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Interviews

Gutbucket: Cascades and Collisions

By Published: June 21, 2011
TC: I was a big fan of Prince, not so much of Madonna, though I've come to appreciate what she does. I was a big fan of Prince and his multi-instrumentals and his guitar playing, his groove. I was really into Led Zeppelin. That was probably my first big guitar love. Van Halen, in the David Lee Roth era, especially, although I did see them in concert on the O U 8 1 2 tour. I grew up in St. Louis, which is big classic rock country, so Jimmy Page and Jimi Hendrix
Jimi Hendrix
Jimi Hendrix
1942 - 1970
guitar, electric
were the guys.


From left: Adam Gold, Eric Rockwin, Ken Thomson, Ty Citerman

I started playing in a band when I was 14. It was two guitars, bass, drums, and later we found a singer. And we kind of did Rolling Stones
Rolling Stones
Rolling Stones

band/orchestra
and Beatless covers. And I started playing jazz, I guess in my middle school and then high school jazz bands. But I didn't really have much context for it. I was a kid who played electric guitar, and I liked playing music, and I had a band, but in school my instrument sort of dictated that I wasn't going to play in the concert band and for whatever reason I decided not to take up another concert band instrument. So I started playing in the jazz band and started learning these Count Basie
Count Basie
Count Basie
1904 - 1984
piano
tunes and Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
1899 - 1974
piano
tunes, and Neil Hefti arrangements and Benny Moten
Benny Moten
Benny Moten
1916 - 1977
bass
swing—all these kind of big band songs. And I think I was encouraged to play in a Freddie Green
Freddie Green
Freddie Green
1911 - 1987
guitar, acoustic
style, without really knowing who Freddie Green was.

And that was my point of entry to jazz. And then I had a jazz band teacher after my junior year in high school, 1990-91. He was a trumpet player and he said, "Ty, the stuff you're playing is cool, but if you really want to learn how to play jazz guitar, this summer get yourself some Wes Montgomery
Wes Montgomery
Wes Montgomery
1925 - 1968
guitar
records and learn to do everything he's doing!" And I was still playing in this rock band and that turned into this other band, and I was doing bar gigs when I was 16, or even 15 even, when a lot of my friend couldn't even get into the bar. But I actually did go out and buy some Wes Montgomery records and I listened to them and I was floored, and I had no idea how to play like Wes Montgomery. So I was still at a rudimentary level in the jazz world, but much more experienced playing rock and pop music. Towards the end of high school I also started getting into James Brown
James Brown
James Brown
1933 - 2006
vocalist
's music and really listening to his guitar players, and Parliament and Funkadelic, and really listening to those guys, like Blackbyrd McKnight and Eddie Hazel.

It was actually in college, where I met Ken, when we were both working at WKCR, Columbia's radio station, which has this phenomenal jazz record collection. That's when I started to get a bigger picture of jazz out of the big band era. People introduced me to The Art Ensemble Of Chicago
Art Ensemble Of Chicago
Art Ensemble Of Chicago

band/orchestra
and that blew me away. The free jazz movement, Albert Ayler
Albert Ayler
Albert Ayler
1936 - 1970
sax, tenor
—the first time I heard Ornette Coleman
Ornette Coleman
Ornette Coleman
b.1930
sax, alto
or Cecil Taylor
Cecil Taylor
Cecil Taylor
b.1929
piano
—these were all musicians who were highly musically educated individuals who also play very freely. This was when my jazz education really started to open up.

I came to love Sonny Sharrock
Sonny Sharrock
Sonny Sharrock
1940 - 1994
guitar, electric
's music and James Blood Ulmer
James Blood Ulmer
James Blood Ulmer
b.1942
guitar
. With jazz I had this big band introduction, and then, rather than tracing my way chronologically through musical history I jumped to the '60s and '70s on the fringe of the avant-garde and then found my way around.

AAJ: There's Bird in your work, too.

TC: I love Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker
1920 - 1955
sax, alto
. Trying to work through Charlie Parker's music is very hard for a guitarist! I had a guitar teacher who said, when I complained about that, "Yeah, but ask any saxophonist to play Jimi Hendrix and you'll get them shaking their heads, too!"

AAJ: Is that something you strive for in Gutbucket—maybe a contrarian ethic of trying the most difficult things—jumping across the bridge and trying things that are almost too difficult to try?

TC: I don't think we try things that are difficult for the sake of being difficult, but I think we do, giving our commitment to the group, have a mentality that's understood, which is that each of us as composers can try things that challenge the others and that's welcome and that's interesting. I've played some notes on the saxophone but I'm not a saxophonist, but over the years I've learned what Ken can do, what's challenging for him, what's easier for him, and I'm writing for the saxophone but I'm also writing for him. And he's not a guitarist but he'll bounce ideas off of me, like "Is this possible on the instrument, or could it be—or would it require some sort of alternate tuning?" There is that elasticity in our music.

AAJ: Can you tell us about the other band members? Ken seems to be the co- leader, though Eric, the bassist, has been with you for the long haul.


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