Matt Jorgensen: Seattle's New Sound
MJ: It definitely goes beyond the classic jazz quartet sound. It opens up many more avenues of potential ways we can go. It has power too. You can just do so much more with it than a piano.
We did the first record, and then some gigs. Then I flew back to Seattle in 2001 and we recorded Quiet Silence. Both those records were done with two rehearsals and then into the studio. Then we toured a bit and I moved back to Seattle in 2002. We did some more touring when the album came out, but Marc Seales couldn’t make it so Ryan Burns did the tours and then just stuck around in the band. And Ryan, on top of using the Fender Rhodes, uses a lot of effects. He’s really changed the sound even further by using more electronics.
AAJ: You can hear even more of a shift with Hope. I was wondering if you’d been deliberately delving into more Ambient and Electronica sounds.
MJ: It’s two things. There’s that, and also a lot of music I’ve been writing and want to do has moved more into the surreal and free kind of realm. The thing about Ryan—a lot of people who play the Rhodes are piano players who play the Fender Rhodes. Ryan plays the Fender Rhodes. That’s his main thing. He knows it inside and out. It has this enveloping, warm sound. When we did Hope we’d been playing for a year, doing gigs. A lot of that music was written in the course of the tour. We’d been playing it for awhile and we moved away from what was on the page, started being more interactive. Trying to create art instead of just playing music.
AAJ: There seems to be a connection between some of what your doing and Electronica, some early Trip-hop like Portishead. You’ve covered Radiohead and Coldplay. Is it a conscious decision to incorporate those sounds?
MJ: I listen to a lot of rock music. All kinds of music. I’m always looking for those tunes, those Pop tunes—I realized recently on the last three records I’ve only covered British pop music. Someone pointed it out to me. I hadn’t even realized it. It leant itself so well. I should probably do “American Pie” now. Something totally red, white and blue.
There’s really two things. Obviously there’s music I’ve grown up listening to and liked. And all of us are now in our thirties. We started it in our twenties. We’re playing for people our age. For people our age, this is music we remember. There’s the root history of Jazz where you covered Pop music of the day, but more importantly they’re good songs. There’s that connection. If Jazz is gonna survive we have to connect with people who are buying records. Old people don’t buy records as much as young people do. There was a renaissance of Jazz in the ‘90s because young people in college got into it again. Did you ever go to Smalls? I was there when they first opened up. Its amazing that every night—they opened up at ten o’clock and for the first few years it was a real struggle, but once they found their niche every night at nine o’clock there’d be a line around the block of kids from NYU waiting to get in. To hear jazz music. That’s the stupidest thing you’d ever hear of!!!
AAJ: That’s what really struck me when I heard those particular songs. There’s this resonance to it. Obviously I’m not denigrating anyone else’s approach, but there’s this resonance when you start hearing songs that you grew up with. You here a sound that brings you into it. I think that’s something much of the Jazz industry has forgotten. That’s one of the reasons why the old time Jazz players used those Pop songs.
MJ: At the same time I don’t want to be seen as selling out with this music to try and get the kids. It’s not that at all. I’m trying to present a good time. I’m trying to present honest music. It’s part of who I am.
AAJ: That’s what I’m driving at. We didn’t grow up with “Embraceable You” as our Pop songs. We can enjoy it, but it’s not been internalized in the same way.
MJ: You’re right, that’s right. It’s interesting. We’ll go play gigs at college campuses and they’ll ask ‘Oh, what kind of band are you guys?’ ‘We’re a Jazz band.’ And they’re like, ‘I don’t like Jazz music.’ ‘Well, have you heard us yet?’ “Well, no.’ ‘Then stick around.’ Then afterwards, ‘Oh yeah, I really liked that. That doesn’t sounds like normal Jazz to me.’ And its like, its all just music. I don’t like Limp Biskit, but I don’t say I don’t like Rock music. Or Rock and Rap. Because I like Rage Against the Machine. Its about expounding your boundaries.
AAJ: I find that happens to me a lot. People tell me they don’t like Jazz until I take them to hear it live. Then they walk out and are like, ‘Wow. That was really good.’ Most of them have never heard any Jazz live, let alone the more modern stuff.