Sometimes, a series of small disparate observations dovetail to produce incredulity, stupefaction and even anger. Here we go. Have you noticed that Nat Hentoff has set off a bit not his first bit) of controversy with his December 2001 "Final Chorus , which can be found on the last page of every issue of Jazz Times. Nat took occasion to knock a couple of the more well-known current crop of jazz divas. Suspending, for the purpose of avoiding litigation, the issue of whether I agree or disagree with the estimable and always spot-on Mr. Hentoff, I include the following quote:
"Jane Monheit's success is a triumph of savvy management and publicity?"the right clubs and television spots aided by scribes who have temporarily suspended their jazz judgment.
He then went on to quote the Jazz Times review of her cd (by another critic for the magazine) implying she was not a jazz singer at all, to wit:
"Monheit's rehearsed, theatrical quality has less in common with jazz musicians than torch singers, cabaret artists and those who sing musical theater."
Like loads of folks, I find this extremely intriguing, but unlike them it has absolutely zero to do with any opinion of mine regarding Jane Monheit. See, here's the thing. I happen to know that the Jazz Journalist Association (JJA) nominated four cds for "Recording Debut of the Year for their jazz year, April 15, 2000 to April 15, 2001. Here they are:
- Tony Malaby, Sabino (Arabesque)
- Jane Monheit, Never Neverland (N-Coded Music)
- Claudia Acuna, Wind from the South (Verve)
- David Gilmore, Ritualism (Kashka)
This nomination list was particularly important to me, because I am one of the few jazz journalists to have reviewed David's gem of a recording. And by the way, if you believe me, it was indeed the Recording Debut of that Year by a jazz artist. In addition, another web-based critic, www.about.com 's Blaine Fallis (who can now be found at over at www.modernjazz.com ) picked it as one of the ten best releases of the calendar year 2000, in all categories. Well, Ms. Monheit won. The JJA didn't publish the final tally, but for the sake of argument, let's assume Mr. Gilmore came in second. Well then, if you believe the Jazz Journalists Association and you believe Nat Hentoff, by transitivity of jazz logic, David's Ritualism should (or could) then be considered de facto, the debut jazz release of 2000. A well-deserved, yet inference driven, kudo for David.
Bear with me here... I'm not angry yet. What blows my mind is this. In the course of completing this interview, it has come to my attention that Ritualism has yet to be reviewed by any of the major jazz periodicals, although it was serviced to all of them. Now, David is not only on an independent label, he's on a really independent label-his own. Personally, I should think jazz publications should recognize who David is, having played with Steve Coleman, Cassandra Wilson, Don Byron, Graham Haynes, Uri Caine, Trilok Gurtu and Mister Wayne Shorter, but let's give the staffer, maybe even an intern, the benefit of the doubt. Look a tad deeper, though, and it gets a bit more disrespectful, considering the recording happens to feature a guy named Coltrane (Ravi, who by the way, has just started his own independent imprint, called RKM Music). And what of the nomination by the JJA for Debut Recording of the Year? Yeesh. So, this raises a few issues. Are the mag staffers talking to the journalists, or vice-versa? Is such treatment an indie smackdown? Is it just the product of some huge perception and communication problems? Should the independents follow some established "establishment rules of networking that have not been revealed to them? Read on, and you'll get some points of view on the controversial indie issue, and more importantly, a look into the mind behind the most slammingly polyrhythmic, yet accessible, jazz release to come down the pike this millennium.
AAJ: What factors most strongly contributed to you finally getting a solo project together?
DG:It was something I'd been planning for a long time. Originally I was trying to do it with a small Austrian label called PAO and ended up wasting too much time negotiating a deal. At the point where I realized it wasn't going to work out, I just wanted to do something and get it out there badly. I was inspired by what Dave Fiuczynski and his wife Lian had done and a few others, like Tim Berne and his label.
Plus, some of the music was stuff I'd been playing over a couple of years, so it was really ready. The rest I came up with for the session. I borrowed a whole lot of money and went into a whole lotta debt and there it was.
AAJ: And it probably takes less money, relatively anyway, than it's ever taken.
DG: Sure. I was able to cut costs a little myself because I have somewhat of a home studio here. I did it mostly live in the studio and some overdubs at the house. I did all the edits myself, bouncing ADATS of the session to my hard drive.
AAJ: Define the audience for this project.
