David Gilmore: Getting To The Point
“ To continue to grow in your knowledge and expansion takes so much more effort when you'e older, and when you hit a certain level ”
Sometimes, a series of small disparate observations dovetail to produce incredulity, stupefaction and even anger. Here we go. Have you noticed that Nat Hentoff has set off a bit not his first bit) of controversy with his December 2001 "Final Chorus , which can be found on the last page of every issue of Jazz Times. Nat took occasion to knock a couple of the more well-known current crop of jazz divas. Suspending, for the purpose of avoiding litigation, the issue of whether I agree or disagree with the estimable and always spot-on Mr. Hentoff, I include the following quote:
"Jane Monheit's success is a triumph of savvy management and publicity?"the right clubs and television spots aided by scribes who have temporarily suspended their jazz judgment.
He then went on to quote the Jazz Times review of her cd (by another critic for the magazine) implying she was not a jazz singer at all, to wit:
"Monheit's rehearsed, theatrical quality has less in common with jazz musicians than torch singers, cabaret artists and those who sing musical theater."
Like loads of folks, I find this extremely intriguing, but unlike them it has absolutely zero to do with any opinion of mine regarding Jane Monheit. See, here's the thing. I happen to know that the Jazz Journalist Association (JJA) nominated four cds for "Recording Debut of the Year for their jazz year, April 15, 2000 to April 15, 2001. Here they are:
- Tony Malaby, Sabino (Arabesque)
- Jane Monheit, Never Neverland (N-Coded Music)
- Claudia Acuna, Wind from the South (Verve)
- David Gilmore, Ritualism (Kashka)
This nomination list was particularly important to me, because I am one of the few jazz journalists to have reviewed David's gem of a recording. And by the way, if you believe me, it was indeed the Recording Debut of that Year by a jazz artist. In addition, another web-based critic, www.about.com 's Blaine Fallis (who can now be found at over at www.modernjazz.com ) picked it as one of the ten best releases of the calendar year 2000, in all categories. Well, Ms. Monheit won. The JJA didn't publish the final tally, but for the sake of argument, let's assume Mr. Gilmore came in second. Well then, if you believe the Jazz Journalists Association and you believe Nat Hentoff, by transitivity of jazz logic, David's Ritualism should (or could) then be considered de facto, the debut jazz release of 2000. A well-deserved, yet inference driven, kudo for David.
Bear with me here... I'm not angry yet. What blows my mind is this. In the course of completing this interview, it has come to my attention that Ritualism has yet to be reviewed by any of the major jazz periodicals, although it was serviced to all of them. Now, David is not only on an independent label, he's on a really independent label-his own. Personally, I should think jazz publications should recognize who David is, having played with Steve Coleman, Cassandra Wilson, Don Byron, Graham Haynes, Uri Caine, Trilok Gurtu and Mister Wayne Shorter, but let's give the staffer, maybe even an intern, the benefit of the doubt. Look a tad deeper, though, and it gets a bit more disrespectful, considering the recording happens to feature a guy named Coltrane (Ravi, who by the way, has just started his own independent imprint, called RKM Music). And what of the nomination by the JJA for Debut Recording of the Year? Yeesh. So, this raises a few issues. Are the mag staffers talking to the journalists, or vice-versa? Is such treatment an indie smackdown? Is it just the product of some huge perception and communication problems? Should the independents follow some established "establishment rules of networking that have not been revealed to them? Read on, and you'll get some points of view on the controversial indie issue, and more importantly, a look into the mind behind the most slammingly polyrhythmic, yet accessible, jazz release to come down the pike this millennium.
AAJ: What factors most strongly contributed to you finally getting a solo project together?
DG:It was something I'd been planning for a long time. Originally I was trying to do it with a small Austrian label called PAO and ended up wasting too much time negotiating a deal. At the point where I realized it wasn't going to work out, I just wanted to do something and get it out there badly. I was inspired by what Dave Fiuczynski and his wife Lian had done and a few others, like Tim Berne and his label.
Plus, some of the music was stuff I'd been playing over a couple of years, so it was really ready. The rest I came up with for the session. I borrowed a whole lot of money and went into a whole lotta debt and there it was.
AAJ: And it probably takes less money, relatively anyway, than it's ever taken.
DG: Sure. I was able to cut costs a little myself because I have somewhat of a home studio here. I did it mostly live in the studio and some overdubs at the house. I did all the edits myself, bouncing ADATS of the session to my hard drive.
AAJ: Define the audience for this project.
DG: The people who like Ritualism anyway, run from musicians to non. I know a lot of people who aren't musicians who really feel the record.
AAJ: How was the recording done? Are all the guys in the same room with the drummer so you have the same ambience?
DG: It was 16 bit ADAT in the studio. The drummer and I were in booths with Brad (Jones, the bassist) behind partitions. The horns were in another room and there was a main room where the piano and the organ were. I picked the studio because it was a nice room, acoustically, and everybody could see each other visually. It's important to have the band thing. It's pretty much all live...you know.
AAJ: How long did it take? Like a second, right?
DG: We tracked basically for two days..
AAJ: Man, you guys are unbelievable...
DG: I went back into the studio to do "Confluence , because Imani (Uzuri-vocals) couldn't do it at the time. Actually, we aborted a previous session in January...I had James Genus instead of Brad on bass...the studio just didn't work out...the piano was out of tune...I had to pull the plug finally. I did have a finished version of "Confluence from that session but I ended up throwing it out. We rerecorded it as a trio-bass, guitar and vocals.
