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Kent Carter and the Continental Continuum

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AAJ: Have you ever entertained any thoughts of coming back to the US to do some work, or are you mostly Europe-based at this point?

KC: Not really. The States is a financial disaster. Even the work I did with Lacy while living here, I would come back and count the change at the airport. If you had one gig that didn't make it, you'd have to be at a motel for two days and you were fucked. That's the way it used to be in the old days. This all got better in the 80's for Steve, and people started getting interested in him again. I loved to play there; taking our European work over to New York and California was great, and it was received very well. Everybody used to come to the gigs, Cecil, Ornette, Gil Evans, it was very nice. And in Canada, places like Calgary; it was great.

I'd been asked to come over and do something with [trombonist] Steve Swell as an 'investment', like a recording. Klaus Kugel arranged it, but I didn't have the money or the time to do that. Other than that, I don't have any business there - I guess it's just that there's so much going on here. The European scene is fantastic, and I've been away so long that I don't know what's going on [in the States]. I don't really know how it works, and all my connections are here. I meet everybody there over here anyway.

AAJ: Right, because they can't get enough things going in the States. It still seems rather cutthroat to me, and you have to be a hustler.

KC: To launch something that would get people interested in me over there would cost some time and money.

AAJ: Other than the trio, what are some of the irons that you have in the fire for the near future?

KC: Different projects; I had my group called the Kent Carter Project, and I started to play with Karl Berger again, which is fantastic because we go back to the old days. He's sounding great. Klaus Kugel, the percussionist, I'm doing a lot of things with him - he started the Kent Carter Project a few years ago in Germany. Charlie Mariano joined us on that gig, Albrecht Maurer, and this wonderful soprano saxophonist Petros Vysniauskis. This record just came out; Karl is on it, and it's from a concert in East Germany.

AAJ: Mariano seems to pop up in the most odd and interesting contexts.

KC: He's a great player, really. I've been doing stuff with him in different combinations, having a good time in Germany. Bobby Bradford has been over here a couple of times recently, too.

AAJ: Right, you played with him and John Stevens.

KC: Yes, that record Love's Dream that Emanem just reissued, and it's fantastic. Trevor plays his ass of on this, and the two of them are just incredible.

AAJ: Trevor Watts is one of those players that people don't think of as being rooted in bebop, but he really is. It comes out on those Amalgam recordings, too.

KC: Yeah, he is. I was on some of those Amalgams too, and he's definitely underestimated. I don't know why; he's brilliant, and that's about all I can say. You can really hear it on Love's Dream , and Christ... people said he sounded like Ornette; so what - Ornette would love it!

AAJ: English musicians are not given enough credit for being able to swing and play hard, and everybody seems to think it's just chirpy music when it's not.

KC: It's not at all, and that's a good example. England is full of music and wonderful players. There is so much music going on in London that you can go to a concert at noon with a sandwich! I'm deeply interested in European improvised music, and it has come to a state where it's really an incredible art form. Jazz has helped it a lot, but it has moved into something else, and it's very exciting. It's getting serious!

AAJ: I guess when those albums were coming out in the late '60s and early '70s it seemed sort of provincial, but it has grown into so much more.

KC: For people who don't know if it's written or not, it really is, and it's instantaneously linked with all the contemporary stuff. The chops, the ensemble playing, everything is great.

AAJ: When I first got into the music, I started with the American players and it took awhile to move into the European players, and when you see first-generation European improvisers, it sometimes seems like they play with a lot more fire than American players of the same generation. I don't know if it has something to do with state health care or what, but it seems more energetic.

KC: I think the creative thing is freer here. There's something happening; even in France, the scene is difficult but there are guys here that are incredible. I'm playing with a composer, Francois Roussais, and he's an excellent composer - symphonies, chamber music, opera - but he plays the piano and it's incredible. His musical mind goes to the far corners of European music. Incredible technique, but it isn't jazz. He'd love to play jazz, but he can't.

AAJ: And there were a lot of composers who walked the line, like Berio and Kagel brought a lot of accomplished improvisers into a classical context.

KC: Yes, and this is what Francois Rossé is doing, setting up orchestras and we do our stuff. We work with this woodwind player from California who's been here for many years, Etienne Rolan, and he specializes in the basset horn. We do concerts, totally acoustic.

AAJ: You usually eschew amplification with your instrument, am I right?

KC: I do not like it - there is nothing like working acoustically. I know it's necessary if we're working with certain instruments like drums. But basically, no. It's like what classical musicians do, you set up and you work on it.

AAJ: Right, if you're really playing together you should able to be heard without any amplification.

KC: Absolutely. You never should hear 'I can't hear the bass, I can't hear the bass.' You only hear that when there's a sound system involved. Playing acoustically is a musical adjustment which is a part of music making; you create the sound within your acoustic environment with the ensemble.

AAJ: Amplification often adds this unnatural buzz; I play a bit of cello and amplification always muddies the sound, but if you're playing with other instruments sometimes you need it. It's a double-edged sword.

KC: Yeah, I just try to stay away from that, but sometimes you can't avoid it.

AAJ: I know you're tired of talking about this, but could you discuss what happened recently with you and the authorities?

KC: It's bad luck, and we have a problem. Without knowing it, we rented a guest house to people involved in the ETA. It's like the sky fell in and crashed. The musician friends here - they've done a beautiful thing, they made a big music day for us, twelve bands from eleven in the morning until nine at night, to raise money for our legal expenses, and it's very moving. Plus all the emails from all over the world, people I don't know from Istanbul and Buenos Aires, it's amazing.

AAJ: But you're soldiering on...

KC: It has inhibited my work internationally; we had some things in the fire that if they don't let me do them, I don't know what I'll do. But I hope we get this organized; I think they're going to trust us, and I don't need a passport to travel in Europe. Coming to the States is impossible - 'Mr. Carter, would you step this way please?' You won't be seeing me live there for a while.

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