A New Face - Make Mine an OliRockberger Please- with Zero Cheese!
OR: This is always a difficult question to answer. I think and hope that my pianistic touch and sound is quite personal and warm, with a distinctive time feel, use of harmony and approach to voicing. My playing reflects a real mixture of gospel, folk, pop and jazz, and when I improvise, I don't think of it as being jazz necessarily, but rather a combination of what I like to hear, and what I like to play, which is all of the above. People say to me that they can hear many influences when they hear me play, and that it is unique in that respect. I try to combine a thematic and compositional approach to improvisation with a funkier more risk taking "on the edge" approach too when the moment calls for it.
AAJ: What aspects of your compositional style would you point listeners to? How would you attempt describing your own compositional style?
OR: I know what I want from my compositions- whether I achieve those goals is of course down to the listener to say. Lyrically speaking, I want to write music which communicates something powerful and personal and that can also be understood and felt in a universal way by the listener through identifying with the song's narrator. I want to create a space in time that is safe and soothing for people, where they can go and in those 4/5 minutes can consistently feel protected, understood and/or have some feeling or wish validated each time they come to it. Physical travel and emotional travel are strong themes in my music and the writing often explores people's capacity to change for the better and to move forward in their lives. I try to balance a relaxed and humorous conversational approach with a more descriptive prose style in an attempt to keep the writing interesting and vibrant. From a harmonic point of view, I'm a fan of rich harmony, and I try to take advantage of my studies and extensive listening when I come to my own compositions.
One of the things I love the most about the Pat Metheny Group and the Yellowjackets is the way in which they doctor recurring themes in sometimes subtle, sometimes more drastic ways, through re-harmonization and adventurous modulations. This keeps the music consistently stimulating and is something I try to achieve in my songs. Arrangement plays a huge part in my compositions too and you will often hear melodies and themes doubled between Tony and myself, instrumental sections that are through-composed, and instrumental solo sections. We are all dedicated instrumentalists and I feel that the music should reflect this too.
AAJ: What events transpired that are bringing your own band into greater focus?
OR: The Brecon Jazz Festival has definitely brought the band into greater focus and we hope that through festivals and other high profile performance opportunities our profile will continue to grow. We also received radio airplay on two separate occasions last month on the UK's nationwide station, Jazz FM. That also has helped to raise our profile somewhat. Right now the Oli Rockberger Band is my primary solo focus and I try to put as much creative energy in to that as I possibly can.
AAJ: Are any of your compositions written off of jams? Or are they all written out?
OR: I always compose on my own first. I then write out charts for Tony and Chris and present it to them in a rehearsal. I consider this to be a first draft situation, although I allow for the possibility that it could equally be a final draft situation too. We play through the tune and they start to experiment with their parts, making arrangement suggestions to me where necessary. I often mini-disc rehearsals and will then go away and try and fix certain sections which may not be working for some reason or another. I then write a new chart with the changes I've made and we come back the next time and see how the re-writes feel.
I have learned so much from working on my music with my own groups. Getting into the habit of being constructively critical about one's work is very important. Accepting when something is not working is critical, and then having the discipline to re-write until it is right it essential to me. Giving a section the lift it needs is often a question of experimentation I think. I may never know why a particular section is not working. Sometimes it is a mystery and when it's not working, I try to be flexible, exploring other options in groove, feel, form, tempo, dynamic build etc. Playing with Tony & Chris who can adapt what they have been given, translating suggestions and reservations into their own musical interpretations, is critical to our process.