Langley musician explores sound in modern album

Troy Chapman practices a piece from his new album “Time and the Hours.” The music features layers of sounds from an array of instruments he created with the Troy Chapman Group.

Listening to a song for the first time can be a loaded experience. Everything from the mood of the listener to the ambiance in the background impacts the first encounter.

For Langley jazz guitarist Troy Chapman, that full experience is the aim of his new album “Time and the Hours.”

Chapman, known for his work in bands such as Pearl Django, Trio Nouveau and Billet-Deux is forging his own path and creating music that he wants to hear.

“I set out to create an album exactly how I wanted it to sound, without others trying to steer it,” he said.

Chapman is returning to and recreating musical styles that have influenced his more than 30 years of playing music. He is using elements of the styles to create his own sound, which he described as modern ambient jazz.

The album combines the talents of Chapman, drummer Scott Small and his son, Jonathan Small, on upright and bass guitar.

The group began performing together in 2012 and aimed to develop a style of their own. They performed regularly at Ott & Murphy in Langley, experimenting to find the sound they wanted to deliver.

“We didn’t set out to fill a specific genre,” Chapman said.

He instead wanted to explore the “sonic qualities” of recording itself, and use sounds people wouldn’t think of as musical, he explained. 

Chapman uses a range of sound through a computer program controlled by the notes of his guitar. The additions provide for a layered, symphonic experience including music from horns to kettle drums and, of course, the guitar.

The sound is different from anything drummer Scott Small has worked on, he noted.

“Everyone knows Troy as the gypsy jazz guy. Well, this is not the gypsy jazz guy,” Small said. “It’s something unique that Troy has created.”

Small has played on the professional level for more than 30 years in a variety of styles including jazz, world-beat, soul and rock and roll.

It wasn’t until Small heard the album in its entirety that he realized what Chapman was trying to achieve.

“It was a revelation for me,” he said. “He’s not just playing music, he’s playing atmosphere.”

The combination of sounds and instruments is one of the biggest challenges for Small, who has to stay completely in sync with the computer when performing live.

“I have to be dead perfect with a lot of what I play,” Small said. “It’s extremely challenging for me. In a normal jazz group there’s a give-and-take and looseness to the music. That’s possible with some of the tunes, but some don’t have that flexibility.”

The album is a great thrill for Small who describes the music as a different experience with each encounter.

“Each time you listen, you hear more details,” he said.

For Chapman, anything and everything can be music. It’s all a matter of how the listener decides to process it, he said.

“The thing is, people don’t listen to music in a vacuum,” he explained. “If it’s windy or rainy outside, all the things you’re hearing become part of the music. It becomes part of the experience.”

With the album, Chapman wanted to have that built in to the music.

“I want to bring into consciousness that musical experience,” he said. “It’s how I hear everything.”

“This project is my heart and soul,” Chapman said. “This is what I sound like with everything else stripped away.”