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Ravish Momin: The Business of Time

By Published: March 3, 2009

AAJ: To move onto some of the other things you'd mentioned doing, you're working with reedman Will Connell, Jr. now. How did that come about?

Ravish MominRM: Yeah, he's one of the unheralded heroes of the scene, having worked with [pianist] Horace Tapscott and so forth. He was part of an ensemble that got put together for this AACM concert in November—there was me, [tenor saxophonist] Kalaparusha, Connell, [bassist] Mike Logan, and we just came together. Someone in the audience ostensibly loved it and recommended us to some festivals in Europe. This is much less unwieldy than that first trio with Kalaparusha and [tubaist] Jesse Dulman. It's got a more traditional setup and Kalaparusha and Will Connell are great foils, and I'm a far better player than I was with that earlier band. All of it is coming together in a much nicer way.

AAJ: It's interesting to hear you revisiting a jazz lineage, because previously, jazz-oriented situations weren't able to capture what you wanted to do.

RM: It's giving me the freedom to play how I want to play, but within a jazz context. In other so-called free jazz bands I have made records with, I was forced to play a certain way and that was a big difference. That's also the big difference between the AACM guys (who I've been working with somewhat lately) and the other free jazz guys. One reason the AACM came around was because they were looking for alternative ways to play, even within the free scene.

AAJ: It's interesting that the AACM concerts in New York have brought in musicians like yourself, [trumpeter] Ted Daniel, Will Connell, and players who are not historically associated with the Chicago scene. How is it happening, from your perspective, that the AACM values are becoming more inclusive?

RM: It may be because I worked with Kalaparusha that they were aware of me and sought me out, but I do think they're more open musically. [trombonist-composer] George Lewis, whom I saw at the Sons d'Hiver in Paris, was doing creative stuff with electronics, in a trio with [pianist] Amina Claudine Myers and [reedman] Roscoe Mitchell—it was some of the outest stuff I've ever heard! Four thousand people were going nuts and loving it. The instrumentation and personnel that Threadgill and Braxton bring to their ensembles, too, is a testament to that openness.

AAJ: How is Kalaparusha these days?

RM: Well, he's here in the Bronx and he has some health issues, but he still plays and makes it out to some of these higher-profile gigs and festivals. But I got called for this gig with him in 2008, which was great, and I hadn't really heard from him since that trio disbanded. I haven't kept up because I'm focused on Tarana, you know.

AAJ: Could you talk about your rock project?

RM: Sure. I was working in Fulton Lights with singer-songwriter Andy Goldman, who's a really open cat, and he brought in some unique folks like Peter Hess (from World/Inferno) and Karen Waltuch on viola, Jim O'Rourke, Beth Orton, me. Anybody who hires me to be in a rock band isn't looking for a traditional Dave Grohl or whatever [laughs]!

AAJ: Well, you're connected with people like Kevin Shea, too, from storm&stress.

RM: Yeah, that was way more experimental, though. This is more in the pocket. Some of the stuff isn't that different from what I play anyway, but it's a little more focused and it's not a stream of consciousness. It's still me, and he's very open to that. Being in a rock band forces me to play differently because they're not all schooled musicians and don't read charts and so forth. They rehearse a lot, which is a trait that sometimes is missing from jazz, and I like that—to play and come up with arrangements together. I've always wanted that in jazz, and I may have come to that in a more tangential way.

AAJ: You found it through a tangent but you also made it yourself. In Tarana, you must be very rigorous with that.

RM: Sure; when Tarana were in Hong Kong before the tour we rehearsed for like four days, rather than just putting something together and going.

AAJ: It seems like the first record was a little more comparable to a blowing record, but Miren wasn't like that at all. Could you discuss the background of Tarana?

RM: Of course. Basically, it got started serendipitously. I had done a jam session with [violinist] Jason Kao Hwang and I was already friends with [bassist] Shanir Blumenkrantz, who wasn't an oud player per se, but a very musical cat—his playing on the new Cyro Baptista record is amazing. What I liked about him is that he was playing the oud, but in a non-traditional way. I'd already been writing music since 2002 and had the first version of this band more jazz-oriented, with Peter Epstein on tenor saxophone. Then I was starting to hear more—again, what drove all of this was that I wasn't getting work, and also having lived in all these countries before America, that is of course a big part of who I am. I lived in India, England and the Middle East, and I wasn't happy with saxophone and bass as a way to express who I am. I was looking for something new and it had to be something that kept evolving. I wanted it to be something I could grow with.

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