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Eliot Zigmund (part 4) Eighties – now

December 20, 2013 Leave a comment

 I still love to play and I’m still developing!

Part four of  this Eliot Zigmund special covers his years with Michel Petrucciani in the eighies till now.

Eliot 1

As to your question about Michel (Petrucciani, RA) and Don Friedman. I think both those great pianists were influenced by Bill, but they are very different pianists as far as what is felt like to play with each of them. Don is a contemporary of Bill so shares a certain history of time, place and identity, some harmonic and trio concepts, but is a very different piano player with his own very distinctive style. Maybe in fact, Bill was also influenced early on by Don if he had heard him play somewhere, who knows?. Michel was influenced by Bill like every pianist inevitably was who came after Bill, but he was more a disciple of the straight ahead swingers, McCoy, Cedar, Chick, with a little of the lyricism of Paul Bley or Keith Jarrett thrown in.
My recording Breeze on Steeplechase was the culmination of a bunch of playing sessions at my house over a period several months. We decided to go into the studio and document the music and ending up selling it to Steeplechase under my name. I had played a bunch with Mike Lee on some gigs and jam sessions, we both lived in Brooklyn then, he lived in an coop apartment building in Sunset Park that was all musicians and I had a studio in a store front in the same building, so there was a lot of playing going on. I think Mike introduced me to Gary Versace, Mike had some nice tunes, wrote in a soulful but sophisticated way, Phil Polombi and I knew each other from the scene. I’ve gone on to do different projects with Phil and we do the occasional gig together in town. Breeze was kind of a one off project, although we may have done a few gigs, I worked some at that period as a leader in town in small clubs but we didn’t really actively try to find work for the band, it was a recording project.Eliot 2

In a broader sense playing with myriad players over 50 years, the process of learning from other musicians is a big continuum. There’s a saying, being a jazz player is like singing the same song your whole life. Basically we’re all trying to find people who we’re comfortable singing our song with, and who are comfortable singing their song with us. As all musicians know, there are different levels of comfort zones with different players, in different bands, it’s all very fluid and dynamic. And that the music succeeds on different levels in different ways for different styles that demand different things of the way we play. I still approach it that way today. Every playing situation – every time I sit down to really play, is different – leaves it’s mark, shapes the clay, gives you a challenge to solve, hopefully moves you forward an inch or a foot. I’ve learned from every musician I’ve ever played with, from the worst to the best. I’ve learned how fragile jazz can be, how it’s dependent on everyone you’re playing with, especially the rhythm section players. I’ve learned how strong the music can be when the subtle rhythmic bond is there, when it feels like you can do no wrong.

When you’re a rhythm section player, you’re playing, articulating, every beat of every tune with the rest of the rhythm section and the soloists. We’re like worker bees, continually stitching a rhythmic/harmonic carpet for the soloists to fly on.

Eliot 3I think today we have lived through a tremendous stylistic expansion, the infusion of jazz techniques and theory throughout the world, the popularity of jazz education worldwide, jazz both influencing and being influenced by world ethnic musics. We are no longer moving so boldly forward, to borrow a phrase from Startrek, as when I was younger, when it felt like great waves of stylistic innovation were continually sweeping over the jazz world influencing all who heard it, and it seemed there was endless musical territory to expand into. Expansion or evolution today seems to come more from individual artists – perhaps more self-consciously – mining some unique combination of elements within this amazing choice of style and technique, rather than as part of a musical movement or style that is influencing many people at the same time, as was the case when I was growing up.

For me the playing scene now is very varied, eclectic, and I try to be flexible and supportive, trying to play true to the style of the music I’m playing while still being myself. The music can be anything from swing to bop to post bop to straight eighth note, trio, quartet, backing a singer, playing with a big band, live gigs, recordings, videos, commercial one nighters, whatever. Whereas we used to go on the road for weeks or months at a time with one group, the tours now are much shorter, sometimes only a few days, a week, or even flying around the world for one concert.

