Tag: fusion

Steve Smith: Drummer For All Seasons

steveSmithSteve Smith is best known as the drummer for the rock band Journey, but the Berklee educated Smith has played and recorded with a long list of jazz greats including Buddy DeFranco, Jean-Luc Ponty, Mike Stern, Scott Henderson, Jeff Berlin, and Larry Coryell. In this new interview with R.J. DeLuke and AllAboutJazz, Smith discusses everything from his early days in Boston, to touring the world with a rock and roll band to recent recording projects. On having to learn how to play rock songs with Journey after having played virtually nothing but fusion and straight ahead jazz until that point:

“I didn’t really know how to play rock songs. I had to discipline myself to play drums in a very compositional way. Which means I needed a particular beat for the verse and then another beat for the chorus and something else for the bridge, then some fills to pull it all together. That was a very different way of conceiving of playing the drums. Before, I was playing time feels behind people. Not necessarily a repetitive beat. Supporting soloists. I hadn’t worked with a vocalist really. Someone might sing a pop tune when I was playing a Top 40 gig in Boston, but I wouldn’t consider them great singers. Steve Perry was a great singer. That was an education. Part of what was interesting about it was it was so new and I had never done it before. It was a great experience for me.”

Click here to read Steve Smith: Drummer For All Seasons

Larry Coryell: Less Rock, More Jazz

larryCoryellA true jazz pioneer, guitarist Larry Coryell was one of the earliest musicians to experiment with the fusion of jazz and rock styles. Early on he performed with Chico HamiltonGary Burton, and the Jazz Composers Alliance Orchestra headed by Mike Mantler and Carla Bley. He also helped organize one of the first jazz-rock groups, the Free Spirits, with saxophonist Jim Pepper, drummer Bob Moses, pianist Mike Nock and bassist Chris Hills. In 1967 Coryell and saxophonist Steve “The Count” Marcus broke further ground in fusion with Count’s Rock Band. All About Jazz fusion editor Todd S. Jenkins spoke with Coryell in 2001 about his art, his role in fusion’s development, and his then renewed collaboration with saxophonist Marcus. Here Coryell discusses their musical bond:

“A lot of this stuff, because we both admired Coltrane, we were doing some of the newer, current ideas that were coming out of the Coltrane-type school in the late 60s. Taking small groups of notes and extrapolating and repeating them, we both had a tendency to do that before we even knew each other. So when we came together as a front line, there were so many important things in common from a mechanical standpoint as well as a conceptual standpoint, that all you had to add was the fact that we’re two kindred spirits. That’s why that rapport is there, no matter how big the gap of time between playing events. It’s always there. It’s like Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays. They could be apart for ten years, come back and be right there again.”

Click here to read Larry Coryell: Less Rock, More Jazz

—Peter Blasevick

Four part Joe Sample video interview

Today, a fantastic four-part video interview with the late Joe Sample from the Keyboard Magazine YouTube page. The interview took place  before a 2010 reunion gig with the Jazz Crusaders at Yoshi’s in Oakland, CA.

Part 1: Joe talks about the early days, bad road pianos, adopting the Fender Rhodes, and technology

Part 2: Joe discusseswhat he feels ls lacking in digital pianos, and the challenges of getting consistent dynamics out of even an acoustic piano.

Part 3: The new Rhodes, the Jazz Crusaders vintage set list, and how there’s no middle class in the music business.

Part 4: The interview wraps with with Mr. Sample demonstrating his favorite voicings and approaches to chords.

—Peter Blasevick

Billy Cobham: Self- Expression

Today, a nice long interview with drummer Billy Cobham from the UK National Jazz Archive. The Panamanian American jazz drummer, composer and bandleader talks to Les Tomkins in 1974 about New York, being a bandleader, jazz as ‘dance music’, live performance, and a lot more. From the interview:

Do you regard it as important to make the amount of preparations that you do for your stage act?

Sure, it’s extremely important, and we’re nowhere near where I’d like us to be. We need strong sound equipment, and people that are competent to handle it, plus good lighting people that are competent to work in collaboration with the band and the sound. It’s a matter of time; if we can last out through the natural elements that are against us, it’ll work out.

Normally, though, do you not prepare before the show starts? Only at the Rainbow more than an hour elapsed between the two parts of the programme, before you were ready to come on and play.

Now, that’s a problem that’s a technical one. It’s also a problem of poor planning on the part of promoters who put on shows. If a promoter knows that he doesn’t have a large enough stage to handle both bands, or enough people to take care of the equipment, the worst thing he can do is to accept an opening act that is as big as his star attraction, because it means that the show is not gonna move as smoothly as it could. Therefore, with that, you have a lot of problems.

