Mike Moreno: Focusing on the Music
AAJ: How long did you spend recording Between the Lines compared to how long you spent mixing it?
MM: For that album, it was about even. We spent two full days recording the tracks and then came back a third day for a short session to record two pieces that I hadn't planned to include up until then. I realized that the arrangement on "Road Song" didn't really fit the rest of the record. In order to have the song fit better within the overall context of the album I switched from electric to acoustic guitar and we re-recorded it with a different drummer in order to bring out a different feel for the song.
We also added the ballad "Gondola" on the third day, which wasn't supposed to be on the record, but I felt we needed a ballad on the album. I actually hadn't finished writing that tune before the first two days of recording. Since the third day was a month later, it gave me time to work on the tune and it made it onto the album on the third day.
That's what I mean about taking advantage of the studio environment. I'm not one of those guys who can go into the studio with everything written, arranged and ready to go. Sometimes I have to go in there for at least a day before I get an idea of how I want to shape the record from that point forward.
That's why when I recorded Third Wish, which was released by a jazz record label, there was no way that we would be able to record two days and then come back a month later to finish the record. That type of thing just doesn't exist anymore. Most people get two days in the studio to record, at most, and they get their record and that's it. Whatever comes out of those two days is it.
AAJ: Speaking of being conscious of the music and how it sounds on the album, how important is the tune order to you in the overall presentation of the music?
MM: It's definitely important to me. I spent time on both of my albums working out the best order for the tunes, which was actually the only post-recording control I had over Third Wish. For me, I want a record to be organized in a similar way to how I would set up an hour and 20 minute set. The order serves as a kind of storyline for the record.
AAJ: Getting more specific about the tunes you choose for your albums ... On your latest release, Third Wish, you included Wayne Shorter's "Children of the Night." Most casual jazz listeners may not be as familiar with this piece as they are with some of his more popular tunes such as "Speak No Evil" or "Wildflower." What is it about this particular song that spoke to you enough to include it on your latest album?
MM: To me, that is a song that has directly influenced my music and it's a song that I could include in a live set, alongside my original music, and it would fit. If I decided to break up a live set by playing "All the Things You Are" in the middle of my original tunes, it would sound very random. I also feel very free playing within the framework of "Children of the Night." Though on the record I did alter the chords a little bit, among other things, but only because I wanted the recording to sound different than how we do it live.
When we do it live, we use Wayne's original melody and changes and pretty much do it the same way he recorded it. Even when we do play it live it still has a connection to my original music because it was an influence on my writing as I was coming up.
AAJ: On Third Wish you also included two songs by the great writer Billy Strayhorn, "A Flower is a Lovesome Thing" and "Lush Life." Strayhorn is often a favorite among many jazz musicians, and listeners, and his tunes have been recorded by many of the greats over the years. While many jazz musicians play his tunes it seems that they all have found something different in Strayhorn's writing that has drawn them into his music. What is it about Strayhorn's writing, and these two tunes in particular, that inspired you to record them on your latest album?
MM: His music, and those tunes specifically, is very dramatic in nature. They have a certain weight and serious tone about them that I feel I relate to in a number of ways, especially in the way I write. The harmony, the melody, everything is so expressive and it really speaks to me compositionally. Those two tunes are also a regular part of my book, for when I am doing trio gigs, and I couldn't decide which one I wanted to record on this album so I ended up just doing both of them.
AAJ: On both of your recordings you have used a four piece rhythm section, with Aaron Parks on piano for Between the Lines and Kevin Hays on Third Wish, though you also perform quite a bit with your trio. What is it about the piano/guitar combination that you like, and was it a conscious decision to use keyboards on both of your albums, or did it just happen organically during the writing process?
MM: To be honest, I just don't want to do a trio record. I love playing in a trio live, but the way in which trio albums are recorded lately, I just can't get into the sound that much. For me, with the music I am doing at the moment, I need piano. If I ever did a trio record it would most likely be a live recording.
There is just something, I can't really explain it; I just don't like the sound of guitar trio records that much. I also don't feel that I have a concept in my head for a trio record. It's not about being uncomfortable playing without a pianistin fact I am more comfortable playing in a trio setting now than ever before. But there is something about playing with certain pianists that I really enjoy and Aaron is definitely one of them. We have a certain connection at this point from playing in each other's band and doing duo gigs together.
Kevin Hays is someone whom I have always admired and wanted to play with, so this album was the perfect opportunity to do so. Just by knowing his playing, I could tell before we even performed together that it would work out. I felt a connection between our music that I felt would work well on the album.
For the arrangements on my second album, as well as my original tunes, I really needed to have the piano there. It's more of a compositional thing than anything else. I am really into the sound of the piano and guitar blending together. At some point I might get tired of it, but at the moment I hear a piano in all of the tunes that I am writing. The piano might not always play a dominant roll, like on my next album which will be more guitar oriented, but it will still be there adding texture to the tunes.