Gregg Bendian: Inner Flame, Musical Visions

Ian Patterson By

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AAJ: And of course, Roy Haynes at eighty-one years of age is going great guns, playing fantastically well and leading a great group.

GB: He really is. He is fantastic. In fact, on my recent CD called Change, which is just piano, bass and drums; I feel there is a lot of Roy in there.

AAJ: Can you expand a little on that last comment?

GB: Well, it's Roy, Tony and Jack really. I use the drums as the catalyst for many of the compositions, and the drums are the catalyst for the improvisation and interaction. And my approach to the kit couldn't help but be influenced by theirs, particularly with Roy. You know, the idea of orchestrating and isolating elements on the kit. And combinations of drums and cymbals that move the music forward and color the music, propel the music.

AAJ: Your current band is impressive. Would you care to comment on the players?

GB: Glenn Alexander is the clear favorite of all the guitar players I've had in the band. He's a supremely musical, melodic soloist and never needlessly flashy. He has a vast knowledge of jazz and rock music. I love the fact that he has that beautiful rock tone while playing from a jazz-rock vocabulary. I haven't had that in the band before. And I also haven't had a guitarist who played so absolutely within the rhythmic cycle of the Mahavishnu Orchestra's music. I think that is the greatest challenge of Mahavishnu music, to be comfortable with 19/8, and 7/8 and 9/8—these complex rhythmic situations. And Glenn just has that natural rhythmic ear. So that's been a pleasure.

As is working with Adam Holzman who, having played with Miles Davis, brings the Miles knowledge and I have always had this interest in McLaughlin coming to the Mahavishnu Orchestra through Miles and wanting to have that element in our interpretation of the Mahavishnu Orchestra. And he has the vintage keyboard sound which I'm interested in, and he's another incredible soloist, very melodic, very nuanced.

Rob Thomas continues to amaze me on the violin. He's easily one of a handful of electric violinists that are moving the instrument forward as a jazz instrument; Rob, Didier Lockwood, Jean-Luc Ponty, Jerry Goodman—there aren't that many. Rob's linear approach is so sophisticated that in many ways it really is more influenced by Allan Holdsworth than it is by anyone else. It's something that hadn't really happened on the electric violin before Rob started bringing this in. So, it's a great pleasure to be working with him.

Our new, young bassist, David Johnsen is great because he's a kind of hybrid between the Rick Laird and Ralph Armstrong approaches. He's very solid, he lays it down, and he is also very astute rhythmically and quite a funky player. And if you want to get into some noise and sound exploration with him, he has the Moog pedals, so watch out!

It's a very creative and very happy new Mahavishnu group. We enjoy playing together and enjoy each other's company off the stage as well. I'm very proud of what these guys are doing with this wonderfully challenging music. It just gets better and better.

Visit Gregg Bendian and Mahavishnu Project on the web.

Selected Discography:

The Mahavishnu Project, Return to the Emerald Beyond (Cuneiform, 2007)
Gregg Bendian's Trio Pianissimo, Change (Aggregate Music, 2005)
The Mahavishnu Project, Phase 2 (Aggregate Music, 2004)
The Mahavishnu Project, Live Bootleg (Aggregate Music, 2002)
Gregg Bendian's Interzone, Requiem for Jack Kirby (Atavistic, 2001)
Gregg Bendian's Interzone, Myriad (Atavistic, 2000)
Gregg Bendian/Nels Cline, Interstellar Space Revisited (Atavistic, 1999)
Gregg Bendian's Trio Pianissimo, Balance (Aggregate Music, 1999)
Gregg Bendian/Alex Cline, Espiritu (Truemedia Jazzworks, 1998)
Derek Bailey/Pat Metheny/Gregg Bendian/Paul Wertico, The Sign of 4 (Knitting Factory Works, 1997)
Gregg Bendian's Interzone, Gregg Bendian's Interzone (Atavistic, 1996)
Paul Wertico/Gregg Bendian, Bang! (Truemedia Jazzworks, 1996)
Derek Bailey/Gregg Bendian, Banter (00 Discs, 1995)
Gregg Bendian, Definite Pitch (Aggregate Music, 1994)
Cecil Taylor, In Florescence (A&M Records, 1990)
Gregg Bendian, Gregg Bendian Project (Aggregate Music, 1988)

Photo Credit
Top Photo: Peter Gravina, courtesy of Gregg Bendian
Bottom Photo: Monica Bass
Mahavishnu Project Photo: Robert Mode, courtesy of Mahavishnu Project


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