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Franklin Kiermyer: Joy And Consequence

Ian Patterson By

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AAJ: That this music was based on loose sketches, was recorded in just a couple of days and is a spiritual work—I thought that the obvious inspiration would have been John Coltrane's A Love Supreme but having gone back and listened a couple of times to that album it's clear that Further is a lot more intense, isn't it?

FK: Well, even though A Love Supreme is absolutely wonderful and I have been deeply influenced by it, the music on Further is, of course, different. It is what it is, by itself. It's what happened right then-and-there. A lot of the music I play has that energy or intensity you're referring to, but that's a by-product of the elements—the faith and intention—we were speaking about earlier.

AAJ: So, to what degree is Coltrane an influence on Further?

FK: Well, aside from loving John Coltrane's music and having been influenced by it, like most other musicians over the past fifty or so years, Azar, Juini and I have all played with some of Trane's close associates. Playing with great musicians is the greatest learning experience of all, so that has informed us, at least to some degree. All four of us see music as a spiritual practice and that is clearly in the tradition of Coltrane.

The first track on this album "Between Joy and Consequence" is a sketch I'd been playing with for a long time and the title and the theme certainly grew out of my reactions to a Coltrane album called First Meditations [recorded 1965 and release on Impulse! 1977). There are two cuts on First meditations, the first called "Joy" and one called "Consequences" and the theme for "Between Joy and Consequences" is my reaction to these two.

AAJ: Jazz has always had a paradoxical culture whereby musicians are almost expected to play within the confines of the idiom, to know the jazz cannon and be familiar with the masters and yet at the same time individualism within jazz has always been reified, unless you're Cecil Taylor or Sun Ra or late period Coltrane in which case most people avoid dealing with it or discussing it in any real depth in jazz histories because it's too far out there, or perhaps they're afraid of assimilating it. How do you see it?

FK: I think you have it bang on. I remember being in Delhi some years ago at the university there. I was sitting with a flautist named Rajendra Prasanna—a very prominent Indian musician who is a professor there. A student of his came over to us to ask Rajendra a question about a recent lesson. After he got his answer he very naturally touched his hand to Rajendra's foot and then touched his own forehead and said: "Thank you very much Guruji," and walked away. To me, that's the difference.

I feel that it's pretending, to want to wash away the history of the experiences that have contributed to one's development. Whether through person-to-person interaction or through listening to recorded performances, the teacher-student relationship is essential for our development. We should honor our teachers. I want to learn how to be more and more honest about this—how to acknowledge the antecedents. We all want to be individuals, particularly in the West, but it's about balance. For example, if you listen to Elvin Jones and then to me, you'll hear that I don't play the same way Elvin does. There are many differences. At the same time, it's obvious that he was a great influence on me.

When I started getting a little bit of notice people would say "It sounds like you've been really influenced by Elvin Jones" and of course, one of the things I felt was "Yes!" and another thing I felt was "I don't sound like Elvin Jones; I have my own way of playing and my own sound!" [laughs] So, how do you deal with that internally in an honest way? Here I am years later saying, "Yeah, yeah, I love that stuff and it's been a big influence on me, but the part of it that was the biggest influence is what that music does to me—how it feels."

It's really about where all that stuff comes from. It's about what the music does. If that's what you want to learn how to do, you need to find your own way to do it because someone else's way of playing will not get the same result anyway. You can't use someone else's vehicle. You need to find your own.

You would need to ask yourself, "Why does Coltrane's music feel like that? Why does Elvin's music feel like that?" They're very different people obviously; all you have to do is see what they did on their own. McCoy [Tyner] too. So what is your motivation? Well, I don't want to pretend. I want to be honest about the things that have moved me the most and influenced me. Wouldn't it be a shame if I purposely had to avoid it? I've had people say to me "I avoid that because it might influence me." I understand the principle but I say to myself "Let go of all that stuff and follow your heart."

Finally, the music has to speak for itself. If the music does something to you and that's a positive experience then that's all it's worth. In terms of where it fits in history, what it sounds like or doesn't sound like to you, to be honest that's not what's important to me. It might be important in terms of whether somebody writes something favorable or unfavorable based on their perception, but in terms of my purpose in doing this, it's only about making what's essential happen and sharing that. That's the point of this.

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