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Interviews

Charlie Peacock: Accepting the Gift of Freedom

By Published: December 26, 2005
AAJ: I'm not offended by it. He's a Johnny Cash artist. They don't get more iconic than that guy—or much better. "Longing for Louis is a tune with a nice acoustic piano intro; there's more of that we-won't-call-it-comping around Jeff Coffin's and Kurt Rosenwinkel's parts—we'll just call it playing. The tune breaks down into that part that is almost free jazz after that bit of bass soloing from James Genus—you play a piano interlude with just a simple pulse, and eventually Ralph Alessi and Coffin play free lines. Very polyphonic, and maybe the jazziest part of this jazz record.

CP: You know what, I struggled with that song because I loved that section so much! I loved all of that more than I loved the song. We actually re-presented the head two other times in the original composition and really, up until the point to about a week before the mix, there was still another round of the head in that song. And I told Richie, my engineer, "man, something's just not right about that song. I took one more stab at it, it was one of those gut things, the blink phenomenon—I just said "this is it and I sliced and diced and there it was and I said, "it's unconventional, but I'm going to leave it like that because that's what works for me emotionally and musically. So that's how it ended up like that.

AAJ: You wanted the head to be as good as the stuff that it surrounded.

CP: Yeah. And it seemed that to repeat it again and again was just bowing to a convention that [laughing] no one was making me bow to! It's like, for crying out loud, if I'm not going to accept the gift of freedom that comes with this music, I'm a total wimp.

AAJ: You do have to ask yourself whose rules you're following.

CP: Yeah, and once I got rid of that, it all made perfect sense to me. And I think that without trying to do it, there's a lot of that kind of more cinematic, linear kind of composition where things don't have to return again and again to some familiar form. And it seems to hold up; it seems to still maintain your interest.

AAJ: "All or Nothing Grace is the last tune I want to discuss. It's beautiful, spooky—it starts with a piano vamp and there's a descending trumpet line from Alessi against it that recurs during the track. There's a dub feel to the track, and Ravi Coltrane plays a gorgeous solo. This is the album closer, and it's the sparsest thing on the record except for the solo piano stuff—there isn't the layered quality of the other tracks. I think this one's got a very spiritual vibe.

CP: That one actually had more treatment on it and I took it out. Songs seem, based on the original improvisations, to have a temperament. They tell you [laughing], "you'd better stop trying to do things to me or I'm really going to get pissed off! And that seemed to be the song, of all the songs on the record, that seemed to feel that way. So I pulled some things out, put some more air around it. That seemed to be the right thing to do. And the sentiment—yeah, I've always loved that idea: the idea of "All or Nothing Grace was kind of a chant, a mantra, of Martin Luther's followers, and I liked that. It can't be grace if it has conditions on it. It's no longer grace; it's all or nothing. And so maybe that spiritual idea is infusing the music a bit.

AAJ: One thing I like about this album is its length—it's under fifty minutes long, like a vinyl album, which is still the ideal length for an album to me.

CP: Man, I think it is.

AAJ: Was there stuff recorded that didn't make the cut?

CP: Only one piece that I remember. I recorded a piece that was a free improvisation between Jeff and a drummer that he had been playing with, a fellow by the name of Tommy G. I was originally going to do a piano and string arrangement to it so that it would be almost like an Alice Coltrane piece—and then see if some electronica, some laptop stuff, would work with it. There was something about it that just didn't seem compatible with the rest of the material, so I didn't move ahead with it.

AAJ: I know that you're playing this stuff live—you're playing the Jazz Standard very soon. How's this going to work? Who are you going to play with?

CP: Well, for the Jazz Standard, it's going to be Jeff on sax and Maurice Brown on trumpet. You know Maurice? He's a young trumpet player from Chicago. Then Adam Rogers, the guitarist, hopefully will make the date. Matt Wilson is playing drums and Felix Pastorius, Jaco's boy, is playing bass.

AAJ: Will it sound like the record?

CP: Well, we played this record in Nashville and I had Jerry and Tony play, and they had all their original pieces from the record. So we got to hear what it would sound like like that. I'm still debating whether to take Tony to New York with me; we'll see, he's pretty busy working on records. He's not used to playing out very much. But yeah, every opportunity I can, I'm going to want to use Jerry and Tony, but this may not be a time I can. We'll see if Adam can pick up some of the things that Jerry was doing.


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