Catching Up With
Lola Danza: Vision Quest
Danza is a graduate of Berklee College of Music, Boston, and stayed in Boston for a few years after graduating, developing her approach to music before becoming completely "free" over the last three years.
Her latest album, Live Free (Evolver, 2009), is a live recording from a gig at Boston's Ryles Jazz club in 2008.
The instrumentation for the recording is voice (Danza, of course), tenor sax, bass and drums. The effect is inspiring, and the journey the listener is taken on in each of the three tracks is a true adventure.
Danza's voice has a range of four octaves, which she fully uses in each performance. Notes turn into low moans or emotional cries. On the album's first track, the music builds to Danza providing urgent high notes, followed by similarly frantic-sounding drums from drummer Bob Moses
. Every note feels authentic. Langley's interplay with Danza is exciting to listen to. For example, in the third piece where the sax inverts the usual position of a voice (above the horn) by playing a very high note against Danza's low note. Near the end of the piece, their positions are reversed, with Danza high above Langley in a dramatic dissonance; shades of the ending of Charles Ives' second symphony.
"RaKaLam Bob Moses, he's legendary," notes Danza. "I'm very fortunate that we've played together so much."
The second track sees Danza "playing" (she sees the voice as an instrument, whether soloing or accompanying) a striking, climbing chromatic passage, followed by Moses playing an almost rock-like backbeat pattern.
Dynamic shifts are a strong feature of the music over the entire album, periods of quiet succeeding dramatic action. The saxophonist, Matt Langley, is brilliant on the record, at times recalling the sound of great swing and bebop sax players and at other times evoking modern free players like Ornette Coleman
and Bob Gullotti). John played with Freddie Hubbard in his band and with Joe Henderson as well. I've had the pleasure of working with John for six years now.
"That was totally improvised," she says. "There was no structural idea whatsoever. I don't really think in terms of preplanning a composition or form because I think that it can inhibit the player, so for me, I want to allow the players to be completely free to be themselves.
"So the important formula for what I do is choosing the right player. Choosing the players is essential. So I go around, I listen to players, I hear what they're doing and if I like what a player is doing and I feel he would work well with meusually it's an intuitive thing. I look at them, I hear them and I say, 'That's the guy. I have to play with that particular player.' ... and [then] I put these guys together. I start hearing different guys and I say, 'You know what? This guy is going to work great with that guy, and with me.' I can hear what they're doing, and usually these players have really, really, really strong personalities. They really know who they are musically."
How did Danza find the musicians for the recording? The process, as she describes it, shows that the effective composition of the music begins before the actual gig. It begins with the choice of musicians who will be playing with her.
"This is going to really sound funny, but this particular recording, I played with these guys for the very first time. In fact, we had never played with each other except for Bob Moses and me. That night, originally I was supposed to have my bassist that I've worked with the most, John Lockwood, who is the bassist of The Fringe (Lockwood with George Garzone
"It's about another way of hearing music. It's a different way of listening, so when I'm hearing this music, I just hear the notes, the sounds, and I accept the sounds as they are. Then when you can do that, then you start to hear in a whole different way and it opens up your hearing and you hear behind the note. Because there is a whole concept. Just like when you're speaking to someone, the way you speak to a person, you can hear. You don't even have to know the words they're saying. You can hear from the nuances within their voice. The sudden changes in pitch when they speak. You can hear certain sounds that go beyond verbalization. So you don't have to actually say it. It just comes out. So that's the same thing with this type of playing."
"It's intention or spirit. It's almost like a Zen Buddhism, a Taoist thing," she adds.
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