Tom Lawton: Co-Creating the Music
AAJ: That’s a fascinating idea: jazz as a filter for other influences.
TL: As I was saying, John Zorn, Dave Douglas- one of his first groups was called the “Tiny Bell Trio” and that started a whole movement in jazz that was checking out Eastern European and Balkan dance forms. And there are still people doing it today, like Chris Speed. To me, most of the interesting things in jazz in recent years have come from the fringes, not from Lincoln Center. The Kinitting Factory, Tonic, hip-hop, klezmer, and so on have all fed the fire.
AAJ: Meaning that it comes from the whole world.
TL: No- what I mean is that Wynton Marsalis’ Lincoln Center vibe- for a while there was a traditionalist movement in jazz where the history was a big thing. I never really wanted to go there. I’ve always respected the history, but I never wanted to stay there. I’m much more interested in what’s happening right now and at noon tomorrow. As great as the masters are, I’m not into constantly revisiting them, especially as regards conscious imitation.
AAJ: There’s a difference between jazz as a specific development and jazz as incorporating whatever happens to be there.
TL: Jazz musicians have always done that, and for lack of a better term, we call certain things “jazz.” And I’m all for a very broad interpretation of that. In fact, I’d just as soon not use the term “jazz,” rather “universal music.” Critics, and even jazz musicians can be the worst offenders in criticizing certain jazz groups because they’re supposedly not using the essentials of jazz. At this point, things can go anywhere. There’s so much of that that’s already been done. Basically, take what you like from that tradition and then mix it with your own vision. I love Keith Jarrett’s quote: “Seek what the masters sought, not what they found.”
AAJ:As I mentioned before, the recording is on the Dreambox label, which I believe is based in Philadelphia and uses many recording artists for the region. Kathy Ridl does many of their album cover designs.
TL: They have quite a catalog now.
AAJ: Tell us what you know about the company and how you ultimately chose to put your CD out under their auspices.
TL: It’s run by Jim Miller and vocalist Suzanne Cloud. It’s run by musicians for musicians. Basically, they allow the musicians to do their thing, put out their own projects. The musicians finance the project, and Dreambox opens avenues of distribution.
AAJ: Is that label open to musicians nationally and internationally.
TL: They’ll consider it from anywhere. If someone, say, from Denmark has something, he or she can send it to them. If they like it, they might accept it. However, the priority is giving coice to the rich, yet underexposed Philadelphia scene.
AAJ: And they can access the information by going to the website www.dreamboxmedia.com .
TL: Also, your readers can purchase the CD’s, including mine, on that website as well as at amazon.com
THE RECORDING STUDIO: MAGGIE’S FARM
AAJ: Tell us about the recording studio: Maggie’s Farm is the name- it has echoes of Richie Havens or whatever.
TL: That’s a studio in Pipersville, Bucks County, that’s gaining quite a reputation lately.
AAJ: Near New Hope.
TL: Right. It’s run by Matt Balitsaris, who is also a wonderful engineer. He happens to be a co-owner of Palmetto Records, so lots of great people record there like Andrew Hill, Fred Hersch, Matt Wilson. It’s becoming more and more respected, as is his engineering.
HOW TO CONTACT TOM LAWTON
AAJ: If any of the listeners and/or musicians would like to contact you about jazz composition, and so on, how can they get ahold of you?
TL: Believe it or not, I’ve just been given an email address .
AAJ: OK. We’ve covered quite a bit of territory. To sum up, Tom, you’ve come up with a creative, original, exploratory, and at the same time very listenable CD that will both be an inspiration to other musicians and expand the musical horizons of the fans. Kudos! And, as always, thanks for your thoughts and your music.