Coverville Records successfully funds its passion project: jazz renditions of video game tunes

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Brian Ibbott signing copies of Smooth Federation, the debut release on Coverville Records.

Nerds of a feather flock together, as they say. Brian Ibbott and jazz composer Andrew Allen have once again proven this adage to be entirely true. The two have paired up to produce another passion project that is sure to appeal to the dorkiest dweebs you know, Free Play, an album of traditional jazz renditions of video game songs. Their first Kickstarter-funded project was even geekier than that: Smooth Federation, an all jazz tribute to Star Trek. The new one, which has surpassed its Kickstarter goal, is slated to be the second release on Ibbott's Coverville Records imprint.

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Ibbott, of course, is the seminal Colorado-based podcaster who first earned renown with his wildly popular Coverville podcast, a program devoted entirely to various cover songs performed by an endless parade of artists. Coverville, which is just under fifty episodes away from closing in on its thousandth, was launched by Ibbott in 2004 and now boasts a subscriber base of ten thousand or so. Allen, meanwhile, is a rather gifted multi-instrumentalist from central Florida who holds a degree in jazz studies and performance from the University of South Florida.

Naturally, music is the thing that brought the two of them together. Well, that, and they're both nerds -- they'd have to be to have dreamed up there latest venture (more on that in a minute). With the success of Coverville, Ibbott branched out a little over a year ago and began co-hosting another podcast with Frog Pants impresario, Scott Johnson, called the Morning Stream (hint: the name is a euphemism and a double entendre).

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Before the two began collaborating, they were mutal admirers: Johnson was a fan of Coverville, and Ibbott was a big fan of the Instance, another show hosted by Johnson -- who illustrated the cover of Smooth Federation and the forthcoming Free Play disc. And that's what brought them together for the Morning Stream, which Johnson and Ibbott co-host live remotely (the former lives in Utah, and the latter hangs his hat in Arvada) via Skype four times a week. The show draws somewhere between forty and fifty thousand listeners per episode. "We're not pulling down Adam Corolla numbers or Chris Hardwick numbers," Ibbott says with a laugh, "but we're doing pretty well.

"The show is a mix of a bunch of different geek cultures," he goes on. "There's celebrity news, but it kind of always has a geeky twist. We've got a guy who comes on and talks tech on Wednesdays, and we've got a Netflix review thing on Wednesdays also. But every day after all the pleasantries in the beginning of the show, we begin with a segment called 'Stump a Trek Nerd,' and we've got a Star Trek fan who lives out in Seattle, and every day we tried to stump him with a trivia question. When we started doing the series, we had a Star Trek theme behind it, like one of the official themes"

That's where Allen comes in. A fan of the show, Allen sent the pair a jazz rendition of the Star Trek theme that he had recorded and The Morning Stream started using the song as a music bed on the show. That interaction quickly led to Ibbott casually mentioning to Allen that he'd be interested in putting out a full album of these types of tunes, if he were ever so inclined. Allen was indeed interested, so much so, that shortly after that discussion, he wrote, performed and recorded all the tunes for the whole album within a month.

"The staple of this record and the staple of everything I do and the music I release," says Allen, "is to take an older style of music that I love and to introduce it to a newer generation that might not be too familiar with it. I'm trying to get it out of the museum gauze state where it's played in colleges and trying to get it out to mainstream people without having to do it smooth. I want to take b-boy and cool jazz and make it accessible."

With that notion in mind and a full album completed, Allen and Ibbott began hatching plans to produce the album and then set about working out the logistics of releasing it, which turned out to be quite a process. Although the album was completed in November, the guys didn't launch the Kickstarter campaign until nearly six months later.


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