Darius Jones: From Johnny Hodges To Noise Jazz

Darius Jones: From Johnny Hodges To Noise Jazz
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Alto saxophonist Darius Jones—who won most critics' nomination for the best jazz newcomer album of 2009 for Man'ish Boy (A Raw And Beautiful Thing) (AUM Fidelity, 2009)—is a great fan of Johnny Hodges
Johnny Hodges
Johnny Hodges
1907 - 1970
sax, alto
. He says that the lyrical Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
1899 - 1974
piano
altoist is his hero, and this is pleasantly noticeable at the beginning of Man'ish Boy. It is also a good thing; not only did Hodges possess one of the most beautiful sounds in music, but Jones' focus on Hodges-like bends and slurs serves to give his sound a clear originality—or at least a signature—that many saxophonists these days lack.

Jones is also a composer, and his frequent use of the trio format allows him maximum room to write creative compositions. He listens to a wide range of music, from Mozart and Muddy Waters to Nirvana, and his music is a pure attempt to present something new. Man'ish Boy is not your "standard" saxophonist record; its compositions contain so much fine and varied detail from all three instrumentalists, that headphones or large speakers may be needed to really pick up all the sounds. Jones takes his span of influences and projects them all onto a new canvas, fully succeeding in his creative aim. Both Cooper-Moore
Cooper-Moore
Cooper-Moore

percussion
, on piano and diddly-bo, and drummer Rakalam Bob Moses
Bob Moses
Bob Moses
b.1948
drums
are brilliant trio mates—musicians of great depth and color. Moses achieves almost talking drum effects, and Cooper-Moore's home-made diddly-bo is nothing short of extraordinary in its sonic variety.

Jones has always been fascinated with sonics in general, and, while a student in Richmond, Virginia, was extemporizing with computer improviser Marty McCavitt in the group Birds in a Meadow. Jones came to New York in 2005, and soon formed the now-internationally known noise jazz group Little Women, with, tenor saxophonist Travis Laplante, guitarist Andrew Smiley and drummer Jason Nazary. The band has been described by an Austrian magazine as providing a "first-hand idea of what terror can mean," and its music is an example of another Jones focus: creating order from chaos.

Jones also emphasizes the importance of writing music organically. It may be that it is now necessary to make this point more frequently, as there are so many people pressing buttons on machines to "make music" these days. Any lasting or real music must be organically created. Learning as you go and letting things happen naturally are the key.

New York singer/composer Lola Danza, an occasional colleague, has said that "we are now past 'avant-garde' [in the traditional jazz usage of the phrase], and are doing something new—we just don't know what to call it yet." Jones is an example of this new type of music which, while containing much jazz influence and clearly still remaining jazz, is being written by people who have listened closely to rock and other music that has come about since the '60s. You could try calling it "rock-jazz," or even "indie jazz." As Jones says, he is not "free" and he is not in the "standard" category of current sax soloists: as he puts it, "There is a third category, and I'm about to show you what it is!" The album also contains much sonic experimentation. You hear the steamy South, the evocation of wailing African flutes, and experimental rock-like explorations, all played acoustically.

Ellington always spoke in terms of writing tone parallels, and it is a fair assumption that Jones is taking that approach on Man'ish Boy (A Raw And Beautiful Thing), the first in a projected series of albums that will trace life in the American South, where Jones grew up, and the saxophonist's own development and experiences, while presenting different musicians over its course.

Chapter Index
  1. Man'ish Boy
  2. Saxophone Influences
  3. Growing Up In The South
  4. Categorizing Music
  5. Little Women
  6. Continuing Compositions
  7. Future Releases

    Man'ish Boy

    All About Jazz: Does your approach to writing for your working trio differ to that on Man'ish Boy, especially since the album is the first in a conceptual series?

    Darius Jones: I change my writing, definitely. Playing with Cooper-Moore and Bob Moses is very different from what I do with my working trio, which is with [bassist] Adam [Lane] and [drummer] Jason [Nazary]. The music is just different. It is more traditionally rhythmic, but also it's still very raw. We tend to utilize a lot of different form ideas [with the trio]. With Cooper and Bob, it's more head and blow. With my working trio we have these kinds of "schemes." Some of it's head and blow, but then there's a form that Jason and Adam are playing under me and we stay pretty close to that. It's just more composed, I would have to say. [But] with Bob, a lot of those tunes are launching pads to go, just to improvise.

    AAJ: The album has been a great success, with nominations for newcomer album of the year and so on.

    DJ: It seems like people are digging the record. [I'm just] coming out of the gate, man. A lot of people like it. I'm a little freaked out at the same time. The next one has to be pretty killing. But I like that kind of heat. I like pressure, a little bit of pressure. I think a lot of people were shocked by the Man'ish Boy record. It was like, "Where did this come from?" I was there the whole time. You weren't just paying attention!

    AAJ: Some of the effects achieved by Cooper-Morris on the diddley-bo are amazing. On the introduction to "We Are Unicorns," there is a sound like a horse. Is that the diddly-bo?

    DJ: That's the diddley-bo. It is amazing. That track is deep. That was a first take too. That just happened. That was an improvisation with me and Cooper-Moore. We just have such a deep connection him and I. We're both from Virginia, we both grew up in a church atmosphere. I was in his band for a while. That tune is so vocal and so Southern. When I hear that I feel the South in it so strong. It's funny you said you heard the horse in there, because I heard that too. I thought, "Woa, man, we're taking it to the animal farm." It's deep.

    AAJ: What's "Chasing The Ghost" about? Who's the ghost you are chasing?

    DJ:That song is about my experience pursuing that spiritual realm. I grew up in a Pentecostal Church. I was filled with the spirit of God and I spoke in tongues. That tune is really about that experience. It's searching for that thing that's elusive and very spiritual. So I'm searching for the Ghost, for the Holy Ghost. I want to get it and in a lot of ways I want other people to find it too. I want us all to find the Ghost. It's funny. That tune is so about church. It's about my experience of what that is.

    AAJ: "Big Train Rolling" certainly sounds very Southern.

    DJ: That [title] came from Bob Moses. [He] actually said that. Before we started that improvisation, he said "Big train rolling." To him, it's [that] I have this big sound, I'm Southern, and he hears some John Coltrane
    John Coltrane
    John Coltrane
    1926 - 1967
    saxophone
    -esque inflections and concepts in my playing. So it's a play on words. The train is rolling, but Trane is rolling too [laughs]. Trane could make you feel that a lot of times. His lines just went rolling on and on and on and on. You just get caught up in that. When I hear that improvisation, I think of a train just rolling through Mississippi.

    AAJ: There are a few Coltrane-like screams on the track.

    DJ: It embodies a lot of that. I went through a serious Coltrane phase. He's Southern himself. He grew up in a church environment also.

    AAJ: The last track, bar the hidden one, is "Please Forgive Me." Is it you who wants to be forgiven?

