“This album is about letting the song dictate when it needs something and when it doesn’t”: With her perfect new line-up, Jane Getter takes her jazz-prog back to basics

Jane Getter Premonition
(Image credit: Linda Heath)

Her last three albums have blended her love of fusion, prog and metal – but with Division World Jane Getter has redefined her songwriting with her Premonition band. Her fourth LP is a far more convincing blend of the musical worlds she loves so dearly.

Jane Getter is a jazz guitarist at heart. For the New Yorker, who’s been playing guitar since she was eight years old, that means long, winding compositions rich with improvised solos which come as second nature. Yet on her latest album with her Premonition band, Getter has gone against her intuition – she’s stripped the tracks of everything but the bare necessities.

“My ability to edit songs is something that has developed over the years,” she reflects. “Sometimes, especially earlier on, I would start writing a song and then think, ‘Oh, I really want to put this in,’ just because I thought it would be cool. And so I put it in. Listening back, I feel that certain elements weren’t necessary.”

Outside Premonition, Getter has led a varied career as a supporting cast member. From the party jazz of Brother Jack McDuff to her proggy meanders with Trifecta keyboardist Adam Holzman, she’s built a wealth of experience. With Premonition it’s always been about what she likes; and if she likes it, she’ll find a place for it in her music. While that stylistic free-for-all remains prevalent on her latest album, Division World, it’s become more laser-focused, where every second of the record is warranted and vital.

“This album has been about letting the song dictate when it needs something and when it doesn’t, and letting my ears be my guide,” she says. “If I have a really long extended instrumental section, I’ve been asking myself, ‘Does that get the point of the song across or not?’ Sometimes it’s OK the way it is; it doesn’t need extra sections. Those conversations were really important.”

Getter’s fusion background may tempt her to close her eyes and play, but at the fourth time of asking, her head has outfoxed her heart. Everything has its place and no section overstays its welcome. For that, Porcupine Tree can take a little credit.

“I love Steven Wilson’s writing. I love his songs, his melodies and chord choices,” she says with a big smile. “And then so often they go into heavy sections, which are really fun. But it’s always part of a meaningful song, which is what I like the most. That was a big inspiration.”

Jane Getter Premonition - Division World (Official Video) - YouTube Jane Getter Premonition - Division World (Official Video) - YouTube
Watch On

Lyrically, the story of the record is encapsulated in its title. It speaks of a divided world where the true essence of who we are as humans is fading. “I feel that there’s a lot of personal conflict throughout the album,” she says. “Some of the songs have to do with world conflict, how divided we are and how messed up the world is right now. Then there’s personal conflict, being confused or going through something that you just want to stop.

“In the chorus of Division World, the lyrics are, ‘Division world is not us’ – this is not how we are as humans. I’m reflecting on all the selfishness and greed that exists in the world, and questioning what drives that.”

I’m not trying to change the world with my lyrics – but maybe it helps people realise they’re not the only ones that feel like that

The title track opens the record with palbable tension; and never at any point does the it properly, satisfactorily resolve. For someone who sees herself as a guitarist first and vocalist second, it says what she perhaps struggled to say in words.

“I was talking with [American-Canadian singer-songwriter] Ani DiFranco the other day; a lot of her songs are political,” Getter says. “She was telling me that her message is always, ‘Let’s try to make the world a better place.’ For my songs, it’s more a case of saying how I’m feeling about something and my reaction to it. I’m not trying to change the world with my lyrics – but maybe it helps people realise they’re not the only ones that feel like that.”

End The Blame - YouTube End The Blame - YouTube
Watch On

Contrastingly, the record ends with Waiting For The Light, which is led by acoustic guitars, strings, flutes and a decidedly more hopeful demeanour. But it isn’t always sunshine and rainbows. She co-wrote the lyrics with her friend and poet, E Amato – “So, as you can hear, there are a lot more verses and it’s just got a different vibe” – and refrains from ending with a perfect resolve.

“The protagonist is still waiting for the world to be beautiful again,” the musician says of the song that features the smooth and charming vocals of hardworking progger Randy McStine. The pair’s duet gives the record a wonderfully beautiful yet bittersweet conclusion.

“With that song, I felt like I couldn’t really do a great job on it with my vocal ability alone. I’ve worked with Randy before – he’s toured with us and he sang on my last album – so I knew he’d be great on the song. I wanted a Peter Gabriel kind of vibe on there and he brought that to life. I like the contrast that a male and female voice brings; I think it brings freshness to the album.”

Once more, her band includes keyboardist, co-producer and husband Holzman, and Testament’s jazz-loving guitarist Alex Skolnick. Holzman’s experience working with Steven Wilson and Miles Davies, along with Skolnick’s ability to play heavy metal and high-brow jazz with veritable ease, make them vital components in actualising Getter’s sonic vision.

Another Way - YouTube Another Way - YouTube
Watch On

“Alex has been playing with me since the first Jane Getter Premonition album [2015’s On],” she says. “He’s always been the perfect guy because he can play anything I ask him to. I always wanted to have a real authentic metal thing happening with the music alongside the jazz, and I have that with him. When we trade solos together onstage it’s always so much fun. He’s got such a great vibe.”

The band are completed by a new rhythm section. Esteemed and versatile bassist Paul Frazier (St Vincent, Chaka Khan) is joined by drummer Gene Lake (Marcus Miller, Screaming Headless Torsos), who guested on 2021’s Anomalia. They’re two musicians Getter is keen to keep around for as long as possible.

I write all the keyboards, bass parts and drum grooves. But when we get into rehearsal together I want everyone to do their thing

“Paul is someone that I worked with years ago, and I loved playing with him,” she recalls. “Then he started playing with David Byrne [Talking Heads] and he was never available again. During the pandemic, that all of a sudden changed, and now I don’t want him to go anywhere!

“Paul and Gene know each other from playing with Nile Rodgers and Chic, too. There’s a certain level of comfort when you play with someone for a long time – you can immediately get into the zone; there’s not a big adjustment period. I feel I have that with this band.”

Waiting For The Light - YouTube Waiting For The Light - YouTube
Watch On

Getter is eager to emphasise that, while these are her songs, she relies upon her bandmates to turn her sketches into pieces of art. “When I write,” she explains, “I write all the keyboards, bass parts and drum grooves. But when we get into rehearsal together I want everyone to do their thing.

“Adam might have suggestions for chord voicings, because I’m not a keyboard player, and Gene really brings in that human element to my programmed drums. It’s more a sense of showing them what I’m hearing, but being open to their suggestions and changes. Once the music is played by real people we can hear how it’s piecing together.

“Every album I’ve done, I’ve evolved as a composer,” she reflects. “I really loved how Anomalia came out, but this album takes it much further. I’m sorry for the cliché, but I really think it’s my strongest album yet!”

Phil Weller

You can usually find this Prog scribe writing about the heavier side of the genre, chatting to bands for features and news pieces or introducing you to exciting new bands that deserve your attention. Elsewhere, Phil can be found on stage with progressive metallers Prognosis or behind a camera teaching filmmaking skills to young people.