N.J. folkie jazzes things up for 60th birthday, CD release

“Second Day Cake” serves up a sweet, jazz-inflected collection of songs that reflect nostalgically on the past, with whimsical titles like “Slacker Mom Summer Song” and “Slow Dancing to Aqualung.”

Kate Jacobs turns 60 this week, and the Hoboken singer/songwriter plans a big day.

On Friday, Jan. 11, Jacobs will release “Second Day Cake,” her first album in eight years, with a performance at Little City Books, the local bookstore she co-owns with Donna Garban.

“I had friends with the same birthday coming up who’d do things like take three friends and go to Paris, or big, expensive things,” Jacobs said. “I didn’t feel like doing any of that, but I thought, I know something expensive I could do. I could make a record.”

“Second Day Cake” serves up a sweet, jazz-inflected collection of songs that reflect nostalgically on the past, with whimsical titles like “Slacker Mom Summer Song” and “Slow Dancing to Aqualung.”

Jacobs recorded some of the tracks in studios in Weehawken and Brooklyn, as well as a few tracks in Ireland.    

Players on the album include frequent collaborators like guitarist Dave Schramm and drummer Paul Moschella as well as some impressive session musicians. And on keyboards, Jacobs recruited her 18-year old son, Ed Horan, a Princeton freshman who plays in the Hoboken band Elevator Pitch.

“Edward has become quite a musician,” Jacobs said proudly. “We go to Ireland every summer and I decided I wanted to record while I was there, so I booked some time in Dublin. And since Edward was along for the ride, he wound up playing on all of those tracks as well as adding a lot of great ideas.”

From 1993 to 2004, Jacobs released a string of highly regarded folk/pop albums on Hoboken’s Bar/None Records. After a self-imposed hiatus (during which Jacobs married and had children), “Home Game” followed in 2011, comprised mostly of songs about her newfound domesticity (although the album included a paean to the joys of touring and another, “Rey Ordonez,” that simply listed her favorite Mets).

While some of “Home Game” moved away from her trademark folkie Americana and toward a more Great American Songbook type of sound, “Second Day Cake” definitely flows in that direction.

“I deliberately booked a number of very legit jazz musicians for some of the sessions,” Jacobs said. “These were people I didn’t even know personally. I just booked them. Jazz is such a different world, but they just instantly played. It was intimidating, it was exciting, and it was different for me. But that’s why there are three songs on this record that are super-jazzy.”

If several tracks sound familiar to Jacobs’ fans, it might be because she introduced them on the Radio Free Song Club podcast that she helped organize for several years.

“Radio Free Song Club was something I started in 2010 with Dave Schramm, with Nicholas Hill the deejay as our host,” Jacobs explained. “The concept was a group of people who needed a reason to finish their work, so every month, you’d bring in a new song. And it turned into this great session where Dave would bring in these great players and it became much more than just a songwriter’s workshop. It became much more developed than anything I had conceived.”

The sessions proved useful to its players, many of whom went on to release songs that had begun as Radio Free Song Club projects. The shows were recorded and released online, and the entire catalog – 32 episodes in all – is available to stream or download for free at www.radiofreesongclub.com. Regulars included Peter Holsapple, Laura Cantrell, Peter Blegvad, Freedy Johnston, Victoria Williams, Wreckless Eric, and Amy Rigby.

Jacobs said there’s still one unreleased Radio Free Song Club session that’s being mixed and should be released soon. The series went on hiatus when host Nicholas Hill suffered a serious health setback, but Jacobs hopes to organize a reunion sometime soon.

In the meantime, she has her day job.

When Garban and Jacobs decided to open Little City Books in 2015, nearly everyone told them they were crazy. Everyone, that is, except the people in the business of selling books.

“Everybody except the bookselling community said we were insane because they knew that book stores were on the upswing,” Jacobs said. “We had tons of encouragement and help from the American Booksellers Association and the other independent bookstores that we spoke to, and we reached out to a lot of people. It’s really a remarkable community. Everybody wants everybody else to do well.”

The Harry Potter phenomenon, Jacobs said, proved a real turning point for publishing.

“Everybody’s very excited about reading right now, including young people,” she said. “It crosses over to people of all interests and ages.”

And so not only did Little City Books survive; it thrived.

“After we had been open for a year, we broke through a wall and took over the store next to us, and that’s now our children’s annex,” Jacobs said. “So we have a very substantial children’s bookstore inside our store. It’s great, we can really spread out, and it’s picture books and board books and all kinds of things, from babies to early readers.”

The store even has a play space for young children.

From the beginning, music and reading events were an important part of the plan.

“We had the curtain and the lights and a sound system that Rob Harari put in for us,” Jacobs said. (Harari runs the sound engineering program at the nearby Stevens Insitute of Technology.) “Donna likes to joke that we spent more on the speakers than we did on the bookshelves when we opened.”

After Maxwell’s closed for good, Hoboken desperately needed another venue, and Little City Books happily filled the vacuum. Last year, the store installed a stage.

“We knew our store was long and narrow, so we just built a platform that we store in the basement and haul up for when we have shows,” Jacobs said. “If it’s going to be a big crowd, we want people to be able to see.”

It was Jacobs herself who dubbed the space “Little City Limits,” a riff on the famous PBS concert series “Austin City Limits.”

“My niece, Pat Imperial, did the beautiful banner that we have,” Jacobs said. “Pat also did the artwork for my new album cover.”

In the past years, the list of performers who have graced the Little City Limits stage reads like a Who’s Who of the Hoboken pop scene, including Richard Barone and James Mastro of the Bongos, Glenn Mercer of the Feelies, Peter Holsapple of the dB’s, and many others.

“I’m happy but I’m not calling this anything more than a moment,” Jacobs said. “Hoboken had an independent bookstore. Then it had a Barnes & Noble, which drove out the independent. Then Amazon drove out Barnes & Noble, which left a space for us. But who knows where it will go? This is a really nice time to be doing it though. People seem to really support the idea of a local bookstore.” 

If you go …

Kate Jacobs will perform at Little City Books, 100 Bloomfield St. Hoboken, at 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 11. Admission is $20 and includes a copy of her new CD, “Second Day Cake.”  Jacobs will perform with longtime collaborators Dave Schramm, Paul Moschella and James McMillan, and her son Edward Horan.

N.J. folkie jazzes things up for 60th birthday, CD release

by nj.com/entertainment

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