AAJ: How'd you find Imani Uzuri? She's been on some drum'n'bass type recordings, right? (related article)
DG: Actually, she's on Herbie's new record, Future 2 Future. She wrote some lyrics for one of those tunes. I only heard parts of that cd so far. I met her a couple of years back through friends of mine. I just always loved the quality of her voice. She doesn't do "jazz gigs..I heard her on her own gigs...drum'n'bass. She has a really rich deep kind of voice. At that point I wasn't thinking of her for my stuff, but as it turns out we collaborated and she wrote lyrics to "Confluence . That date wasn't easy for her, but she certainly managed to pull it off.
AAJ: How'd you get the rest of the band ?
DG: Like I said, Brad was a sub. Now Brad has turned out to the better choice for this kind of music. I mean I love James but Brad has this looseness from playing with Ornette.
DG: Oh, yeah. Ornette, the Jazz Passengers, Marc Ribot. So the core band was there. The sidemen made sense. I mean part of it was just that I knew guys who were willing to do me huge financial favors for the music. I knew Rodney (www.rodneyholmes.com) from Wayne, and he has this jazzy jazzy, but funky, other way of playing.
AAJ: It's almost like prog rock at times, just all over the kit. And George Colligan (http://www.allaboutjazz.com/iviews/gcolligan.htm)?
DG: I think I met him through Binney (www.mythologyrecords.com/binney.html), who's also on the cd.
AAJ: And Ravi and Ralph Alessi are through Steve Coleman?
AAJ: And you're on Ralph's new thing?
DG: That's not out yet. Check RKM for that (www.rkmmusic.com). I've got some space on that one, but I was disappointed with the amp I used for the session. That's some hard music too. Don Byron's on it as well as Nausheet Waits and Drew Gress.
AAJ: Your record seems like a natural progression from Coleman to Lost Tribe to Trilok to your own thing, as opposed to some other directions you've gone in with other folks.
DG: I guess it comes out of all those experiences...you know, playing with Steve and Trilok...though osmosis it's crept into my system. But even before I met Steve and the whole M-Base thing I had an attraction to odd meter music or whatever you want to call it. I was into Return to Forever and Mahavishnu and all that stuff.
I was introduced to playing jazz when I first started taking guitar lessons at age 15, with John Baboian, a teacher at Berklee School of Music. Then I kind of worked my way backwards into straight ahead jazz. But I was always into that type of music. The stuff I'm doing now, at least the Ritualism thing, has got the odd meter stuff. I just find there to be a lot of unexplored territory, you know, with rhythms as it relates to modern jazz harmonies and melodies. I mean jazz in the rhythmic sense has been pretty much in 4:4 with the occasional 3:4 and that's...
AAJ: That's it! That's what I really want to touch on with you. This is what Steve is known for and now you. You are one of the masters regarding this aspect.
DG: Well, there are other people, but a lot of them come at it from a different angle, like Brad Shepik with Pachora and the Commuters (AAJ interrupts)
AAJ: Yeah, but they're coming from ethnic rhythms.
DG: Well, they're using things in 11 and 21 or whatever. Steve's thing has evolved within his own projects. Like it used to be "this tune is in 5 and "this is in 7 , but around "Rhythm People it evolved into polymetric tunes. It went further with "Black Science where the pianist was in one meter, the bassist was in another and I was in another and the parts would intersect at various points creating cross-rhythms.
AAJ: Well, this is the wonderful complexity of your music. But it doesn't sound like that to the listener.
DG: Ritualism doesn't have that much polymetric rhythmic stuff goin' on. Some of it's implied, but Steve will have a whole tune just kind of looping with polyrhythmic stuff. I've written tunes like that but they didn't make it to my record. There are tunes where the meter changes within the tune but not long stretches where one meter is played against the other. There are only short bursts where one is played against the other...in a melody or something like that. Poly -rhythm is implied or even improvised a lot. Rodney goes into some metric modulation and we all do a bit of that. We do even more of that live.
AAJ: Yeah whatever that is? Metric modulation is...(SEE: http://homepage.tinet.ie/~251/lesson5.html)
DG:Here's a way to think of it. A basic one. For example say something's in 4. A lot of times I base things off of the triplet. So each beat is da-ta-ta, da-ta-ta, da-ta-ta, da-ta-ta.....like eight note triplets. 123,223,323, 423 etc. You can accent, for example, every 4 of the triplets..so its still triplets, but in 4 note groupings, so those twelve notes grouped in 4 groups of three are now in 3 groups of four, even though they are still played as triplets 1234, 1234, 1234...datatata,datatata,datatata.
Snapping your fingers while counting this over that pulse will show you how the emphasis can be shifted into a different rhythmic strata or layer. But the trick is really getting back to where you were, originally. Well that's always the trick I guess (laughs). But I mean that looping thing I was referring to earlier. When I improvise I base a lot of things off of triplet figures where I omit certain beats.
AAJ: You mean in your single note lines? I can really hear the time in your single note lines. It's a great element of your linear playing that there's rhythm in the line..which not many guitarists have, or if it comes out in their playing, they're not thinking about it in those terms.
DG:To me, guitar players for some reason have lagged behind in rhythm. It's a rhythmic instrument. I mean you hit it..it's a percussive instrument. I played drums a percussion before I played guitar. I'm a closet drummer. I love playing rhythm guitar as well, just laying in the pocket with the rhythm section. Just taking a few choice notes and just exploring the rhythm of those notes and then...seeing how other cats react to it.
AAJ: Well, that really came out in Lost Tribe a lot...between you and Adam Rogers.
