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Darius Jones: From Johnny Hodges To Noise Jazz

By Published: January 11, 2011
Continuing Compositions

AAJ: You were awarded the Van Lier Fellowship award by Roulette. [Roulette is a Manhattan arts venue that supports and presents contemporary music and intermedia art]. So you had three nights in March when you were able to present your working trio and also other music that you have written.

DJ: That was an award they gave out last year and I won it, and basically you get ten grand and you put on a concert of your music at Roulette. Us musicians who are up and coming, we need help, man. It's hard out here. It's not easy doing this, and there's very little support. I feel really blessed and lucky to even be able to get my music heard right now.

AAJ: The working trio played a gig at the Tea Lounge in Park Slope, Brooklyn. It's a good venue, but also a risky one in a way, because it's so open. You really have to fill that room up with sound! How did that go?

DJ: We were smoking. Cats were floored. So many people were way into that music, and that book of music [the book for the working trio, to be recorded in 2011]. I was really happy with the response. I've been trying to really finish the book. I believe in writing a book of tunes, getting a group of tunes together for a band and I feel once I do this record with my trio, the working trio... the Man'ish Boy thing is very conceptual, it's pinpointing—all the music falls into this one category. The working band is different. The music is not, "Oh, this is Southern blues-based music." It's all over the map. It's more tune based. It's kind of hard to explain. I feel it fits that group so well, it's like a glove. In that band we do an arrangement of "A Train," based on the arrangement you hear on the MySpace thing, but we've developed it a lot more, you know. It's just been played a lot more. It's more raw and freaky.

AAJ: You wrote music for a group called the Elizabeth-Caroline Unit, with singers Fay Victor
Fay Victor
Fay Victor

and Sarah Dyson.

DJ: I wrote a piece for [Fay], that she sang, [and] she sang one of my older vocal pieces, and a new one that I wrote specifically for her. The piece I wrote for Fay was a piece of music. It's like an art song or something like that. It's running along those lines. I've done some more classical orientated pieces for this other singer Sarah Dyson. My jazz classical chamber ensemble stuff goes under [that] name, the Elizabeth Caroline Unit, and that's usually what you're going to see when you came out to see that band. You're going to see me focusing on music for voice and composition, with a chamber ensemble. It doesn't have to necessarily follow in the classical tradition, but it's a more composed side of who I am. Usually I'm not playing—I'm just being a composer.

AAJ: What is the instrumentation that you have written for them?

DJ: It's a variety of things. It's based on the instrumentation that's needed, so it changes. Lately I've been focusing on violin, bass, guitar, trombone, drums and operatic voice. The tune I wrote for Fay was voice and three horns. And then sometimes I'll do things with piano and voice, or bass, cello, voice.

AAJ: You've also played with former Ornette Coleman guitarist Bern Nix, amongst other musicians. I heard that he likes Little Women a lot.

DJ: Bern's way into Little Women. What he's doing on guitar is so heavy, it's really interesting. I haven't been fortunate enough to be able to have the time to go and sit with him and investigate that more and see what he's doing harmonically, but I did a gig with him and Lola Danza and [violist] Mat Maneri
Mat Maneri
Mat Maneri
and I have to tell you that was the hardest gig I've ever played in my life. Those guys were switching timbre and tone and keys so much that I felt like I was never on solid ground. It was just like, there is no Earth [laughs], there is only sky!

AAJ:Your MySpace site has a version of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit," arranged for [South Korean singer] Sunny Kim, and the version of "Take The 'A' Train

DJ: I listen to rock, I listen to a lot of indie rock, and I listen to noise bands. I listen to a lot of music, and It's because I'm down, like I told you, I'm really into music. It's really about music. The "Teen Spirit" thing came about because I just saw a movie about Kurt Cobain, and, you know, he fascinates me as a person, and just the tune itself, I found it really interesting that tune, and I was checking out different versions of the tune. I realized a lot of people did a cover on it. I was like, "Let me do a cover of it, see what I can do with it." And I had this producing session coming up where I was writing for this bossa nova singer. I [thought], "Let's see what a bossa nova singer can do with a grunge tune?" And that's what you got right there.

New Albums

AAJ: What's your next release going to be?

DJ: Right now, I am going to come out with a duo record, but with piano, with Matthew Shipp, actually. [The album was recorded in October, 2010 and is scheduled to be released in 2011.]

AAJ: What about the trio on Man'ish Boy, or the working trio?

DJ: The next trio record you're going to hear from me is the one with Jason and Adam. As for another album with Bob Moses and Cooper-Moore, right now I'm just trying to get that band to tour, trying to get us on the road. It's so difficult—I'm a "quote unquote" "up-and-coming" artist and I'm looking for an agent to get that off the ground and get some European touring going on. It's funny, there are people who are interested, there are a lot of people who are interested, it's just [that] I need an agent to get that stuff really hopping, the way I need it to go down. AUM Fidelity has been working on a West Coast tour with the trio with Bob Moses and Cooper-Moore. I want a lot for that group. I feel that group—that's some legendary [stuff]. You're never going to see something like that again, some younger musician playing with those really pioneering musicians. For me it's a legend thing. It's my dream.

AAJ: Have you settled on any of the personnel for the next album in the Man'ish Boy series, [as it won't be Cooper-Moore and Bob Moses). It's an exciting project. For example, are you going to have Jason Nazary on drums?

DJ: Jason Nazary is very similar to Bob Moses in a lot of ways. But for this group I feel I don't want to interrupt what I feel is happening with Jason's development right now. He's definitely developing a concept and I don't want to compromise that, because it works really well with the trio. I'm thinking of using some wild card that no one has ever heard before. Do a Miles Davis and bring out some cat that no one has ever heard of. [I like to] work with cats that really connect well with me. The organic process, man.

Selected Discography

Little Women, Throat (AUM Fidelity, 2010)

Mike Pride/From Bacteria for Boys, Betweenwhile (AUM Fidelity, 2010)

Darius Jones, Man'ish Boy (A Raw And Beautiful Thing) (AUM Fidelity, 2009)

Little Women, Teeth (Sockets and Gilgongo, 2008)

Tanakh, Ardent Fevers (Alien8, 2006)

Tanakh, Dieu Deuil (Alien8, 2004)

Photo Credits

Page 1: John Sharpe

Pages 2-3: Scott Friedlander

Page 4: Frank Rubolino

Page 5: Courtesy of Darius Jones

Page 6: Simon Jay Harper

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