    DJ: I'm saying "forgive me" to everyone for everything that I feel like I couldn't have been. I feel like sometimes you get in situations where you can't be what they want you to be, at any given time. Sometimes you're not ready to be that, or sometimes you're not destined to be a certain thing, and I think that I feel bad at those moments. Especially in relationships with women, I've always felt that way.

    I've felt, "If I wasn't a musician I could love you, or I could be what you want." Sometimes with my parents I've felt that way. I feel so strongly about being myself in this way and I feel it's positive, but "You don't agree." Even with friends, sometimes I've felt bad. And in those moments I feel the need to ask for forgiveness: 'It's not that I don't see your perspective, it's just not who I am." Sometimes I feel bad about that.

    AAJ: Man'ish Boy has a great front cover design. There are three views of the same person's head. What does it mean?

    DJ: The artist, Randal Wilcox, and I are really good friends. We're two very intellectual black young men. And we're both artists. I didn't want my image on the record but I wanted the image of who I perceive myself to be. In a lot of ways I see myself as a boy, as someone that is growing, who's in a process of developing myself. So that's why he's not a grown man. He's a "man'ish boy," on the way. It's a conceptual thing. It's bigger than life itself for me. I'm a man'ish boy, my roommate, the artist [Wilcox], he's a man'ish boy. You're probably a man'ish boy.

    I said in this one interview, when they asked me about [the title] Man'ish Boy, "What brought that on?," I said, "Well at the age of five my mother said I'd be the greatest boy alive." It's a lyric and a tune by Muddy Waters, and for me, I think I have something to give the world as an artist. I feel so strongly about that. I feel like it's my calling to make music. I feel like it's a spiritual calling and it's my destiny to do it. Man'ish Boyis basically me touching on that and creating my own universe.

    The reason why he has three heads, it goes into many different things. There's a trio, so I'm playing with three people, these two [other] people who I connect with, and then there's also a very blatant kind of racial thing there where it's talking about being black and just feeling sometimes that you have three heads. You know, when people look at you. You feel alienated. And I think I feel that way, in a lot of ways.

    So really, [what] you're just seeing [is] Man'ish Boy is basically me working with [all] that and also showing, "these are some of my concepts for playing with a pianist," how I see that world. Man'ish Boy is a peek, man. It's a peek into the universe of Darius. Basically that's Chapter One. It's not the coup de grace; we have not gotten to the depths of it at all. I love that record. It makes me happy and I'm glad to have done it with my heroes. Man'ish Boy is a foreshadowing of many things to come. If you listen to the record you hear a lot of things. You hear a core idea, a core essence, and that's really what I wanted to do. You hear the core of me. But you don't hear everything.

    AAJ:The album has a subtitle, "A Raw And Beautiful Thing." Raw is beautiful?

    DJ: There's a raw side to me and there's a beautiful side. And there's tradition. I believe in the legacy of this music. But you should play with some older musicians. I really believe that. Whether or not you choose to play changes or play free you need to be aware of [earlier music]. [You need to be] conscious of that music. You need to have a certain historical understanding. Also, my thing will always be raw, because I'm organic. Anything that's organic is raw, man. It's not pristine. Raw is nasty!

    AAJ: You obviously like Muddy Waters' music?

    DJ: Muddy Waters was a great influence. The way he played the guitar was really raw. [And] Johnny Hodges, he was not a sophisticated guy. Look at the music he chose to play outside Ellington. Ol' Dirty Bastard [a member of hip hop group Wu-Tang Clan], I think he was a genius, man. I think what Betty Carter
    Betty Carter
    Betty Carter
    1930 - 1998
    vocalist
    did was raw. Patti LaBelle is raw, Parliament and Funkadelic. And I can just keep going on. What you're looking at is R&B, rhythm and blues, man. Do I consider myself a free jazz musician? I consider myself a soul musician. I am the new soul musician. I am soul now, what I'm doing now is about soul. Raw and beautiful, rough and black. I'm talking about a lot of things. I'm talking about black music, folk music.

    AAJ: You obviously like the trio format. It's a useful format for a soloist, as it gives room for that person so he has maximum freedom.

    DJ: I've been playing trio for a very long time. Pretty much my first bands were trios, like bass and drums. They were my first jazz oriented groups. I think I've always liked guitar trios growing up, like blues trios. For me, it's really about understanding that relationship between bass and drums and the soloist. And I felt like if I could really get to a deep place with that, adding the keyboard or a chordal instrument would be easier. I feel like I would be able to understand its role and be not only able to play with it better but also be able to compose for it better and to understand its language within the rhythm section. So, when I was starting out, I wanted to really get a deep understanding of the bass role. What does a bass do, and how does that work with me? How do I and the bass work together with the drums?

    "I think I also fell in love with [the trio format] really after I heard Thomas Chapin
    Thomas Chapin
    Thomas Chapin
    1957 - 1998
    saxophone
    's Trio and how much work he put into that format. That really changed my life—him playing trio, that band, Mario Pavone
    Mario Pavone
    Mario Pavone
    b.1940
    bass
    and Michael Sarin. All those Thomas Chapin records really affected me strongly." [Thomas Chapin was a free improvising saxophonist and flutist, influenced by Peter Brotzmann
    Peter Brotzmann
    Peter Brotzmann
    b.1941
    reeds
    , amongst others].

    AAJ: Do you especially like the drums as an instrument?

    DJ: The drum for me is just so very intense. I want a drummer that can do a lot of things. Bob Moses is in many ways my perfect drummer, because he has an amazing unique sound, an approach to playing drums; he has everything else [too]. He has great time. He understands the role of the drum. He has power but he has extreme beauty and subtlety at the same time.

    Saxophone Influences

    AAJ: In a couple of places on Man'ish Boy you sound a little like Johnny Hodges, for example the beginning of "Roosevelt."

    From left: Anders Nilsson, Peter Nilsson, Darius Jones, Dave Ambrosio

    DJ: Johnny is my hero. He is my favorite saxophonist of all time. Everything about Johnny, the way he walks on stage, the way he walks up to the mike, he has this kind of "whatever" quality as he's playing. He doesn't really care. He's like, "Yeah, beautiful [stuff's] coming out of my horn but, whatever" [laughs]. I kind of like that. It's funny looking at him and hearing him play. Actually just listening to him play is some of the most beautiful—I think it's some of the most interesting playing of his time. I feel like that was the beginning of a person using extended technique. A lot of people think I'm crazy when I talk about that. I feel like he was using extended technique, really messing with the timbre of the instrument a lot, and that's something that's really important to me."

    AAJ: How did Johnny get that incredible sound, the smoothness and the bends, the glissandos?

    DJ: The way he played the horn, just from looking at [photos], he played on the very tip of the mouthpiece, which means he's looking for a lot of flexibility. He's not taking the mouthpiece really far into his mouth. So he's almost playing like a classical saxophonist is playing. He really understands the movement of air, and those bends and stuff he was doing then, which is some intense embouchure control. To really have that control over your sound, where you're able to vocalize it like that, like any note, it's a lot of embouchure control. It's something I work on all the time, really being able to get many different sounds out of one note—and really being able to bend the note upward and see how you can bend it downward, really understanding the different parameters of the note is something that I assume Johnny had to investigate on some level.