I remember people asking Bill Evans, when I was in the band, who was influencing him at the moment. He’d say, more or less, he liked anyone that played well, and maybe he’d name one or two cats he’d heard recently by playing opposite them or on a recording. I’m kind of the same way now. I hear and play so much good music in NYC and around the world,, so many good young players on all the instruments, that I’m inspired and influenced all the time, but not by any one drummer or player, but just by the joy of playing real music with great players. I see myself 50 years ago in all the young drummers I meet trying to make a way for themselves, but one must wonder, given the state of the business of jazz, what the opportunities will be for them.eliot 4
Will jazz survive?What will the future of the music be?

I think the questions are broader in scope.

Will serious culture survive? Is it possible to function in the digital age as a professional, working artist? Is academia the answer? Are too many young people seeking careers in the arts? Certainly jazz techniques will survive, they are the language of today’s harmonic/tonal music and improvisation, a must for any working musician on the scene today. In New York we have a marvelous array of older and younger serious jazz musicians who cover the stylistic gambit of what American jazz has offered and is offering over the last 70 years, as well as musicians from all over the world, who, enamored with jazz and the city, come to NY and bring their musical cultures with them to blend with what’s happening here. In Europe, Asia, South America, the Middle East, worldwide, certainly the States, we find great jazz musicians with regional scenes and communities of musicians everywhere, with the usual hard core fans and musicians hanging on in the usual devoted and low budget, hardscrabble ways. I think the music will always survive while there are musicians in the world dedicated enough to learn and play it and there seem to be no shortage of those. Will it sound like what was coming out of the Cafe Bohemia or Slugs in 1967, or Bradley’s in 1978, probably not.
In general the digital age has cheapened the value of art, artists, and media in lots of different ways. Combine that with the number of young people graduating from jazz programs in the States alone (some 5,000 per year I hear), and the general lack of interest in and knowledge of real jazz in the real world, most glaringly in America, and you don’t have a great prescription for the business of jazz in years to come.

I’m hoping to be proven wrong. And, most importantly – I still love to play and I’m still developing!

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Interview with Peter Ind

August 12, 2013 1 comment
To me the greatness in jazz lies in improvisation and from improvisation there developed the musical language that we recognize as jazz.
A few weeks ago I asked bassist Peter Ind my questions about his work, his music, his thoughts. He sent me a beautiful letter. I am proud to publish it at interjazzblog.
Who is Peter Ind? A short biography:

images (1)Peter  (born 1928) was just 21 when he began travelling to New York playing jazz double bass  on the Queen Mary. He settled in New York in 1951 and America became his home for the next 15 years. He studied with Lennie Tristano, played with  many great names in Jazz – Lee Konitz, Buddy Rich, Coleman Hawkins, Billie  Holiday. While there he set up a recording studio and launched the Wave   jazz label. Revived in 1977, it still exists today.

Returning to the UK in 1966, he often performed in duos and trios – most notably  with Martin Taylor. In the 1980s and 90s he ran the very successful Bass Clef and Tenor Clef Jazz Clubs in London. He now concentrates more on recordings and playing internationally.

He is  a jazz musician and sound engineer, and also a skilful painter in the post modern idiom, and a collector and restorer of blue and white Chinese  porcelain. (read further at http://www.peterind.com).