DG:Yeah, sure. Well, I can't touch Adam when it comes to notes. In a way I had to find...he's such a note freak, and such a great player, and he's got such fluid lines.
AAJ: Nolo contendre, man. One of the great soloists on the instrument of our time, right along with yourself, in my opinion. I was thinking in terms of you guys playing off each other in Lost Tribe with those cycling single note lines, those hypnotic riffs behind the melodists or the soloists...like "Mythology from the first cd or "Second Story from "Soulfish .
DG:Oh yeah, definitely. That too.
AAJ: Can you break it down, timewise on a few of the tunes on your cd?
DG: "Ritualism is in 11. You can think of it as 11:8 but I like to think of it as 5 and Ãƒ?—?":4.
AAJ: That's interesting...
DG:Phonically, it's 1,2,3,4,5 and1,2,3,4,5 etc. No space between the "and and the "1 .That's 4 quarter notes and the last is a dotted quarter note.
AAJ: Yet somehow the stuff is so slamming...
DG:Well, see the bass line is one bar but the piano line spreads over two bars before it completes...so it's an over the bar piano line while the bass is one.The piano line doesn't complete 'til two measures of the bass line. When you stretch certain things out like that, it's a good way to get away from the stiffness that often happens when you try to write something in an odd meter. So the stuff over the top is spread out...and NOT playing on the downbeat all the time is very important as well. When we play in 4:4 we don't play on the downbeat all the time. The old fusion stuff emphasized the one with a crash every measure... that drives me nuts. It takes getting used to feeling those meters in order to feel comfortable playing over and writing lines that feel, just, natural, in that meter. But that one is, yeah, 5 1/2 :4 for the whole tune. It does have short beats and long beats..the long beat shifts to different positions on a couple of bars. So it's almost like a clave concept ...what's the terminology they use...harmonic rhythm? Yeah. That means like, shifts in different areas to give it some variation.
AAJ: So are you totally conversant in this theory of time, basically?
DG:What do you mean ?
AAJ: I don't know what I mean...obviously...that's why I'm askin' you (laughs)! Time is something people feel, then there are advanced humanoids like yourself who can explain where it comes from and thump it out on their leg and explain the theory behind it. Have you studied clave, son and montuno and all that?
DG:There's so much I have to learn. I'm ignorant of the terminology, the names of some of these rhythms. I've heard them and even played them without knowing what they're called.
AAJ: Not only that, you've played them with masters of percussion.
DG:Shame on me, I should know what they're called. It's true, I'm just more of a feel guy there.
AAJ: Did you pick all this stuff up before you started playing with these virtuosos?You must've had some basic knowledge before you came to the table.
DG:Well, when you say know..I have certain tools I use to stay within something that's difficult rhythmically. I have certain methods that I use. I've met Indian musicians who have a certain way of counting things out or feeling things out that's totally different and I find to be more complex, but they find it simpler. My method may not be the right method for that style. If they were to teach me how I was supposed to think of it, it would be alien to me.
AAJ: I thought you'd probably studied with Trilok, or something along those lines.
DG:Trilok never really explained to much to me regarding the symbols and the rhythms, you know the Ta Ka Dhin, etc (see: http://chandrakantha.com/tablasite/bsicbols.htm.. I got some leadership from Jamey Haddad, who's an expert on that stuff. He's brilliant with that. I want to go to Brazil and really get hip to all the stuff there. Once I have a feel for these things, I gravitate towards that type of music, and I have certain skills that I bring to help play it, but I don't know what they're all called.
AAJ: So, we got through the first tune..
DG: "Kaizen is in 4:4. Just syncopated on the upbeats, the jazzy swinging thing. "Paradigm Shift shifts all over the place. But that was just a melody I put together the way I heard it without thinking about the time signature. Then I sat down and I had to write it down later. It's a more intuitive approach.
AAJ: Well that's the beauty of it. I assume you're not intellectualizing too much, like a Steve Coleman might.
DG: It's what I hear. Then I figure it out. Steve is definitely more analytical and scientific in his approach to writing and improvising. I don't always have the patience for that. But I enjoy working with him because it pushes me. Whenever I do something with him I try to give it my full attention, because too few musicians do that, you know. We spend our early years learning and absorbing so much and then when we get to a certain plateau, it's exhausting to continue learn and absorb new stuff at the same rate as when we were younger. To continue to grow in your knowledge and expansion takes so much more effort when you're older, and when you hit a certain level. This is not just in music, I guess, it's language and other careers too. There's so much resistance to it. We're not rewarded financially or anything for any kind of increase in knowledge and creativity. In fact, it's kind of like the inverse relationship..the more you know, the chances are you won't make so much money. The reward system is not practical at all. This contributes to so much complacency among musicians in terms of their level of musicianship. And the music industry doesn't really...
AAJ: It's due to some factors in the music industry which aren't the musicians' fault.
DG:Yeah. It used to be where exchange of knowledge among musicians was freer. It still happens, but not like when Bird and Diz were together, Coltrane...
AAJ: Well this is an interesting tack.
DG: Well, it's how I feel. The openness just isn't there. Coleman is someone who finds a lot of things in nature and the universe and tries to relate it in a musical sense. He's just fascinated by that. And he's found an audience for it. He's been very fortunate in that aspect.
AAJ: Is he one of cats that shares?
DG: Yeah. Sometimes you've got to pull it out of him though.
AAJ: He seems like he'll share once you show him you're a believer.
