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Rebecca Martin: Paradox Of Continuity

By Published: December 25, 2006

AAJ: So you think she might've changed some of the language?

RM: She wouldn't have. But if you were going to sing that today you might think about updating it somewhat. But then—t's such a tricky thing.

AAJ: You mean just so that people understand it. Maybe changing the language but not necessarily the meaning so that people could understand it now?

RM: That's a really good question. Are you changing it so people can understand it more clearly or are you changing it because it's racist?

AAJ: Right. You can change the language but not necessarily change the meaning so much, so that people get the point because we're in a different time.

RM: I don't know what you would do. But it wouldn't surprise me if somebody chose to sing that song and updated the lyrics. Some of the lyrics that I'm finding that were interpreted in the '50s, say in Blossom Dearie's case, or in the '80s and early '90s, were changed to suit [the singers] and it was done beautifully. It's a delicate balance because you don't want to change the meaning of the song or go too far from the intention of the writer. It's delicate for sure. But the changes that I found I thought were really well done. It's like a person who interprets a lyric and then writes a song that's loosely based on the lyric that was originally written. Sometimes that works great and sometimes it really doesn't. If you were to translate it literally it probably would be very hard to sing in English, for example. Those words in English would be difficult to sing to the existing melody. Some translations don't have the same poetic meaning in another language as they do in their original language. So if you translate something and it's not singing well, the melody, or it just sounds off...

AAJ: There are some languages where there isn't even have one word in English to describe something that might have, say, four words to describe.

RM: Right, right. One time I worked with this Japanese singer in this big pop band in Japan. My job was to help her take the translations of her Japanese lyrics and make them work better in English. Man...we kept running up against that. All these meanings that were beautiful and rich, and when they translated into English just didn't make any sense. So to try to get that feeling of the tunes in English without changing the song was really a great challenge. Interpretation is incredible. It's endless.

AAJ: So you and Paul both brought tunes to this session; he knew that he didn't want to have a chordal player, piano or guitar, on the tunes you were singing, right?

RM: Yeah.

AAJ: For me that's the biggest difference between this and Middlehope. The vibe is real different. Even with the same bassist, same singer, mostly standards and similar style arrangements, it has a very different feeling. For me I think it's mainly because, besides Paul, there are no chords being laid down. It's much sparer.

RM: Well, also Chris and Paul. Paul creates a whole lot of space and yet finds the groove in everything. He's so spacious and open and in the moment. He's playing all the time like a kid. It's beautiful to sing to. And then you've got Chris Potter. He's so strong and has so much to say, so many ideas.

AAJ: Very different from [saxophonist] Bill McHenry's playing on your other records. Great, for sure, just very different.

RM: Bill McHenry acts more as a foil to my singing. Chris is just kind of in his own world. It's very different just in that way. I like it a lot without a chordal player. I've really enjoyed it. It gives me plenty of room to just sing the melody straight. The challenge is to do it with the band and to listen. I mean, you can do that with anything. It doesn't matter how many players you have. There was something about it that was so open, even though Chris was saying plenty and beautifully. I also thought his sound was great on the record. The engineer was phenomenal on this record. You can mention him (Adrian von Ripka). He blew my mind that guy.

AAJ: Where'd you record? Somewhere in the city [New York]?

RM: It was at Avatar. This engineer was brought in from Germany. Boy, he was amazing.

AAJ: Yeah, everything is extremely clear. It's kind of warm but there's an edge on it—more of an edge than your records as a leader, which are very warm and kind of cushy, almost soft-like, texture-wise. Maybe it's just the lack of instruments and chordal accompaniment.

RM: I think my records tend to have warmth anyway.

AAJ: Yeah, definitely. Middlehope and People Behave Like Ballads are very warm. Almost round-like, the sound. This Motian record is really different texturally.

RM: That's a really nice compliment because that's what I try to accomplish with my records. Paradox of Continuity was not my record. This was a record I was invited in to do. You have to accommodate other people's styles and ways of working and be flexible. There's a lot to learn in that context especially with these kinds of players. So all I was really trying to do was be completely in the moment with Paul and just sing the best that I could that day. I'm really proud of that. I really enjoyed it.

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