Album brings new sounds from the Final Frontier
It may not feature any Vulcan lyres or Ressikan flutes, but a recently-released Star Trek-themed jazz album boldly explores new territory.
“Smooth Federation,” a fully-licensed Star Trek jazz album arranged and performed by Andrew Allen, 24, of Orlando, Fla., was recently released by internationally-known podcaster Brian Ibbott, of Arvada.
“What I found is about 90 percent of people really love it,” Allen said. “About 10 percent are very passionate about the original music, and they feel like anything that’s not the original is blasphemy. But people like to hear their favorite scenes re-magiced.”
The album was recently released on Coverville Records, a new label that grew out of Ibbott’s podcast “Coverville.”
“Coverville” is a 35-minute show produced twice per week that features some of music’s biggest hits performed by local, national and international musicians.
Ibbott started “Coverville” in 2004 when podcasting first started; the show is now one of the longest-running podcasts ever.
“I never would have expected this,” Ibbott said. “It really felt like a hobby, and it was a hobby at the beginning.”
Now, “Coverville” averages 8,000-10,000 downloads each week and his other show, “The Morning Stream,” which he produces with fellow podcaster Scott Johnson, averages 50,000 to 100,000 downloads each week.
“The Morning Stream” is partially responsible for the genesis of “Smooth Federation.”
“We added a segment called ‘Stump a Trek Nerd,’ where we call Darrell the TrekNerd in Seattle, who is the biggest Trek fan we’ve ever found,” Ibbott said. “When we started doing this trivia segment, we decided we need some kind of background for it.”
After Ibbott wasn’t pleased with his personal attempt to combine Jeopardy and the Star Trek theme, Allen sent Ibbott his jazz rendition of the theme.
“I was blown away,” Ibbott said. “I said if you ever put together an album of these, let me know, and I’ll produce it.”
A year after their first talk and a fundraiser through the online philanthropic platform Kickstarter to help pay for the production, Ibbott and Allen released “Smooth Federation.”
Allen, who has played piano for 19 years, drums for eight years and bass for four years, played each of the three instruments on the album himself.
“I listen to the original song and I’ll transcribe melodies,” Allen said. “I’m trained in jazz performance and jazz composition, so I’ll take the melody and put it into jazz style and form. Every note you hear was completely off the top of my head.”
Allen’s interpretations might not sound exactly like the original versions, but the album has proven to be popular.
Fans have bought about 700 copies of “Smooth Federation,” including No. 1 himself — Jonathan Frakes.
When Allen and Ibbott were at Dragon Con, a pop-culture convention, in Atlanta over Labor Day weekend, Frakes, who played Cmdr. William Riker in “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” saw Allen wearing a shirt illustrated with an image of Riker playing a trombone, along with other characters. When Allen told him what the project was, Frakes said “Oh I got to have a copy of that,” and traded Allen a $50 photo for the album.
Allen and Ibbott have made several convention stops to promote the album, including Denver Comic Con, the Star Trek convention in Las Vegas and Dragon Con, which included a live piano performance of Allen’s interpretations.
“It was huge; people loved it,” Allen said.
Allen and Ibbott’s next collaboration is already being planned.
“We decided we’re going to go with Star Wars,” Ibbott said. “He’s already put together one track. The guy is such an amazing talent; it’s already fantastic.”
They will launch a Kickstarter campaign in the coming months and plan to release the Star Wars jazz album next June.
“Smooth Federation” is available on iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby and www.coverville.com; signed copies and other merchandise are also available on “Coverville’s” website.
To listen to “Coverville” or to submit a cover song, go online to www.coverville.com.