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Adam Rogers: Tonal Beauty

By Published: September 12, 2005

AAJ: So that was a completely collective gig?

AR: Absolutely, yeah.

AAJ: How about Randy Brecker?

AR: Randy I've worked with a lot over the years, let's see the first record in 1995 and I've played on a couple other records of his. He's a really amazing person and a phenomenal trumpet player and composer. Great musician and very relaxed about music. And his music had been an influence on me certainly way before I ever got a chance to work with him. He is also a very generous person as a bandleader, you know you can play whatever way you want, take as much time as you want, which was very influential to me in terms of the fact that what's important from the leaders vantage point is whether what the musicians are playing is happening or not, and if it's happening it doesn't matter what it is.

AAJ: Is that the same kind of approach you take on your records?

AR: Pretty much, yeah. You know the guys that I play with are all people that I've worked with a lot. I use them for my records because I absolutely love the way they play. I try to address making suggestions on a case-by-case basis. If it's something that I think is working, great, if it's not, we'll choose another approach. With the guys that play on my records, there's very little if any editing that I do relating to their contributions because they're such great players. And I also try not to be controlling because the reason that one gets incredible musicians is so they interpret your music and bring what's unique about their insight to your music. If I wanted everybody to hear the thing the way that I hear it, I'd just play it all myself. And I have a studio at home, I can do that. If something's not happening I'd rather just get somebody else than tell them how to play. That approach has been greatly influenced by people like Randy and Michael Brecker in terms of getting people to play your music because you love what they're bringing to the table.

AAJ: So then let's talk about Michael Brecker a bit.

AR: Mike has been very influential for me because of that same approach. He uses people because he loves the way they play, I think, and doesn't really dictate approaches unless, it seems, that it's necessary.. And so Michael as a bandleader has just been an amazing person to work with. In my experience whenever he's made suggestions, he's been absolutely right and it was something that was apparent.

AAJ: Something that needed to be said.

AR: Yeah, and I mean, needless to say he's one of the great saxophonists in the history of music and he's been an inspiration to work with. Aside from all of the incredible saxophonistic things he does, just the sheer amount of energy that he creates when he plays is really phenomenal. To generate that kind of energy, to me, is really unbelievable. For the most part when I'm playing with him I'm playing with this "jazz guitar sound that's not like with tons of distortion and a whammy bar where you can easily access the kind of energetic approach from using a rock sound. I do that purposely because I'm trying to generate energy and excitement without the first, obvious choice in terms of effects.

AAJ: Wow. That's amazing. Let's move on and talk a bit about Giora Feidman.

AR: Giora, that was one of my first really professional gigs, it was my first touring gig, and I got it from my studying and knowing how to play classical guitar. He plays Klezmer music, Jewish folk music, with a classical approach. That was an amazing experience. He's got one of the most incredible sounds on the clarinet and he's a phenomenal musician. He can play pianissimo (quiet) with such intensity that it's mind- blowing. He taught me a great deal about music. When the bassist and I would be asked to play your average Jewish folk rhythm, he would stop us and say, "You have to approach playing that rhythm, which is on the surface quite simple; with the same intensity you would approach playing Mozart. A very heavy concept. What he was saying was one of the most profound things. First of all, never play on automatic pilot, always really mean what you're doing, and also choose your approach. You don't just play music without thinking about it. This is also a guy who doesn't improvise, he interprets melodies. It was a very helpful lesson to somebody who's trying to be a jazz musician.

AAJ: How about anybody else that's been a major influence?

AR: All of my peers, Scott Colley, Dave Binney, all the guys in Lost Tribe, Chris Potter. You know I've always tried to, as a side-person, to really engross myself in someone else's vision so I can take something away from that experience. It's a fine line for me, as an improvising musician, going to play somebody else's music. You want to bring yourself to that music and also you want to leave yourself open enough so that you can learn from what the person you're working with is showing you. So pretty much every experience I've had working with somebody else has been a learning experience for me.

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