Earlier today, I gave a lecture about jazz history. There was something that I said during the hour long presentation that really stuck with me. My statement went something like this:
"Jazz suffers today because it is so difficult to maintain a set line up for a band. The result is that you end up with a bunch pick-up bands that are put together for a specific gig based on who may be available because they don't have a better paying gig. This means that songs, within many jazz groups, rarely have the chance to grow and develop, as is the case when you have a line up that has played together for an extended length of time, and so have developed a familiarity with each other and also a heightened ability to interact with each other during improvisations."
Now that's some mouthful!
Anyway, I feel fortunate to have maintained the same line up within my quartet for the past few years, with the exception being my good friend and pianist Kenny MacKenzie, who moved to Florida towards the latter part of 2009. I now have been utilizing the considerable services of Art Hirahara at the piano end of things. This was a logical move for me because Art has played a lot with Kyle Struve (drums) and Thomson Kneeland (bass), who are both part of my regular line up, which means that the rhythm section will remain tight, even as I continue to grow a familiarity with Art's playing style. And, every jazz musician knows that it all starts with a strong rhythm section!
But, more to the point of my statement about feeling fortunate to have maintained the same line up, I think this will aid me in my desire to bring up the level of interaction within the new selections being composed for my upcoming album. There's something to be said about the music of a band that has had time to work together and create a "sound" for themselves.
I'm not knocking my first album "Front and Center". It's just that it was hard to create a "sound" for that album when I was dealing with 2 different bassists, 2 different piano players, 2 different drummers, and all of them performing in different line up combinations based on their availability. How was anybody suppose to interact! And then, on top of all of that, all of those guys were actually sight reading the charts during the recording sessions. This is because it proved impossible to schedule rehearsals, due to conflicting schedules. It's nothing short of a testament to the skill level of the musicians that I was working with that the end product sounded as incredible as it did!
That said, I think with this next album things will be quite different. First of all, as I've mentioned before, I'm going to have the actual line up of my quartet on this one, including the amazing Kenny MacKenzie. Also, in order to gain a familiarity with my new compositions, and to get in shape for the recording, we will be performing the new tunes during concerts that we have and also during small, one hour "pick-up" gigs that we have at a few libraries. The live performance of these tunes in front of an audience will give us the opportunity to air things out and get the tunes sounding their best BEFORE we ever hit the studio to record them.
Our first big opportunity to debut some of the new material will come on February 26, 2010, when we give a concert performance at the Levitas Center for the Arts in Southampton, New York. In case you read this blog post in time and would like to check us out, you can find out more online and obtain tickets for the show by clicking HERE. You can also call (631) 287-4377.
So, short of going into "lock-down" with my quartet a week or two before the recording of the new album, I can't think of any better way to get in shape with the new tunes. If you have a chance to attend my quartet's February 26th performance, or any of the other ones we have before the recording date on May 23rd, I'd love to hear any feedback you have regarding the new tunes!
Written by Shenole Latimer