Click here to read Billy Cobham: Self- Expression

—Peter Blasevick

Mike Stern: Guitar to the stars . . . and Miles beyond

mikeSternMike Stern is truly one of the great guitarists of our age, equally comfortable in straight ahead jazz, fusion, and rock and roll—he has been in the news most recently for his collaborations with rock guitar hero Eric Johnson. Here is a typically honest 2013 interview in which he discusses much, including his time with Miles:

You mentioned Miles Davis. That must have actually been a difficult period for you in a way in that he was unwell and struggling. And that rock-fusion at the time was not well received by jazz critics. Do you look back on that period fondly?

Definitely. I loved it. People will say what they say, and Miles would always say people will catch on 10 years later with what he was doing. And that was kind of what happened. I wanted to play more bebop and he wanted me to rock. He liked the fact I was playing lines, but he wanted the volume.

I thought we could split the difference maybe and he would say ‘No, no. Let’s rock.’ And he’d always say, ‘Play me some Hendrix’. What he meant was, ‘Play your stuff, but with that attitude’. So I was playing a lot of lines and there was rock in there because I come from that.

It was great experience playing with him, he played so much from the heart. People say what they say but they’ve all turned around and people are discovering it now. He was always ahead of the time. And that always invites criticism. But he always told me, ‘Don’t worry about [criticism]’. So it was a great experience and the only thing is . . . Well, I finally did it sober. (laughs).

I was really messed up in those days and for some of it I was pretty trashed. But, for all that, some of it still came out good. Miles had a way of getting stuff out of people. Then I went back with him and the band was a bit different with keyboard players. That first group was really open with just guitar.

Then Sco [Scofield] played with us for a while. Me and Sco played together in that band, then I left and Sco did it for a while, then Miles added keyboards and I went back with that band when Sco left. It was still a great vibe but it was a little more structured, which is cool. But I liked the first band which was really open and fun. All of it was great because I got to play with him and Jaco Pastorius and Michael Brecker. It was amazing.

Click here to read Mike Stern: Guitar to the stars . . . and Miles beyond

—Peter Blasevick

Seymour Nurse Interviews George Duke

Here is a great four part interview with the late George Duke from Seymour Nurse from The Bottom End.

Part one covers the original London (UK) Jazz-Fusion Dance Movement, and how his music influenced this culture at clubs like, “The Horseshoe” and “Electric Ballroom.” Part two covers Duke’s  timeless masterpiece, “A Brazilian Love Affair”, Milton Nascimento and the late, great, Cannonball Adderley. In part three, George gives his thoughts on his female vocalists, Sheila E, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, and the exquisite, “Muir Woods Suite”. Finally, part four begins with blaring sires and goes on to cover Duke’s current work.

—Peter Blasevick

2006 Mike Stern Interview With Jazz Guitar Life

mikeSternToday a very candid interview with guitarist Mike Stern. In 2006 he spoke with Lyle Robinson from JazzGuitarLife.com about his life and music, and in depth about his previous substance abuse:

JGL: I can imagine. Actually, using the cat metaphor and the whole nine lives thing, you’ve been very lucky in that you have had at least two lives so far given the personal issues you faced in the ‘80’s.

MS: Yeah man! It’s true…lol…at least I’m up to two. I don’t know if I have nine in me but I definitely have two…lol…and I’m certainly grateful that I have been able to do this. Do my own music and play with my own band. It’s definitely been with a lot of effort and I’m so grateful that I am able to do it ‘cause there are so many people who deserve to do it and who can’t do it for one reason or another. And it’s something that I’ll never take for granted. It’s been an honor to be able to play in different cities, different countries and with different people and to even play gigs and have people come to those gigs. And to be able to do my own records is an honor, without sounding too corny about it, it really is, and I don’t take it lightly at all and I am very grateful for it. You were mentioning the two lives kind of thing…that’s something I’m definitely grateful for, that I was able to get sober ‘cause that wasn’t a slam-dunk either you know. I was really deep in the other shit and getting high in every way possible and deep into as you can imagine without going into detail but it was all day long with everything out there and I got really strung out…and for years. It took me years to learn how to play music sober. I had never really done it since I was about 13 years old…I had never really experienced played music sober. I had always had a few drinks in me or I would smoke some pot or I’d get into some deeper shit. So for about twenty years I was always high. Miles used to say…well, someone in the band asked “where’s Mike?” And someone replied “he’s probably getting high someplace.” And Miles said (in a hoarse whisper) “Mike don’t get high, Mike stays high”…lol…he knew what was going on, and I was really crazy in those days so I’m really grateful to be alive.

