David Binney: Underground Tremors

Ian Patterson By

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AAJ: Your exchange with Taborn on "Equality at Low Levels" is exhilarating. You two really connect.

Craig Taborn

DB: Craig has been in my bands for years, so we have a lot of experience playing with each other. That section where we're trading, I think I've done it with him on so many things over the years that it's kind of second nature for us. I knew that would work. It wasn't something that I thought about a lot. I love Craig's playing.

AAJ: He brings a lot to the recording, as does Eivind Opsvik. He's a wonderful bassist, he's not really at the fore, but he's felt every step of the way.

DB: I use Eivind because he's just one of my favorite musicians. He's such an unbelievable bassist. I know he's not featured, and on record I tend not to feature a ton of bass solos—live, I do—but Eivind is such a strong player and his role here is much, much stronger than most people would think. What he's doing is really strong and really important. His aesthetic, his time, his sound is just amazing.

AAJ: His arco intro to "From This Far" is simple yet stunning, and it almost slices the CD in two, in some ways.

DB: He plays arco a lot more when we play live, and it's just unbelievable. He's an expert arco player, which is unusual for a bassist. He's very, very in tune, even though he'll play out of tune sometimes on purpose. He's from Norway, and he'll play an arco solo and it'll sound like some sort of Scandinavian electronica record. It's really unique, and I really love that. He's an amazing musician.

AAJ: Your secret weapon on Graylen Epicenter is Gretchen Parlato. Her singing on "Home" is obviously powerful, but her presence in general lends so much to the listening experience. How did you bring her into this music?

DB: Gretchen is somebody I had heard over the years, though I'd only played with her a couple of times. The first time was years ago at a jam session at the Jazz Gallery—that Adam Rogers had put together, which I think was a benefit for New Orleans when the floods happened—and I thought, "Wow, she really sings great." She's from L.A. and I'm from L.A., and we just got along. We had occasion to play together again on an Afinidad project, which I wrote "All of Time" for. We did those concerts, and I really liked her melodies on my tunes and how it sounded.

Then there was the influence of the Swiss gig I was telling you about, called the Langnau Festival. When you're there for a week, you also teach—and the festival head, Walter Schmocker, needed seven instruments. He was going to get various people and throw us all together, but I said I could get seven musicians that are really great and put the whole thing together, and he said okay. So, I called Gretchen and she did a great job.

Once we got into the music, I thought it would be great to record all this and let Gretchen do her thing. She wasn't used to singing those kinds of melodies, so she was nervous about singing my music at first. She didn't think she'd be able to do it, but I said: "You'll be able to do it, no problem." Sure enough, you give it to her and she nails it. She's a really, really good musician.

I think this project was good for her too, because it gave her confidence to sing music that she'd never really sung before She sounds amazing on this project. It gives the record a sound that I've had before, maybe with Luciana Souza on Afinidad (Red Records, 2001) or Oceanos (Criss Cross, 2007), but there's something about Gretchen's sound that really matches the music I write, and I really love what she brings to it.

AAJ: She brings a lot to the CD. Where did you get the title, "Any Year's Costume"?

DB: To be honest, I don't remember, but sometimes I get things from books I've read or just looking through books. Sometimes I'm reading, and a phrase will come up that I'll note and put it on the list of song titles. I always have a list of song titles going, so that when I finish a record I can kind of match things—unlike Graylen Epicenter, where the titles came up just before they had to.

AAJ: One name is as good as another, but people usually want to know the origin of the title. Does it get a bit wearying when people ask you all the time?

Gretchen Parlato

DB: I totally understand it. Anthony Braxton used to write math problems for the titles of his music. The titles can start to become somewhat descriptive in somebody's mind, and for a long time I didn't like that because a lot of the time the title didn't have much to do with the feeling I got from the music. In recent years I've gotten more into the idea of titles, because of exactly what happened with Graylen Epicenter—when they take on a meaning of their own in relation to the music, which is also cool.

I guess, because I know this record so well, that when you say the titles I know which tune is which, but that's unusual for me. A lot of times, people will mention a title of some of my music, and I have to think about it: "Which tune is that?" It's the same with other people's records I listen to; somebody will say they love this song or that song, and I won't know the name. I know it by sound, but I won't relate it to the title. The titles aren't that important to me, but they are to other people, so I take that into consideration. But in reality, for me, they don't really mean much.

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