AAJ: Yet somehow the stuff is so slamming...
DG:Well, see the bass line is one bar but the piano line spreads over two bars before it completes...so it's an over the bar piano line while the bass is one.The piano line doesn't complete 'til two measures of the bass line. When you stretch certain things out like that, it's a good way to get away from the stiffness that often happens when you try to write something in an odd meter. So the stuff over the top is spread out...and NOT playing on the downbeat all the time is very important as well. When we play in 4:4 we don't play on the downbeat all the time. The old fusion stuff emphasized the one with a crash every measure... that drives me nuts. It takes getting used to feeling those meters in order to feel comfortable playing over and writing lines that feel, just, natural, in that meter. But that one is, yeah, 5 1/2 :4 for the whole tune. It does have short beats and long beats..the long beat shifts to different positions on a couple of bars. So it's almost like a clave concept ...what's the terminology they use...harmonic rhythm? Yeah. That means like, shifts in different areas to give it some variation.
AAJ: So are you totally conversant in this theory of time, basically?
DG:What do you mean ?
AAJ: I don't know what I mean...obviously...that's why I'm askin' you (laughs)! Time is something people feel, then there are advanced humanoids like yourself who can explain where it comes from and thump it out on their leg and explain the theory behind it. Have you studied clave, son and montuno and all that?
DG:There's so much I have to learn. I'm ignorant of the terminology, the names of some of these rhythms. I've heard them and even played them without knowing what they're called.
AAJ: Not only that, you've played them with masters of percussion.
DG:Shame on me, I should know what they're called. It's true, I'm just more of a feel guy there.
AAJ: Did you pick all this stuff up before you started playing with these virtuosos?You must've had some basic knowledge before you came to the table.
DG:Well, when you say know..I have certain tools I use to stay within something that's difficult rhythmically. I have certain methods that I use. I've met Indian musicians who have a certain way of counting things out or feeling things out that's totally different and I find to be more complex, but they find it simpler. My method may not be the right method for that style. If they were to teach me how I was supposed to think of it, it would be alien to me.
AAJ: I thought you'd probably studied with Trilok, or something along those lines.
DG:Trilok never really explained to much to me regarding the symbols and the rhythms, you know the Ta Ka Dhin, etc (see: http://chandrakantha.com/tablasite/bsicbols.htm.. I got some leadership from Jamey Haddad, who's an expert on that stuff. He's brilliant with that. I want to go to Brazil and really get hip to all the stuff there. Once I have a feel for these things, I gravitate towards that type of music, and I have certain skills that I bring to help play it, but I don't know what they're all called.
AAJ: So, we got through the first tune..
DG: "Kaizen is in 4:4. Just syncopated on the upbeats, the jazzy swinging thing. "Paradigm Shift shifts all over the place. But that was just a melody I put together the way I heard it without thinking about the time signature. Then I sat down and I had to write it down later. It's a more intuitive approach.
AAJ: Well that's the beauty of it. I assume you're not intellectualizing too much, like a Steve Coleman might.
DG: It's what I hear. Then I figure it out. Steve is definitely more analytical and scientific in his approach to writing and improvising. I don't always have the patience for that. But I enjoy working with him because it pushes me. Whenever I do something with him I try to give it my full attention, because too few musicians do that, you know. We spend our early years learning and absorbing so much and then when we get to a certain plateau, it's exhausting to continue learn and absorb new stuff at the same rate as when we were younger. To continue to grow in your knowledge and expansion takes so much more effort when you're older, and when you hit a certain level. This is not just in music, I guess, it's language and other careers too. There's so much resistance to it. We're not rewarded financially or anything for any kind of increase in knowledge and creativity. In fact, it's kind of like the inverse relationship..the more you know, the chances are you won't make so much money. The reward system is not practical at all. This contributes to so much complacency among musicians in terms of their level of musicianship. And the music industry doesn't really...
AAJ: It's due to some factors in the music industry which aren't the musicians' fault.
DG:Yeah. It used to be where exchange of knowledge among musicians was freer. It still happens, but not like when Bird and Diz were together, Coltrane...
AAJ: Well this is an interesting tack.
DG: Well, it's how I feel. The openness just isn't there. Coleman is someone who finds a lot of things in nature and the universe and tries to relate it in a musical sense. He's just fascinated by that. And he's found an audience for it. He's been very fortunate in that aspect.
AAJ: Is he one of cats that shares?
DG: Yeah. Sometimes you've got to pull it out of him though.
AAJ: He seems like he'll share once you show him you're a believer.
DG: Yeah. And again, it's like I have my certain way of approaching his music. I still break it down in the same basic way and find a certain harmony with a certain scale that works with the music that he's doing. I might have derived it from some concept that he had, but I'm still breaking it down in terms of scales sometimes, and he's moved way beyond that. He just doesn't think that bound when he improvises.
He would have things where there are no scales written but more like ...he would have these cells, containing certain intervals. He was studying Bartok for a minute. This one book by Elliott Antokoletz [The Music of Bela Bartok: A Study of Tonality and Progression in Twentieth-Century Music] analyzes Bartok's music. He borrowed some of the concepts from that book and put it into some of his music on "Black Science . Unfortunately, he spends months digesting this stuff and when it comes time for the record date, we have about five days to learn it. This forces me to put it into terms I can digest more easily, such as converting the concept into a 5 or 6 note scale I can deal with. Not just scales, but intervals, expansion, contraction, the Fibonacci series and all this stuff. To me, that's great and its his thing, but I haven't found too much use for that approach with the stuff in the things I've done. I like the more intuitive musical approach, with some science.
AAJ: Well, I think your stuff is a bit more accessible.