Dan Weiss: The Creative Absence of Egotism

Lloyd N. Peterson Jr. By

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AAJ: Don Cherry said that, "If you believe in boundaries, you will become them." One gets the sense from listening to you and your music, that the universe you explore is larger than it is for most; you are not trapped by the sound from the surface that can compartmentalize the style of the music. Have you always had this ability to see and listen outside of creative boundaries?

DW: I agree with Don and his statement; I am all about that. There was a time I was immersed in the classical and jazz traditions so I had blinders on, but I needed it at that time to learn my craft. But I have always had an open, no boundaries approach to music and have always been into incorporating different things and seeing how it can influence the music. I don't care about labels and what jazz should sound like or what that is. None of that makes any difference to me. For me, it's a waste of energy and a waste of time. I would rather focus on getting better and making music and it's just an inherent part of who I am. I just don't like boundaries nor the rules and conformities.

AAJ: Do you think that each person somehow has their own music inside them that influences the way they listen to music and how they hear it?

DW: Sure, I think it's possible and it might be a DNA thing. But I'm sure each person has their own inherent wiring that makes them gravitate towards some things.

AAJ: There is a process in India called chilla, which is where the musician is left alone until he or she becomes one with the music. Have you ever had this experience?

DW: I have done a number of chillas and the longest was five days. You don't leave your instrument unless you eat; go to the bathroom or sleep and you don't have contact with anybody. There's no communication at all—no computer, no phones, nothing. Just you and your instrument. I am hoping to do a 40-day chilla some day, hopefully.

AAJ: So for you to do this more than once, it had some kind of impact on you. Were you a different artist coming out of one of these than you were going in?

DW: Yes, absolutely.

AAJ: Did it change the way you hear music, the way you feel music? Did you see the world differently through music?

DW: Yes, all of that. It's very hard to do and it can be brutal. Practicing that long and the amount of suffering that goes along with it both physically and mentally. You really learn a lot about yourself and I felt as if I had become a more compassionate person.

AAJ: Would you say that it enhanced your awareness levels of everything that is around you?

DW: It definitely enhances the awareness levels. Definitely. It's huge. You go into different zones. You get into highly-meditative states but at times, it's very grueling because you sit down and don't get up for 6 or 7 hours at a time. Your endurance grows, your strength grows, your awareness grows, and your attention to detail grows. All of these things are a part of an enlightening process.

AAJ: Artists doing the most creative work seem to have higher awareness levels in how they perceive things around them and what you are doing reflects that. Can you explain what the nature of music means to you?

DW: I have had the most enlightening experiences through music. Music is my religion and my destination.

AAJ: You once said that, "Music can enlighten people and I really believe what that can do for humanity." Can you expand on that further?

DW: Yeah and it's absolutely true. Music has an uplifting power and it has a relationship on culture. I really think it has a power that we really don't understand yet. For me, it's a way of transforming oneself—like the Buddha principle of transformation. Starting with you and then bringing it to others and it is something that I have really gravitated towards. To change myself and make myself better and if I can make my music better, then maybe it can have a ripple effect.

Selected discography

Dan Weiss Trio, Timshel (Sunny Side Records, 2010)

Rudresh Mahanthappa's Indo-Pak Coalition, Apti (Innova Recordings, 2009)

Joel Harrison, The Wheel (Innova Recordings, 2008)

Chris Tarry, Sorry to be Strange (Cellar Live, 2007)

Jackson Harrison Trio, Land Tides (Hatology, 2007)

Dan Weiss, Now Yes When (Tone of a Pitch Records, 2006)

David Binney, Cities and Desire (Criss Cross Jazz, 2006)

Miles Okazaki, Mirror (Self Produced, 2006)

Dan Weiss, Tintal Drum set Solo (Chhandayan Production, 2005)

David Binney, Bastion of Sanity (Criss Cross Jazz, 2005)

Photo Credits

Page 1: John Kelman

Page 3: Juan-Carlos Hernandez
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