Doug Wamble: A New Direction
Just a couple of weeks ago, it was actually kind of odd, I had been rehearsing for a few gigs with my band to promote this record, and I had this gig at the Lincoln center where I had to play Fats Waller music for four days, which is the beauty of being a jazz musician in New York. And I still love that music. I love playing jazz and that isn't going to change. The great thing is that you can use all of that information, all the hard work and dedication that it takes to be a jazz musician, and apply it to other forms of music, without playing Bebop over a pop song. That's been my challenge, not playing things that are inappropriate to the music.
There's a great quote from Branford Marsalis that I heard him say on a documentary a while back, and that's "The music tells you what you should play." Trying to impose something over something else is never a good idea. If you're playing a Jelly Roll Morton tune the song tells you what to play. You're not going to superimpose your Coltrane-harmonic subs over top of that, it's not going to work. I certainly plan on making more jazz records in the future, and more singer-songwriter albums, I want to do it all. I might even write a book, who knows. [Laughs.]
AAJ: You mentioned people questioning you a bit after moving into this new direction. Have you gotten any flak from your peers, fellow musicians who you've come up with who don't like the new direction you're going in with your music?
DW: No. If people have said that, they've never said it to me. First of all, I think that things have changed a lot in recent years. I think that certainly would've been an issue maybe 15 years ago, when people were more dogmatic about these sort of things. I remember that, it's so ridiculous but I don't regret it one bit; I was really wrapped up in that dogmatic type of thinking. I think that's good for a musician to go through, being very dogmatic about their music and that music's tradition, for a short period of time.
I can remember getting this Harry Connick Jr. Christmas record, and the second or third tune on it had a light rock beat and I was outraged. There was this swinging big band record and then I was appalled by this one track with a slight rock beat [laughs]. Things were much different back then, and I think nowadays it's much different.
First of all, look at all the jazz records that come out right now. A lot of them are really cool, but they don't really sound like jazz anymore. I think the sound of jazz, in a traditional sense, has been lost.
There is a lot of improvisation on these records but it doesn't sound like jazz in any traditional sense of the word. It's become a whole new thing, and I think that people are just so open to all kinds of music, and most jazz musicians that are around New York today, the vast majority of them are interested in music other than jazz, which I think breathes through on their records. People are checking out world music, hip-hop and all sorts of other modern styles, and it's all coming together on their records.
I think the whole notion of selling out has kind of gone away, at least in this context. Maybe if I was an underground, free jazz guy who then turned around and released a platinum-selling pop record, people would probably say that that qualified as selling out [laughs]. But it's just not that way. I'm a musician that does a lot of different things, and ultimately people will judge it by how it sounds.
The record is eclectic enough that it's obvious I'm not trying to compete with Lady Gaga. I don't think that mentality exists anymore, but if people think that way, it's like whatever. Even Wynton, who I know very well, was asking me about what I was doing lately, and he digs what I'm up to. He knows that there is a lot of great music to be made out there and I don't think the battle lines are drawn like they uses to be, I think people are more accepting of people's musical choices and as long as it sounds good they should go for it.
AAJ: One of the things that stands out in your playing on the album is that you play slide, acoustic and electric guitar on the record. Did the slide and electric side of your playing happen early on in your development, or were they sounds that came into your playing after you began to write in the singer-songwriter style?
DW: They were in there early actually. I was a fan of guitar music as a kid, but I wasn't a guitarist. When I got serious about playing guitar it was the same time that I got serious about playing jazz. Prior to that I could play three chords and it took five minutes to get between them, so I wasn't a guitarist. My goal of being a better player went hand-in-hand with my love of jazz.