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Charlie Peacock: Accepting the Gift of Freedom

By Published: December 26, 2005
AAJ: "Super Jet Service is the one song on the record you co-wrote, with Tony Miracle, whose vibes are so great on the tune, especially at the end. I like the song's intro with that quarter-note drum pattern. I'm interested in your piano playing here; you do some great comping over Ralph's trumpet. You could regard it as an autonomous solo—it's a real voice during Ravi Coltrane's lines as well. This is one of many places where your piano ornaments and plays around the horn parts. Any insights into this?

CP: Gosh, I don't know. It might be one of those things where maybe I'm more innocent just because I just kind of play it as I hear it. I did read one review before that referred to my "unorthodox comping style. [laughing] So I don't know. I guess I just get happy and excited with the music. In those cases, where we were improvising and playing with Joey Baron, who's such a joy to play with—I guess we were just having fun. It just seemed that that's what I should have been playing. But after reading that in a review, I was kind of paying attention to some other music the other day on the radio on a jazz station. And I was thinking, "yeah, I guess I was kind of overboard!

AAJ: Well, we jazz writers can get kind of hung up on notions. The word "comping just means playing guitar or piano alongside someone else's lines, and that can get very regimented. Maybe we can just avoid the word, and instead of unorthodox "comping, it's perfectly great "playing along.

CP: Yeah. I just saw it all as part of the composition. And maybe again, that's where my rebellion against jazz when I was younger took place: I always bristled at the notion that I had to obey rules. I understood the conventions of the form, but the thing that attracted me the most to jazz and improvisational music was the idea that you could make new rules.

AAJ: Speaking of piano—let's talk about your solo piano pieces on this record, "Dodo's Whim and "Frank the Marxist Memorial Gong Blues. These work very well as breaks between the other material. "Dodo is a little concerto with some dense clusters, but it's also got a melody I like very much. "Frank the Marxist is really sweet, with a gospel-y, spiritual quality. But both of them have been augmented with laptop, ambient effects, which are very sparse and very effective. I especially like them on "Frank the Marxist ; they're like ghosts drifting over and around your playing. What made you decide to treat these pieces in this way?

CP: These pieces were improvisations that I had recorded separate from the sessions. I kept thinking, "I love the way the piano is in the sessions that we cut in New York and I'm happy with that. But I just wonder if there should be some moments where piano is heard more closely, and kind of peeks out. So I had about ten of these improvisations finished and I went through those and chose the two that are on the record for various reasons. I did some sequencing of the album first with those pieces, to try to play with how they would work together, and maybe even have segues, whether some of Tony's and Jerry's bits might fit with that.

So that's how it first came together, just playing with the sequencing. Once I believed in it, then I started to play with the electronica elements, to see if they would transition and again, remain believable. It seemed to work; I liked it. I even had one of those beautiful, happy accidents with one of Tony's pieces where it had been from a different performance—and when I draped it under the piano, it just came together completely. It was like all the right atonal stuff, all the right consonant stuff. Even some places with, like you said, the ghost thing, where things peeked through as if they had been written for that moment.

AAJ: I like the segueing; there's some nice crossfading from "Frank the Marxist into the drums of "Bucketachicken.

CP: If you like those pieces, the record that I'm working on now, finishing up for a February release, has a lot more of that. The basis of it is improvisation—piano and tenor sax improvisations with Jeff Coffin. And then Marc Ribot is our main guest on guitar. And I've sent Tony all those sessions and he's responded with stuff and sent it all back to me. And then I've been editing on that. It's still the Love Press kind of technique, but it's more intimate—kind of what you like about those piano pieces. It's that kind of blown up a little bit more. There are some woodwind orchestrations on it. It's a really interesting hybrid.

AAJ: Who's playing the woodwinds?

CP: Jeff. He's playing clarinet, bass clarinet and flute—overdubbing them.

AAJ: Those are great instruments.

CP: That's what I'm just having so much fun discovering—these combinations of orchestration that don't get to bump up against each other that often. Like four clarinets and a flute up against electronic elements. It's just gorgeous!

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