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Interviews

Taylor Eigsti: The Prodigy, Revisited

By Published: July 22, 2008
AAJ: At first, I found that track almost too strong, and I kept skipping over it. But as the design of the whole CD started to sink in, I realized that you offer a respite right after it.



TE: Yeah, the relief of "Not Ready Yet."



AAJ: It's nicely sequenced that way. And one of the things I like about the CD is the communication among the players: there's a real sense of bringing the music to another level, where everyone is kind of fused—like a spaceship taking off, with all the lights blinking at once.



TE: My favorite part of "TimeLine" is [guitarist] Julian [Lage]. You hear him play about five notes through the whole frickin' thing, but they're like—in the middle of my solo, he'll play something, and then I'll have to stop: it makes me totally change direction. And at the end, when Josh is blowing, every four bars there's that "eeeuu"[from the guitar]. Jules is a perfect example of that whole concept of just listening and playing the most tasteful thing possible. I really love using him in my quartet.



AAJ: How old is he now?



TE: He's 20. He can't legally do anything yet.



AAJ: Well, he could go get shot.

Taylor Eigsti

TE: Yeah, exactly, but he can't sit down and legally have a beer. What a wonderful system. In the last year we're written so much together. We could be flat out arguing—"no, no, you're not listening!"—but in the end we know that we'll come out with something so much better than if we tried to do it on our own.



AAJ: So where is all this new material?



TE: A lot of it we've been performing live, in a duo context.



AAJ: Back to the new CD: it seemed to me that there's an unusual amount of space between tracks. Most recordings aren't like that, but it's good to sit with a tune, and let it settle, before embarking on something else. Was that done on purpose?



TE: Anything is possible. The version that I sent you was a burned version, so my computer may have done it. But there's a lot of information on these tracks, so you do need some time to let it sink in. I'm glad that they finally went with "Portrait in Black and White" after "Caravan," because that's another one you need to follow with a lot of space. Certainly after the note-bomb that I dropped near the end of it, which I wanted to sound like total chaos.



AAJ: The music was building to that, almost like a whirling dervish kind of thing.



TE: The funny thing was that we had never, ever recorded that tune, so we only knew how to play it live. In fact, the whole record felt like we were doing it live.



AAJ: Maybe that's why the energy is so high.



TE: The whole first day we recorded the suite—that took 12 hours, because there's so much layering. There's not a lot of improvisation in there, and so the second day we came in just dying to play. The energy was there.



AAJ: Was that delay different from the effect you used in Montreal last year? [Eigsti did a solo concert at the 2007 Montreal Jazz Festival that was well-received by the audience, although one critic compared him to "Liberace," a dig which has become a standing joke among his friends.]

Taylor Eigsti / Brubeck Brothers

TE: Similar, similar. I think I overused it a bit in Montreal. When you have effects, you need to be careful to find a balance. For example, on "Caravan," Julian uses the whammy pedal in two places, where he goes yuh-YUH-yuh. He bought that right before the recording session. When the normal 19 year-old runs to the guitar center right before recording to buy a toy, you think oh man, everything is going to be whammy—but Julian buys something just before a session, and then just uses it twice. If that's not maturity and restraint, I don't know what is.



AAJ: Back to your "Portrait in Black and White"—being a certified Jobim nut, at first I reacted to your version with alarm, as in, "whatever are you doing with this sacred vessel?" Then I was thinking, black and white, film noir, maybe they're going there with it, OK, I get it...



TE: I first heard that piece done as a beautiful ballad, with Elis Regina. Then in the recording session, we were doing it as a duo, and Julian started picking at the strings at the end of his guitar. They were just spooky enough, so we went with it, and made a more emotionally slanted version.



AAJ: I also really loved "Deluge." Hadn't heard it quite this way before.



TE: It's about time I recorded a Wayne Shorter tune, since I'm so in love with his music. A lot of times, what he does is take something that's usually played very straight and swinging, and he'll free it up. One of the things I truly love is that he goes to great lengths of exploration, and gives it a whole new meaning, a whole new story—even his own tunes, it's like he re-routes them. I wanted to do the opposite with one of his tunes in a kind of mirror-image effect, and make it a bit more swinging.



AAJ: Where did you get the idea to use a Colombian harp on "Fever"?



TE: Edmar [Castaneda] was performing at the Tanglewood Jazz Festival a couple of years back. I was also there, doing a Marian McPartland thing. [Eigsti's agent] Mary Ann Topper was raving about him, so I checked him out on line, and it was "wow!" Edmar came into the recording session, set up his harp, and said, "I want you to know that this is a diatonic instrument, so keep in mind that I only play seven notes at a time. What do you want to do?" "Fever" is basically just an A minor vamp; I figured we'd play the melody once or twice, and then see wherever he wanted to take it. Edmar had this entirely different version of three-four, really more like six-four, and taught me a new way to clap it out. He gave me a rhythmic lesson—everyone in the studio wondered what in the world was going on, 'cause we're in there for 20 minutes, and then it was "roll tape." I was hanging on by a thread, but we got through it. It was crazy, this immediate lockup of stuff. We felt really good about it.



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