Tamir Hendelman: Living a Dream
AAJ: And the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra (CHJO)how did that come about?
TH: I sat in with the CHJO Big Band, for a rehearsal, when [pianist] Bill Cunliffe couldn't make it. I think I did a trio gig with [bassist] John [Clayton]he brought [vocalist] Dee Daniels down to a club, and invited me to do a gig with her. That was before I joined the big band. I joined them about a year after I joined the trio.
AAJ: So you basically started at the top.
TH: It was a great experience. They had made a few CDs, and they said, you need to learn these by heart. Also, this was around the same time that I met my wife. She's a bassistSherry Luchetteand I would invite her over and say, "Listen, could you help me rehearse these numbers?" So a lot of wonderful things happened right around the same time.
AAJ: How old were you then?
TH: I joined Jeff's trio in 2000, so I was... 29.
AAJ: And you've been doing this for nearly ten years. That's a long run in jazz.
TH: It's great. It keeps on evolving. [Bassist] Christoph [Luty] joined the trio just a few months after me. Also, in the big band, just a couple of people changed since I joined. It's very loyal, mutually, the leaders and the group, loyal to each other. It's a real family.
AAJ: You can tell when you guys play that there's a real bond, since everyone supports each other.
TH: Really. John and Jeff both know how to play to make everyone sound better. Then in Jeff's group, there's the fact of not having any written musicor, if you write something, you throw it away.
AAJ: Reallyno written music at all?
TH: No. When we bring in an arrangement, we rehearse a tune, and then someone will say, how about if we change the rhythm a little bit like this, or what about this different bass line. After we put that in stone, we don't look at the chart anymore. It grows just by playing it.
AAJ: That must be fun.
TH: It's a lot of fun, because we don't have that paper to go to.
AAJ: You can be creative all the time.
AAJ: Who does most of the arranging for the trio?
TH: Jeff's really open to both me and Christoph, which is great. But we don't tell him which groove; he makes his own.
AAJ: One of the things I've noticed about your arranging is that you have a different take on [composer] Antonio Carlos Jobim than most people.
AAJ: You didn't know this? What comes to mind first is "A Felicidade" [on the Hamilton trio's From Studio 4, Cologne (Azica, 2006)]. That whole intro you did before the melody kicks init could be anywhere, be anything. Most people pretty much telegraph which tune it is from the second bar, but you've got this misterioso thing to it, like coming through a door.
TH: I try to get away from the clichés. I guess when I listen to a tune and arrange it, I try to find the heart of it, whether it's in the melody or the lyrics, even though we're doing an instrumental version. Like, look at "Moonlight in Vermont." The lyrics are a haiku.
AAJ: Trueno verbs, and that very specific format.
TH: And then it's all about nature. You wouldn't know it's a love song until you get to "you and me and moonlight in Vermont." So you're really only hinting at it, and then you go back.
AAJ: Most of what you do can't be articulated, you just feel that it's right, somehow.
TH: Yes. You immerse yourself in the lyric, the music, the rhythm, thinking about the other musicianswhat they do that is so specialand then you just create, put it out there, record. Then you can change it.
There was a time when I was really writing each measure; now I prefer to just create it, then change it later. When I do a clinic about composition in John's camp we just have so much fun.
AAJ: John's camp?
TH: John has a music camp called "Centrum" near Port Townsend [Washington State; part of the annual jazz festival for which he's artistic director]. The clinic was about how anybody can compose, and they can do it right away. You shouldn't be an artist who starts to draw a portrait, and two seconds later says, no, no, that isn't right, and crumples it up. All you end up with is ten crumpled pieces of paper.
So we bring a singer up to do a song. And it's great. Then we say, how about if we take this section and stretch it, what if we take that, and then Matt Wilson came in the roomhe's just the funniest drummer. So he quietly sits, and this person is singing, and all of a sudden this trashcan falls down by accident, and everybody says that's great, let's do more of that: da-da-da-da crash!!! I say, Matt, you got the bridge. So he starts playing the faucetswissshhhh!
AAJ: I bet that just blew all the boundaries out.
AAJ: You do work with a lot of singers. For example, I really liked the CD you did with Jackie Ryan, You and the Night and the Music (Open Art, 2007).
TH: I really enjoy finding what a vocalist is about. I enjoy doing the whole thing: coming up with the arrangements, going into the studio, recording...