Drummer Bob Rees
AAJ: Now, did you study music in college?
BR: Yeah, I studied music education with a focus on elementary music and got my ed. degree and I also got a performance degree - percussion. Marty taught us how to listen really well. We never studied improvisation from like a free jazz standpoint or anything like that but we were always free to improvise parts or come up with different ways or different solutions to a problem. That had a big influence on me. He is a tympani player and a classical musician and really open to twentieth century music - jazz and all sorts of music, exploring all sorts of different genres. He always let us explore and learn and kind of play the way we wanted.
AAJ: Do you teach or are you primarily performing music?
BR: Mainly performing. It has gotten to the point where I am pretty much playing all the time. When I am here, I do have an ed. degree and I substitute teach every once in awhile for the Bellevue school district. That helps me keep my teaching chops up which I love to do. It's fun and, you know, one day it's like a high school band - conducting, and another it's like a bunch of kindergartners and we're doing a drum circle or something. So I do that, but I don't get to do it as much anymore but that still happens and then I do some stuff for Pacific Northwest Ballet, you know, drumming for dance classes which is fun too. But it's kind of to the point now which is we've got a pretty full schedule. I'm just trying to play mostly. I guess when I'm home, also, I try to continue with Wally, doing stuff with Wally Shoup. A few years ago I just started to get involved with a lot of different things and was trying to play with as many people as I could. I have kind of narrowed my focus down to Flowmotion and Wally Shoup and a few other things here and there.
AAJ: What would you say is your approach to composition? Do you compose music also?
BR: I compose, and a few projects have performed my songs but I wouldn't say that is a focus. It may be someday but I am just really happy playing right now, either playing in an improvised setting or performing other people's music and seeing what I can bring to the table. I got a Jack Straw grant and I have a couple of things coming out but it's all improvised. Composition in the traditional sense, I haven't been doing any of that lately.
AAJ: Roscoe Mitchell and Gary Peacock use this term "spontaneous composition." I guess when I said "composition" it's kind of a two-sided coin. So there is "composition" and there is "spontaneous compostion" which is sort of free improvisation. So, how would you describe your approach to free improvisation then?
BR: That's a hard question to answer. I try to listen a lot, you know, listen as much as I can, from a strictly free standpoint thinking about what has already been explored on a certain night or a certain session and what hasn't and maybe trying to keep things varied a little bit and bring a lot of energy to the table and use really big ears and just go along for the ride (laughter). And also sort of learning that, you know, it's easy to get attached or psyche yourself out and worry too much about where a piece hasn't gone or where it is going and sort of have it fizzle. I have gotten better about not getting so attached to it and I think it has helped the music - not thinking about it too much but making sure you are listening all the time and just creating energy.
AAJ: When you are thinking about what you are playing, I know like being in the moment you almost don't think, but would you say that you are drawing from free improvisation or are you conceptualizing from a structural standpoint?