Click here to read 2006 Mike Stern Interview With Jazz Guitar Life

—Peter Blasevick

Pat Metheny in Jazz Improv Magazine 2004

patMethenyToday is Pat Metheny‘s 60th birthday! In this long 2004 interview in Jazz Improv magazine, the guitar great talks at length about touring, practice routines, finding his own sounds, and much more. From the interview:

JI: In the 1970s and prior, artists would be booked to play at a place in town for three or four days at a time. Now, nobody’s booking anybody in a club for that length of time. Venues want artists to come in for one night, bring all their fans and then, “you’re outta there!” They want to get the next group in to bring all their fans.

PM: It’s true. A lot of what you’re saying is true, however I feel I must add, it really wasn’t that great back then either. I’ve always feel it’s important to remind people of that. It was rough then too. Back then when I started my band, our fee for the band was usually around $200-$250 for the whole band. I could pay $25, $30, $40 a guy after I paid for the hotel and the gas money and the commission and yet I knew, and it was important to me as a bandleader, to play every place we could possibly play and to get guys that were willing to do that. That was hard to do then and it’s hard to do now. I still really, really, really believe that anybody that’s got something really powerful and important to say as a musician, as a jazz musician or otherwise, if they want to go out and play hundreds of nights a year, they can and will develop an audience. It’s just that it requires a commitment that very few people are willing or are in the position to be able to do. Part of it for me, was at that time, I was in my early 20’s as were the guys I was playing with. At that age, they’re like, “Sure, let’s go out and play 300 gigs! Yeah, we’re going to make $20 a night? Fine. We’re going to have fun!” Also, at the time we started, we were on a mission from god musically. We really had a point that we wanted to make. I think that could be done now too. I really do, and in fact, the only group that I’ve seen that has sort of modeled their thing on something somewhat like on our thing and have had success, has been Medeski, Martin and Wood. They also went out and played every place they could possibly play relentlessly…

Click here to read Pat Metheny in Jazz Improv Magazine 2004

—Peter Blasevick

Allan Holdsworth: Harnessing momentum

allanHoldsworthAllan Holdsworth is one of the most creative, innovative, singular guitarists who has ever lived. He’s influenced legions of guitarists in jazz, rock and roll, and fusion and continued to release great music for more than four decades. Here is a great talk form 2008 with Innerviews’ Anil Prasad in which he discusses his never-ending musical quest. From the interview:

How do you go about capturing ideas during your writing process?

Ten years ago, I used to record things when I improvised. I’d put on the recorder and start playing and if I found something interesting, I’d go back and listen and think “Oh yeah, I can work with that.” Sometimes, I’ve gone the way of not recording anything at all. It can sometimes be about how I feel at that point in time, and I just scribble the music down and keep going back to it until I can put it into shape. Sometimes things come really fast and some things take months.  Take “Sphere of Innocence” from Wardenclyffe Tower. I wrote the whole tune in a couple of hours but there was a modulation in the middle of it that resolved in a way I wasn’t happy about. Ninety-nine percent of the piece was done in less than a day and it took months to finish the other one percent.

Click here to read Allan Holdsworth: Harnessing momentum

—Peter Blasevick

Al Di Meola: Telling it like it is

It’s Al Di Meola‘s 60th birthday today! In this 2003 interview, the jazz/fusion/classical/overall guitar virtuoso pulls no punches about his band, his composing, and his disgust with the state of the music business. From the interview conducted by Anil Prasad for Innerviews:

alDimeolaDo you have an overall philosophy as a band leader?  

Musicians must understand rhythm and syncopation in order to do this kind of music. It’s not really a philosophy, but just an understanding of the rhythmic concept I have and it sometimes needs to be drilled a lot. I think we’re getting close to it. The concept is playing off the quarter note. It’s also understanding that when you play syncopations off the quarter note that no matter how complex it may seem, the quarter note never ever sways one hair unless it’s intentionally meant to.  Generally, if we’re all playing together and one guy is feeling the quarter note in another place, it’s really apparent to me. It may not be for the listener, although I think the listener will feel something is awkward subconsciously. Understanding how to play off the quarter note without the quarter note ever moving is something that’s rare for musicians to really get. It’s not something you can really learn. You’re born with it. It’s in you and I have to get it out of them. But sometimes it’s not in them. Then you’ve got a problem.

Click here to read Al Di Meola: Telling it like it is 

—Peter Blasevick