A New Face - Make Mine an OliRockberger Please- with Zero Cheese!
OR: When it was confirmed that we were going to be performing at Brecon, I decided that we had to have some kind of high quality recording with us. It is virtually impossible to promote a performance without a disc, and I wanted to start to build some kind of following. You need people to have your music, to remember you, and to start to take an interest in your career movements. So we recorded a few vocal tunes, some instrumental ones, and a solo piano piece, all with John Weston at Futura Productions in Boston. It was a pleasure working with him. I am very happy with how the EP turned out-it's seven tracks - and we hope that it can help open the door to more recording and performing opportunities in the very near future!
AAJ: Tell us about some of the gigging you've done with folks with a bit of name recognition.
OR: Since attending Berklee I had the chance to perform with visiting artists to the college- Abe Laboriel, Frank McComb with Branford Marsalis, and Jackie DeShannon, and clinics with Patti Austin and Greg Philinganes.
AAJ: Any other sideman work you'd like to hip the audience to?
OR: I've performed at the Berklee with guitarist and faculty member David Fiuczynski of the Screaming Headless Torsos, Michel N'degeocello, Christian McBride, etc., which was a great honor. He is a true artist, producing exciting music at the very cutting edge. I have also performed with gospel/R&B singer Larry Watson a tremendous performer and vocalist. We played at Scullers Jazz Club in Boston, and more recently, Fenway Park!
AAJ: What axes do you focus on with your projects? Is it mostly acoustic? Certainly the demo is.Have you always also played Rhodes and synth, or is that a relatively recent development?
OR: My project is mainly acoustic. I consider myself a pianist above all and right now my music is written with the piano in mind, although it could change in the future. I have a MOTIF 8 which is great for writing on and I am hoping to combine it with acoustic piano in my live performances in the near future. I am a great fan of the Yamaha P80 stage piano series and use that a lot for gigs. Actually, I don't own a Rhodes but hope to have one of my own someday. I'm a big Rhodes fan- one of my favorite Rhodes players is Frank McComb, who's amazing- particularly his use of effects, wah, phasing, and overall touch.
In terms of synth versus electric piano versus acoustic, it really depends on the project which I am being asked to do. Of course as a sideman, I'll do whatever the artist wants. Given the choice though, I am more a piano man I love playing acoustic piano on pop, folk and gospel tracks. This is my strength as a sideman and is what I'm called for. I recently played acoustic piano on a track for UK pop star Ronan Keating (Boy Zone). I was also called to play on a record for UK jazz/gospel saxophonist Mark Bunney, and on a country/folk record for American singer/songwriter Duncan Waters.
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?
OR: Brazilian harmony has been invaluable to me, and opened many doors in my writing. There is so much to be learned from Brazilian artists like Milton Nascimiento, Gilberto Gil, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Ivan Lins. For improvisation I really like Hal Crook's How to Improvise which has amazing concepts and ways of practicing and applying them. Dave Liebman's Chromatic Concepts in Improvisation is also very interesting. Another book by Dave Liebman called Portrait of a Jazz Artist is a great book dealing with many musical, and business issues which jazz artists have to face.
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?
OR: One of my interests is improvising harmony-compositional improvisation. I try to incorporate my love of compositional and harmonic improvisation into my linear "changes" improvisation. When given a set of changes I like to explore different upper structure sounds over the given bass note, various modal voicings, and chord quality changes in order to personalize the progression, to give it my own interpretation and a slightly different character. Jumping between what is given by the composer and what is created by me is a balance which I am always working on in my improvising.
AAJ: What aspects of your own playing style would you point listeners to- How would you attempt describing your own playing style?