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An AAJ Interview with Rob Reddy

By Published: February 26, 2007

AAJ: Your press sheet mentions that you use improvisation as a compositional tool, but not as a reason to create a composition. Could you please elaborate or clarify this concept? (e.g., are you saying that for you improvisation is always subservient to composition? Or that improvisation itself is not a means to an end? Or other? If it helps explain, please use a track from Songs That You Can Trust to illustrate your point)

RR: There's a lot of jazz or improvised music where, it seems to me, the composition is serving the function of a vehicle there to be improvised upon. I tend to use improvisation in many different ways—often to support the composed material rather than the other way around. Or I use it to create a particular texture that may not be achieved through notes on the paper. When I inform musicians of the particular purpose of the improvisation (as a segue from one section to another, to support a melody or other composed material, etc.), it can be used as a compositional tool. I certainly write things in which a musician is improvising within a form or on chord changes, but want to give certain aesthetic direction to the mood, shape, or overall feeling that I would like the improvisation to achieve if the composed material doesn't already suggest these things. I'm often bored by what's commonly referred to as free improvisation. I prefer that improvisation has a direction or is connected to a compositional idea.

AAJ: What is the most meaningful compliment you've ever received as a musician?

RR: Just being hired by Reggie Workman and Ronald Shannon Jackson to play their music.

>AAJ: What ten CDs are you listening to most right now?

RR: I tend to listen to a small batch of recordings for a period of six months to a year until I feel I've absorbed them. Here's what I'm listening to now:

Artur Rubenstein, Chopin Piano Preludes
Jef Lee Johnson, Blue
Ornette Coleman, Science Fiction
The New Budapest String Quartet, Bartok String Quartets
Harry Smith, Anthology of American Folk Music
Recordings of Jean Jenkins, Music From Ethiopia
Alan Lomax, Southern Journey—61 Highway Mississippi.
The Real Bahamas—Vol. 1 and 2
The Gospel Tradition—The Roots and Branches, Vol. 1
The Guarneri String Quartet, Beethoven Late String Quartets

AAJ: What other projects can we expect from Rob Reddy in 2000-2001?

RR: December 28th, 1999, I'll premier my first commission (from the American Composers Forum) for my Horn Choir. I'll definitely be writing more for this group in the next couple of years. I'd also like to premier an ensemble called Small Town (an 18-piece group) in fall 2000. That's an ensemble I could see working with for quite a while. So many possibilities. I'll be working and writing for all the above-mentioned ensembles also. I'd like to record the Quintet and Quttah soon. They're definitely ready to go.

Selected Discography

Rob Reddy's Honor System, Songs That You Can Trust (Koch Jazz, 1999)
Rob Reddy's Honor System, Post-War Euphoria (Songlines, 1996)

As afterword, Rob Reddy would like to introduce the personnel for each of his ensembles:

The Honor System: Josh Roseman: trombone; Eddie "E.J." Allen: trumpet; Jef Lee Johnson: guitars; Dom Richards: acoustic bass; Pheeroan akLaff: drums.

Quttah: Jef Lee Johnson: guitars; Charles Burnham: violin, mandolin; Rufus Cappadocia: celloDom Richards: bass; Hearn Gadbois: dumbek, percussion.

The Quintet: Jef Lee Johnson: guitarsRufus Cappadocia: celloReggie Workman: bass; Pheeroan akLaff: drums.

The Octet: Tim Otto: tenor and baritone saxophones; Ravi Best: trumpet; Jef Lee Johnson: guitarsRufus Cappadocia: cello; Dom Richards: acoustic bass; Damon Banks: electric bass; Pheeroan akLaff: drums; (or) Calvin Weston: drums.

Sleeping Dogs: Steven Bernstein: trumpet; Charles Burnham: violin, mandolin; Dom Richards: bass; Qasim Naqvi: drums.

Horn Choir: Briggan Kraus: saxophones, Tim Otto: saxophones; Craig Rivers: saxophones; Sam Furnace: saxophones; Steven Bernstein: trumpet; Bob Scarpulla: trumpet; Vincent Chancey: French horn; Josh Roseman: trombone; Marcus Rojas: tuba; Pheeroan akLaff: drums.

Small Town is in the works will probably premiere in Fall 2000. Tentatively an 18 piece consisting of 5 winds, 5 brass, 5 strings, 2 percussion, and piano.

Rob Reddy plays soprano (his main horn) and alto saxophones in all of these ensembles.

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