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Interviews

Pat Martino: To Renew A Life In Jazz

By Published: October 31, 2003

AAJ: I see that you focus on principles rather than a formula.

PM: It's a bit more logistic than it is theoretical.

AAJ: Your website covers this material quite well, with illustrative images. It's an excellent website, very user friendly, accessible. Tell us about the webmaster.

PM: His name is Richard Cann. He has a PhD in music as well as being a mathematician. He's into computers, and has been involved with Black Diamond Systems for quite some time. He was one of the first electronic music composers whose work was recorded. In fact, when the computer was the size of a wall, he was involved in electronic music when you could only produce maybe one minute of electronic music, after so many days of using the computer! So, he was very involved at that early phase, along with Morton Subotnick and others. He's very gifted.

AAJ: The website gives a listing of your record collection, which sorts out by type, so you can view classical, jazz, etc.

PM: I haven't even begun with it! It's a recent thing. I haven't begun to insert all of the pop and rock music that's influenced me. I think it's very valuable for other individuals who are curious as to what a certain artist listens to and what affects that artist.

AAJ: I heard a British music scholar on NPR- his name escapes me- give a wonderful talk on why he considers Bob Dylan a great composer. He went into great depth and detail about Dylan's work as an art form. He conveyed a great respect for some pop musicians as genuine creators. Now, your record collection is very eclectic, classical, jazz, rock. Your classical list includes composers from Bach and Mozart, to Takemitsu, Bartok, Rochberg, who taught Uri Caine, Leonard Bernstein. Some jazz artists are very much into the classical repertoire, while others are not. There was a time when a group of them got together in Gil Evans' apartment one night, and he played a recording of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, which then had a major influence on jazz at that time. Once, in fact, Stravinsky came to hear Charlie Parker perform at Birdland'

PM: Stravinsky really loved jazz. One of his favorite bassists was Richard Davis.

AAJ: So, Stravinsky is sitting ringside, and Parker's bassist whispers to Bird, 'Hey man, Igor Stravinsky is in the audience!' Whereupon Parker inserted parts from 'The Firebird' into his chorus of 'Koko.' Stravinsky was totally surprised and overjoyed!

PM: (laughing): That's great!

AAJ: So there is cross-fertilization between classical and jazz. I'm wondering how that plays out for you, personally. Which of these composers come into your music?

PM: Gee, you know, it's difficult to be specific, in terms of it being part of the menu that I draw from. When I tour, I find that when the engagement is complete, I find it difficult to continue in one context. It's a necessity to retain a broader sense of enjoyment of all forms of art, different forms. I enjoy so many different kinds of music, different cultures as well. I enjoy Sting, I enjoy Earth, Wind, and Fire. I enjoy Elliott Carter. I enjoy so many different types of music, because it's the world that I'm in. And I would find myself foolish not to, and almost like a horse with pads on the sides of my eyes. These blinders had to be taken off a long time ago for the freedom of choosing directions of my own choice. So it is the freedom and the imagination to be able to consistently and repetitively to force myself into confrontation with, not only the abstract, but to simplify it into dissonance and consonance. To have them both stand before me at all times is a necessity. Whether it be seen in hip-hop music or in Krizysztof Penderecki makes no difference to me. It may seem dissonant in terms of first contact with it. But I need to be exposed to dissonance, primarily because the more I'm exposed to it, the more consonant it becomes, and the more I'm exposed to consonance, the more dissonant it becomes, Due to boredom, it loses its excitement and I get tired of it, and dissonance begins to enter. I see how it sculptures itself to the surrounding it appears within. And I am no longer so focused on my own intentions that I take the pads off my eyes, and I begin to see the intentions of others. And by doing this, I participate with others, and I grow from the experience. This to me is a necessity, not only to participate in it on both of its sides (its polarities), but to be able to witness it from a third point of view, which is neutral to either of them, which is honestly the most realistic point of perceptive value of them all.

AAJ: So, you wouldn't take some idea from Penderecki and insert it in your playing?

PM: I may, I might. And that may have a great deal to do with the impact of the dynamics of the event in that solo that may literally be a cluster that is put together in such a way that it's dense, that instead of the standard two-five chord resolution, the two and five are altered in their impact, how long it lasts, the staccato- like BAM!- I might be affected by that. And of course that might take place on a day in which someone inflames me, makes me angry. This has a great deal to do with the reality of music, and so little to do with scales and modes and chords and idioms. It has everything to do with life and the freedom to be able to be able to release the very things that encase us.


THINK TANK



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