Dear Robin
Firstly I feel I should point out that often people contact me, either asking me to fill them in on past jazz events, or to help them with their problems. I am not saying that you fall into that category, but if I seem somewhat hesitant, it is only a reflection on some past experiences. When my book Jazz Visions was released someone from the BBC contacted me asking to record for BBC radio. I recorded an hour’s worth of material, only to discover that when the “interview” was broadcast, about two minutes of my voice was included and the main part of the broadcast was of someone who had no direct knowledge of those times in New York (being far too young) but quoted from my book as though it was his own insight, with no reference to what I had actually written. Quite frequently, my words are used without acknowledgement and seldom get a mention as being the originator. Having said this, I am willing to answer you questions as fully as I can – and trust that you will not do like many others have done in the past.
naamloos
Perhaps my views about the way jazz has evolved are tinged with regret, as I feel that many of the greatest and inspired musicians have failed to receive the recognition they deserved. I am leaving myself apart from that (it is for others to judge).  However one of the unfortunate effects on the recent evolution of jazz, is often a lack of real awareness of who created – and this has had a “dumbing down” effect on younger players, who sometimes do not even know about players who by rights should be in the forefront of their studies.
You ask how has jazz evolved since I began? I started playing piano in London in 1942. In those days I did not distinguish between dance music and jazz. Firstly having left school at fourteen years of age, I found I could earn almost as much money in one night, playing the piano with a danced band that working in an office for five days a week. Of course playing the piano was just fun and to get paid for it was fantastic. Though I could read music, I learned the tunes by listening to the radio. (Of course there was no television in those days.) It was simply dance music and during those days of World War Two, there were dances every day of the week, and as most professional musicians were in the armed forces I was always on call. I didn’t really become aware of “jazz” until later in my teens, though I was aware of the concept of improvising through the experience of playing at dances.  My parents encouraged me somewhat. I think they were surprised that I could earn money that way. I felt the need to get trained classically and for a while I studied part time at London’s Trinity College of Music, paying for the lessons myself. In Britain in those days it was customary to play a second instrument and the sound of the bass always fascinated me. In 1944 I bought a double bass and began to take gigs playing it. It was not until later around 1947 that I joined a professional band working at a “Palais de Dance” in London that I became a full time bass player. In 1944 I had heard the Glenn Miller band of the American Expeditionary Force, playing live on a BBC Broadcast. It was a revelation, so spirited and unlike the British dance bands of the time, who sounded so reserved and polite.  It was the first time I understood the difference between US jazz and British jazz.  It was not until five years later (in July 1949) that I visited New York as a musician on board the Queen Mary, and had the opportunity to experience that music at source. I stayed working on the Queen Mary until March 1951  I obtained a US Immigration visa and in April 1951 New York became my new home.  It was while I was still working on the Queen Mary, that I met and got to know many American jazz musicians and began studying with Lennie Tristano. In December 1949, after taking a lesson with Lennie at his home n Flushing, Long Island Lennie asked me what I was doing that evening. I coming to hear you at Birdland I said. He then asked me if I would play the first set with his band. After that experience I knew that I would make New York my home. In fact playing with his band at Birdland signified the start of a great change in my life.naamloos (2)
Looking back to those days of the late nineteen forties and early fifties, I recall them as being the most democratic years of jazz. That was when black musicians were beginning to get the recognition they deserved and often played alongside white musicians on an equal footing.  Much later on, the relationship between black and white musicians became more difficult and racial issues surfaced once again. The social issues began to improve for blacks and by the late nineteen fifties, American apartheid began to give way to more on an equal society. Nevertheless there is still a long way to go before racial tension in the US gives way to a more just kind of society.  Amongst the musicians I worked with in the US some became very good friends. Of course I include Lennie in this, but also one especially the Trumpet player Roy Eldridge, whom I miss very much. I can still hear the sound of his voice in my head, as though he’s still around. I became good friends also with Mingus and we used to meet socially as well as musically. Oscar Pettiford and I used to play at the Café Bohemia and play duos together, this was when Oscar was playing ‘cello. I used to play a lot with Paul Bley, mostly at a place in Long Island – a black venue – known as “The Pub Club”.  They served great ribs and there was some irony in the fact that we were a white group (Al Levitt was the drummer) and they all loved our music.  We really felt at home there. The blacks were so open and welcoming to us. This was around the time that Paul’s LP was recorded. Percy Heath was his choice of bass player. However after recording two sessions with Percy, Paul wanted to record more as he was not satisfied with some of the tracks, and I was invited to record another session. As it turned out the record company refused to pay for any more than one additional session, and two thirds of the album contained tracks that I had played on. I was disappointed not only in only getting paid for half of what I had contributed, but a further irony was that many the tracks I played on were given rave reviews, but attributed to Percy’s playing.  I had no beef with Percy – we were good friends and in fact he studied with me for a while. I then began to realise that my skills as a jazz musician did not necessarily equate with getting the recognition I felt I deserved.
naamloos (3)Though I remained faithful to my conviction about jazz, it began to be apparent that jazz criticism often lacked musical objectivity. I began to be aware of a kind of dumbing down as jazz became more commercially oriented.  To me the greatness in jazz lies in improvisation and from improvisation there developed the musical language that we recognize as jazz. This is not in any way to dismiss or demean jazz composition¸ whether big band or small band, but true improvisation gave jazz it’s language and as this ability declined to become mere riffs or fill ins, so in my opinion has jazz declined both in quality and in popularity.  One final point – in striving to become cleverer than the next player, many jazzy musicians have lost their following – simply by becoming too clever.
You ask about my activities as a recording engineer. Even while still living in New York I realised that a lot of jazz was played that deserved to be recorded. I was fortunate enough to be able to purchase state of the art equipment and setting my East Side loft as a recording studio I began to be hired by recording companies for their various artists. I also recorded a lot of jazz that I have not been able to release for various reasons. I live in hopes that one day some of this music can be released. I have always been concerned that much great improvisation passed us by. Recording a little of this I believed to be especially worthwhile.images
Returning to the UK in 1966 after having spent three years in Big Sur California, I had to start again. I established a teaching practice, and then several years later bought some new recording equipment, and soon found my services in demand again. In 1981 I moved my recording activities to Hoxton Square. London and three years later began building the Bass Clef Club. This lasted for almost ten years and was very successful. I finally lost it – a bitter disappointment. However a few good recordings were made there – sometimes recorded live at the Bass Clef, and I have written a book about it which we are planning to release later this year.
You ask what is my secret? If I have one it is simply enthusiasm  (from the Greek EN THEOS) and a belief in life energy  –   I am currently writing another book about the Cosmos and where I believe we are all headed.
Please stay in touch,
Best wishes
Peter Ind
copyright Peter Ind and Robin Arends

