Matt Jorgensen: Painting With Sound
AAJ: Regarding the band, this album has a real cohesiveness, and the band is very tight. They seem to have completely embodied the record's concepts and goals. Yet, the record was recorded typically quickly, in a few days. Did you do a lot of rehearsal, or any gigs to prepare?
MJ: No, no gigs. And the only rehearsals were in the studio during the sessions. I did play some of the tunes previously at a session with some friends, but just when I was sketching things out. But again, using Mark and Tom, we play together all the time, so there was a lot of comfort there. Corey Christiansen can play anything you put in front of him, so I was never worried; we had worked together before. Same with Dave Captein. I think if you pick the right guys ahead of time, a lot of it just falls into place.
AAJ: Certainly, they are all very impressive players. Even something like "The Armory" is well-realized, despite being so open and full of space.
MJ: Yes, "The Armory" is a good example of having different layers.
AAJ: Do you compose on piano?
MJ: Well, in "The Armory" I had written the line on the guitarI can play really bad rock guitarand then put the horn lines on top and just let Dave Captein take a bass solo. I think we did one or two takes of that. Then I layered more guitar on the top, ran the first guitar part through a Line 6 [effects] box, and I was sitting on the floor turning the dials while Corey did a third guitar part. I like using studio techniques when I can, but then on other tunes, it's just a jazz band playing together.
AAJ: But are most of your tunes composed on guitar, then?
MJ: No, most of it is me playing my keyboard into [the Apple software program] Garage Band, using their guitar and bass sounds. It works for me, and I'm able to put sketches down.
AAJ: Interesting! I wonder about the tension between being a player and being, especially on this very thematic and emotional album, the composer and leader. I realized that there are no drum solos on this record, not even trading of fours. Your playing is subtle rather than overpowering. Was that particularly due to the nature of the project at all?
MJ: Yeah, I think on some tunes I intentionally held back from a drumming aspect. Going back to your earlier question about the band, everyone knew the story of this record and what it was about. We had the art images in the studio, and I talked about what I was thinking in each tune, so everyone was playing the music from that standpoint. So a "drum solo" never really seemed to fit. There are spots in "Primal Scrip" and "Dialogue" where I take it up a notch, but the music isn't so much coming from a standpoint of a traditional jazz tune format. I think "Tattooed By Passion" would be the only tune that might fit in that mold.
AAJ: What led you to the use of strings on three of the tunes? It is very effective.
MJ: I just felt that there needed to be something more than just a traditional jazz group on the CD. I was working on the piece "Savage Grace" which finishes the album. It really was the "saying goodbye" piece of the album and it needed to bring closure to this whole project. I asked my old college roommate Jeff McSpadden, with whom I've been in bands over the years and who is now an accomplished writer of music for film and TV, to write some string parts. He co-wrote a couple of tunes with me on the [Matt Jorgensen+451] Another Morning CD, and he knows the sound of my groups. Just talking with him about what I wanted and the emotion behind the tune, he came up with some really rich and brilliant parts for the string quartet.
AAJ: There is a part in "Colorado" where the strings come in and the tune opens up, like a crack in the clouds has let the sun come through. It is very affecting and the emotion of that time, after Chisman's death, comes through.
MJ: I think it works well, thanks. Colorado has become a second home for us, so I wanted to have that open sound of the plains, sky, and mountains. And, yes, at the end I wanted there to be a "lift."
AAJ: The communication of intent on this record really makes it stand out for me. I feel that, as a listener, I am able to understand what you wanted to get across. That is part of what makes the record so strong.
MJ: When we play live, we play it almost in the album order, straight through. It just works that way. We usually add a few tunes from my previous records, but we think of it as a complete project from start to finish. I'm surprised it has been on jazz radio as much as it has already.
AAJ: Given the nature of the new record, how much do you feel that the listener's experience would be enhanced by being familiar with Chisman's art? It's a tension in what might be called "program music." To what extent does the music stand on its own?
MJ: Someone said to me that this CD is one example of why iPods will never completely replace CDs. Their point was that you needed the liner notes and packaging. I think that the music does stand on its own, but then again when we perform it live, if available, we project the paintings in the background. After we debuted it at the Earshot Jazz Festival people came up to me and told me how much it all made sense to them now. So I think it's a multimedia experience. We played the closing weekend of the Dale Chisman In Retrospect show in Denver on February 25th. It was literally a once-in-a-lifetime show, because some of the paintings were on display. And to see them in real life is pretty amazing. Even the guys in the band hadn't seen the real thing!