    In his vibrato, he had this really beautiful vibrato, which is a flexibility thing in the embouchure as well. I think he was a true master of the instrument. I think he understood a lot of mechanical things about the instrument. Unfortunately I haven't read any interviews where anyone has really talked to him about that.

    AAJ: One story about Johnny has it that, in a conversation, all he talked about was how hard it was to get good tomatoes in New York.

    DJ: From what I've heard about Johnny, he didn't think he was very smart. I think that had something to do with the reason why you don't hear a lot about in depth interviews. He didn't do a lot of interviews. I think he didn't see himself as a very smart person, which is crazy. He was innovative. No one sounded like that, at all. I used to have this recording of him and Charlie Parker
    Charlie Parker
    Charlie Parker
    1920 - 1955
    sax, alto
    playing together. It was the deepest thing ever. I lost it years ago—I had it on cassette when I was a kid. It was a collection of different alto players. And I really dug this thing. They just played the blues. It was amazing. It was amazing to hear that contrast, someone playing less notes and someone playing a lot more notes. And also one person just really dealing with sound, and another person dealing with harmonic movement. [The album is Jam Session (Verve, 1952), and features saxophonists Hodges, Parker, Benny Carter
    Benny Carter
    Benny Carter
    1907 - 2003
    sax, alto
    and Ben Webster
    Ben Webster
    Ben Webster
    1909 - 1973
    sax, tenor
    ].

    AAJ: Have you ever played tenor sax? A lot of people seem to go to the tenor but you're with the alto, which I actually prefer usually, for example Johnny, Charlie Parker and Julian "Cannonball" Adderley
    Julian
    Julian "Cannonball" Adderley
    1928 - 1975
    saxophone
    .

    DJ: I think I really hear the alto, man. I remember picking up a tenor saxophone and playing it for a few moments and just didn't really feel connected to it, and I have always gravitated more to alto players when I've been listening to them. I've always made the effort to hear what they're doing more than I've done with tenor players. I like to hear a tenor player too, but I think the alto just fits me. I love that voice range vocally. I think a woman's alto voice is absolutely the [stuff]. It doesn't get any better than that for me. That's my shit, man. Give me that all day long. Just a woman singing alto.

    AAJ: Which tenor players do you listen to?

    DJ: I love Sonny Rollins
    Sonny Rollins
    Sonny Rollins
    b.1930
    saxophone
    , I love Dexter Gordon
    Dexter Gordon
    Dexter Gordon
    1923 - 1990
    sax, tenor
    a lot. I think Dexter is amazing. Older cats, Lester Young
    Lester Young
    Lester Young
    1909 - 1959
    saxophone
    , Sam Rivers
    Sam Rivers
    Sam Rivers
    1923 - 2011
    sax, tenor
    . I love Wayne Shorter
    Wayne Shorter
    Wayne Shorter
    b.1933
    saxophone
    because of his compositional mind. I think cats now, I'm really picky about tenor players. The cats that I really dig right now are Marc Schoen, Chris Speed
    Chris Speed
    Chris Speed

    saxophone
    , Tony Malaby
    Tony Malaby
    Tony Malaby

    sax, tenor
    , Ellery Eskelin
    Ellery Eskelin
    Ellery Eskelin
    b.1959
    saxophone
    . It's not a lot. It's a small amount of tenor players. Bill McHenry
    Bill McHenry
    Bill McHenry

    saxophone
    , I love his concept, the way he's playing tenor. I think with tenor players I'm looking for a concept. David S. Ware
    David S. Ware
    David S. Ware
    1949 - 2012
    sax, tenor
    . I'm kind of hard on tenor players 'cause there are so many of them. They're like cockroaches!

    AAJ: How are you influenced by Charlie Parker?

    DJ: Charlie had an intense knowledge. [He] was really into the blues. I've pretty much listened to all the great alto players a lot. Charlie was one of the first, him and Johnny Hodges were probably [the two] when I was young, when I was growing up. Probably the first ones that I heard. And Charlie, what I liked about Charlie is that he played in this flowing manner, his playing was very flowing. It just flowed from one thing to the next. I heard his music very much like classical music but with this sort of raw quality to it. And little inflections that he would put into his music like that little chicken thing that he would do... 'dit a dit,' and stuff like that. I was young so I didn't know who he was, but I just liked it. I felt like he was very lyrical, [that he] understood how to be free but still be inside of the context that he was playing in.

    AAJ: He was a composer. I had this conversation with someone once, and we were saying that he was not really a"saxophonist; he was a composer. It was like listening to classical music. The saxophone was just the instrument by which he played his compositions to the world, how he educated people about how to use the higher notes in the chord in a tune, what could be done with them. What have you taken specifically from his playing?

    DJ: I think I've taken from Parker what everyone has taken from him, just [his] brilliance, and long lines. He played long lines, he played just lines that went on for a while sometimes. Just these huge lines. I remember just digging that and trying to do that all the time, just play these very notey clusters of notes, these long phrases, just really long extended phrases [that] Parker would do. And moments where he would do a flurry of notes to move the music forward, to always have this momentum. It makes me think about the contrast between him and Johnny Hodges, because Hodges' thing, it wasn't about getting to the end, it was about keeping you suspended.

    Also I like how, if you took the chords out of Charlie Parker's playing and just looked at the lines without any of the chords, it would be just out! It just would be all this chromaticism. It would be so out, actually. It just fascinated me. Someday I'll probably do something with that concept, just taking his stuff out of the chords and putting something else under it.

    I love live Charlie. I have this recording of him live with a big band. He's the soloist and he just sounds so free. He totally would have gone to the avant-garde thing. I think he was the greatest improviser, and I think he would have gone beyond changes at some point. If you hear what he's playing, he's actually trying to get away from them. He's trying to figure how he can be as free as possible in that context, and I think he would have just got further and further from that.

    There's so much about him. I was just thinking about him with my concept [of rawness, of organic-ness], [and] he for me represents a lot of just... raw possibilities. I think he changed everything. As a jazz musician he was so himself all the time. I think that was new. There were so few players like that. I think they were more bandleaders, like Duke and people like that who just had a strong personality, but I think Charlie was a player who had this persona just as a player. He didn't really write a lot of tunes. You were listening to him just as improvisor. And it's scary. You realize how connected improvisation is to composition and how this guy was really so exploring that on such a high level. He was so ahead of himself.

    AAJ: There is a book published in the '60s (Ira Gitler's excellent Jazz Masters Of The Forties) which has a quote that says that if Parker were alive today (in the the '60s) he would think he was living in a "room full of mirrors." He would hear everything he wrote coming back at him, and this certainly continued in the '70s, for example the "Sesame Street" theme. It sounds just like Charlie. I saw there are photos of you wearing a jacket in a Hodges-like pose. Charlie's suits were usually more crumpled!

    DJ: I think I'm more like a cross between Johnny Hodges and Charlie Parker in some ways—my suit coat is usually crumpled too!

    AAJ: What about the next step in style after Charlie, Cannonball Adderley?

