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David Gilmore: Getting To The Point

Phil DiPietro By

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AAJ: What happened to Muse's output?

DG: I know that Joe Fields sold one of his catalogues that he owned and made some money. Maybe that's why they do less recordings. Cindy Blackman, who I play with, just got done with her obligation to Muse.

Every once and a while I did gigs with my own thing but I never pursued it heavily. In '91 I had my daughter, and I was going through some heavy personal things around that time. Looking back, that consumed a lot of my space, you know, and a lot of my focus. And then I started working with Trilok. Right before I went over there to work with Trilok, I quit Steve's thing. Trilok flew me over there, to Germany, to check me out and then rehearse, so it wasn't a sure thing. But I wound up playing with him a couple of years ("Bad Habits Die Hard , "Believe ). That was during Lost Tribe, too. Like '89.

AAJ: We've got to talk about Lost Tribe, with Fima Ephron (www.globalbass.com/archives/feb2002/fima_ephron.htm), Adam Rogers, Ben Perowsky (www.perowsky.com) and David Binney. Killer band!

DG:Well, we never made money with Lost Tribe, either.

AAJ: And you were on a major label!

DG: High Street, a branch of Windham Hill. They kicked in some miniscule tour support to do the states one time. We opened up for Steve Morse.

AAJ: I actually saw Lost Tribe with MMW on a co-bill thing.

DG: They actually did that one after I left the band. They were going out for six weeks driving through the states and up to Canada and back, and I had two gigs with Don Byron in Germany that paid more than six weeks on the road with Lost Tribe would have, so I decided, "I can't do this. No hard feelings, but this is it. They had done gigs without me occasionally before that because I was doing Trilok and Don, so the writing was on the wall there. It wasn't like a major cutoff. It was just time to part ways.

AAJ: In my small circle of friends and fusion lovers, there are people still getting hip to Lost Tribe.

DG: Wow. That first record was real special to me. Maybe just because it was the first record, and that we did it in Maui with Walter Becker. It was a beautiful place. Walter brought us to Windham Hill. Ben Perowsky met him at a session and gave him a demo and he liked it. Then Fima and Ben and Adam Rogers did his record ("11 Tracks of Whack ). It was fun man - I learned a lot from that project. It was definitely the most adventurous stuff on Windham Hill. It was very eclectic, they didn't know how to market it, especially the second record. There was rap stuff on it, and heavy metal.

AAJ: Good point, I really think the Lost Tribe stuff and the stuff Fuze did with the Torsos was a precursor to the rock-metal-rap that is so popular today. Yet, none of the modern-day bands have said that was an influence.

DG:Looking back, it really did have some of those elements in it. I just want to capitalize on all that stuff now. It can't happen fast enough (laughs). Seriously man, I just want to make a living doing what I do. It comes down to that. Getting some recognition in any arena would help.

AAJ: So there hasn't been any major label contact, huh?

DG:Of the few cds that I have sent out, there has been some label interest but they have basically told me that they can't make a move now, so I continued with my initial plan to release it myself. Arabesque was one of those labels.

AAJ: Ben Monder is on that label.

DG:Ben is a highly intellectual cat. He's super nice. I'd like to pick his brain about a few things. But yeah, there are labels out there. Plus I'd like to see what the interest is like for my new Kindread Spirits project. I think that's a great project in terms of commercial viability. That's me on guitar and guitar synth, my brother Marque on drums and samples and Matt Garrison (www.garrisonjazz.com) on bass, keys, and vocoder.

Matt is totally down with that project. He's really great. Kindread Spirits is more like what Nils-Petter Molvaer is doing, with a healthy dose of electronics. Nils is incredibly popular in Europe. He has label support there and he's built his following up.

AAJ: Do you think the fan base builds with the gigging or the gigging builds the fanbase?

DG:I'd say you build your fan base by gigging a lot and you also build the music. It's after that when you reach a point where you start to gig more in terms of demand.

AAJ: I like the whole jam band ethic of gig first and get signed later.

DG: :All I can say is that the market is funny in regards to who gets signed and who doesn't.

AAJ: I just think everything I said before about a market here for your music goes double for the type of sounds you're going for with Kindread Spirits. There's a whole subset of bands doing the live electronica thing that have crossed over into that market, like the Disco Biscuits, Sound Tribe Sector 9 and the New Deal. Take that for whatever it's worth.

