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Brian Carpenter: In Between The Cracks

DanMichael Reyes By

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AAJ: Let's go back to the songs on the record. "Beethoven Riffs On" is based on the second movement of Beethoven's 7th Symphony. How much did you refer to the original symphony when arranging this particular song?

BC: I did bring that up and listen to it. I didn't like the ending of the Singer arrangement, so I bookended the piece and made a few changes there. But yeah, I think I did bring up the Beethoven symphony just to hear what was the voicings were. I'm not sure how I used it? It's been so long since I arranged that piece. But I had more to deal than Kirby had in his band. I have strings and guitar, so I had to figure out an arrangement for The Ghost Train Orchestra because we have a different instrumentation. I had to figure out a way that worked.

There were a lot of things in the Singer arrangement that I didn't like. I think he had great ideas, but there was a lot of things I didn't like about it that I changed. But otherwise, I think it's pretty close in terms of the form.

AAJ: "Charley's Prelude" is based on Chopin's Prelude, Op. 28, No. 4.

BC: That's a beautiful piece.

AAJ: It is! When I first heard "Charley's Prelude" I thought immediately that it sounded a lot like Chopin's E Minor Prelude. Radiohead has based a song from it and Brad Mehldau has covered that Radiohead song that is based off of that prelude.

BC: Really? I didn't know that!

AAJ: Yeah! Have you heard "Exit Music (For A Film)?"

BC: No, I haven't. What album is that off of?

AAJ: It's from OK Computer (Capitol, 1997), the fourth track in.

BC: Wow, that's so funny. I have to check that out.

AAJ: Did you look at the E Minor Prelude at all when you were arranging for "Charley's Prelude?"

BC: Yeah, sure of course! I had the Singer arrangement. I think it was Louis Singer who arranged that song, but I think I pulled the Chopin prelude to hear what was going on. The difference between the Singer and what I have is that I have trombone coming in at the end. I don't remember what I used... I had the Singer arrangement, I had the Chopin piano piece, and I kind of used both of those.

AAJ: The record came out in October 2013, but how long ago did you start working and arranging for this project?

BC: It was recorded in April of 2012, I think it was in 2011—early 2011—that I started working on this stuff. It's funny because the band had recorded the first record in November 2009, so right after that—around 2010 and 2011— I started working on these arrangements and it took a long time until we could record it because the [songs] are hard.

AAJ: During the release of the first Ghost Train Orchestra record, Hot House Stomp (Accurate, 2011), you made a comment during an NPR interview saying that you liked early jazz and avant-garde jazz because it gave you a "visceral thing without any intellectual component." But now, based on what you're telling me, it seems like the music for this album is very concentrated. Do you still get that visceral feeling when you play the new material?

BC: It's different. It's funny you mention that because it's different. When we play the Hot House Stomp stuff, it definitely feels like we're just floating. It's almost like a party and people are dancing—maybe because we've also been playing it longer or it's like a free music almost. But this material is more like what Marty Ehrlich—who played on a few gigs—said when we played two sets, one set of the 1920s stuff and one set of the 1930s, and he said afterwards, "The first set felt like a party and the second set felt like a concert." I think he really nailed it. You have to concentrate harder because things are changing so rapidly in the 1930s material and everyone is just so focused. In the '20s stuff—because we've been playing it so long—we don't even need the book. It's like taking a bath in a vat of butter. It's like the most amazing feeling, there's nothing like it when it works. It's gotta click, it's one of those things, but when it's on... that music is so powerful. Everyone loves it. It's an interesting genre of music because it's a genre of music that everyone likes. When we played it live—I mean live, like we're talking about the live performance— it's very strange because there's not a lot of music like this being played. It just appeals to everyone because it's just so good, fun, full of life, and joyous even when the pieces are sometimes haunting and heartbreakingly beautiful. Like when "Boy in The Boat" is played slow, which it should be played slow and lumbering, it's the most beautiful piece. It's sad and beautiful. It's a gorgeous piece! This stuff just goes over live like no other music does. It's really interesting.

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