    DJ: OK, here we go. So this is the deal. I was into Hodges and I was a real serious Hodges fan. Charlie, I studied him, but damn man, I got into this serious phase of being into Cannonball. And the thing about him was he had a sound thing too. One of the things I love to point out about him was that you started hearing these top notes on his horn and he never really hit them. He kind of just screamed them out. On a tune like "Arriving Soon," he would just be like [imitates a semi-screeching sound]. It'd be in the chord, but the sound would be so completely not there. He's kind of not really hitting the note. And his feel, he would throw these phrases out that were sometimes odd. I mean, you'd be like "Is he going to be able to make that work?" and it would work—it would just work rhythmically a lot of times.

    And he had a really fascinating harmonic concept. I think he took a lot of chances and heard things [that were] out, a little bit obscured somewhat. He wasn't into harmony on some sort of crazy level, but I think his thing was really about rhythm and timing and feel. The way he played eighth note passages and the way he could bounce. He would get into these rhythmic things but that was very new too, playing just rhythm, like 'dit dit... dit... dit... dit... dit dit... dit... dit... dit dit... dit... dit dit... dit.' He would do that in a solo and I think that that was something new for an alto player. You don't hear that tremendously.

    If you listen to Kind Of Blue (Columbia, 1959), he gets into this thing where—I think it's on "All Blues"—he just starts doing this rhythmic thing and towards the end it just starts to become super rhythmic and it's playing around with these rhythms, with this rhythmic little motif, and I think that's really fascinating.

    And it's really blues orientated—his playing was still very blues oriented. I think I was very attracted to people that could really play the blues and he was one of them. He would really have that quality, and [he would] be able to dash into a line out of the blues vocal thing, and then do all these rhythmic lines. Even his more complicated lines were very rhythmic. He was trying to get to all these "rhythmicy" things. I think where you can really hear it, where he starts to get into that thing really hard, is on the very end of the secondary chorus, he starts to get into that quality [demonstrates vocally]. It's not like Charlie at all. Comparing these two cats is just wrong.

    Bird's thing was really inside. He was really rhythmically in the pocket all the time. He wasn't really—just checking out his transcriptions and listening to him—he wasn't really taking a lot rhythmic chances like Cannonball did. [Cannonball] was so rhythmically off kilter, wonky. He was unpredictable. His playing was super unpredictable. And that's exciting, to not know what's going to happen at all. I think there was a more refined quality to Charlie's playing versus Cannonball's. Cannonball has this, it's just getting raw.

    Growing Up In The South

    AAJ: Did you grow up in Virginia?

    DJ: I grew up in Virginia, pretty much. I went to Mississippi every summer because my great grandmother was there. And that was really out actually, because almost every summer I would get bit or stung or something would happen to me [laughs]. And that was country. I'm talking dirt roads, family. The grandmother lived on the top of the hill, and all her children, like some plantation style or vibe, lived at the bottom. All her children, and then their children. So it was very like some traditional Southern thing. And then we would go to North Carolina too, where my father's mother lives. My father's half is Jamaican. So I spent time there, I spent time in Jamaica. That's pretty much my growing up experience.

    From Bacteria to Boys, from left: Darius Jones, Mike Pride, Evan Lipson

    AAJ: Do you like reggae?

    DJ: I love it. I think a lot of those things influenced me. I grew up hearing, as a child, gospel music and reggae music all the time [laughs]. I don't know what happens to you when that happens to you but I think it's pretty intense. My parents weren't strict about that stuff. They really let me be open and check out a lot of different music. I really love reggae. I love vocal music. The vocal thing is a huge part of what I'm trying to do on my horn. Really getting to this distinct vocal quality is important to me. So growing up hearing reggae music and the sound of reggae singers, man. I mean, whoo! And in the spiritual context, a lot of guys in Jamaica, even though they really smoked a lot of ganja and stuff like that, they were so spiritual about it. The music was about getting high in a spiritual way as well. They wanted to touch God in a way. It was really important to them.

    AAJ: How did you get into jazz?

    DJ: My uncle played the saxophone and I spent a lot of time outside his bedroom just listening. He didn't really listen to jazz per se. His favorite saxophonist was Grover Washington, Jr.
    Grover Washington, Jr.
    Grover Washington, Jr.
    1943 - 1999
    saxophone
    . He would listen to him, and he would put on some David Sanborn
    David Sanborn
    David Sanborn
    b.1945
    saxophone
    , early Spyro Gyra
    Spyro Gyra
    Spyro Gyra

    band/orchestra
    . He put on some Parliament, some Funkadelic, some George Clinton , so I would hear Maceo Parker
    Maceo Parker
    Maceo Parker
    b.1943
    saxophone
    , and stuff like that. It's really eclectic. So really the saxophone was the draw. It was like, "OK, I'm going to play the saxophone." And then it was just seeking out other saxophone players. So it was, "OK, who plays the saxophone? Oh, these guys who are called jazz musicians." 'Cause nobody in my family knew anything about jazz. I'm still alone out here. They still don't, They couldn't tell you anything at all.

    So I went to the library, and I would get records and I would start just listening to people who played the instrument. And then we had this really great radio station, a college station, coming out of Norfolk State University campus. And I would listen to that. That's pretty much how it began. And it was very organic. Like I say, I believe in that process of organic movement, of letting things just become what they're gonna become, not forcing it to become anything but allowing it to progress the way it will progress, and that's what I would do. I was very curious; I would always be seeking out new things. If someone played something and I really dug it, I dug it. That meant that I would spend a lot of time with it, and try and figure it out and listen to it twenty four seven, until I could not stand hearing it again.

    So that's pretty much my jazz beginnings. It started like that. Of course, [it was also] by meeting certain people, like going to Norfolk State, meeting Tim Zachery [Professor of Music at Norfolk State], who's this great trumpet player [who] was associated with the Marsalises. I don't know how he knew them, but he was from New Orleans. I think he may have studied with Ellis Marsalis
    Ellis Marsalis
    Ellis Marsalis
    b.1934
    piano
    , or something like that, and he basically took me under his wing and exposed me to a lot of music. And that was deep. He was a huge transitional force for me. And that was organic, man. I met a person and he exposed me to [stuff]. It doesn't get any more natural than that.

    AAJ: Then you went to Richmond, to the Virginia Commonwealth University, and played in a group called the Klimt Experience [named after the painter Gustav Klimt].

    DJ: Klimt Experience was a multimedia thing I was doing when I was there, with painters, musicians, writers, dancers. All of us would do these shows. I had live body painting one time. It was a great experience. That was something that was very organic. I was just playing free. People started gravitating toward it. I think Richmond needed that. It's a pretty artsy town. When I describe my experience in Richmond, I say I tried everything that you could possibly imagine, that a person could do musically. There was no limit. I was completely and utterly open to everything. I transferred from Norfolk State to Virginia Commonwealth University, which is in Richmond, and I was there for six years. I got my bachelor degree there.