DG: Yeah. And again, it's like I have my certain way of approaching his music. I still break it down in the same basic way and find a certain harmony with a certain scale that works with the music that he's doing. I might have derived it from some concept that he had, but I'm still breaking it down in terms of scales sometimes, and he's moved way beyond that. He just doesn't think that bound when he improvises.
He would have things where there are no scales written but more like ...he would have these cells, containing certain intervals. He was studying Bartok for a minute. This one book by Elliott Antokoletz [The Music of Bela Bartok: A Study of Tonality and Progression in Twentieth-Century Music] analyzes Bartok's music. He borrowed some of the concepts from that book and put it into some of his music on "Black Science . Unfortunately, he spends months digesting this stuff and when it comes time for the record date, we have about five days to learn it. This forces me to put it into terms I can digest more easily, such as converting the concept into a 5 or 6 note scale I can deal with. Not just scales, but intervals, expansion, contraction, the Fibonacci series and all this stuff. To me, that's great and its his thing, but I haven't found too much use for that approach with the stuff in the things I've done. I like the more intuitive musical approach, with some science.
AAJ: Well, I think your stuff is a bit more accessible.
DG:I use more conventional chords and things like that..but being exposed to Steve and his approach, maybe my thing would've been different, or say, Osby's thing might have been different.
AAJ: Have you worked with Greg too?
DG:Only in the studio, never any live gigs with his band. I wish...'cause I love his writing and his playing. These days, especially, he is writing some great stuff. He's another more intuitive writer... some of his new stuff is great.
Not many people take the time and have the dedication Steve does to developing something new and different. He's very absorbed in what he does. He's made some conscientious decisions to be that way. He's decided to really devote his life to that, even on a personal level. In a way you need to have that attitude to go that deep into stuff.
AAJ: In terms of the compositional aspect, how do you do what you do?
DG:The way I approach writing- it's more simple than a guy like Steve, but it's not simple. His ways of conceptualizing things is definitely complex, but the music may not be, compositionally. Anyway, the way I write a tune varies from coming up with a bass line to layering a rhythm on top of it and then a melody...or it could come from the keyboard. I write with mostly the guitar and piano. The piano helps me come up with things I wouldn't come up with otherwise. It really helps me for arranging horns. I want to vary the music that comes out. I don't want it always coming from guitar. It can come vocally as well. Sometimes I do the tune from the chord progression too, so I can come at it from all aspects. One thing I'd like to be able to do is write more quickly. For instance, I'd like to have a batch of tunes ready to go for the next thing
AAJ: That all probably plays into what you're doing. For instance, If you were gigging relentlessly with your own project or selling more records with your own project, you would probably be writing more for your own thing.
DG:Oh definitely. It's very hard to keep your eyes on the prize. For instance, I have yet to do a tour with this band, George, Rodney and Brad.
AAJ: To get those guys on the road would be tough. Rodney's got the gig with Steve Kimock now, not to mention the one he had with Santana. What do you think of that ?
DG:I think it sucks. He should dedicate all of his time to me. I'm just kidding. But I throw three gigs at him a year. Seriously, if I could come up with a guaranteed tour, these guys would do it. For instance, I had a ten date thing almost booked for March 2002 in Europe, but the agent pulled the plug in December, because things didn't come in quickly enough. The agent's in Italy and we're on his roster, but not enough local promoters who work with clubs or the clubs themselves, were interested.
AAJ: Well, these are the people to get on board, then.
DG:No question. But the record isn't even distributed there, so I'm not so known. Plus, we're trying to get a certain amount of money to make it happen. So all these factors contribute, and as a possible March tour starts coming together, with not enough dates to make it work, you either have to start all over, like we're doing, or run the risk of canceling if you string it out too long, which you definitely don't want to do either. I'll probably hook it up with some local promoters over there myself, now. In Europe things have slowed down. Again, if you're not on a major label you don't get the attention
AAJ: What about here?
DG:Forget the states man. Unless you're playing straight ahead stuff or smooth jazz, where are you gonna play?
AAJ: It's that dead?
DG:I think so yeah, unless you're like Christian McBride or Josh Redman on a major label, yeah.
AAJ: What about these jam bands who do the grassroots thing and get the tours together, get this buzz going. I think your music would appeal heavily to this crowd.
DG:You think so?
AAJ: They've embraced MMW. I'm sure this crowd would like you or like, Steve Coleman's music.
DG:I'd hope you're right. But just testing that out is a problem. I know Steve and Andy Milne (http://users.tellurian.net/amilne/) have gone out to the west coast previously and lost money. I wouldn't even mind that as long as I could pay the band.
AAJ: Oh you have to pay the band, Dave?
DG:The other thing is to get some young, hungry cats who would do the road thing for less money. But it's very hard to find other guys who can play this music well. I can get the band from New York to Boston, but that's as far as I've gone with it. I really want to focus more on Europe because the chances there of making it happen are better. Plus, the gigs pay more there.
AAJ: So, basically bands get treated better there on some semi-established circuit of clubs?
AAJ: So finishing up your current project? Did all the tunes you had make it onto the record?
DG:Well, I had sort of an African 12:8 thing written that we didn't finish up.
AAJ: I hear a lot of that in your chordal work. Do you have a direct influence from African guitar players?
DG:No, you mean guys like Papa Wembe? I listen to it and have a couple of recordings, but I have yet to really check it out. Better to go there and absorb it. I've played with some African guys...I played with Francis M'Bappe, from Cameroon (www.francismbappe.com) for a number of years. Rodney was in that band, too, for a while. Francis has got some funk in his music too. He can groove his ass off.
AAJ: Is he related to Etienne M'Bappe, from Zawinul's band?