Interview Carla Bley

April 26, 2013 Leave a comment

I am proud to publish the interview I had with Carla Bley.

Bley was born in Oakland, California. Her father, a piano teacher and church choirmaster, encouraged her to sing and to learn to play the piano. After giving up the church to immerse herself in roller skating at the age of fourteen, she moved to New York at seventeen and became a cigarette girl at Birdland, where she met jazz pianist Paul Bley, whom she married in 1957.  He encouraged her to start composing. The couple later divorced.

In 1964 she was involved in organising the Jazz Composers Guild which brought together the most innovative musicians in New York at the time. She then had a personal and professional relationship with Michael Mantler, with whom she had a daughter, Karen, now also a musician in her own right.

Bley has collaborated with a number of other artists, including Jack Bruce, Robert Wyatt and Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason, whose 1981 solo album Nick Mason’s Fictitious Sports was a Carla Bley album in all but name. She arranged and composed music forCharlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra, and wrote A Genuine Tong Funeral for Gary Burton. Her arrangement of the score forFederico Fellini’s 8½ appeared on Hal Willner’s Nino Rota tribute record, Amarcord Nino Rota.

Her current partner, the bassist Steve Swallow, has been her closest and most consistent musical associate in recent years and the two have recorded several duet albums.

In 2005 she arranged the music for and performed on Charlie Haden’s latest Liberation Music Orchestra tour and recording, Not in Our Name. (sorce: Wikipedia.org)

carla 2Mrs. Bley, you’re active in music for more than  5 decades. How has jazz music evolved since you started performing? Is Jazz the right label for your music?

I’m satisfied to call my music (or at least most of it)  jazz, but others might disagree.  My feeling is that jazz is a very big, inclusive world.  It is clear to me that jazz has greatly expanded its vocabulary over the century of its life, but sometimes when I listen to the past masters I question this assumption.

According to the Penguin Guide to Jazz, “Escalator Over The Hill”, “Tropic Appetites”, “Live”, “Fleur Carnivore”, “The Carla Bley Big Band Goes To Church,” “Looking For America” and “4 x 4”  are your best albums.  It seems that the critics cannot choose wich one is your best. Are these records your favorites too?

