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Mark Feldman: His Own Music, His Own Sound, His Own Aesthetic

By Published: January 29, 2007
AAJ: Tell me about "Ink Pin. I guess it would be rude of me to call it a sort of a Frankenstein monster of musical fragments, since it's certainly more than that.

MF: That's my little postmodern, funny little vibe. When I first wrote the piece, I thought we'd play the head first and then everyone would play a solo over a time-no-changes, free-bop kind of vibe—one after another. And then it really sounded like an Ornette tune to me. I would say that my major inspiration here would be somewhere between Ornette Coleman or even John Zorn. But not in any kind of quoting way. But I thought that the opening theme was kind of Ornette-ish, but nobody else really seems to think so [laughing]. Someone else wrote that it sounded like Aaron Copland's "Hoe-Down. Which was disconcerting to me. You know that piece?

AAJ: It does not sound like "Hoe-Down.

MF: But anyway, I thought it was just a little fanfare thing, then a little swing thing in the middle—to me it's not so serious that you could call it "Frankenstein. To me, it's supposed to be a little humorous.

AAJ: Maybe more Frankenberry than Frankenstein.

MF: [Laughing] Frankenberry. No, there's kind of a Downtown-sensibility events thing, then that Ornette thing, and then when I play that swing melody—the way that I stamp my foot three times was like some of those earlier swing guys or bebop guys. You never heard them count out loud; they always counted tunes off that way, by stamping. So that's a little part of the joke.

AAJ: Well, it's a very playful piece.

MF: Yeah! It's supposed to just be funny, but played seriously. That's just my little vibe. It's not really supposed to be "genre-bending or anything like that.

Mark FeldmanAAJ: Well, the band plays the hell out of it.

MF: They play great. There are a couple of jokes in the record. That to me is a joke, and the tune "Maria Nuñez has a little kind of code. That's the other tune that's really more of a straight-ahead jazz tune in the sense that it has a head, chord changes in an exact form, and then head again. But "Maria Nuñez was a story from the 1400s about the first female head of family to go from Portugal at the time of the Spanish Inquisition to Amsterdam. There was this whole mythology about her—that she was so beautiful that this British captain tried to get her to move to England, all of this stuff that people don't even know is really true or not.

So in the middle of that piece, before the second section, I put this little quotation from [Rimsky-Korsakov's] "Scheherazade, just to try to give the signal that it's a mythic story. But I don't know if anyone's going to get it [laughing]. That's the deal with that one. And to me, that's kind of funny—it's humorous. Not like a pun, or something, but just a little cleverness that operates on more than one level.

AAJ: Well, they do call it "playing music. Anyway, that is, as you note, one of the jazzier tunes. It's got a very memorable melody, and almost feels like a tango to me.

MF: Well, it's supposed to be about that Spanish woman, so I had something more Spanish in mind. But it's kind of close from our perspective here in New York.

AAJ: Is this a working group? Have you performed this music live?

MF: I performed it once in Italy before the recording. I performed it once in New Orleans, but with some replacements in the band.

AAJ: With [bassist] Drew Gress, I think?

MF: Drew Gress and Neil Kirkwood on piano. And I hope to perform it next year on a tour of Europe that I'm trying to put together. I've got an agency trying to help me, and I hope I can do that.

AAJ: Do you think this is the beginning of a recording relationship with ECM?

MF: Well, yes. I mean, I think my recording relationship with ECM started when I started playing with [guitarist] John Abercrombie. [ECM label head/producer] Manfred [Eicher] had spoken to me about doing a record, and it took me about a year—quite a while after he first mentioned it, anyway—before I actually could say what I wanted to do. I'm not so fast. So I think the answer is yes, this is the beginning of a relationship, but I don't think you're going to see a record a year. Which is unfortunate, because it seems like that's really the way that things are done now.

Nowadays, the field is so crowded and everything's so difficult; to have anyone's attention, it really helps if you put out a record every year. If you do that—well, look at some of these people: they have twelve records out. But you don't want to put out one record twelve times. So it depends on how fast you can have something really new to say. Or, you know, if you really just wanted to get away from business and there was something you really just wanted to say, that you felt you had to say, that you should say. Instead of, "Well, in order to maintain my profile in the music industry, I should— Which is where a lot of things are at these days!

AAJ: Yeah, that definitely should not be a reason for getting some new music together.

MF: Yes, but I'm sure that it is a lot of the time. Anyway, I don't think I'll be doing a record every year. But unless something changes, I think I'll do another one, yes.

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