Guitarist Fred Fried on 'When Winter Comes'
AAJ: That is an endlessly debatable topic that I’d love to talk to you about extensively. It’s almost impossible to avoid the word ‘emotion’ when talking about music. It’s something you don’t always find in discussions of other art forms, but in music it’s standard practice.
FF: Music is the one form that bypasses the intellect. As much as players, especially jazz players, need their intellect to play, ultimately, it’s the feeling that gets conveyed. It’s funny. I don’t think you’ll find a musician who will not say that emotions important. I mean, I hear musicians that sound absolutely cold to me, but they’ll say the same thing.
AAJ: Which shows the range of what emotion can mean.
FF: That’s true. What’s emotional to me may not be to them, and vice versa.
AAJ: I think you said it really well when you said, ‘music is the wordless expression of the human spirit’.
FF: ...it’s like when I write, or even when I listen, I’ll analyze later, if at all. I’m just waiting, wordlessly. I wait for the right melody, or the right harmony to come along. It’s not an intellectual process. A lot of work went behind it...but I’ll sit with it, waiting. Some tunes just write themselves, others take a month or more, and I’ll just do a little bit everyday. Basically my criteria is: does it set well with me. Not, “Are there that many bars?” “Does it reach this plateau, and then do such and such?” You might find [that] in a composition book. You want to do this... I think through years of writing, and playing, and hearing music other than jazz, I have an instinct—at least it’s my instinct. I know what I want. I know when I’m happy with something. And I know when to throw something out... You listen to some of the great American composers—Richard Rogers, Jerome Kern, Gershwin—they really had some stuff happening. They could write beautiful melodies. And their concern wasn’t whether [they were] good blowing tunes. A lot of them happened to be... Maybe academics later formulized it. There are books on songwriting. But I think those guys—Irving Berlin, etc.—they had an instinct for melody, and the logic of certain melodies...I mean, do you know a tune called “I’ll be Seeing You?”
FF: To me—I hope the younger readers don’t say, ‘this guy is an old fogey’—to me if I hear that song, even sung, by someone really good, I think it’s one of the greatest tunes ever written. The way it’s structured. It’s got motifs, the lyric too. It is very sentimental.
AAJ: I wanted to ask my last question about your solo work, and your trio recordings, for example Infantry of Leaves. Could you describe a little the difference between playing in a solo situation, a trio, and in a quartet/quintet grouping?
FF: I really enjoy both. I enjoy playing with a trio, or quartet, but interestingly enough, they both have a different kind of freedom. Playing with a trio you don’t have to lay down the harmony all the time. There’s the bassist, you’ve got the drummer, and you’ve got the interaction. You’re working off one another. You’ve got the form of the tune that you’re playing, in a way though, obviously, I’ll take a few more single lines because it’s not incumbent upon me to get everything happening. In fact, it would be counterproductive to play a bass line while Steve LaSpinna’s playing a bass line. And I’m never going to play a bass line as good as he’s gonna play anyway, but that support, that rhythmic support and harmonic support, is wonderful. That gives you a certain kind of freedom to play on top of that. Playing solo, the freedom is, with anything I want to do, I don’t have to wonder if the bassist is going to be where I’m going to be. Usually, I’m playing a tune in tempo. I still want that rhythm to be solid, but as far as what chord I’m going to play, what substitution, now that’s totally up to me. That’s where I very much like to be creative. I’ll re-harmonize it one way going one time around, and do something different the next. There’s a lot of freedom there. You’re only dictating to yourself. Obviously, you don’t have the interplay, but you know, maybe there is some interplay, between you and the other you, I don’t know. You’re giving yourself ideas.
Visit Fred Fried on the web at www.fredfried.com .