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Interviews

Adam Rogers: Tonal Beauty

By Published: September 12, 2005

AAJ: Yeah, you guys could play "Happy Birthday and turn it into a great jazz tune. What really struck me about the sound of the band on Apparitions and Allegory was the contrast that's present. Every time Chris is playing a very technical, swift solo, you're really feeling for the mood of the piece. When you're comping, Ed is playing this beautifully understated coloring, and Clarence is so imaginative. I wondered if you could comment a bit on the contrasts evident in your sound.

AR: Well, I'm not completely unaware of it. All of the guys in the band are really incredible listeners, so that's a really important part of it. When someone's playing something that's very busy, you don't want to play something that's very busy at the same time. It's OK and more dramatic to play very sparsely while someone else is playing a lot of notes. I guess that's another thing I love about this band as musicians is that they're very conscious of dramatic contrasts, which is a very important thing to me. And Edward is a great pianist to play with because in most cases as a guitarist you can't comp at the same time as the pianist because both players approach comping in the same way it just ends up being like gobbledy gook. But with somebody who's conscious like Edward, if I'm trying to play traditional jazz comping, Edward will play colors in a register that's away from the register that I'm playing in and that's fantastic. So you know they all have really impeccable musical taste and are extremely good listeners too. It's not really a concept of, "OK you play sparse, I'll play busy, you comp, I'll play high, it's just kind of what happens. But the main thing is everybody listens.

AAJ: Ok so now let's talk about Allegory. I know Criss Cross likes to do records in one day. Did you guys have much rehearsal time for this one?

AR: A couple of rehearsals I think for Allegory. A bunch of the tunes we had already played. It was a lot of music to do in one day.

AAJ: I wanted to talk about two tunes specifically. The first one is "Phyrigia. That tune was more about the sound as opposed to the notes that are played. Could you talk a bit about that one?

AR: The melody is built around a sort of Phyrigian scale. It was definitely influenced by a certain John Coltrane-like composition and tempo. I wasn't really going for anything in particular, just writing, and it seemed to work pretty well for the kind of tune I wanted it to be. It's the kind of tune that everybody in the band knows what to do with. The arc of the tune has a sort of a natural dynamic. A lot of it also is Clarence plays that tune so well, knows how to build it up and then play the bridge very quietly. As a composer in jazz music I aspire to writing tunes that really illustrate a clear interpretation, meaning when guys hear it they know what to do with it. Some music can be hard to play technically but easy to hear. Tunes that work really well are playable. So that tune I think I wrote one that was easy for everyone to hear.

AAJ: Wow. The second one I really liked was "Was. It seemed to be sort of teetering on the edge of something, I don't know what, and it never fell off and that was amazing to me. I wondered if you could talk a bit about that one.

AR: I'm not sure exactly what you mean, teetering on the edge of falling forward?

AAJ: Falling into, I don't know, a faster tempo, or there were a couple notes that I heard in my head that weren't played, but it was good that they weren't played. I can't really describe it.

AR: Yeah that tune, I wrote it on acoustic guitar. Initially I had heard it and recorded it on a demo I did a few years back much slower, where people actually soloed over it. It has a sequence of a lot of constantly changing chord changes, it's sort of a hard tune to solo over, and I never really felt it was working. The idea for the interpretation on "Allegory was not so much to solo as to sort of trade back and forth. Chris and I sort of soloing and playing the melody at the same time. The idea was to constantly play the melody so that it never really becomes a solo. But you know there's a version—I don't know if you've ever heard Miles' version of Wayne Shorter's "Nefertiti —they just play the melody, Miles and Wayne Shorter just play the melody and Tony Williams sort of solos over it. It was a very innovative interpretation of a tune. Herbie Ron and Tony play all these different kinds of ways behind the melody. It's really brilliant.

AAJ: Yeah, I know what you mean. OK, let's move on to Apparitions. Did you have much rehearsal time for that one?

AR: A couple of rehearsals.

AAJ: There was one tune that I really liked on that one, that really stuck with me, and that was "Persephone . I loved the little acoustic hook in it. Very Crosby Stills and Nash.

AR: Hmm...Well, I wrote the piano part which is a kind of combined bass and piano part first, and it elicited a strong feeling in me when I came up with it, it was evocative of something that I felt deeply. It actually took me a while to write that tune because I experimented with a lot of different melodic approached before I found one that I felt was as engaging as the piano and bass part, which is a lot of times what my journey in composing is. I'll come up with 1 idea that I really love that's very strong and then to put all the other pieces together, that's what the real challenge is.

I think it was Stravinsky that said composition is ten percent inspiration and ninety- percent work, I don't know if that same percentage structure exists for me but always one part of it is pure inspiration and the rest is work and a lot of experimenting. So that tune took me a while to come up with the contrapuntal melody that I wrote over the A section, and the B section I think I tried three or four different things before I found one that I thought was good enough to latch on to the A section. It's a hard thing. You know, ideally with a composition you want to write the whole thing beginning to end out of inspiration. But a lot of times what ends up happening is that some part of the compositional process is sort of intellectual. You get one good chunk that's visceral and then it's like, great all I have to do is get another thing that feels like that, but it doesn't necessarily happen. But that tune took me a while to write, I'd come back to it day after day for three or four days.



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