Kent Carter and the Continental Continuum
AAJ: In Europe, there was even support from some of the major labels.
KC: Yes, and they were even coming over to New York and copping the stuff [Fontana, Polydor, etc.], putting it out. But we had Blue Note and Bernard Stollman who were very important in documenting the music. That's a long story with a sort of shaggy undertail, but at least it was out there. That supports what we're talking about though: 'come to the studio and we'll buy you breakfast,' you know. It was much more serious than that, but the American [public] didn't understand.
AAJ: As far as the financial stability with you and your bandmates in the Steve Lacy group, was that a major change when you went to Europe?
KC: It was a breath of fresh air because we had a job; we went to the studio and had something to do. Lacy put this incredible thing together and it was great. It was a paying gig; it wasn't disaster because you meet people and you moved around. We had Dutch, German, Belgian, French and Swiss radio, which was damn good. These were live concert broadcasts, and they were all documented - certain producers bought the stuff and put it out. Joachim Berendt, people like that.
AAJ: How do you view the bass differently in solo and group roles? I know you've done solo recordings and concerts and stuff, so how does one inform the other for you?
KC: Well, the bass chair in an ensemble is working for the collective so that you make other people sound good, and you sound good yourself. But the most important thing is to make everything around you as beautiful as possible. Out of that, you find your voice. Soloing - I'm not a great soloist. Lacy developed that beautifully, but I've done some solos and I find it very difficult. Just to go up and do an evening of soloing, I usually split the bill with somebody else. I've done it a few times, but it's not that much fun. For me, it's not my objective to become a virtuoso that could interest you for an hour and a half spellbound.
AAJ: It's hard to create music in that context that will grab and keep grabbing for that long.
KC: Well, there are some people doing it well; Peter Kowald was great at that stuff. I'm good for about a half an hour and then forget it [laughing]! It's something I never developed, because I wanted to do something else, you know?
AAJ: If your mettle is to playing in an ensemble, that's a totally different context.
KC: I've recorded solos, though, and there is some fascination in that too.
AAJ: Right, you've done some stuff with overdubs, like a one-man string orchestra.
KC: Yes, and this was a very important period for me. It was like homework, a big homework session that went on for about ten years, in the 70s. When I wasn't working out on the road, I was building up the string conception, which I'd wanted to do. Have you heard these recordings?
AAJ: Yes, I have the Beauvais Cathedral record [Emanem, 1974].
KC: With the technology that we have today it's just debris, but can you imagine playing around with a Revox or two?
AAJ: Well, it's a very interesting record. It has a quality to it that's hard to describe, a very private quality. It's a window on the process of making something, investigating these sounds.
KC: That's it, right.
AAJ: But you were also teaching during this period, am I right?
KC: Well, my only student at that time was Jean-Jacques Avenel, who is also a good friend of mine. He was with the Lacy group, but then I did some teaching later when I moved to the Southwest of France. This was a different period, around '83, when we were asked to teach in Angouleme and work with a group of artists, painters and poets. We were given a year to interact with these people and diffuse it. Then we were asked to teach at the Beaux-arts, so my wife and I went there for almost eight years. It was very flexible, so I did what I wanted to do, traveling and playing of course, but I would have that [gig] when I came back. This was around '83-'84. To be around art students, that's another beautiful environment.
AAJ: So at this point you'd left the Steve Lacy group, right?
KC: I left him in '82, I think. My last gig with Steve was in Japan; we went over to do a trio recording with Masahiko Togashi, Spiritual Moments [Sony Japan]. We had discussed that I was going to leave; I had to leave because I wanted to do my own work, and it was necessary to move over. I spent some fantastic years with Steve.
AAJ: And it obviously informed your work quite a bit. As far as your own writing, what would you say you draw the most from?
KC: Steve had an artistic integrity that moved me very much, and it's that spirit that helped me the most. My string writing is basically coming from the Eastern European tradition, and the emotional weight comes from that Eastern way of doing things. I'm putting a new string trio together with [violinist] Albrecht Maurer from Cologne and Katrin Mickiewicz, the Polish viola player. I think this will be interesting; they're coming down to record here in August - I have a recording studio here. It isn't state-of-the-art, but it's beautiful and that's sometimes just enough. The main room is about 100 square meters, and it's also used for dancing, but it's interfaced for recording. I have two more recording rooms in the back; you can just look out and see cows.