DG:No relation. There's another guy named Hilaire Penda that my brother and I played with. He played with Trilok. I'd like to get over to France and check that out a bit more, too. There are quite a few guys in France from Cameroon, West Africa and Bali that are great, but you only hear about a few. I like African, Brazilian and Indian music, and consciously or unconsciously, those ethnic feels make it into my music.
AAJ: In terms of your record, what do you think of the indie thing?
DG:It's been a lot of work. Recently, Lian Amber and Dave Fiuczynski responded to Jazz Times with a great letter to the editor. I guess a review for his cd said something to the effect that they decided to start their own label due to a lack of major label interest. They responded that the lack of interest was on their part, with a laundry list of reasons why. Like, artists don't own their stuff, they barely get enough money to record, pay musicians and put it out, they don't see a dime after it's done, and on and on. In fact they've reacquired the rights to the first two releases, own it and distribute it, and get all the profits. Amen to that.
But it's been tough, I'm basically doing this on my own. I have management, but they don't handle the record company stuff. It's been a serious learning experience. I went to school and studied music and business, but I've learned more this past year than I learned in four years in school
AAJ: How come you and your buddies, like Matt Garrison, Dave Fiuczynski, Gene Lake, Ravi and Ralph Alessi go to some distributor and get a joint European deal.
DG:Actually, that's something we're looking at.
AAJ: It certainly seems like the labels and distributors figure out more ways to squash than help the independent artist. A lot of it's just the history. For that statement to appear in Fuze's review is just an example of how the media buys into the whole label thing.
DG:For sure. But having said all that though, I still wish I was signed to a Warner Brothers or a Universal. There's tradeoff, no doubt. But with whatever price you pay for it, you get a certain level of prestige, it gives you certain attention as far as festivals and clubs, and you will get advertisements in some major publications. It makes hooking up tours easier too. Whatever happens from there happens. But at least you have that initial push.
AAJ: When did you start playing?
DG: I started when I was fifteen. After high school I went to Clark University in Worcester Mass. I went for two years as a business major with hopes of minoring in music, but the music program was not geared to jazz or a minor. I transferred to NYU and graduated from there in '87. That was a great move, just to get to New York. Joe Lovano was teaching there, and pianist Jim McNeeley. Originally I wanted to go to Berklee but my father talked me out of it. He wanted me to go to school where I could study something else. He wanted me to check out other things as well.
AAJ: Not surprising considering who he is.
DG:I mean he went to the New England Conservatory himself (Note: David's dad, Marvin is Boston area business man with a big soft spot for music, and has owned the Western Front, a reggae club in Cambridge for over 20 years). I wouldn't say my family encouraged me towards music, but they didn't discourage me. In retrospect, maybe Berklee wouldn't have been the best choice. It seems like the best players go for a while and get out. I feel good that I went to college and finished up with a degree... and paid my loans off after ten years for the piece of paper hanging up on the wall. It looks good and the frame is real nice (laughs). Actually, who cares how you learn it, as long as you learn it.
AAJ: Did you start playing with heavy cats right away, when you got out?
DG:Yeah, I missed my graduation by two days because I went out with Steve Coleman. That was my first professional gig. That was 15 years ago, so I was 22 or 3. I had taken a year off between Clark and NYU. I joined the Black Rock Coalition right at the beginning. Kevin Bruce Harris and Geri Allen must have told Steve about me. Kelvyn Bell was the guitarist in the band before me. He's on the first two records. That was my first real thing, touring and stuff, but it wasn't paying the bills. I was managing a bookstore at the time, as well.
AAJ: Did you do the Kevin Bruce Harris records after the Coleman records?
DG:No, the first thing I did was "Sine Die on Sting's label, Pangea. I met Sting and all.
AAJ: He's got Chris McBride, now. I know you played on Chris's last cd. That'd be a nice band, with you and Christian McBride, huh?
DG:Well, actually, my brother, Marque, did a couple of gigs with Sting you know. He was playing on a project with Katia LeBeque and they had some gigs in Spain and Italy and Pompeii. Christian was on the gig as well. Then September 11th hit and the cancelled the rest of the gigs that they had scheduled. It was a special side project for Sting..
Anyway from '87 to '94 I played with Steve.
AAJ: Are you one of the Five Elements?
DG:I guess so, yeah I'm on those Five Elements records and more. I guess I'm water (laughs).
AAJ: Yeah you, Reggie Washington and Gene Lake. That's a rhythm section right there.
DG:I recommended Gene for that gig. Then my brother and Rodney came in for an audition and Gene, well, he just wiped everybody clean, man. Amazing, amazing player.
AAJ: Great cat too. I love his solo cd (http://www.allaboutjazz.com/reviews/r0301_107.htm)
DG:Oh yeah. In between all that I was still working part time "regular jobs. I actually did gig with Sam Rivers before I graduated, but during Steve's time I also did a couple of Kevin Bruce Harris records. He was in Coleman's band at that time, before Reggie Washington. I played with Ronald Shannon Jackson real briefly and then Don Byron.
AAJ: What about Cassandra Wilson?
DG: I only did a couple of gigs with her. Steve produced that record ("Jumpworld , 1989) and I wrote one of the tunes on it. I came close to doing a record back then for Muse because Greg Osby was producing a bunch of sessions for them. But he was trying to get me and another of his guitar players to do a cd and I just wasn't interested in doing a record with another guitarist. I'm on a couple of the Lonnie Plaxico sessions that came out on Muse.
AAJ: What happened to Muse's output?