    You see, even though I was at school, I always believed that the music that I was making came from the street. I never felt jazz was academic. I don't feel it should [be] a cerebral music. I had several bands. I had a trio which was named Cud. I had a quartet with trumpet, alto, bass and drums. That was called Little Brown Boy, and we did basically nursery rhyme music. We did tunes that were based off of nursery rhymes. I believe in folk music and I'm very fascinated by folk music in general. Really, nursery rhymes and things like that are nothing but folk music.

    Then I spent a long time with this electro-acoustic duo with Marty McCavitt, called Birds in a Meadow. It was just laptop and saxophone, and I did that for a long time. That truly was a huge influence on me, in the sense of really making things super organic. Dealing with electronics, you understand how electronics [are] an event-based system of improvisation. So basically, if you were to compare it to an instrument, I could hit a C but if he wants to hit C, C is a bigger world than just one thing. C could be four or three things going at once. C to electronics is "bah wah wah wah wah," rather than just [sings one note]. It's never a single thing. It can't reduce itself to [a single note], 'cause you're dealing with electricity. Electricity is more than just one thing.

    Marty McCavitt was a genius. The duos that we got into, our improvisations, were literally humanistic. We were improvising like one mind. That was deep man. I have some recordings that are mind boggling. People can't understand how we are functioning as such a tight unit, interweaving, I'm going inside of him, he's going inside of what I'm doing. It's amazing. I was doing that for three years, before I moved to New York. We spent lot of time developing that project. It was very serious for me, to figure out how to connect, and create an organic experience with the electronics. Vijay Iyer
    Vijay Iyer
    Vijay Iyer
    b.1971
    piano
    heard this duo and he flipped out. There's one live recording we have. You would flip out if you heard it. I remember the evening when we did it. It was the deepest spiritual experience that I've ever had.

    AAJ: Is it likely to be released?

    DJ: If I was going to release it, I'd like to tour with it. It's some of the deepest interconnecting in that electro-acoustic world, because I don't use any effects and he just used the laptop and we were getting into such a heavy vibe. He's much older than me. I think at the time he was in his late 50s. I've always had this thing about working with older dudes.

    AAJ: Then you came to New York?

    DJ: When I came to New York I hit the ground running. Maybe within a year it was the first sessions with Little Women. I started playing trio with [the] bassist Shayna Dulberger
    Shayna Dulberger
    Shayna Dulberger
    b.1983
    bass, acoustic
    . A lot of things started unfolding. As far as doing my own stuff, I didn't feel ready until maybe about two years ago [to say], "OK let's deal with some Darius [stuff]." It's such a big place and there's so much music. I was trying to center myself.

    Categorizing Music

    AAJ: Avant-garde is not necessarily "free." Avant-garde can mean just inventive and new, a new direction, like Stravinsky was when he was new. It's "before" ("avant") everyone else. But "free" is basically completely free playing from "1, 2, 3, start." Would you describe yourself as a free player at all?



    DJ: I struggle with what that word means. Would you consider Roscoe Mitchell
    Roscoe Mitchell
    Roscoe Mitchell
    b.1940
    reeds
    free, would you consider Thelonious Monk free? I've listened to everybody. I've listened to Ornette Coleman
    Ornette Coleman
    Ornette Coleman
    b.1930
    sax, alto
    , I've listened to James Spalding. I've listened to a lot of dudes. Ornette for me is taking the music back to the root of creativity. He's just saying "Be creative, be you." [That's] how I see his music. When he called his records "free jazz" I think he was really saying, "I think of it as a verb not an adjective." You know, like "free jazz; free it from its constraints so we can do some other [stuff]."

    Here's another thing, is Eric Dolphy
    Eric Dolphy
    Eric Dolphy
    1928 - 1964
    reeds
    free? I've studied with this pianist who was on this Booker Little
    Booker Little
    Booker Little
    1938 - 1961
    trumpet
    record. I took a few lessons from him, and we were talking about Eric Dolphy, and he was like "Man, Eric would play over the [key], he would not play the changes. He would play something other than what the changes were. He would play at the changes." If the concept of free is about not playing changes [relative to] playing tonal [and] inside of harmony, then I would have to say I exist somewhere in the middle of all that. I do not consider myself a "free" jazz musician at all, because there's too much structure in almost everything that I do.

    [Cooper-Moore and Moses], are they free, or avant-garde? It's hard to know. If you were to sit down to talk to either one of them they would, I don't know what they would say, but they both encouraged me to be the best musical person I possibly can be, which is not ignoring melody, harmony, rhythm, time, all those things. I talk with Matthew Shipp
    Matthew Shipp
    Matthew Shipp
    b.1960
    piano
    a lot. Is Matthew Shipp a "free" player? I consider myself to be more "avant-garde" in the classical sense of that word. [That] is what I am. Because I can't say that I want to be playing straight-ahead because that's not what I want to do. I don't feel that compulsion to play so like my heroes. I feel the need to be me... insanely [Laughs]. It's like an insane desire to be like myself. I don't want to be like Ornette Coleman.

    AAJ: Yes, he's already been done. There's already one of him. People following him need to be themselves.

    DJ: Matthew Shipp came up to me one time. He heard me play and he said "Man, I don't hear any Ornette in what you're playing." But I'm not really thinking about that. I'm not thinking, "Woa, today I need to pull out my Ornette Coleman chops or my Cannonball chops, or my this, that or [the] other." I'm like, "Today we have to play in the context of this music, whether it has changes or whether it doesn't." That's how I operate. I don't feel that you have to prove anything in music. I think when horn players and piano players and everybody get on the stage where you have to prove all this stuff. It's like, that's crazy. Just play music. It's just about music. Whatever touches you is what touches you.

    I feel, [that] for a musician like myself, it's [as if] I only get two categories to go in. I've got to be either a Steve Coleman
    Steve Coleman
    Steve Coleman
    b.1956
    saxophone
    , Greg Osby
    Greg Osby
    Greg Osby
    b.1960
    saxophone
    -esque cat, in that world of just the black hierarchy of jazz improvisation, or I'm gonna be, like, free and just [be like] Albert Ayler
    Albert Ayler
    Albert Ayler
    1936 - 1970
    sax, tenor
    , Ornette Coleman, the sky's the limit; Julius Hemphill
    Julius Hemphill
    Julius Hemphill
    1938 - 1995
    sax, alto
    , you know, just [an] out kind of guy. And I think what I'm trying to say is, "I've got something else for you. There's a third category in there, and it's me. And I'm about to show you what it is."

    I don't really fit into any of those worlds completely, I just don't. I remember spending a summer just studying Steve Coleman's music and working on some of his concepts, and at the end of the summer I had a headache. I had an intense headache and I realized that I would never want to play that structured, where it's like, I'm so so cerebral. I need the organic process, or [an organic] part of it. [That] is a huge thing that is important to me. That's no dig on Steve Coleman or anyone else. That's just my process. The organic process is important to me. That means that time is important to me, that means that melody is important to me, that means that harmony is important to me.

