Andy Milne's Music for the Human Condition - A Little Dapp'll do Y'All
AAJ: What axes do you focus on with your projects? For instance Ravi is acoustic while Steve's featured a lot of electric piano as well.
AM: I think of myself as a pianist and largely that's what I have been playing in all the groups I've performed with, including Steve's. I play some keyboards to augment my setup but it's all centered around the acoustic piano. I use a sampler for sound effects and longer soundtrack type recordings like nature sounds or voices.
AAJ: Any thoughts on the current Rhodes renaissance? Do you pump the electric piano through effects, or just use samples for that? How much synth versus Rhodes versus acoustic are you playing with Dapp Theory on the gig?
AM: I wish I never got rid of my Rhodes 'cause it's a timeless instrument, I just wasn't smart enough to acknowledge that back in 1990. Anyway, I use a Rhodes sample but I keep it clean. I'd say I play 70% piano, 20% synth and 10% Rhodes.
AAJ: Keyboard players today have unlimited sonic territory and opportunity available to them. What factors go into any 'self-editing,' purely in terms of the sounds or patches you use, in terms of what sounds good and what sounds bad to your ears?
AM: I try to seek out sounds that will complement the piano, the harmonica and the voice because those are the acoustic instruments I'm trying to blend with in Dapp Theory. Other than that, I guess, I'm looking for sounds that fit the vibe of any particular song.
AAJ: In terms of harmonic territory, are there particular sources that you would point interested people towards? What books or recordings would you particularly advise students of harmony, improvisation and 'time' concepts to seek out?
AM: I have not really consulted with books for harmonic stuff. Playing with Steve challenged me to develop ways of hearing differently and that just kind of became part of what I'm about. I remember the first time Bobby Colomby heard me play with Steve, he raved about our duet version of 'Body and Soul' and wanted me to play the same harmonies I played on the gig. I told him I couldn't do it, because so much of it was in response to how Steve plays. I play differently with everyone I play with but I guess what you would consider the 'Andy Milne' part of my harmonic language is the combination of some Herbie/Bill Evans type approach with the more sparse structures Steve hipped me to.
AAJ: Are there particular elements of improvisation that are particularly fruitful for you, concepts that you keep revisiting and/or reinventing that keep your playing and your lines cutting edge and fresh?
AM: Not playing in 4/4 and not thinking about the phrase length I'm playing as being a meter is a big part of it. Wanting to surprise myself, the band and the audience would be another one. I don't want to get house with something I know works. I'm not saying I don't like it when an audience responds, but I'd rather get that feedback when we play something that we didn't know works.
AAJ: What aspects of your own playing style would you point listeners to? How would you attempt describing your own playing style?
AM: I try to leave space. In Dapp Theory, I'm blessed with some of the best players on the planet so it's easy for me to lay out because I want to listen and enjoy them just like the audience. Deeper than that, I strive to play the whole piano without playing the whole piano. I don't know how I'd describe my playing style. Buy me a beer and we'll talk about it.
AAJ: What aspects of your compositional style would you point listeners to? How would you attempt describing your own compositional style?
AM: I think what distinguishes me as a composer is that to a degree, I write jazz filtered through pop and classical music sensibilities. Almost all of the drum and bass parts are composed but they are composed with the specific players in mind. I'm always trying to find balance with my compositions. Once the musicians know the material, it's going to morph, but we all have the original sound in our heads to refer back to if we get off balance. The goal is to give the song character but to also leave room for the characters of the players to shine through.
AAJ: Tell us more about your latest conceptual focus, Dapp Theory. What events transpired that brought Dapp into focus as your direction?
AM: I just got off the phone with Sean Rickman and we were talking about this. In a strange way, being part of 5 Elements for so long created a set of circumstances where I was recognized, but I wasn't getting recognition. It seems like that condition is somewhat unique to Steve's band. From Miles to Dave Holland, Chick Corea to Wynton to Cassandra Wilson we've seen former sidemen get their DAPP as leaders. So 10 years with Steve was certainly an inspiration. Beyond that, it comes from my desire to see the condition of humanity improve. I think there are simple messages out there that get clouded by greed and ultimately keep us from truly living in harmony. After greed comes hate and anger. I think Dapp Theory is a combination of all of these experiences and revelations for me. Everyone in the band is focused on using their talents to put positive energy out there. We want people to leave a concert feeling better and actually wanting to be better people, all in the name of good fun and good music.