DG: I know that Joe Fields sold one of his catalogues that he owned and made some money. Maybe that's why they do less recordings. Cindy Blackman, who I play with, just got done with her obligation to Muse.
Every once and a while I did gigs with my own thing but I never pursued it heavily. In '91 I had my daughter, and I was going through some heavy personal things around that time. Looking back, that consumed a lot of my space, you know, and a lot of my focus. And then I started working with Trilok. Right before I went over there to work with Trilok, I quit Steve's thing. Trilok flew me over there, to Germany, to check me out and then rehearse, so it wasn't a sure thing. But I wound up playing with him a couple of years ("Bad Habits Die Hard , "Believe ). That was during Lost Tribe, too. Like '89.
AAJ: We've got to talk about Lost Tribe, with Fima Ephron (www.globalbass.com/archives/feb2002/fima_ephron.htm), Adam Rogers, Ben Perowsky (www.perowsky.com) and David Binney. Killer band!
DG:Well, we never made money with Lost Tribe, either.
AAJ: And you were on a major label!
DG: High Street, a branch of Windham Hill. They kicked in some miniscule tour support to do the states one time. We opened up for Steve Morse.
AAJ: I actually saw Lost Tribe with MMW on a co-bill thing.
DG: They actually did that one after I left the band. They were going out for six weeks driving through the states and up to Canada and back, and I had two gigs with Don Byron in Germany that paid more than six weeks on the road with Lost Tribe would have, so I decided, "I can't do this. No hard feelings, but this is it. They had done gigs without me occasionally before that because I was doing Trilok and Don, so the writing was on the wall there. It wasn't like a major cutoff. It was just time to part ways.
AAJ: In my small circle of friends and fusion lovers, there are people still getting hip to Lost Tribe.
DG: Wow. That first record was real special to me. Maybe just because it was the first record, and that we did it in Maui with Walter Becker. It was a beautiful place. Walter brought us to Windham Hill. Ben Perowsky met him at a session and gave him a demo and he liked it. Then Fima and Ben and Adam Rogers did his record ("11 Tracks of Whack ). It was fun man - I learned a lot from that project. It was definitely the most adventurous stuff on Windham Hill. It was very eclectic, they didn't know how to market it, especially the second record. There was rap stuff on it, and heavy metal.
AAJ: Good point, I really think the Lost Tribe stuff and the stuff Fuze did with the Torsos was a precursor to the rock-metal-rap that is so popular today. Yet, none of the modern-day bands have said that was an influence.
DG:Looking back, it really did have some of those elements in it. I just want to capitalize on all that stuff now. It can't happen fast enough (laughs). Seriously man, I just want to make a living doing what I do. It comes down to that. Getting some recognition in any arena would help.
AAJ: So there hasn't been any major label contact, huh?
DG:Of the few cds that I have sent out, there has been some label interest but they have basically told me that they can't make a move now, so I continued with my initial plan to release it myself. Arabesque was one of those labels.
AAJ: Ben Monder is on that label.
DG:Ben is a highly intellectual cat. He's super nice. I'd like to pick his brain about a few things. But yeah, there are labels out there. Plus I'd like to see what the interest is like for my new Kindread Spirits project. I think that's a great project in terms of commercial viability. That's me on guitar and guitar synth, my brother Marque on drums and samples and Matt Garrison (www.garrisonjazz.com) on bass, keys, and vocoder.
Matt is totally down with that project. He's really great. Kindread Spirits is more like what Nils-Petter Molvaer is doing, with a healthy dose of electronics. Nils is incredibly popular in Europe. He has label support there and he's built his following up.
AAJ: Do you think the fan base builds with the gigging or the gigging builds the fanbase?
DG:I'd say you build your fan base by gigging a lot and you also build the music. It's after that when you reach a point where you start to gig more in terms of demand.
AAJ: I like the whole jam band ethic of gig first and get signed later.
DG: :All I can say is that the market is funny in regards to who gets signed and who doesn't.
AAJ: I just think everything I said before about a market here for your music goes double for the type of sounds you're going for with Kindread Spirits. There's a whole subset of bands doing the live electronica thing that have crossed over into that market, like the Disco Biscuits, Sound Tribe Sector 9 and the New Deal. Take that for whatever it's worth.
OK Dave..NOW comes the time in the interview where you must speak about your time with WAYNE. How'd that happen?
DG:I have to thank Will Calhoun for that. He recommended me.
AAJ: It's all about the word of mouth.
DG:Exactly. Wayne was recording in LA with Will and Marcus, and the way it was told to me, is that Wayne kept hearing guitar. He kept gesturing like he was playing guitar when they were playing the tracks back, so Marcus asked him if he was looking for some guitar on there and Wayne said, "Yeah. I think so . Will suggested me and Marcus had heard me play before so they called me and got me out there. Will originally called and said that Wayne was looking for a guitarist for gigging, so I sent a tape, with mostly Trilok's stuff. A week later, Wayne Shorter called me up! I mean, "Hello, this is Wayne Shorter. I said "huuuuuh!? I remember he said, "Yeah, man, y'know, you get to the point!
So I flew out there and spent a week out there overdubbing with him. The record was done, but he was rerecording the melodies, and they had me double a lot of them. Then Marcus Miller, the producer, proceeded to punish me. He kinda arranged things on the spot because there were no guitar parts written out. Marcus took stuff from the master score and had me play certain chords and chordal type melodies. You can hear it in some areas of the recording better than others. Mainly I'm doubling Wayne and interjecting some things in between. We did the tour later that year in the fall of '95. There were several incarnations of that band. Memories, man.
AAJ: How many dates ?