    [Duke Ellington], he didn't go to school. He did what sounded good, and that's how we got Duke Ellington. As I said, I feel like for a young black creative musician there are only two worlds that you can go into. I refuse to work along those lines. I want to be free. I want to create a universe that's my universe. That is, the universe of me, and right now that's Man'ish Boy. Man'ish Boy, that person that you're seeing, he's a character, he's a person from a different planet, he's from outer space. He's not of this world, but he's coming to this world. And that's definitely going to influence things, that's gonna affect the outcome of certain events. With an alien being in a certain environment, that's gonna affect you. Especially if people are listening, I think that's the greatest thing. You know, listen to the music—I might not be the prettiest dude but it doesn't matter. It's all about the music. Listen to the music. I'm letting the music speak for myself; I'm letting the music talk for myself. In interviews you're just getting the insider perspective basically, the special features [laughs].

    AAJ: There was a review of the Man'ish Boy album that described you as "a part of the New York underground." Do you think you are part of "the underground'"?

    DJ: I'm glad you noticed that. When he said that, [it was] a great glowing review, but it's almost like a slap in the face when he said "underground." I was like, "Whoa!" It's funny, for weeks I asked my friends, "What is the underground? Who is in the jazz underground? Who is considered the underground of jazz music, and do I want to be part of that?" I don't know who the underground is. Obviously he has some intense ideas about who that is and the people who belong in that category, which is fine, but I was personally just a little taken aback by the whole thing. "The underground," I guess that's the people who don't paid! If that's who they are, man, I need to get a day job.

    Do you consider Vijay Iyer mainstream, Chopin, Ligeti? He's [Iyer] coming from all kinds of different ideas. Maybe the people are not familiar with where it comes from. You can look at it and say this is different, that is different, but come on; we're talking about apples and oranges here. If you listen to David S. Ware and you listen to John Coltrane, are you saying that David S. Ware can't play his instrument? He just chooses to go on a different path. Some Duke Ellington. It's so original that it's avant-garde. It's so him, it's so Duke. I don't subscribe myself to any of what I would almost say [are] unhip terms, [or] unhip categorizations of sound. Sound is free and my role is to be free, and when I say "free," my desire is to be free to organize it in any way that I see fit. That is my goal.

    That may be pleasing to you sometimes, and it may not be pleasing to you sometimes. I play in a lot of bands. Some of the stuff is super mainstream. I play in this one band, it could almost be considered folk music, folk jazz or something like that, where we're playing the prettiest [stuff] you could ever imagine. And then I'm in Little Women. And then you can listen to my record [Man'ish Boy]. It's like a soul record. Or I play with William Hooker
    William Hooker
    William Hooker
    b.1946
    drums
    , or something like that. Really? You hear me do "Teen Spirit." I wrote that. I can't write that if I'm so out; it's crazy. I always believe this: in The Bible it talks about in the beginning there is chaos. And I think chaos is only chaos when you don't understand. And when you do, when you can actually hear something, or when you can understand something, it's no longer chaos. It's no longer weird; it's no longer something that makes you question everything on Earth.

    I used to tell people, "Really, if you think about it, Jesus Christ was normal. That's normal. All those other cats weren't normal, but he's considered the anomaly." If we were to check out what's mainstream or normal in every day society in the aspect of people—that would be some sad [stuff].

    AAJ: The point is that music is either good or it's the other thing, as the quote attributed to Ellington says. It's all one thing. For example, do you listen to classical music?

    DJ: There's this Mozart wind ensemble [that] really influenced me in a compositional sense, of creating counterpoint where you have this one thing happening above. And then you have this middle ground and then you have the bottom. Mozart was just fascinating me how he would structure and orchestrate, where he would have the counterpoint and have certain instruments come in, and I felt like his music was almost like pop music. It had a pop essence to it, and I really love that. I really love that about him and I love that in general, when I can hear this general [music that is] super connected to regular life. I don't feel like his music was that disconnected from the human condition. Maybe it was just the time that he lived in.

    AAJ: You can hear some recent popular music in Mozart. For example, some of "A Groovy Kind Of Love" is in one of his early Salzburg Symphonies, and the main theme from the hit "Oxygene" [by Jean Michel Jarre] is there, in a different tempo, in a single movement for piano and orchestra, [It is K 302 in the catalog of his works, a standalone piano and orchestra rondo originally written for a piano concerto]. There's even something by Luis Bonfa, the famous thing he wrote ("Manha de Carnival") that has the same opening notes as something by Mozart.

    DJ: Great composers didn't shy away from simplicity. Simplicity is in the greatest music. Even someone as out as Ligeti. It's just there. No one really asks about the process of making the music. There is a string that connects that is one. The string is that, I believe you compose something, but when you play something it can be different, it can be changed. The greatest classical musicians are able to lift the music off the page and it becomes them. They are going to manipulate that music to fit themselves, who they are. So for me, it's about how things are played, what your inflections are.

    What would you get if you combined Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn
    Billy Strayhorn
    Billy Strayhorn
    1915 - 1967
    piano
    and Johnny Hodges all into one being? I think about that a lot. A weird hybrid, the whole Ellingtonian world. I think about that.

    AAJ: Are you trying to write that combination?!

    DJ: Yeah but, of course, there are more influences than that. When I look at the whole Ellingtonian world, [how it flows] into one being, and the spiritual aspect of it, [that] is very important to me. Religion, that's something else. But spirituality has been at the forefront of my desire to play this music from the whole inception. I think it is important that music has the healing force [or] power, that music can touch you, that you can feel it. [It's] not just licks or notes or sound, that it's literally alive and it's touching you. That's what spirituality is. [It's as if] someone stands up and speaks before you, and you feel compelled to change your life.

    I feel like cerebral [players] are thinking more than they're playing. That's why I consider myself a soul musician; I'm going to surrender to that rather than my mind, to the soul rather than the mind.

    I'm sure you've heard the story where Charlie Parker was getting a blowjob. To be honest with you that's what I want to bring back to music. You gotta live it. You gotta live what you play. That's what I want to bring back to music. I've lived my music. I don't [make] music from the standpoint of "Oh this is cool, watch me play in 7/4 and then switch to 7/8." I don't care about that [stuff]. It's got to come from the heart. Do I work on rudimentary things? Of course, but I do that in the practice room.

    I need to feel that organic process so deeply and to live the music, live it, live that music. And hearing that story, man that guy was living it. He was really on a whole other vibe. But you see, Miles was young at that time and Miles didn't get the importance of being out. For Bird it manifested in that way. He didn't give a fuck: [it was] "Get out of the car if you don't want to be a part of that." In a lot of ways Miles ended up living it; he was no better. I've heard the same about Ornette Coleman. He's out of it. Do you think Ornette cares? Greatness is greatness. It's like you were following it and it took you to some place, and [the past] doesn't fit you anymore. At some point you should graduate, and at some point Miles started hearing his own music.

