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Aaron Goldberg: Growing as a Band Leader

By Published: August 7, 2007

AG: That was a product of the music that I was listening to at the time when I recorded it, and that was because I spent a lot of time in Brazil performing and I had an ex-girlfriend who lived there. I spent a month soaking that music in Bahia, buying every Djavan and Caetano Veloso album I could find, and it just entered my body and my music. I wasn't interested in making a Brazilian album, I wanted to make an album that reflected my jazz background, my personality, my jazz voice and most important the voice of the trio. Our band is not a Brazilian or even a world music band. We are a jazz trio in the strictest sense of the word, but I wanted to show that it's possible to take music from all over the world and put it in a jazz context and have it sound just as natural as the standard jazz repertoire or our original jazz music. In fact all music is linked.

AAJ: What is your composing process?

AG: I basically wait until I need to write some music which is something I would like to change. I do not consider myself a great composer. I wait until I have just a deep need to write some music. It could be for emotional reasons, it could just be because we have a project we have to do and it's always different. Sometimes a song comes out in half an hour, fully formed, other times I get stuck and most often I start something, I get stuck and, if I'm smart, I write down what I've got and I come back the next day and problems eventually solve themselves. Sometimes it takes years and sometimes it takes many, many performances of a song until it becomes clear exactly what the final form is gonna be, exactly what works the best. So it's an unfolding process, it could be quick or very long.

AAJ: Is there any song you have composed that pleases you most?

AG: That's tough. I like this tune I wrote for Omer, called "Oud to Omer, in a certain way it's the most ambitious one, but I also like this very old song I wrote, called "Sea Shantey [from Unfolding], which is one of those that came fully formed. It just kind of emerged to the world.

AAJ: What can people expect from Worlds?

AG: First of all I hope that people can appreciate the level of my compatriots. The quiet brilliance of Reuben Rogers—his support, his feel, his bounce, his pulse, his swing, his groove; the subtlety and the dynamism of Eric Harland—the fact that he doesn't sound like any other drummer on the scene—and the way that we play together, which I couldn't describe in words but I think is our own way of speaking, it's our own form of communication. I hope that people fall in love with the songs and find that the music sounds like jazz but that they can't put their finger on anything in particular. I hope they want to return to this record because it has a unique quality to it.

AAJ: How difficult is it nowadays to find labels interested in recording jazz?

AG: It's difficult to get a record deal with a record company that will invest a lot of money in you—or even any money. Unfortunately you need a little bit of a financial push these days to make the jazz industry pay attention to you and it's a very small world. Both bands and major festivals are very intimately connected with the few large labels that support jazz so if you are in an independent label, no matter how good it is, the challenge for you is much greater; nothing is gonna be handed to you. You need to find a good manager, a good booking agency in the States and in Europe, you need to have a connection with somebody in Japan and in South America, you need publicists, you need radio promotion; you need a lot of little pieces to the puzzle. If you are fortunate enough to have a record deal with a large label all of those pieces in the puzzle kind of fall into place immediately.

AAJ: For you everything seems to be going quite well so far.

AG: I am happy with my label. Sunnyside is a great label, they have a lot of great music on it, the people that run it are music lovers and I respect them. They don't have a huge budget to invest in me; hopefully they will invest some money in me in the future but that just puts me in a position where I have to work a little bit harder to get all those puzzle pieces in place. It's a necessary struggle for artistic reasons. I want my trio to grow.

AAJ: What about jazz, how do you expect this music to develop?

AG: Jazz is not about copying stuff that came before you. It's about imitating, assimilating and then looking ahead and looking inside yourself to find out who you are. As long as you look inside yourself the music will continue to grow because people are changing. Each generation presents new types of people, new environments, and new personalities. So as long as we continue to look backward and forward and inside at the same time, and also draw from each other, each generation will create new music that is of the moment.

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