DG: The people who like Ritualism anyway, run from musicians to non. I know a lot of people who aren't musicians who really feel the record.
AAJ: How was the recording done? Are all the guys in the same room with the drummer so you have the same ambience?
DG: It was 16 bit ADAT in the studio. The drummer and I were in booths with Brad (Jones, the bassist) behind partitions. The horns were in another room and there was a main room where the piano and the organ were. I picked the studio because it was a nice room, acoustically, and everybody could see each other visually. It's important to have the band thing. It's pretty much all live...you know.
AAJ: How long did it take? Like a second, right?
DG: We tracked basically for two days..
AAJ: Man, you guys are unbelievable...
DG: I went back into the studio to do "Confluence , because Imani (Uzuri-vocals) couldn't do it at the time. Actually, we aborted a previous session in January...I had James Genus instead of Brad on bass...the studio just didn't work out...the piano was out of tune...I had to pull the plug finally. I did have a finished version of "Confluence from that session but I ended up throwing it out. We rerecorded it as a trio-bass, guitar and vocals.
AAJ: How'd you find Imani Uzuri? She's been on some drum'n'bass type recordings, right? (related article)
DG: Actually, she's on Herbie's new record, Future 2 Future. She wrote some lyrics for one of those tunes. I only heard parts of that cd so far. I met her a couple of years back through friends of mine. I just always loved the quality of her voice. She doesn't do "jazz gigs..I heard her on her own gigs...drum'n'bass. She has a really rich deep kind of voice. At that point I wasn't thinking of her for my stuff, but as it turns out we collaborated and she wrote lyrics to "Confluence . That date wasn't easy for her, but she certainly managed to pull it off.
AAJ: How'd you get the rest of the band ?
DG: Like I said, Brad was a sub. Now Brad has turned out to the better choice for this kind of music. I mean I love James but Brad has this looseness from playing with Ornette.
DG: Oh, yeah. Ornette, the Jazz Passengers, Marc Ribot. So the core band was there. The sidemen made sense. I mean part of it was just that I knew guys who were willing to do me huge financial favors for the music. I knew Rodney (www.rodneyholmes.com) from Wayne, and he has this jazzy jazzy, but funky, other way of playing.
AAJ: It's almost like prog rock at times, just all over the kit. And George Colligan (http://www.allaboutjazz.com/iviews/gcolligan.htm)?
DG: I think I met him through Binney (www.mythologyrecords.com/binney.html), who's also on the cd.
AAJ: And Ravi and Ralph Alessi are through Steve Coleman?
AAJ: And you're on Ralph's new thing?
DG: That's not out yet. Check RKM for that (www.rkmmusic.com). I've got some space on that one, but I was disappointed with the amp I used for the session. That's some hard music too. Don Byron's on it as well as Nausheet Waits and Drew Gress.
AAJ: Your record seems like a natural progression from Coleman to Lost Tribe to Trilok to your own thing, as opposed to some other directions you've gone in with other folks.
DG: I guess it comes out of all those experiences...you know, playing with Steve and Trilok...though osmosis it's crept into my system. But even before I met Steve and the whole M-Base thing I had an attraction to odd meter music or whatever you want to call it. I was into Return to Forever and Mahavishnu and all that stuff.
I was introduced to playing jazz when I first started taking guitar lessons at age 15, with John Baboian, a teacher at Berklee School of Music. Then I kind of worked my way backwards into straight ahead jazz. But I was always into that type of music. The stuff I'm doing now, at least the Ritualism thing, has got the odd meter stuff. I just find there to be a lot of unexplored territory, you know, with rhythms as it relates to modern jazz harmonies and melodies. I mean jazz in the rhythmic sense has been pretty much in 4:4 with the occasional 3:4 and that's...
AAJ: That's it! That's what I really want to touch on with you. This is what Steve is known for and now you. You are one of the masters regarding this aspect.
DG: Well, there are other people, but a lot of them come at it from a different angle, like Brad Shepik with Pachora and the Commuters (AAJ interrupts)
AAJ: Yeah, but they're coming from ethnic rhythms.
DG: Well, they're using things in 11 and 21 or whatever. Steve's thing has evolved within his own projects. Like it used to be "this tune is in 5 and "this is in 7 , but around "Rhythm People it evolved into polymetric tunes. It went further with "Black Science where the pianist was in one meter, the bassist was in another and I was in another and the parts would intersect at various points creating cross-rhythms.