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A New Face - Make Mine an OliRockberger Please- with Zero Cheese!

By Published: October 3, 2003

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.

A chart when you first get it is like a brand new bed. Eventually you want the bed to adapt to the individual curve of your body, while maintaining its basic, supportive constitution. Songs are the same- the defining properties of the song should always remain clearly intact, but there should be ways the song adjusts to the players who are playing it. This collective musical input helps to breathe life in to my songs and aims to make the listener feel as though we are all speaking the words to them, even if I am the only one who is literally singing them. This is all about giving the composition the chance to be the best that it can. I've found that this is about taking pride in the process of getting it to its greatest potential. I've also found that remaining open to suggestions and critique by my colleagues makes the music far better.

Although Tony and Chris are clearly creatively involved in the composition and arrangement, they also bring a certain level of objectivity to the music which I can never have as the primary writer of the tunes. Their balance between involvement and detachment puts my band members in a unique position to help me to get the music to where it needs to be. I take their comments very seriously and when a tune is "happening" after much work, I think all three of us feel a great sense of collective and individual achievement.

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