Matt Jorgensen: Seattle's New Sound
There’s definitely an eclectic scene. There was a club—the O.K. Hotel—that was really important to me growing up in terms of seeing a lot of different bands. We had an earthquake. I think in 2000 there was a big earthquake and the building that the club was in ended up being condemned. The scene in Seattle now hasn’t really recovered yet from that club being lost, and a few other clubs that were lost. Seattle’s gone through some transitions now, with a lot of money. A lot of the old time club owners have left, and some of the new ones still haven’t figured it out. But I think its starting to come back. I moved back in 2002 and me and some friends are trying to present a lot of music, trying to capture what we remember as a cool scene.
AAJ: I think I have to ask—since it’s the ten year anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death, it’s been in all the newspapers—it seems like that era and grunge music had a lasting effect on our whole generation.
MJ: You look at every city and every huge movement in music and the city it came out of, those cities never really lose that. Like San Francisco will always be Psychedelic Rock. New York will always be CBGB’s Punk, the Ramones. Jersey will always be the Springstein thing. And Seattle will always be tied to the Grunge movement. And in a way, when that Nirvana album came out—the previous number one album was Michael Jackson’s Bad. Then Nirvana became the number one record that forever changed music. That’s something pretty cool.
I think for musicians that were in Seattle, they were making honest music. It’s funny. Whenever there’s a huge movement in music like that, there are a lot of people who try and copy it. I think the same thing happens in Jazz. Like with Norah Jones—and I like that. I think Norah Jones is great. I think that record is great. People are trying to analyze why she’s such a big hit. I think the reason is that she does what she does and it was the right moment in time for that record to come out. Now you start seeing a lot of people dissecting what she does and trying to figure it out and replicate it, which is completely the wrong thing to do. That’s a recipe for failure. To really have an impact you have to make honest music. I think that’s what happened in Seattle in the early ‘90s. That happens time after time after time. That’s what real artists should strive for. For me growing up in Seattle it had a huge impact on what I want to do as an artist. Witnessing that, and seeing that happen.
AAJ: That’s what I think is interesting. Something like that doesn’t have to have a musical influence, there’s just a lasting effect having watched it happen.
MJ: It’s kind of like what I try and tell guys here. In Seattle now there’s a really good jazz scene happening here—and in Portland—that a lot of people don’t realize in other parts of the country. All those things are setting themselves up again to happen. With my group, I’ve done three or four records now with the same core group. We have this sound and we have this thing we’re trying to do. It’s something that I believe in. When I write music it’s for these guys. No one knows who I am. The band is starting to get some exposure. The idea that the collective sum of all four or five of us in this band is more powerfull than any one individual. When that happens, that’s when truly great music happens.
AAJ: Let’s talk about the albums. You’ve really built a very recognizable sound. You’re pulling from a lot of places that are somewhat unusual for Jazz right now. I really like both these albums—I have Quiet Silence and Hope right in front of me. I’ve been listening to them since I got’em. The first thing that struck me was the use of the Fender Rhodes. I’ve been hearing it a lot more recently, but you’ve really been using it a lot.
MJ: It’s kind of funny. It happened really by accident. The very first record we did was called The Road Begins Here. If you go back to the mid nineties when I started leading my own bands it was originally two saxophones, bass, and drums. We were gonna do the record that way and then scheduling conflicts happened so at the last minute I said, ‘lets bring in Marc Seales’—a pianist from Seattle whose fairly well known. The only way he would do it was if he could use the Fender Rhodes. It was the only way he wanted to do the date is if he could play the Fender Rhodes. So I kinda came up with arrangements. We did “No Quarter” by Led Zepplin on that record. It’s kind of funny. It’s one of those things that happened totally by accident, but it worked. And it just stuck around. Now five years later I’m a considered a genius for it. I can’t really take credit for it.
AAJ: It really connects the sound with a very trip-hop feel that you seem to be working with.