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

By Published: January 29, 2007
AAJ: I do want to ask you some questions about your side work. You are a current member of John Abercrombie's quartet with bassist Marc Johnson and drummer Joey Baron. You first recorded with him on the Open Land CD (ECM, 1999) but the first with this particular quartet was Cat 'n' Mouse (ECM, 2002).

MF: Yeah, and then we did Class Trip (ECM, 2004) and we just did another one about six months ago. I don't know the name of it—I don't know if it's been named. But it's been recorded. Hopefully, it'll be out in March [April, actually], and I think it's the best one.

AAJ: I love the first two records by the group. I very much like this band, and so do a lot of other people. I think the chemistry is special. Tell me what you like about playing with this group.

MF: Well, they're just all on such a high level musically. And John, well—first of all, personally, he's the greatest leader in the world because he's just such a nice guy, and really wants everybody to feel good about their playing. He gives you a lot of freedom. At the same time, the people in the group are mature enough that they really try to serve his music. I think basically, what I like about it the most is just the level—the musical level. The players are so good. I never thought I would be playing with people like that, so it's really a thrill. And I've come to John with a lot of questions about this music, and harmony, and it's been great. He's really helped me.

AAJ: Is there anything particularly different about this new record you've recorded with the band? Anything radically altered from the approach taken on the last two CDs?

MF: Not radically, no. I just think that maybe it's more mature. But you know what? I didn't hear anything but the playbacks, so I don't know. But I don't tend to be an overly positive person, so I don't think I'm just rooting for it. I just remember feeling that it reflected that the group's been together that much longer.

AAJ: You have a pretty fruitful musical relationship with pianist Sylvie Courvoisier.

MF: Right, who's also my wife.

AAJ: Yes. You've played with her in Masada Recital.

MF: Yeah, and on Malphas, Book of Angels [Volume 3: Mark Feldman and Sylvie Courvoisier Play Masada Book Two (Tzadik, 2006)]. And also on her record.

AAJ: Right, with cellist Erik Friedlander, on the album Abaton (ECM, 2003), which is also the name of the group. She's a great composer and a very fine player. You play with her often; you just did a pretty long European tour with her in the spring and a show at Merkin Hall in New York very recently. Tell me about working with her, both in the duo configuration and in the trio with Erik.

MF: Well, she also just recorded another album that's going to be released in January, I think, for Intakt Records. It's called Lonelyville, and it's her music; she's the leader of the group. It's her, myself, this French cellist named Vincent Courtois—he'd be most identified as being part of the [reeds player/composer] Louis Sclavis circle in France—[drummer] Gerald Cleaver and [electronics artist] Ikue Mori. This record is great. I just heard the mix, and I think it's some of her best work.

This is another project of hers that I think is great. We worked really, really tightly on the duo stuff. And, I think all her stuff, all the projects you've mentioned—it all gets laid out on the breakfast table. We really work closely. We work together a lot, and I think we say things together that we wouldn't say to someone we were working with normally. I think that can go either way, but in this case it's really brought some good results. When I improvise with her, it's definitely different than with anyone else. I think it's connected more immediately. We're at the point now where we can almost turn it on and off like a faucet. We can just start playing and it seems like it's always happening. We sort of developed a vocabulary between us.

AAJ: I think that's rather cool. Lots of us have fine relationships with our spouses, but we don't work with them. When the two of you did that European tour, what material were you doing? Was it all improvised, or what?

MF: No, on the last tour we did, we did all the Malphas record—the Zorn material. We have some old material, and we're trying to write new material. But this is really the struggle for me—to write new stuff. So we're trying to write something new, and then do a new CD of our own material. So we're trying to decide which direction it should go in; it's really hard for me until one or two pieces are written and we kind of decide, "That's it. Then it floods in, but before then, it's kind of like, "Jesus, how did I ever write a piece in my life? How did I ever do this?

Same thing with playing. When I'm home, a lot of the time I'm just practicing scales, bowing in the mirror and all that kind of stuff. Then I listen to some record I made and I think, "I don't even know how to play that! I get so bogged down in details of playing or what I should be doing. Then when I hear that I actually did it, I'm really surprised.

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