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Interviews

Ben Monder: Surprise from Cohesion

By Published: February 6, 2006
AAJ: Sure. So now we're at that rapid section.

BM: Yeah. And that, again, just deals with the first phrase of the original theme and extends it in different ways—goes through three different pedals. Then it goes back to the second section.

AAJ: Yeah, that telepathic time change to the slower time.

BM: Well, it's not telepathic at all. It just slows down. The magic of digital editing! And so, let's see if I remember it right—it leads back into the final statement of the original theme in its entirety, which ends in the drum break. I put that in because I couldn't end it there—but you needed a vacation from all those notes, so I figured, well, take a drum solo.

AAJ: If anything relieves the tension of that piece, it's the drum break. And that leads into a coda—that descending guitar line.

BM: Exactly. Which is really just the theme inverted, and that's taken through some different paces. The theme inverted, and then stretched intervallically gradually. The very end of the coda is just the first three notes of the original theme, played over and over again in different keys. So it might sound at first as if it has no bearing on anything, but it really is related to the theme.

AAJ: Pretty complicated stuff and pretty thematically thought out. But it does have a poppy hook, which is that skittering descending harmonic phrase you play twice in the piece.

BM: Oh, right, the fast triplets. Yeah, it's funny I can get away with that, because it's just a guitar trick, but I managed to fit it in.

AAJ: How much rehearsal went into this particular tune? It's obviously not an easy thing to play.

BM: A lot. A lot, but not as much as you might think, because Kermit is a great reader. And he's also a very diligent worker. He got it together really quickly. I should mention that Satoshi Takeishi was the original drummer, so he played a lot of gigs where we were playing that tune, so it sort of coalesced through a bunch of performances. When I added Ted to the band, he also learned it really quickly; I gave him a tape and we went over it, just the two of us. He's also a great reader and a really quick thinker. It didn't take long for him to fit right in. But yeah, we did do a lot of rehearsing.

AAJ: You talked about the magic of digital editing—I take it this song isn't one long take.

BM: We tried [laughing], but no. No. It was a really tough record to make; I try to forget about that, but it was. I booked three days in the studio in, let's see, January of 2004. It was right after the IAJE where I had like four gigs, something like that. So I was there every night, during, I think, the coldest week in fifty years. Something like that. Not that that's relevant, but I was really distracted by playing with all these different bands.

And then Sunday was the first day of my recording, so I'd played Wednesday through Saturday and that was really a bad idea—because I was not there for my own music. I didn't have the mental energy left to really deal with it, and I didn't have the time to put in for the preparation. So we tried that piece, and I just couldn't play it. It was pathetic, really terrible. So I went through this agonizing process of trying to figure out if I could salvage it, and just decided to book another day about two, three weeks later. And so we did it and it went a lot better. But even so, we recorded take after take, section after section, and just pieced it together.

AAJ: "Echolalia is a very different sort of song. It's almost got a Brazilian sort of sound to me, and Theo's wordless vocal is very memorable: it grows and flowers and has some built-in peaks and recurrent melodies. Was this completely written out for him?

BM: Oh, yeah. But yeah, he did a great job on that piece. Obviously, there are these phrases and each phrase repeats—that's probably why I called it "Echolalia. It's kind of a psychological term.

AAJ: It's kind of a psychological term.

BM: No, I mean it is a psychological term.

AAJ: No, I'm demonstrating echolalia. So the middle section of this song has an actual guitar solo, which really stands out in the context of this CD—there's lots of guitar, but not a lot of conventional soloing. Any reason for it here?

BM: Well, sequencing the record was a challenge, and I just thought it was a good time in the record for a solo. Also, the piece kind of acts as an antidote for the preceding piece ["Oceana ], just in its tonality and its regular pulse. I wanted to write something that was had a little more solo-head, so there it is. When I started thinking about doing a record, it wasn't my intention to have it basically 90% through-composed. It's just kind of what happened.

AAJ: Kermit's bass during your solo is particularly good to me—very sparse and autonomous, not completely interlocked with your guitar.

BM: Yeah, I think it's more interlocked with what Ted's doing. They're really hooked-up on that. They're both very intuitive, telepathic players. Especially Ted; we've played in a lot of situations now over the last couple of years, and it's amazing all the moments he just kind of plays exactly what I'm thinking in the moment . There's no time to calculate what's going to happen—but it just happens.



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