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Steve Hass: A World of Rhythms

By Published: October 28, 2003

AAJ: So you didn’t really have any concept in mind.

SH: No. Just being me, really. And producing it, ideas would come to mind and we would put them down and see what it sounded like. It was fun like that and I was really fortunately to have my friends there with me, great musicians and Ken Wallace the engineer. Otherwise it would have cost me a lot of money. I had the ability to throw around ideas and stuff for a couple days without worrying too much about spending too much time. It was cool.

AAJ: Was it harder producing as well as performing. Some people find it’s a different kind of stress. Sometimes they like it and sometimes they don’t.

SH: I think I liked it, but at the same time I thought I could have played better on my own CD. From the executive producer point of view, I was trying to treat the musicians well. I didn’t have a lot of help in the studio. I do a lot of sessions and I have a certain way that I like to be treated. I wanted to treat them that was as well. So the performances on the drum end were almost the last thing on my mind. I didn’t feel like I got the best performances for myself, but I feel like collectively, it sounds really good.

They aren’t bad performances, but I’ve played better on other people’s albums. Listening to it now, people didn’t really know what I was going through and it sounds good.

AAJ: You pulled off what you needed to.

SH: Exactly. And I’m glad it doesn’t come off like a drummer’s album. Regular people can just pick it up and listen to it and dig it without getting too involved in having to think about who’s playing what and how hard it is.

AAJ: You had a hand in other aspects, like arranging and artwork and things like that.

SH: Yeah. I figured if I’m going to do some of my favorite cover tunes, I may as well arrange them in a way that comes from my head. So we did “The Song is You” in 5 clave, which basically comes from me playing with John Benitez a lot. I did a little bit of playing with Danilo Perez when I was in Boston as a Berklee student. The Latin jazz thing is a bit of my background. And the drum loops and such on tunes like “Skylark” are just another part of me that I wanted to throw in there. That tune I’ve been hearing like that, that way for quite a long time and never actually recorded it, so that was nice.

AAJ: It seems like you had all kinds of different challenges that you had to take on in this whole package. When the sweat dries, do you feel confident you got what you needed?

SH: Yeah, surprisingly enough. Because I wasn’t sure, but when I got the master tape back I just sat down and listened to and was pretty happy with it. You’re always really critical about your own stuff. While it was getting mastered, I didn’t listen to any of it, because while it was happening I was listening to it constantly and it was driving me nuts. I wasn’t even sure if it was good.

AAJ: Yeah. You’re so far into it.

SH: Right. So I gave myself a two-week break. When I got the master back I just put it on while I was running errands around Astoria, and it was like, ‘I dig this. I would probably buy it,’ you know? So that was a good feeling.

AAJ: You toured with Ravi Coltrane prior his new CD.

SH: Yeah. I’ve done a lot of stuff with him. That was another interesting session, one of those completely live things. It’s a different part of my playing, for sure, and I love it. We’re actually talking about doing some more stuff.

AAJ: I thought you sounded great on that, and obviously a different bag than many of these songs on Traveler, but they’re both done well and show your broad background and tastes. Where does this diversity come from?

SH: For me, it’s all under the American music umbrella, except for the Latin stuff, which is now also becoming pretty much a standard style in jazz for the past 10 years or more. The funk stuff, and the singer/songwriter country vibe, and the swing and New Orleans stuff rhythmically, for me, is all related. The groove that I played on the Tom Waits tune, “The Heart of Saturday Night,” to me can swing like a ride cymbal. You’re playing it on different voices of the kit. Instead of the ride cymbal, it’s on another voice – the tom-tom or high hat with the tambourine on top of the snare. Which is kind of the way they used to do it in New Orleans in the marches. For me, rhythmically, American music is all related.

It’s under the American music umbrella. Then I got into the Latin stuff when I was a student at Berklee. Even more so when I came to New York and got into a band called Manhattan Vibes with John Benitez. So I just combined everything, you know? It’s funny, you have the American music stuff, but then, if you check out some Brazilian or Afro-Cuban music, the way beat lies and the way it swings is also very similar to a lot of jazz stuff.

The world is getting really small like that. You can check out a Calypso groove and technically it’s the same beat as the Middle Eastern Arabic groove, it’s just played with a little different feel. It’s all relative, in my head.

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