OK Dave..NOW comes the time in the interview where you must speak about your time with WAYNE. How'd that happen?

DG:I have to thank Will Calhoun for that. He recommended me.

AAJ: It's all about the word of mouth.

DG:Exactly. Wayne was recording in LA with Will and Marcus, and the way it was told to me, is that Wayne kept hearing guitar. He kept gesturing like he was playing guitar when they were playing the tracks back, so Marcus asked him if he was looking for some guitar on there and Wayne said, "Yeah. I think so . Will suggested me and Marcus had heard me play before so they called me and got me out there. Will originally called and said that Wayne was looking for a guitarist for gigging, so I sent a tape, with mostly Trilok's stuff. A week later, Wayne Shorter called me up! I mean, "Hello, this is Wayne Shorter. I said "huuuuuh!? I remember he said, "Yeah, man, y'know, you get to the point!

So I flew out there and spent a week out there overdubbing with him. The record was done, but he was rerecording the melodies, and they had me double a lot of them. Then Marcus Miller, the producer, proceeded to punish me. He kinda arranged things on the spot because there were no guitar parts written out. Marcus took stuff from the master score and had me play certain chords and chordal type melodies. You can hear it in some areas of the recording better than others. Mainly I'm doubling Wayne and interjecting some things in between. We did the tour later that year in the fall of '95. There were several incarnations of that band. Memories, man.

AAJ: How many dates ?

DG:We did about 20 in '95. In '96 we did a bunch of US dates with Jim Beard (keys), Alphonso (Johnson) and Rodney (Holmes), a European tour...that's when the tragedy happened with his wife (TWA Flight #800, July 17,1996)....after that we did Japan. Maybe like a 80 dates total. Then I played with him in '98 with Terry Lynn Carrington, Jim Beard and John Patitucci. We went to Japan and Brazil. And that was the last time I played with Wayne ... '98.. November. We were supposed to do the next record with me, Brian Blade and Christian McBride, who was with Joshua Redman at the time. We went out there and rehearsed, but it just never happened.

AAJ: Do you have any Wayne stories either funny or more serious, such as what you might have taken from his thing and applied to your own?

DG: Wayne stories...I mean I just like his spirit. I never met anybody or worked with anybody as calm and collected or as peaceful as him. He just has this center, man. And he's funny as hell.

I remember him saying onstage, "Have you ever played like you've never played before? Y'know, like the first time? Then he broke into this wild, free, very loose thing. Then he told me that Miles Davis said that before, to him, you know. He would do that, play very playful games on stage. His playfulness reminds me of a kid, just a beautiful spirit, a beautiful cat.

AAJ: So, musical direction didn't come in musical form. Miles was known for that.

DG:Just his vibe was so heavy. The harmonies he would write, and the maturity of his sound and playing...it's not about chops or technique or anything, just feel and emotion, and he knows how to get there

AAJ: You guys did a record and all these dates with a living legend. What keeps a tour like that, some of those wonderful musical moments, the evolution of the band's sound..what keeps that from getting documented, getting put out?

DG:Good question. A lot of times I don't think the record companies are tuned into what's going on out on the road...what the musicians are doing out there, at all. They have very little or nothing to do with it. I know one date, the Lincoln Center gig, was well-recorded and broadcast on NPR a couple of times. But the record companies should dig deeper. The record companies may actually think Wayne's heyday, you know, is over, with Miles and Weather Report. But that first band..in '96 we hit some moments where it was frightening, some killing music. Words are inadequate to describe playing with Wayne. On some level, it was Wayne's World..but it was the Saturday Night Live one... "I'm not worthy...! (laughs). Some part of me always thought it was some kind of fluke. Sometimes, it might have gotten in the way of me being totally relaxed, but on the other hand, I made it through all the incarnations of that band, so I must have been doing something right. One thing that bugs me is that I never had the right guitar for that band. I should have had a semi-hollow or hollow body on that gig. I played my Tom Anderson (solid body) the whole time. To match Wayne Shorter's fat sound, you need something fat to match it.

AAJ: So after Wayne? I know more recently, you've one stuff with Uri Caine.

