At this point in his career, jazz guitarist B.D. Lenz might be considered a veteran musician. Now 38, he’s been playing since he was 14 years old; during that time, he has released six CDs, he has logged untold hours onstage and his music has been licensed for use in more than 100 TV shows. Even so, Lenz says his latest release, Hit It and Quit It, represents “a big step” for him.
“It’s the first time I haven’t done a record with my regular band,” he says. Instead, Lenz wound up working with a team of “world-class” players, including bassist Will Lee and drummer Joel Rosenblatt. “These are some of the top guys in New York City,” he observes. “The production was a step up from everything I’ve done, and having pros work on the record made it so much better.”
Though the album’s title makes reference to the super-heavy psychedelic funk of early-’70s Funkadelic, Lenz’s music has a smoother, suppler groove, mixing elements of jazz, pop and soul. “Actually, I had James Brown in mind,” he says of the title track. “I wanted to give it a little bit of sass, to show the confidence I had in the record.”
If anything influenced Lenz’s creative process on Hit It and Quit It, though, it was the fact that when he started working on the record, he was originally tapped by his label, Apria Records, to serve as a sideman and songwriter. Drummer Rosenblatt was going to be the star of the show. “It wasn’t my record to begin with, so I started writing really rhythmic tunes from a drummer’s perspective, and it made me write in a way I wouldn’t have written for myself.” In the end, Lenz got to make his own record with the same songs and the same players.
If he prides himself on his ability to stretch stylistically, Lenz also gravitates to some core values for making music: “It comes down to good songwriting,” he says. “As weird as my music might get, or as eclectic as it might be, it’s got to have a groove and a melody.”