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Rebecca Martin: Paradox Of Continuity

By Published: December 25, 2006

AAJ: Rhythmically it's very different from your other records as well. Because Paul, like you were saying earlier, he's playing all the time, but...

RM: There's still lots of space.

AAJ: Oh yeah, he leaves tons of space. He, of course, has great time and is a wonderful drummer, but for me he's not essentially a time-keeper. That doesn't always feel like his main role to me, on more than half the record or so. So it's like the time-keeping was equally distributed amongst the four of you, with you oftentimes being the main time-keeper of the pulse singing the melody relatively straight. Kind of unusual for you. And Larry isn't playing four-to-the-bar kind of stuff most of the time, you know, the "swing tune thing.

RM: That was implied. It comes in and out of the song. There's always an anchor, even with Masabumi, who's just completely out there. I hear Paul going in and out but then I knew what was happening that day. Larry and Chris were really trying to keep the melody intact with Masabumi. [But] with me, and this is what I was hearing, Larry was able play more with Paul, and Chris and I were able to have more interplay. Because the way would I sing the melody, it was clear what the song was. Masabumi takes more liberties and it's not always clear what the song or melody is with Masabumi. That's a nice contrast too. Besides the fact that not all of these songs are "Broadway songs, which is also a contrast for me.

AAJ: Yeah, I like the contrast as well. It took me a minute to get used to the difference of Chris with you as opposed to Bill playing off of you like he does on Middlehope and Ballads.

RM: So different.

AAJ: Yeah, so different. They're both fantastic players, but Chris' playing on this record was relatively "out compared to Bill. He's not holding back; not necessarily just trying to compliment what you're singing or just lead the group into the bridge with a phrase or whatever. A lot of the time he's really going for it.

RM: He's playing the harmony. It was really fun for me and that's what's remarkable about Chris.

AAJ: For me, it's also really impressive for you to do what you're doing with Chris playing what he's playing at times. There's one tune in particular where Chris ends his solo with some pretty out stuff and you come in singing straight melody right through this stuff and it's a really interesting dichotomy; or clash, almost.

RM: I think it's "The Folks Who Live On The Hill. I think that's it. What ends up happening in that tune is I don't sing the bridge the first time around, which I really liked. Chris is just blowing...playing. Blowing is the wrong word. He's playing over the bridge and that's where his solo section starts and then I come back in at the bridge. He's not playing the melody at all in that. He's just going all around, in and out of the harmonic quality of the tune.

AAJ: He does that quite a bit on this record—playing inside and then more outside.

RM: Just playing every note. One of the things that was challenging about it was trying to listen to all that he was doing and keep it straight, but also to be listening. When there's that much music going on, it's very challenging to be listening. But as we performed live, that happened more. It was a good test.

AAJ: What happened more? You guys just playing off of each other?

RM: Well I don't know if he was playing off of me or not. I'd say he was in the sense that I was singing the melody so clearly which gave him a really strong home base to work around in this context. But I know I was listening really hard to what he was doing just to, if nothing else, work phrasing-wise within what he was playing. Not so much changing the melody. Even when I'd come back in where it's traditional for singers to improvise. I don't really do that. It's not something I do. It's not my forte so I don't generally try.

I think that if there's anything similar to that in the way that I sing it's more of an emotional or communication thing. I communicate the lyric in a way that might resonate with someone. Sometimes people work so technically that you don't really have the chance to have an intimacy with whatever the person is playing. I believe that that's what I offer in these kinds of situations. Besides the fact that I'm singing things clearly, and the lyric [is clear]. So often people come up after some standard at these gigs and say, "Thank you for just singing the song. It's really nice to discover the song and to hear the melody and the lyric without any embellishment. And I think, "Well, it's my pleasure to try to do that as best as I can, to honor the writing of the song. But also, it's all I can do (laughs). It's not like they're going to get a big-ass solo out of me.

AAJ: So scatting or soloing isn't really your forte and you don't really do that but...

RM: Or just taking liberties with the melody...

AAJ: But you said you've got maybe some other kind of emotional connection to certain phrases, or parts of a melody/lyric...

RM: ...that I can communicate.

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