. rock crowd? According to Jake, it was simple. What most people didn’t realize is that jazz was not always the snooty elitist music that it eventually became. In Jake’s mind, Traditional jazz, the music once played in whorehouses and opium dens, was the original punk rock. And he was sure that, with the right band, he could inject his music with a strong dose of that gritty, lusty whorehouse jazz, and that anyone with an open mind would surely come to love it. And so it was. In 90’s the whorehouse jazz sound of Big Rude Jake and His Gentlemen Players was captured on two recording, both of which are available though this site. One is called “Butane Fumes and Bad Cologne,” and the other is called, simply, “Live.”

Buoyed by critical acclaim, but afraid of being pigeon holed as a “jazz artist,” Jake decided on a radical departure for his next studio project. He recorded what can only be described as an alternative rock album, entitled “Blue Pariah,” which features some of his most “outside” work. The musical influence is vast and eclectic, borrowing liberally from punk, soul, blues, rock-a-billy, ska, German cabaret music and jazz. Time signatures shift relentlessly, the lyrics are biting and fearsome, the emotions sweep across the spectrum of human trauma and the production, (courtesy of musical genius Pete Prelesnic and Rock Guitarist Gordi Johnson of Big Sugar), is exceptionally artistic if also uncompromisingly harsh. This is one scary album. (And it’s available here.)

Predictably, “Blue Pariah” shocked a lot of people, but won over new listeners, especially in the USA, where certain alternative radio stations picked up the seminal “Swing Baby” as a radio single and made Big Rude Jake a popular figure among small pockets of listeners across North America. Unfortunately, Jake was never able to get Blue Pariah properly distributed in the USA. This was a big disappointment to the band and eventually led Jake to leave his band and Canada altogether and to seek his fortunes elsewhere.

Jake moved to Brooklyn and started up again. New York proved to be the place to be, as Jake discovered that there was a whole crop of other musicians from across the USA with a vision for their music that was similar to his own. By this time, the so-called “Neo-Swing” movement was coming to a peak, and there was a lot of talk in the scene in New York about the future. Many young musicians believed that this new “Swing” scene could be a great spring-board to a prolific career. Those were happy days for Jake, despite the fact that, as he will tell you, money was often tight, and he had a hell of a lot to learn about music, about running a band and about keeping his cool in one of the toughest businesses in the world.

After seven months in New York, Jake got himself a proper business manager, and then signed an international record deal with the notorious heavy-metal label Roadrunner. This might seem odd, but to Jake it was a smart move. He was still interested in bringing his music to unexpected places, and a heavy metal label seemed the perfect way to do this. He recorded the self-titled “Big Rude Jake” album in Toronto, and, over the next few years, toured the world. It was a dream come true: the band toured the capitals of Europe and was treated like honoured guests where ever they went. Luxury tour buses, five star-hotels, all-night parties in Paris and Berlin, grateful fans, beautiful sights, great food, good cigars, and fun, fun, fun.

But, it was too good to last. After a two year thrill-ride, the record company decided that the gravy train had dried up. They exercised their option and Jake was out of a deal. Broke and needing time to re-group, Jake decided to get back to his roots. He started playing in small bars again, often under assumed names, and began the process of starting over.

Although it was the New York jazz scene that had attracted him to that city in the first place, it was the rock and soul sounds of New York in the 70’s that ended up inspiring him the most, and it was this legacy that eventually led to the creation of his latest release, “Live Faust, Die Jung.” With this album, Jake switched his centre of influence from jazz to soul, and came up with a CD of infectious, hooky songs, laced with powerful images and his trade mark lyrics.

Already, interest in this new record has brought many new people into the world of Jake; many of whom had never heard of him before. Will these newbies go back and check out the older material? Of course, it is our hope that they will, but right now all attention is on Jakes’ remarkable transformation from Big, Angry, Bile-spitting Swing Punk to the slim, relaxed White-Soul Rocker. Jake himself has been pretty tight-lipped about this transformation, but there are some indications that this change is simply due to spending 18 months largely out of the spot-light and taking time to sit and re-examine his life and career.

I hope this gives you an idea about who our man Jake is, and where he has been. Of course, this is only a thumb-nail sketch, and many other details about him, his music and his listeners will be revealed as you scan through the BRJ website. We encourage you to take your time and enjoy the information that we have made available to you here. We also hope that you will come back and visit us often. Most of all, we hope you enjoy the new record and that the music of Big Rude Jake makes you happy and excited to be alive.

Keep the Faith, baby!!!

Cecil Barns Journalist, ATOMIC magazine, NYC