DG: Well, Uri's stuff is great, but I'm only on that one cd (URI CAINE ENSEMBLE, "La Gaia Scienza - Love Fugue , Winter & Winter 910 049-2 ).He's been doing the variations on the classical artists. But after Wayne..there hasn't been a regular gig after. Don Byron was before and during Wayne. Every now and then, I still do a gig with Don, who uses me for the quartet thing he does, but not Music for Six Musicians.

AAJ: I love that solo on the Duke tune on Bug Music.

DG: Oh yeah, that was an earlier recording. But I'd say 1999 and 2000 my sideman gigs pretty much dried up.

AAJ: Really?

DG: Those are probably the worst years financially for me. Disastrous. Last year I had a better year. I kept thinking something was going to come up and it didn't. I had no tour longer than a couple of weeks those two years. I did stuff with Randy Brecker and Chris Minh Doky (bass), and Cindy Blackman, with Matt. But dismal as far as work. But that was a sign for me that it was now truly time to work on my own projects..

AAJ: You did Christian's thing in 2000, "Sci Fi . Another of the year's best cds. Aja is beautiful on there! You could carry that Steely Dan gig, huh?

DG: Well, the reviews made note of that one as well.

AAJ: Just running through your discography would take pages. So who are your influences as a guitarist?

DG: George Benson is real high on the list. Number one. I've been fortunate to have the opportunity to hang out with him and play at his house a few times. He's been real encouraging. At the North Sea Jazz Festival, when I was on the road with Wayne, George was at the bar and Russell Malone introduced me. Then when I played, I knew George was listening and was a bit nervous.

AAJ: I love it when you bust out those long bop lines.

DG: It's not so much that I play that style, but just his approach to playing is very rhythmic. It's like, well, I'd say Coleman plays more like Bird than these so-called post- bop players. It's not his note choice, obviously. It's more his approach and his feel..it's more between the notes stuff. In that way I feel like I'm close to Benson. Pat Martino and Wes too. For guitar players, those are the guys. I loved listening to McLaughlin and DiMeola early on, but that was stuff I enjoyed listening to rather than emulating. Regarding young players, I think Adam Rogers is one of the baddest guitar players that ever lived in my opinion, hands down! He can play the hell out of rock or bop or whatever you want. But I'm more influenced by non-guitar players like Miles, Coltrane and Herbie.

AAJ: Update us on your most recent activities.

DG: Well I've done a few gigs recently with my band. Gene subbed for Rodney in New York. In Boston I brought Reggie Washington on electric bass and Adam Klipple (www.adamklipple.com) on keyboards. I've gigged with Brad Jones' band and with Kindread Spirits. I've got some Uri Caine things, the Schumann thing and..I gotta buy a banjo for this "Tin Pan Alley thing we're doing. Uri calls it "The Sidewalks of New York . I'm not on the "Tin Pan Alley record. It's turn of the century type stuff. He doesn't change that stuff up like he does with Mahler! He plays the "Tin Pan Alley stuff pretty straight. I dig that "Philadelphia Experiment Project he did with Christian, too.

I also have another project I'd like to get focused on that is more like an African- Brazilian type thing, kind of like Hermeto Pascoal type stuff. I want to get that going in the right direction as well.

I'm supposed to go back out with Cindy Blackman again soon ?" her rock/jazz project.

AAJ: I've heard some of that stuff. Now, are those all her tunes or is it a band writing project.

DG:They are all her tunes.

AAJ: What are rehearsals like with these different projects you do?

DG:Well Lost Tribe and Trilok are the bands I've rehearsed the most with. Believe it or not, Steve's rehearsals are real loose. Trilok likes to have it polished. He's incessant. Personally, I don't always like it so tight and worked out. I mean, I like to have the parts played right and the arrangements mapped out, but I like to have the elements of surprise and some looseness in the music too.

AAJ: Tell us about Aka Moon.

DG:That's a cool project because it's me, Pierre Van Dormael and Prasanna (www.guitarprasanna.com) on there playing basically their music. It's somewhat reminiscent of Five Elements type stuff. They're from Belgium. It's Fabrizio Cassol on alto, Michel Hatzigeorgiou on bass, and Stephane Galland on drums. They borrow heavily from African and Indian concepts.

