Anthony Jackson and Yiorgos Fakanas: Interspirits
"We shared a lot of musical impulses, a lot of musical history and a lot of musical goals," says Jackson. "Certainly it was an unusual conception, the two of us playing. I remember thinking; I've been offered to make my own record for decades and always turned it down mainly because I'm not a composer. I can sit down with score paper and write music but my writing is just not inspired; I'm not talented in that department, capable but not talented. So I decided why not? This guy is a fine writer and a fine player. I said 'yes' on a whim."
Fakanas had achieved what nobody else had in the three decades since Quincy Jones unsuccessfully proposed that Jackson record his own album. With Jackson's agreement to collaborate, Fakanas was in an enviable and somewhat daunting position at the same time: "I've known his playing since I was a kid. Anthony Jackson, along with Jaco [Pastorius] and Stanley Clarke were the three people who really influenced my playing, and my thinking about the role a bass guitar can have in a tune and music in general. It was a big honor for me and a big responsibility, because Anthony was always one of my bass heroes, one of the people who influenced not only my playing but my musicality as well."
All the music on Interspirit was composed and/or arranged by Fakanas, with Jackson in mind: "I've been listening to the way Anthony plays the bass and the way he participates in other people's music for a long time, so I knew a lot about his style. I wanted to have strong tunes with the opportunity for Anthony to show his comping ability. Anthony is one of the greatest accompanists I have ever heard in my life, so allowing him free reign in that area was crucial. But another thing that was very important for me was to provide melodies, because Anthony is a very unique melodist. He draws a rich, beautiful sound when using fingers, thumb and flat-pick, and he often records a line and then rerecords it, sometimes doubling or tripling the part, adding octaves up, down, or both, and sometimes he detunes the new parts which creates a natural chorus effect which is fantastic."
For Jackson, the biggest challenge was not improvising behind the ensemble playing as he explains: "The biggest challenge for any interpretive player, even for a concert pianist playing a concerto, is to bring out your own personality playing the music written by someone else. It takes a great level of interpretative skill. I didn't change everything, I was faithful to the melodies, the ensemble parts, but I was able to demonstrate what I'm all about."
What Jackson is all about is making the music sound better. He doesn't take a single solo on Interspirit, leaving all five to Fakanas. That was the way Jackson wanted it: "I've done thousands of recordings but only a handful of solos; that is not where my strength lies. My strength lies in interpreting. Of course comping is a challenge, but an equal challenge, and in many ways a greater challenge is to take music already written and turn it into something personalto try to observe what someone has done and yet make it an original statement. That was the challenge of this project."
To those who think that Jackson can do this sort of thing in his sleep it may be surprising to learn otherwise: "Some of Yirogo's charts are extremely challenging, very brilliantly written," says Jackson. "It was sometimes murderously difficult."
For his part, Fakanas is in no doubt as to Jackson's virtuosity or the significance of his contribution on Interspirit. "He's a real musician," enthuses Fakanas, "and what he likes is to improve the music, to improve the composition. But the way he plays behind the solos, the way he is comping, is like doing a solothat's the impression I have. He treats the instrument like a guitar when he goes up, but when he goes down it's the deepest bass sound I've ever heard in my life. He treats the lower register bass strings in a unique way. "
The music on Interspirit is technically impressive, both from the point of view of the arrangements and in the playing of all the musicians involved, but as Fakanas explains, there was, from a personal point of view, an overriding objective to this project: "Another goal which I tried to achieve which was much more important than any technique was to try and compose tunes combining two different worlds, the European and the American way of playing grooves and of playing fusion music. That was my main goal. That is why you will find melodies that you might not expect from a jazz musician or a fusion musician; it's maybe more melodic, more pan-cultural. That's why I used the string ensemble on "Cuore Vibes Part 1." There are a lot of funk grooves and jazz-influenced melodies but the main goal was to combine multiple sources and methods in my compositions. "