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Interviews

Drew Gress: Where My Ear Leads Me

By Published: July 22, 2005
AAJ: Well, you work a lot, anyway, and with a lot of different people, good people. I just checked your schedule: you did gigs with over eight different bands in June alone. Do you ever have trouble keeping the various repertoires straight in your mind at the gigs?

DG: Oh, yeah [laughing]. I just basically show up like a blank slate and wait for something to happen and hopefully I'll remember what I'm supposed to do! It is a little bit much, I know, but they're all musicians I truly enjoy playing with. So I'm not really doing it for the money; it's because I enjoy it, all those people, and they all feed me artistically. I do need to find a way to balance it just so I can spend a little more time working on my own thing, which is something I'd like to do.

AAJ: Somehow I had assumed that your albums came out infrequently—one in 1998, one in 2001, and one now—because you only got a group together when you were really ready, when you've got something to say. So there is also the matter of finding time between sidework?

DG: Yeah, I guess it all works together. I do a project when I have something to say. But frankly, a lot of times I'm just exhausted from doing whatever, so when I get home and it's time to get that thing together, it just—goes. But I intend to ratchet up the activity level a little bit. I just received a grant from Chamber Music America to write, so that'll be motivation to finish the next group of things I'm working on and do something else. And I have a European tour coming up next January as well, so that's further motivation to try to have some music written to do a record after that. You know, just trying to think ahead a little more.

AAJ: What do you think you're accentuating musically in your music that isn't happening in all the bands you're in as a sideman?

DG: As far as the playing goes, I think my approach is just exactly the same, which is to allow the environment to inform my choices. Totally. And just react. But I think the obvious answer is that we're playing my compositions. I don't even feel like it's necessarily a way to present me, the improviser. It's more just about my identity as a composer, and I guess that means just music the way I hear it—I mean, one of the ways that I hear it. To me, it's about trying to capture the improvisational me and freeze it—preserve it in formaldehyde—and try to have that happen night after night, but in a flexible way.

Visit Drew Gress on the web.


Photo Credits
First two photos: Jimmy Katz
Final photo: Barry Quick



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