AAJ: And in fact they travel there to play with them right?

DG:Yes. They're named after a band of pygmies they lived with in central Africa.. They go to India regularly they really study the music. Stephane especially is ridiculous, like a European Marvin Smitty Smith.

AAJ: Do you teach?

DG: I was thinking about possibly doing a bit more of it. I'm a bit at odds with academia and how it relates to music, with the whole concept. It seems to me, like, why do you need a degree in music, and now even Masters and a Doctorate, in order to teach? Let's be real. The best teachers are the ones who've gotten their masters on the road. That's what I like about the New School. They have a roster of working jazz musicians. I teach there and at City College too. Also, Ralph Alessi and Peter Epstein started a thing called The School for Improvisational Music (ww.schoolforimprovisationalmusic.org)

AAJ: So even though you're at odds with academia you're going to work there?

DG: Well, see now, that's the thing. This is run by, basically, and features classes and workshops by, performing artists and educators- Steve Coleman Don Byron, Uri, Jim Black, Billy Hart, tons of people. Last year, classes were held at the Knitting Factory- a series of workshops basically. I had trumpet students and bass students that wanted to study. I like teaching what I'm passionate about.

There are some high points in the teaching game but I am not into overanalyzing shit. Ok, you have got to learn your scales and modes, learn all your basic stuff, but then you have got to listen to how to apply it. You've got to transcribe solos..no way around it. If you want to be a jazz improviser you have to learn from the masters. Then, you have to play with people...who are better than you. You have to put yourself in an environment where you get your ass kicked.

AAJ: Sounds like learning how to play basketball! (laughs)

DG: Sometimes students want some secret formula that you're not gonna get in a school environment, that you're not going to get living in Iowa.

AAJ: Hey, I've been there. I've been one of the guys who wants the information but just doesn't have the skills in place at that moment to absorb it.

DG: That's why this school is so good. They meet and play and perform among themselves and also with faculty, too. Auditions are by tape, so you have to be at a certain level of feel and creativity to attend. Of course, there's no degree, but you just might learn more than you ever learned somewhere else. I've done master classes at the New Schools and I'm on their roster. That's a great place as well. I wish I'd gone there instead of NYU.

AAJ: Summing up, what do you feel are the elements of your signature sound? We already covered this with some of the rhythmic things in your phrasing.

DG: Some people play the way they talk. I think I do as well, I go on tangents and different directions. I'm conscious of trying to do something different, not playing it straight. I forgot to mention that Monk is a big influence on my rhythmic concepts as well, like what he'd do with just a few short riffs and his sense of rhythmic displacement.

It's nice to get emails every once and awhile from people who say they've been listening all these years and that I've influenced their playing. It's nice to know, because I feel like I'm just beginning. It's all new to me as a bandleader. I'm juiced. I'm excited about it. I encourage musicians to follow their musical destiny, so to speak, but it's tough to keep the path. For me it was never a choice. I had to do what interested me. I got into music cause I loved music, Not to make money or whatever... When I see these young lions, or whatever... these artists conforming to what record companies telling them what to do..it's just sad. We need more creativity, not less. There's not too many people leading the path. I wish there were more Unfortunately, the environment just isn't set up that way. It's hard to put the two together.

AAJ: Are you looking at yourself as one of the leaders?

DG: Well, I just want to do something that represents me that I'm proud of. I mean if I'm going to do an independent record it better be something I want to do, a truthful representation. For me to do what I really wanted to do, it took this long to really get there. So be it.

AAJ: But you've been a shining light in every band you've been in.

DG: Except my own (laughs). But face it...why should musicianship equate to financial gain. They are usually not related although they can be when everything dovetails. Also, the government here doesn't support the arts like they do in Europe. Fabrizio from Aka Moon gets lots of commissions. I'm exploring some of the grant opportunities a bit more now. New York, for example, has a lot of grant money floating around for artists.

But getting back to the point, there is a select audience for anything that's highly creative and detailed. People don't go in droves to the Met but they'll line up around the block to get the latest from Hollywood. Fine art takes time, patience and appreciation, so it's not surprising that people have to do things like teaching to make a living. I mean, the greatest players in the world can be famous, or they could be fixing your sink. Personally, I just will not accept doing anything but what I'm doing.

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