DG:We did about 20 in '95. In '96 we did a bunch of US dates with Jim Beard (keys), Alphonso (Johnson) and Rodney (Holmes), a European tour...that's when the tragedy happened with his wife (TWA Flight #800, July 17,1996)....after that we did Japan. Maybe like a 80 dates total. Then I played with him in '98 with Terry Lynn Carrington, Jim Beard and John Patitucci. We went to Japan and Brazil. And that was the last time I played with Wayne ... '98.. November. We were supposed to do the next record with me, Brian Blade and Christian McBride, who was with Joshua Redman at the time. We went out there and rehearsed, but it just never happened.
AAJ: Do you have any Wayne stories either funny or more serious, such as what you might have taken from his thing and applied to your own?
DG: Wayne stories...I mean I just like his spirit. I never met anybody or worked with anybody as calm and collected or as peaceful as him. He just has this center, man. And he's funny as hell.
I remember him saying onstage, "Have you ever played like you've never played before? Y'know, like the first time? Then he broke into this wild, free, very loose thing. Then he told me that Miles Davis said that before, to him, you know. He would do that, play very playful games on stage. His playfulness reminds me of a kid, just a beautiful spirit, a beautiful cat.
AAJ: So, musical direction didn't come in musical form. Miles was known for that.
DG:Just his vibe was so heavy. The harmonies he would write, and the maturity of his sound and playing...it's not about chops or technique or anything, just feel and emotion, and he knows how to get there
AAJ: You guys did a record and all these dates with a living legend. What keeps a tour like that, some of those wonderful musical moments, the evolution of the band's sound..what keeps that from getting documented, getting put out?
DG:Good question. A lot of times I don't think the record companies are tuned into what's going on out on the road...what the musicians are doing out there, at all. They have very little or nothing to do with it. I know one date, the Lincoln Center gig, was well-recorded and broadcast on NPR a couple of times. But the record companies should dig deeper. The record companies may actually think Wayne's heyday, you know, is over, with Miles and Weather Report. But that first band..in '96 we hit some moments where it was frightening, some killing music. Words are inadequate to describe playing with Wayne. On some level, it was Wayne's World..but it was the Saturday Night Live one... "I'm not worthy...! (laughs). Some part of me always thought it was some kind of fluke. Sometimes, it might have gotten in the way of me being totally relaxed, but on the other hand, I made it through all the incarnations of that band, so I must have been doing something right. One thing that bugs me is that I never had the right guitar for that band. I should have had a semi-hollow or hollow body on that gig. I played my Tom Anderson (solid body) the whole time. To match Wayne Shorter's fat sound, you need something fat to match it.
AAJ: So after Wayne? I know more recently, you've one stuff with Uri Caine.
DG: Well, Uri's stuff is great, but I'm only on that one cd (URI CAINE ENSEMBLE, "La Gaia Scienza - Love Fugue , Winter & Winter 910 049-2 ).He's been doing the variations on the classical artists. But after Wayne..there hasn't been a regular gig after. Don Byron was before and during Wayne. Every now and then, I still do a gig with Don, who uses me for the quartet thing he does, but not Music for Six Musicians.
AAJ: I love that solo on the Duke tune on Bug Music.
DG: Oh yeah, that was an earlier recording. But I'd say 1999 and 2000 my sideman gigs pretty much dried up.
DG: Those are probably the worst years financially for me. Disastrous. Last year I had a better year. I kept thinking something was going to come up and it didn't. I had no tour longer than a couple of weeks those two years. I did stuff with Randy Brecker and Chris Minh Doky (bass), and Cindy Blackman, with Matt. But dismal as far as work. But that was a sign for me that it was now truly time to work on my own projects..
AAJ: You did Christian's thing in 2000, "Sci Fi . Another of the year's best cds. Aja is beautiful on there! You could carry that Steely Dan gig, huh?
DG: Well, the reviews made note of that one as well.
AAJ: Just running through your discography would take pages. So who are your influences as a guitarist?
DG: George Benson is real high on the list. Number one. I've been fortunate to have the opportunity to hang out with him and play at his house a few times. He's been real encouraging. At the North Sea Jazz Festival, when I was on the road with Wayne, George was at the bar and Russell Malone introduced me. Then when I played, I knew George was listening and was a bit nervous.
AAJ: I love it when you bust out those long bop lines.
DG: It's not so much that I play that style, but just his approach to playing is very rhythmic. It's like, well, I'd say Coleman plays more like Bird than these so-called post- bop players. It's not his note choice, obviously. It's more his approach and his feel..it's more between the notes stuff. In that way I feel like I'm close to Benson. Pat Martino and Wes too. For guitar players, those are the guys. I loved listening to McLaughlin and DiMeola early on, but that was stuff I enjoyed listening to rather than emulating. Regarding young players, I think Adam Rogers is one of the baddest guitar players that ever lived in my opinion, hands down! He can play the hell out of rock or bop or whatever you want. But I'm more influenced by non-guitar players like Miles, Coltrane and Herbie.
AAJ: Update us on your most recent activities.
DG: Well I've done a few gigs recently with my band. Gene subbed for Rodney in New York. In Boston I brought Reggie Washington on electric bass and Adam Klipple (www.adamklipple.com) on keyboards. I've gigged with Brad Jones' band and with Kindread Spirits. I've got some Uri Caine things, the Schumann thing and..I gotta buy a banjo for this "Tin Pan Alley thing we're doing. Uri calls it "The Sidewalks of New York . I'm not on the "Tin Pan Alley record. It's turn of the century type stuff. He doesn't change that stuff up like he does with Mahler! He plays the "Tin Pan Alley stuff pretty straight. I dig that "Philadelphia Experiment Project he did with Christian, too.
