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Adam Rogers: Tonal Beauty

By Published: September 12, 2005

AAJ: Right on. Now I want to shift gears and talk about the band that you've been working with. It must be tough to keep a band like that together for that long.

AR: Well, not really. I know what you mean but that would be more applicable if we were touring constantly or working a lot. To book one record session or one rehearsal with these guys can be really challenging because everybody's so busy. There is such a wellspring of talent in NYC so I've had the great opportunity to have a lot of amazing musicians play my music. People like Jeff "Tain Watts, Antonio Sanchez, James Genus, Chris. When the group that's on the record isn't available I put together different groups. Sometimes I'll do a trio with Scott and Clarence, or with James Genus and Clarence, or a quartet with Chris and myself and Clarence and Scott. You have to be malleable. I used a wonderful young pianist who's played a lot with Dave Binney over the years named Jacob Sacks who's really amazing. He's the first pianist I've ever used besides Edward and that was really great.

AAJ: Now I want to try and decipher the heavy sound this band creates, it's a heavy sound but it's also very collective. I want to ask you up front, did you have a vision for the band's sound when you started out, and do you have a vision for its sound in the future?

AR: What I envision in that music is envisioned through the compositions that I write, and the X factor to me, which is something I welcome, is how they interpret it. I have certain things that I'm very specific about. Generally a lot of my tunes have written bass lines, written piano lines, written countermelodies. I haven't written out drum parts, so what people want to bring to the music is certainly up to them. Other than the specific things that I write down on a piece of paper, I don't envision much. How people will interpret what's left to interpret is what I welcome. Unless something really strikes me as something I don't want to hear in a composition, I don't really give much instruction. I think in saying all that I probably do envision it very specifically just because these are the guys that I choose to have on the record, and in choosing them, they bring specific incredible sounds and interpretive quality that would be completely different if I used another band. But what they're going to do exactly is always a surprise, and that's what I love.

AAJ: I want to discuss what each player brings to the band. Why don't we start with Clarence?

AR: Clarence, I just love the way he plays on a lot of different levels. He's very creative, I love his sound on the drums, the way his cymbals sound, his cymbals are not brash. He always is a part of the fabric of the music. He also has been a really big part of whatever success that my tunes have had on my records because he always finds a really amazing part to play that makes my music sound more musical. I write really hard music sometimes, and the drummer depending on their approach could make it sound kind of pedantic, but Clarence always comes up with some kind of beautiful color that helps the tunes sound more subtle and effective to me and that's amazing. There was one tune that we did on my first record, Art of the Invisible, called "The Invisible that had this really tricky kind of intro, and Clarence came up with this part and it was like, man I never would have thought of that.

AAJ: Yeah, he really is imaginative. Let's move on to Scott Colley.

AR: Scott is someone I've been working with for years in a lot of contexts. One of the things about everybody in the band that's great is that I've had the opportunity to play with all of them as sidemen in other people's groups and in their groups. So we're all constantly cross-pollinating. I've worked with Michael Brecker and Dave Binney and all kinds of gigs with Scott. I mean what can I say, he's a virtuosic bassist with a fantastic sound, swings his ass off, and he's got the biggest ears in the world, can hear anything. He is also a great soloist. He's such a creative and virtuosic musician, but virtuosic in a way that you would never really say, "Oh he's virtuosic. He's never about technique for technique's sake, and he has a really dark, woody bass sound. I'm kind of a freak for great bass sounds. He's very supportive and very interactive, he kind of shifts effortlessly and seamlessly from one function to the other seamlessly.

AAJ: How about Chris?

AR: Chris is a phenomenal saxophonist, I love his sound, an amazing improviser. Really creative. I don't get the sense that there's any blockage between the idea and the realization of it with Chris. Not only does it seem that he can play anything you'd like him to play, but he's got an incredible amount of taste and discretion. It's always music first and that seems to dictate everything he plays.

Edward as a pianist. You know everybody in the band, I don't know maybe it's from being such a sound freak and having been influenced by studying classical music, everybody in the band really has an incredible sound, like if you play just one note their sound is so deep. Edward has a beautiful touch. Incredible patience when he plays and really creative. It's also that they all have very specific identities, and I love to have their identities in all of the music that I write. Other people have other identities and that would change the way my music sounds, and that would be great too, I think everybody has something specific. I think what I love about all of them especially is that they can go from style to style, there are no boundaries. Nothing's taboo. You can just play like the simplest swing beat with Clarence and Scott and it feels so great, and it can within seconds go to incredibly visceral free territory. All of their artistic tastes are reflective of my own. We share a lot of the same interests and a lot of influences.

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