    I don't think you should be categorized in any aspect, but I know that categorization is good because it helps people who want to buy your [stuff], or get into you. I'm basically starting my career here. You heard Man'ish Boy, which is a very small aspect of who I am. It is me, definitely, but then I do bands like Little Women which is totally something else. I wouldn't even consider that jazz music, on a lot of levels, 'cause it's very composed. There's a lot of composition that goes into what we're playing there. It's very strategized. Then I play with progressive cats like Mara Rosenblum. My quartet record that I'm working on [the next installment in the Man'ish Boy series], all of these tunes have changes and forms that are strict. I think we live in a time where you need to be able to just play. I don't

    Little Women

    AAJ: Noise band Little Women are a pretty amazing band. Throat(AUM Fidelity, 2010) is fantastic, and has a lot of variety too—it's not all blast and extreme sounds. People might think that the music is far removed from an acoustic jazz group like the trio on Man'ish Boy. For example, when you played at the Saalfelden Festival in Austria in 2008, a magazine described the band as providing a "first hand [idea of] what terror can mean"! How did that scene happen?



    DJ: Little Women is, for me, taking that experience [of playing with Marty McCavitt in Richmond] and manifesting that in a more acoustic situation, but trying to organize it, organizing chaos. How that came about [was] playing with different guys and we had a similar aesthetic: we felt jazz music was lacking something, and we felt what it was lacking was balls. With Little Women, what we are dealing with is four really uniquely individualistic people coming together in a band. Say, for instance, you've got a band of four really innovative people, and they [are] into the idea of being a band. That's going to sound like some really interesting [stuff]. It's not going to sound like everyday ordinary stuff. And that's really what you're getting with Little Women.

    There are no rules to that music. The only rule is we will not use effects. So the guitarist can't plug into an effects pedal at all. All he can use is his guitar. The drummer, Jason, on Little Women gigs he uses nothing but sticks. We're minimalizing, we're making everything smaller so that we can get the most out of it.

    AAJ: That could be going back to the early days of sticks and stones!

    DJ: Yeah man, some caveman-like shit [laughs].

    AAJ: Is the music all composed?

    DJ: Little Women's music is highly compositional. It's very structured. That music is highly structured. I don't think we play tunes in that band, we play pieces of music. We're dealing with almost a kind of classical thing, you know, pieces instead of tunes. Little Women works in the suite format. We create suites. A suite is basically a grouping of pieces together to form a vision of one piece. So the record that we released before was called Teeth (Sockets and Gilgongo Records, 2008) and every tune is called "Teeth 1," "Teeth 2," [and so on]. You're hearing just different parts of the suite. And the record that came out in April is called , and basically you're just hearing different parts of Throat.

    AAJ: Does the new album see any change is approach to the first one, for example a broadening of sonics?

    DJ: In the saxophones we dealt with multiphonics a lot, so that's something that's different [to] the last one. And we're dealing with different aspects of form too, how things begin, end, the ups and downs, the momentum, dealing with different aspects of approaches to improvisation. There is a lot more guided improv, rather than straight going from nothing—we're using certain techniques and improvising within the scheme of those techniques. Also, there's a lot of duo playing, so you hear more improvisation like that on this record. The thing about Little Women is the beginning and the end is always the same but it is re-arranged. So [it's] just like [how] Duke Ellington every night came and played "'A' Train" but it would be slightly different. He would arrange it differently each night, [though] we don't arrange it differently each night. We just play it as hard as we possibly can, and see what happens. And then, you know how people in jazz have an ending tune, to tell people "Hey, it's over"? We have that too, which is basically us screaming and doing things, getting onto our knees and screaming into our horns. We are making that into a whole thing.

    AAJ: This is getting into the area of performance art. Bern Nix
    Bern Nix
    Bern Nix

    guitar
    said to me it was performance art.

    DJ: I was in Paris playing with Cooper-Moore, and William Parker
    William Parker
    William Parker
    b.1952
    bass, acoustic
    was there and he [said] "You can develop anything. It's possible to develop anything you want to develop." He said, "If you wanted to develop a whole thing with just picking up and dropping a fork, you could." And essentially what Little Women is saying when we get to that point, when we're on our knees and screaming out and stuff like that, what we're really trying to say is, "None of it really matters. At the end of the day nothing really matters. Us playing all this technically hard [stuff] that you probably can't even comprehend doesn't mean anything. It has no meaning." At the end of the day it's all about primitiveness. That's what people respond to.

    It's funny, Weasel Walter
    Weasel Walter
    Weasel Walter
    b.1972
    drums
    said to me once—he was at a show—he said, "Really, what you guys did [vocally] at the end was what you did in the set with your instruments. You just did it vocally." People responded to it so intensely when we were doing it vocally. That tells me something. It tells me people feel that connection to the organic process. The organic process. I think the only reason we're even remotely interested in intellectualism is because of ego. I really believe that. The human being is so afraid and intelligence and awareness helps us not to feel fear. If we were all big and strong and mighty powerful beings, we'd probably be a lot dumber. The only thing we would really fear would be someone with a mind. It fascinates me that awareness and intellect is something that we all fear, and that's why it's attractive to us. But at the heart of all man is organic-ness, it's primitiveness, because it's part of all of us. We all fuck, man. We all have sex. And that's some raw [stuff]. I mean, if you've ever seen a baby born, that's some serious stuff.

    AAJ: How do you allocate the saxophone parts. Does one play fifths, or thirds, or what?

    DJ: What me and Travis Leplante do in Little Women is basically, our concept is to become one horn. That's what we're doing. We're not really trying to be separate. We're trying to be one thing. [That] is the goal. And blending those two things together, since he has a lower instrument than me, he's going to operate on a different frequency versus what I operate on. The thing is, there's a point in both frequencies when we are combined. And [you have] also the different techniques... utilized on a horn. Something on his horn may pop out more than something on my horn. So our goal as a group is to create this situation where you're hearing something that you've never heard before. You can't really go, "Is that a saxophone, or is that this or is that that?" You don't know who's who. The goal is, "Is that him, or... who is that?"

    AAJ: In a sense, Little Women are more like a rock band than a jazz group. Is it easier to tour with Little Women?

    DJ: Little Women is a different band. It operates on a different principle. We will show up and play if you want us. That's the concept for that band. I don't really have a concept for my trios. It's very different. Little Women is like a rock band. It doesn't operate like a jazz group. It operates like a rock group would. We're all a collective force. I'm the leader of the Darius Jones Trio. I'm not the leader; no one is the leader, of Little Women.

    AAJ: Is the label "noise jazz" appropriate for the band, or is there another phrase that you would use?

    DJ: When people ask me "What do you call this?" My only response is, calling it "noise jazz" is an accurate depiction, and the reason I like that depiction is because I feel that noise music is valid. I feel that people should check out more noise bands, like Lightning Bolt, and Color. There are just a ton of these bands. It's amazing; it's some of the deepest music I've ever heard.

    AAJ: Some people may wonder how a Hodges devotee, a serious fan of the performer of a track like "Daydream," could also play in a noise band.

