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Interviews

Greg Tardy: Wherever He Wants Me

By Published: October 16, 2013
GT: Actually, I just accepted a teaching position out at the University of Knoxville. So I'm teaching a lot more these days. During the semesters, I'll be mostly busy with that. But during the summer break and the winter break, I really would love to get some tours happening. I just gotta make it happen...

GC: Are you going to book the gigs yourself, or get someone to help you? Maybe enlist your wife to help?

GT: [laughs] Actually , she's too busy raising our kids! It looks like it's gonna be on me. I'll have to squeeze it into the cracks in my schedule. But hey, I've done it before, and until somebody else signs up for the job of my booking agent.

GC: Do you have any memories our the tour we did together in 1998 for 6 weeks in Europe? With Sean Conly on bass and Woody Williams (Kinah Boto) on drums?

GT: Sure! We made some great music! I'm glad we got one CD out of it, Abundance on the Palmetto label, but I wish we could have continued on. The tour was the first time we played together, and then the CD, maybe 6 months after the tour, was unfortunately the last time. But it was a phenomenal group; there was a lot of potential there. It would be great to put it together again somehow, God willing. Actually, tonight is the closest we have come to playing together in that context, although tonight we have the great Jameo Brown on drums.

GC: I find Jameo to be quite a different type of player than Woody. Obviously there are similarities. What are some things you like about Jameo's playing?

GT: I like Jameo's flexibility. We did a Steeplechase CD called Steps Of Faith. And on that CD, we did a whole lot of different types of things. We did some free stuff, we did some really pocket groove type stuff, some swing, [and] some really eclectic stuff. Every single song, he was able to really catch the character of what I was looking for, play with integrity, and still sound like [him]. He's a very supportive drummer and I love it. And same with you and Sean, that's what I love about your playing! You guys aren't locked into any one way to play.

I'll put it like this: easily, my favorite tenor saxophonist is Joe Henderson
Joe Henderson
Joe Henderson
1937 - 2001
sax, tenor
, and you could take him, or even somebody like Branford Marsalis
Branford Marsalis
Branford Marsalis
b.1960
saxophone
, and put him in any kind of circumstance. Joe Henderson can play on anything. Some wide- open stuff with Alice Coltrane
Alice Coltrane
Alice Coltrane
1937 - 2007
piano
, or "Red Clay" with Freddie Hubbard, his own "Page One," or some pop oriented stuff. But Henderson always sounds like himself, whether it's bebop or free, it always sounds like the idiom, and he always understands his role in the music.

So that's what I look for in musicians to play with—people that have a strong voice but aren't locked into something. I like people who understand the tradition but aren't so stuck in a traditional style so much that if you threw something funky at them, they would be up on the bandstand fishing, not knowing what to do, etc. I like musicians who have the flexibility to make any musical situation work.

GC: Some people might categorize you as a New Orleans musician, because you are from New Orleans. However, you have played with musicians like Andrew Hill
Andrew Hill
Andrew Hill
1937 - 2007
piano
and Dave Douglas
Dave Douglas
Dave Douglas
b.1963
trumpet
for example. Do you find that when playing in different situations, you have to change your musical mindset at all, or a little, or a lot?

GT: I actually try to think about whatever the drummer is doing. The drums can drastically change the character of whatever is happening musically. But in general, I try to adapt to whatever is happening on the bandstand. I try to be intelligent about it. Ff I'm playing with a pianist who doesn't leave a lot of space, then I want to try to fit with that. There is no need for both of us to clutter up the space. I try to figure out "What does this particular music need from me?" And all of that without trying to sound different from what I normally do.

GC: How has having children affected your music?

GT: It has, from a business perspective. I have to think about money a little bit more than I used to. Before, if somebody called me for a gig that paid 15 dollars, I would do it just to play! It used to drive my wife crazy. But when the kids came along, then obviously I couldn't do that, because my kids are depending on me. So I had to be more selective about what gigs I would do.

GC: So you're saying that you children became more of your priority?


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