Albums are like children.  It’s unwise to favor one over any of the others.

Which composition do you like best? Why?  Is this composition your most appreciated?

As is the case with albums, I generally like the song I’m presently working on best.  I’m currently in the final stages of a long piece for “classical” musicians and steve swallow and me.  It’s in my mind almost all day, and often a good part of the night as well.  It’s difficult for me to think for even a moment about any of my earlier pieces.

In 1965 you and Michael Mantler founded the Jazz Composer’s Orchestra. The group’s last performance was in 1975. You composed Escalator Over The Hill, which Joachim Ernst Berendt called the “the largest complete work that has so far emerged from within jazz.”, as well you arranged and composed (parts of) Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music.  From this point on, you was more of a composer than an instrumentalist. How you look back to that time?
From my earliest days I’ve seen myself as a composer who also plays.  But over the years I’ve faced up to the necessity of presenting my music to its audience, which has caused me to focus on playing as well as composing.  I practice almost every day, even when I feel I’m stealing time from composing.  Days aren’t long enough; they should contain at least 25 hours.
Satie and the Beatles. They have been your inspiration, as well as Charlie Parker.
This year it’s fifty-eight years ago he has died (as many great musicians you played with passed last decades). What does this mean to you?

For the last two nights, after dinner, we’ve listened to Charlie Parker.  And the night before those we listened to Satie.  Each of them sounded fresh and contemporary, continually inspiring.  It’s good to know that music can outlive its own time.

Do you still learn from your youthful colleagues and what should they learn form you? Are you inspired by them as you were by the colleagues you played with in the sixties?

I think most young players are unaware of their effect on their elders, but it is considerable.  I love being surprised by a phrase or a gesture in music, and this most often happens when I listen to young players.  I’m not sure what young players might find useful in what I do; that’s for them to figure out.Carla 1

As you said to John Fordman in ‘72: “I think rock and roll is jazz. And jazz is classical music. And classical music has become rock and roll. They’ve all gone round one turn on the clock” Has the clock turned again since then?

I’d say the clock is always turning.  That’s what clocks do.

Later on in 1991 you said to Fordham “Since I’ve been teaching more, I’ve realised again that the music I loved back in Birdland in the Fifties is the music I love now. I know now that this music has stood the test of time, and it will turn out to be the great music of the age.”

I still listen to recordings of the Basie Band of that time, a band I heard night after night when I worked as a cigarette girl in Birdland.  tTat band, and the writers who supplied it with music, continue to amaze and delight me.  I hope to become Ernie Wilkins some day.

You went to Holland january 1966 to record “Jazz Realities” and do radio and TV work. Why Holland?

Holland asked.  I went, as is still the case, wherever I was called.  That’s the way life is, in the world of music.

Is there jazz in the future? Jazz is the most recorded musicstyle by now, but do you think jazz will reach our youth? According to saxophonist and flautist Dave Liebman the future of jazz lies with how it will be absorbed and transformed by parts of the world where it is new to the people. Do you agree with him?

There appears to be some truth to what dave says, as an increasing percentage of my work seems to happen in places I haven’t been before.  I’m happy about this; these places are as new to me as I am to them.  I’m always looking for food I’ve never tasted, buildings I’ve never seen, languages I haven’t heard before.

Sheila Jordan, I interviewed yesterday, had one question for you: “if you compose a new opera, can you put me on the list?”

ABSOLUTELY!

Next week I will interview pianist Ran Blake. Do you have a question for him?

How do you manage to continue to expand, when so many of your contemporaries are contracting?

Your musical activities span a wide range of styles and combinations. Which projects do you have in store for us?

I mentioned my current piece, involving “classical” musicians.  I’ve also recently finished a long set of pieces for big band and boys choir, which i’m hoping to record soon.  And there will also be an album out soon of trio music wit Andy Sheppard and Steve Swallow; we’ll be touring in Europe in the fall.

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