    DJ: I think it's something I've always heard. I don't think it's new. It's something that I heard in my head. Noise is really just dealing with sound, purely, without the context of Western harmony or any of that stuff. It's dealing with the aspect of combining sounds and soundscapes and stuff. Getting into [John] Cage got me deeper into that, looking at music from that perspective and really wanting to combine things that may seem un-combinable. Or to combine things that are usually combined but looking at them from a different standpoint. So I think it was a natural progression for me, especially dealing with the voice and my concept of organic-ness. I mean, dude, I walk outside, I hear sounds, and a lot of times people think that's noise, but I don't think it's noise, I think it's music.

    Sometimes I find myself getting caught up in sounds in the weirdest ways. I become super silent, [and listen to] people talking and how the rhythms of the way they talk are. And the accents, the inflections that exist in the way they talk.

    Continuing Compositions

    AAJ: You were awarded the Van Lier Fellowship award by Roulette. [Roulette is a Manhattan arts venue that supports and presents contemporary music and intermedia art]. So you had three nights in March when you were able to present your working trio and also other music that you have written.



    DJ: That was an award they gave out last year and I won it, and basically you get ten grand and you put on a concert of your music at Roulette. Us musicians who are up and coming, we need help, man. It's hard out here. It's not easy doing this, and there's very little support. I feel really blessed and lucky to even be able to get my music heard right now.

    AAJ: The working trio played a gig at the Tea Lounge in Park Slope, Brooklyn. It's a good venue, but also a risky one in a way, because it's so open. You really have to fill that room up with sound! How did that go?

    DJ: We were smoking. Cats were floored. So many people were way into that music, and that book of music [the book for the working trio, to be recorded in 2011]. I was really happy with the response. I've been trying to really finish the book. I believe in writing a book of tunes, getting a group of tunes together for a band and I feel once I do this record with my trio, the working trio... the Man'ish Boy thing is very conceptual, it's pinpointing—all the music falls into this one category. The working band is different. The music is not, "Oh, this is Southern blues-based music." It's all over the map. It's more tune based. It's kind of hard to explain. I feel it fits that group so well, it's like a glove. In that band we do an arrangement of "A Train," based on the arrangement you hear on the MySpace thing, but we've developed it a lot more, you know. It's just been played a lot more. It's more raw and freaky.

    AAJ: You wrote music for a group called the Elizabeth-Caroline Unit, with singers Fay Victor
    Fay Victor
    Fay Victor

    vocalist
    and Sarah Dyson.

    DJ: I wrote a piece for [Fay], that she sang, [and] she sang one of my older vocal pieces, and a new one that I wrote specifically for her. The piece I wrote for Fay was a piece of music. It's like an art song or something like that. It's running along those lines. I've done some more classical orientated pieces for this other singer Sarah Dyson. My jazz classical chamber ensemble stuff goes under [that] name, the Elizabeth Caroline Unit, and that's usually what you're going to see when you came out to see that band. You're going to see me focusing on music for voice and composition, with a chamber ensemble. It doesn't have to necessarily follow in the classical tradition, but it's a more composed side of who I am. Usually I'm not playing—I'm just being a composer.

    AAJ: What is the instrumentation that you have written for them?

    DJ: It's a variety of things. It's based on the instrumentation that's needed, so it changes. Lately I've been focusing on violin, bass, guitar, trombone, drums and operatic voice. The tune I wrote for Fay was voice and three horns. And then sometimes I'll do things with piano and voice, or bass, cello, voice.

    AAJ: You've also played with former Ornette Coleman guitarist Bern Nix, amongst other musicians. I heard that he likes Little Women a lot.

    DJ: Bern's way into Little Women. What he's doing on guitar is so heavy, it's really interesting. I haven't been fortunate enough to be able to have the time to go and sit with him and investigate that more and see what he's doing harmonically, but I did a gig with him and Lola Danza and [violist] Mat Maneri
    Mat Maneri
    Mat Maneri
    b.1969
    viola
    and I have to tell you that was the hardest gig I've ever played in my life. Those guys were switching timbre and tone and keys so much that I felt like I was never on solid ground. It was just like, there is no Earth [laughs], there is only sky!

    AAJ:Your MySpace site has a version of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit," arranged for [South Korean singer] Sunny Kim, and the version of "Take The 'A' Train

    DJ: I listen to rock, I listen to a lot of indie rock, and I listen to noise bands. I listen to a lot of music, and It's because I'm down, like I told you, I'm really into music. It's really about music. The "Teen Spirit" thing came about because I just saw a movie about Kurt Cobain, and, you know, he fascinates me as a person, and just the tune itself, I found it really interesting that tune, and I was checking out different versions of the tune. I realized a lot of people did a cover on it. I was like, "Let me do a cover of it, see what I can do with it." And I had this producing session coming up where I was writing for this bossa nova singer. I [thought], "Let's see what a bossa nova singer can do with a grunge tune?" And that's what you got right there.

    New Albums

    AAJ: What's your next release going to be?

    DJ: Right now, I am going to come out with a duo record, but with piano, with Matthew Shipp, actually. [The album was recorded in October, 2010 and is scheduled to be released in 2011.]

    AAJ: What about the trio on Man'ish Boy, or the working trio?

    DJ: The next trio record you're going to hear from me is the one with Jason and Adam. As for another album with Bob Moses and Cooper-Moore, right now I'm just trying to get that band to tour, trying to get us on the road. It's so difficult—I'm a "quote unquote" "up-and-coming" artist and I'm looking for an agent to get that off the ground and get some European touring going on. It's funny, there are people who are interested, there are a lot of people who are interested, it's just [that] I need an agent to get that stuff really hopping, the way I need it to go down. AUM Fidelity has been working on a West Coast tour with the trio with Bob Moses and Cooper-Moore. I want a lot for that group. I feel that group—that's some legendary [stuff]. You're never going to see something like that again, some younger musician playing with those really pioneering musicians. For me it's a legend thing. It's my dream.

    AAJ: Have you settled on any of the personnel for the next album in the Man'ish Boy series, [as it won't be Cooper-Moore and Bob Moses). It's an exciting project. For example, are you going to have Jason Nazary on drums?

    DJ: Jason Nazary is very similar to Bob Moses in a lot of ways. But for this group I feel I don't want to interrupt what I feel is happening with Jason's development right now. He's definitely developing a concept and I don't want to compromise that, because it works really well with the trio. I'm thinking of using some wild card that no one has ever heard before. Do a Miles Davis and bring out some cat that no one has ever heard of. [I like to] work with cats that really connect well with me. The organic process, man.

    Selected Discography

    Little Women, Throat (AUM Fidelity, 2010)

    Mike Pride/From Bacteria for Boys, Betweenwhile (AUM Fidelity, 2010)

    Darius Jones, Man'ish Boy (A Raw And Beautiful Thing) (AUM Fidelity, 2009)

    Little Women, Teeth (Sockets and Gilgongo, 2008)

    Tanakh, Ardent Fevers (Alien8, 2006)

    Tanakh, Dieu Deuil (Alien8, 2004)

    Photo Credits

    Page 1: John Sharpe

    Pages 2-3: Scott Friedlander

    Page 4: Frank Rubolino

    Page 5: Courtesy of Darius Jones

    Page 6: Simon Jay Harper

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