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Interviews

Joey Baron: Just Say Yes

By Published: December 16, 2009

AAJ: I've heard people say that there's a lot of fertile ground to be had in drums and percussion for that reason. To really expand it in those kinds of ways because so much has been done already in solo piano recitals, saxophone, and guitar; that drums have a lot of that potential still open because it still is kind of new, although a lot more people are starting to do it.

Joey BaronJB: Drums have that potential. But I think what's at the bottom of it is people. People have that potential. If a person is not interested, or if they're not thinking along those lines and they play piano, I don't care where they play or how much it's hyped, it's going to be a boring evening. Why? Not because they're playing piano, but because they're not making music. I think that's something that has gotten so buried. It's not the instrument that makes the music; it's the person and their outlook. And that seems to be overlooked somehow, when people are teaching students. When I come into contact with students, or when I do workshops, it's so obvious to me that no one's hipped them to that. It's you, you are the music. Not the instrument.

It's not something you teach, but it's something you make them aware of. I read this article where somebody asked Keith Jarrett what his advice would be to young students or young jazz players. He said—I can't quote him exactly, it was something that I thought was really true and is shared by a lot of people who are really connected musically to the process of making it—a teacher should be someone who can instruct them how to deal with the instrument in a way that they're not going to hurt themselves physically, how to play the instrument, but as far as how to play the music, you're on your own and you have to go out there and say "yes." (laughs) Jarrett didn't say that, but that's what I was taking from it. I think it's so great to hear somebody on that level admit that, and I think that's a real valuable piece of information for people. I just did a workshop with some drummers and I had them divide into groups, there were two drum sets, and trade playing. It was so obvious to me, how much that is not apparent, doesn't matter how old, young and old. I don't know, there's a lot of work to do there [laughs].

But anyhow, for what I'm doing at Roulette, it is an evening of music using the drum set and just drawing on whatever I've got.

AAJ: Do you still practice?

JB: Oh yeah. It's funny, [guitarist] Lenny Breau

Lenny Breau
Lenny Breau
1941 - 1984
guitar
, who's an incredible musician, loaned me this book one time [by] Sufi Inayat Khan. It was a book about perspective on music. And the perspective from that book was that instead of looking at it as you're practicing and then you go play a gig, it was the other way around. You're playing, and the gig was just the practicing of it. And I use that a lot. Personally, what I do if I'm doing a gig, I'm not thinking about technical things, I'm just trying to make music. If something happens and I get an idea and I can't get it, or I miss it, I try to remember that. And when I practice, that's something technical, that's what I work on. So the music tells me what to work on. So when I get it, I'm doing something technical, but there's a reason for it. And as soon as I get it, it's like I got it, I can forget about it. And I don't think about the next time I play with somebody, that's the first thing I'm going to play [laughs]. No, you just forget about it.

I just love to play the instrument, so whenever I can, I warm up and I practice. More importantly, I just play, even if it's alone. I try to keep active playing with other people, because really that's how I feel like I've developed the most, is interacting with other people in an ensemble. For what I do, that's how I've learned. Really that's how I've learned everything. The things that happened away from that situation, again, were dictated by that situation: if somebody called a fast tempo and I couldn't make it, or somebody called a real slow tempo and I couldn't make it. It's really simple. Charlie Parker

Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker
1920 - 1955
sax, alto
, I remember reading something he said: you go through all the books, and then you forget them. And I really think that's so important. You go through them and then you just forget about it, and you can always refer to them. It's more important to be present and have your attention on what it is you're supposed to be doing [laughs]. It's so simple to say, but man, it's not that simple to do.

AAJ: Do you have anything else coming up before the end of the year?

Joey BaronJB: Well, I'm doing a concert the night before [also at Roulette], which for me, I'm really looking forward to as well, with Christian Wolff ensemble. [It] will be with Robyn Schulkowsky; Larry Polansky, a guitarist; I think Robert Blackwater Surprise Bradley

is playing the bass; and Christian will be playing piano. I'm not sure who else is involved, but for me it is the first time playing his music and playing in his ensemble. So it's a big honor for me to be a part of that. I'm also doing a gig with [bassist] George Mraz
George Mraz
George Mraz
b.1944
bass
at the Bohemian Society, I'm not sure of the exact date... I'll also be teaching at the Jazz Institute in Berlin in January for a few weeks. I'll be playing with [pianist] Steve Kuhn
Steve Kuhn
Steve Kuhn
b.1938
piano
and [bassist] Ron Carter
Ron Carter
Ron Carter
b.1937
bass
later in the year. I don't keep it all in my head, but I'm so really happy to be playing with people that I've always dreamed about playing with, or was inspired by, and they're still around. I've kind of focused most of my attention on being a part of things rather than pushing my own band. I'm a little more focused on doing a variety of things, and not pushing so hard on one thing.


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