Scott Tinkler: Trumpet Down Under
AAJ: The other aspect to your comments about the New York jazz scene deal with race. It is interesting that you did not name any African-Americans who are doing compelling work amongst the cats you mentioned. Is this also reflective of the general lack of innovation in the music?
ST: The only race I know of is the human race. There was no agenda in the names I mentioned, they were just guys that I hung with, so they were on my mind. I think the general lack of innovation in music is more to do with a consumer society where people are interested in music as a form of entertainment and many musicians are content to involve themselves in an established genre with no interest in development past just being "better" at their craft and being professional. An example might be the lineage of Dizzy Gillespie, who was a great artist, but the clones that followed who could play "Dizzy" faster and higher were not artist or innovators, but rather great craftsmen who entertain.
I see this happening a lot in jazz today around the world. There are lots of players well educated in the language of jazz and its history, playing the music extremely well, and I think this is far more common than people producing interesting art. Jazz has been established as a great art form, but playing it does not necessarily make you an artist.
AAJ: In regards to the staid status of jazz or improvised music in America, you have worked with some of the marquee names in America, for instance on Paul Grabowsky's Tales of Time and Space, which features both Branford Marsalis and Joe Lovano. So what is your opinion on these cats?
ST: I actually just played with Joe Lovano at the Wangaratta Jazz Festival here in Australia. It was with Grabowsky and an Australian rhythm section. His playing is very distinctive and extremely strong. I really love playing with him. I think Joe is pretty open to ideas and he certainly was up for playing in an open format with us. Joe, like Branford, has a deep understanding and knowledge of the jazz tradition, but has his own spin on it. Lovano has become a very influential player to the point where you can hear his influence on younger players.
At the time of the sessions for Tales, I did chat with Branford quite a bit about the state of jazz. He is a very intelligent and well-spoken man, so it was a fun discussion. The bottom line for me, I guess, is that being from Australia and not really feeling a direct connection to jazz, I don't feel the need to be, or at least to call myself, a jazz musician. Branford grew up in the birth place of jazz, and as such it's more culturally relevant for him to consider himself part of that music and its lineage, and I gotta say he really is an amazing musician. How this related to the state of music in America, I'm not sure. Both of these guys have established themselves as high profile artists whose playing is instantly recognizable and indeed influential. It is more in the younger generation and the direction they are taking.
AAJ: Comparing some of your earlier recordings, like Sofa King (Buzz Records, 1988), to your more recent work, there is such a dramatic use of space in your more recent recordings.
ST: I have always spent a lot of time listening back to stuff which I have recorded, and one of the main things that struck me was the potential for more space in my playing. I have worked on trying not just to leave gaps, but also to create tension and momentum by the use of space. I find that two main things tend to happen: first off, you listen more to what's going on around you.; secondly, it allows others in the music the chance to have more input, much like a conversation. This can help avoid role-playing in the music too as there can be more adventurous playing by all. As you can tell, by the time it takes me to answer these questions, sometimes I need time to think about stuff before I rant about it. I try to do that when I play. I have heard people say, "Just play what you hear" or, "You got to listen to the band." Both of these statements don't make much sense to me.
I can hear all sorts of shit to play, but if I played it all I would never stop. There needs to be a thought process that goes along with what you might "hear." Using space allows me to filter some stuff. The one about listening is the opposite. If I just listened, then I'd not play because I would be listening constantly. I tend to make a statement, then listen to the response, then make another in response. It's a big balancing game for me; trying to find the right combination changes too with the different situations you find yourself in as an artist. When playing solo, or even just practicing, I will play an idea then imagine a response, or even listen to what I might play if I were to, if that makes sense to you. I love the idea of hearing something and not playing itthere is no need to say everything we think.