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Bill Carrothers: Content in his Corner of the Jazz World

By Published: March 1, 2004
"I love America. I would never want to live in Europe. I love American culture. I love baseball. I love the quirky humanity and kind of that weird innocence that America has. But there's a nice thing about the whole European approach to art and sex and all sorts of stuff. They're a lot, I think, emotionally and societally, a little healthier than America. They're not quite as twisted by all that Victorian crap. All those various hard religious things that twist us," Carrothers opines. "But they were twisted. They had their time they were hanging people and burning people and that kind of stuff."

So Carrothers keeps moving, without regard for the Big (Jazz) Picture. He's high on his recent electric project, which he did with Minneapolis musicians. "I wrote this tune tracing the evolution of democracy. It traces the stages that happen for things to change, like, for instance, slavery. So I wrote this suite where things are kind of in a different place from where they started. The whole thing kind of moves harmonically. It starts from one tonal center and ends in another. It kind of has this whole feel to it. There's even a tune called "Mojo Clinton." I was so disappointed in him. I voted for him and he turned out to be such an asshole. I was so pissed. He was still a decent president, he's such a jerk you just want to pound him."

His next long-term project takes him back to doing music tied to American history. His The Blues and the Greys CD done a few years ago is solo piano improvisations linked to the Civil War period. The new project, the music of World War I, will be called Armistice 1918 .

"That's going to be a big project," he said. "I've got some funding for it now from the World War I museum in France that wants to underwrite a substantial portion of it. It'd be for narrator, wordless soprano, male chorus, percussion and piano, bass and drums. It's narrations of the poet Wilfred Owen. He was a first lieutenant in the British Army who was killed just before Armistice Day. And he wrote this incredible book of poetry, all dealing with the fighting on the western front. Not flag-wavy at all. But not somber either. Just really direct. So that's gonna be the thread that runs through it. It's going to be these poems narrated, with a kind of wordless soprano and a male chorus. The trio can kind of flow in and out of it

"It's something I've had working in my head now for a while. As soon as I get all my financing together. I've got a couple record companies interested in putting up the rest of the money that will be required to do it. It's kind of an expensive project. No one's ever done anything quite like it. I like to bring together history and music. My record Swing Sing Songs is a lot of the music of World War II.

Other than that, it's enjoying the great outdoors of the UP, his family and jazz, "enjoying it while it's here, rather than worrying that I'm not going to be part of the resurgence. Or worrying that it's dead and I'm just a skin being shed off a snake. I feel like: it is what it is," he said, then segued to sing the David Byrne lyric in a voice that won't make the Talking Head come looking for royalties, "It's all right, cause it's finite."

"People like to think life is limitless, but it's not. But it's OK," he chuckles, adding slyly, "I'm just on that kick lately, I apologize."

Visit Bill Carrothers on the web at .

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Download jazz mp3 “The Best Things In Life Are Free” by Bill Carrothers