Adam Rogers Discusses His Imminent Debut Release and More
AAJ: Hip me to the Klezmer side.
AR: For classical I studied with a great guy who ended up giving up classical music, Robert Secrist, and then my second teacher was Frederick Hand, who has played Lute and guitar tat the Metropolitan Opera for years. This was around 1990. He was a great teacher because he had done a lot of things classical guitarists don't do...a lot of ensemble music outside of the idiom. He brought a wider perspective to the teaching but he also referred me to numerous people as well because I could read well and had performed all these types of music. He was called by the manager of one of the most extraordinary musicians I've ever heard. His name is Giora Feidman, an Argentinean born clarinetist who was in the Israel Philharmonic for 25 years. He's very well known in Germany and Europe. They called me in '90 and I took the gig, which was a pretty incredible because I had never really toured before, and musically it was a great learning experience for me, although it was really outside of what I was focusing on. I was raised in a Jewish household, but it was a music that I really had not been exposed to that much - and this guy is just a phenomenal musician and clarinetist. He was really versed in classical and his take on Klezmer comes from a classical angle in terms of sound and refinement of approach- then, some of his stuff sounds like a Jewish wedding. We went to Russia, Europe and South America- playing with him taught me a lot about music. I played on about six of his records. Without sounding schmaltzy- he has an element of his playing that sounds like an Imam in a Mosque making the call to prayer. To a secular person it sounds like music, but it's actually prayer, a recitation of the Koran. When I was in Cairo in 1996 and would stand outside these mosques it just sounded like the most amazing music to me. At shows, Giora would do a prayer at some point. At different points in his life he was a devout follower of some aspect of Judaism, whether it was kabalisti with his back to the audience, and it was just incredible. It really reminded me sometimes of Coltrane and I realized that one of the things that always impressed me about Coltrane is that his music is so spiritual and so deeply emotional to me. I remember playing with Giora and being reminded of 'Trane. It wasn't because he was playing like Coltrane but because it had the sound of someone praying.
On a musical level he was demanding of playing things with a real intent.That boom-chink-boom-chink etc. of Klezmer might be something people feel is easy, but if you really get into it, and try to play it with grace and rhythm and a real intent, it can be very challenging, Whatever you're doing, know what you're doing. If you want it to sound kind of rough and folksy then do that, but don't just do it because you're not thinking about it. To have an intent in what you're doing is always in my mind, in a way. To conceptualize, 'What are you doing? What is it you are trying to communicate?', and having some kind of an awareness. Think of conductors. A certain conductor might bring specific feelings in a piece, a sad aspect or a fast tempo, or different concepts here and there in the music. The players that are powerful to me have this quality.
I played a little bit with the Klezmatics and I do some work with Frank London, their trumpet player. Then, I played with David Krakauer for a little more than a year. I played on two of his records. The last one we did, Klezmer in New York, is a very creative record. He was completely different than Giora in that I played electric guitar and I was kind of like the wild card. I would play wah and distortion and crazy stuff, around which was traditional Klezmer music.
AAJ: Are you on any of the new crop if "Radical Jewish Culture" music?
AR: Well, Krakauer's records are in that category. I mostly play sounds, not soloing and stuff. He really had a strong idea of how he wanted to use guitar around it. I felt good about the sounds on it. Through Frank London, I started doing some work with this incredible Arabic oud player names Simon Shaheen. I played on his last record, almost a year ago, called Blue Flame and I've done a lot of concerts with him this past year. He plays middle- eastern classical music with other influences brought into it, and similar to Krakauer, uses guitar to add another flavor. Sometimes I play nylon string and a take on a very traditional role, or with the electric, I play sounds. He is unbelievable. We recorded in Pennsylvania in winter of 2000 and the record is on the Arc 21 label. We played Town Hall a month ago.
AAJ: I remember his name was the lead one on a story about acts that had to cancel American tours in the wake of cultural bias due to the September 11th attacks.
AR: Promoters got freaked. But I think he used the press around that well. He' s been involved in extramusical Arabic culture projects. He did some great things in the last few months. He was even on Bill Maher's Politically Incorrect as part of a panel discussing the events of Sept. 11th. He's a very intelligent guy
AAJ: Have you had any previous thoughts of releasing stuff under your own name?
AR: I have had things offered to me over the years, but I've been considering all along what kind of record I wanted to make as a first record. For the last few years I've known it would be the straighter, acoustic jazz idiom.
AAJ: Will you get that last thing out?
AR: I'd like another label to pick it up. If that doesn't happen I've considered releasing it myself, maybe this coming year. It's a little balanced on the side of slow songs, but I think it's a complete record. A lot of tunes that I've worked on are on it and the playing is really great on it, the vibe is great. So as opposed to re-recording those tunes I'd just like to get that one out there.