I also have another project I'd like to get focused on that is more like an African- Brazilian type thing, kind of like Hermeto Pascoal type stuff. I want to get that going in the right direction as well.
I'm supposed to go back out with Cindy Blackman again soon ?" her rock/jazz project.
AAJ: I've heard some of that stuff. Now, are those all her tunes or is it a band writing project.
DG:They are all her tunes.
AAJ: What are rehearsals like with these different projects you do?
DG:Well Lost Tribe and Trilok are the bands I've rehearsed the most with. Believe it or not, Steve's rehearsals are real loose. Trilok likes to have it polished. He's incessant. Personally, I don't always like it so tight and worked out. I mean, I like to have the parts played right and the arrangements mapped out, but I like to have the elements of surprise and some looseness in the music too.
AAJ: Tell us about Aka Moon.
DG:That's a cool project because it's me, Pierre Van Dormael and Prasanna (www.guitarprasanna.com) on there playing basically their music. It's somewhat reminiscent of Five Elements type stuff. They're from Belgium. It's Fabrizio Cassol on alto, Michel Hatzigeorgiou on bass, and Stephane Galland on drums. They borrow heavily from African and Indian concepts.
AAJ: And in fact they travel there to play with them right?
DG:Yes. They're named after a band of pygmies they lived with in central Africa.. They go to India regularly they really study the music. Stephane especially is ridiculous, like a European Marvin Smitty Smith.
AAJ: Do you teach?
DG: I was thinking about possibly doing a bit more of it. I'm a bit at odds with academia and how it relates to music, with the whole concept. It seems to me, like, why do you need a degree in music, and now even Masters and a Doctorate, in order to teach? Let's be real. The best teachers are the ones who've gotten their masters on the road. That's what I like about the New School. They have a roster of working jazz musicians. I teach there and at City College too. Also, Ralph Alessi and Peter Epstein started a thing called The School for Improvisational Music (ww.schoolforimprovisationalmusic.org)
AAJ: So even though you're at odds with academia you're going to work there?
DG: Well, see now, that's the thing. This is run by, basically, and features classes and workshops by, performing artists and educators- Steve Coleman Don Byron, Uri, Jim Black, Billy Hart, tons of people. Last year, classes were held at the Knitting Factory- a series of workshops basically. I had trumpet students and bass students that wanted to study. I like teaching what I'm passionate about.
There are some high points in the teaching game but I am not into overanalyzing shit. Ok, you have got to learn your scales and modes, learn all your basic stuff, but then you have got to listen to how to apply it. You've got to transcribe solos..no way around it. If you want to be a jazz improviser you have to learn from the masters. Then, you have to play with people...who are better than you. You have to put yourself in an environment where you get your ass kicked.
AAJ: Sounds like learning how to play basketball! (laughs)
DG: Sometimes students want some secret formula that you're not gonna get in a school environment, that you're not going to get living in Iowa.
AAJ: Hey, I've been there. I've been one of the guys who wants the information but just doesn't have the skills in place at that moment to absorb it.
DG: That's why this school is so good. They meet and play and perform among themselves and also with faculty, too. Auditions are by tape, so you have to be at a certain level of feel and creativity to attend. Of course, there's no degree, but you just might learn more than you ever learned somewhere else. I've done master classes at the New Schools and I'm on their roster. That's a great place as well. I wish I'd gone there instead of NYU.
AAJ: Summing up, what do you feel are the elements of your signature sound? We already covered this with some of the rhythmic things in your phrasing.
DG: Some people play the way they talk. I think I do as well, I go on tangents and different directions. I'm conscious of trying to do something different, not playing it straight. I forgot to mention that Monk is a big influence on my rhythmic concepts as well, like what he'd do with just a few short riffs and his sense of rhythmic displacement.
It's nice to get emails every once and awhile from people who say they've been listening all these years and that I've influenced their playing. It's nice to know, because I feel like I'm just beginning. It's all new to me as a bandleader. I'm juiced. I'm excited about it. I encourage musicians to follow their musical destiny, so to speak, but it's tough to keep the path. For me it was never a choice. I had to do what interested me. I got into music cause I loved music, Not to make money or whatever... When I see these young lions, or whatever... these artists conforming to what record companies telling them what to do..it's just sad. We need more creativity, not less. There's not too many people leading the path. I wish there were more Unfortunately, the environment just isn't set up that way. It's hard to put the two together.
AAJ: Are you looking at yourself as one of the leaders?
DG: Well, I just want to do something that represents me that I'm proud of. I mean if I'm going to do an independent record it better be something I want to do, a truthful representation. For me to do what I really wanted to do, it took this long to really get there. So be it.
AAJ: But you've been a shining light in every band you've been in.
DG: Except my own (laughs). But face it...why should musicianship equate to financial gain. They are usually not related although they can be when everything dovetails. Also, the government here doesn't support the arts like they do in Europe. Fabrizio from Aka Moon gets lots of commissions. I'm exploring some of the grant opportunities a bit more now. New York, for example, has a lot of grant money floating around for artists.
But getting back to the point, there is a select audience for anything that's highly creative and detailed. People don't go in droves to the Met but they'll line up around the block to get the latest from Hollywood. Fine art takes time, patience and appreciation, so it's not surprising that people have to do things like teaching to make a living. I mean, the greatest players in the world can be famous, or they could be fixing your sink. Personally, I just will not accept doing anything but what I'm doing.