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Larry Goldings: Versatility of Keyboards... And Music

R.J. DeLuke By

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The same goes for the music of Gabriel Faure ("Au Bord De L'Eau"). I learned his "Requiem in high school and then became a big fan of his music and recordings of his songs for piano and voice. That piece is one of his pieces that was so close to the original that I decided that—even though I brought it into a jazz realm—I couldn't really call it my own. The original piece is gorgeous and sounds like a French romantic vocal piece, but has those beautiful jazz harmonies. Even though rhythmically, it sounds like a jazz tune on the record, it's actually quite close to how it goes harmonically. As is "The Wedding which is pretty straight forward in terms of my interpretation. It's pretty much Abdullah's chords. I thought there wasn't too much room for improvement.

Bjork ("Cocoon") is someone who over the last three years or so I've really loved and found her music to be extremely melodic, even with all the electronic experimentation going on. I love it in her hands, or in the hands of her programmers or whatever you call them. I felt melodically and emotionally connected to that song. I wanted to find a way to approach it instrumentally, but also—in our acoustic jazz way—define a way to salute the electronic aspect of what she did with it. So we had Matt Wilson play in a very sparse, sort of eccentric manner; mimic what was going on in the original Bjork track. It's from a record called Vespertine. It's a very melodic, beautiful, nicely constructed song.

AAJ: On some of the songs, you're all listed as co-composers ("A Dream About Jacki Byard," "Hidalgo," "Denoument").

LG: Those were because they were totally free pieces. Before we would record I would say, "Let's make this short ...someone would come up with a vibe, to begin with. Sometimes we weren't even meaning to. We were talking about what to play next and Ben would get into something on the bass, and I would say, "Let's just roll. The idea was to try to make it as concise and well-structured as possible.

These guys are some of the best players in a free situation that I could think of. However, I did take advantage at times of what one can do post-production. If there were things that I wanted to edit, or notes that I didn't like. For instance on the Bjork tune, Matt was the only person in his own isolated booth. There were things I was able to do with him, in terms of editing what he played, that gave me a lot of freedom. I have no problem doing that. I really like the freedom of being able to do things with the music after it's played.

For the most part, I didn't do that. But there were times when I wanted to. The first one ("Singsong") was actually a free piece where Ben started a little melodic thing and I thought of a very short, simple, kind of child-like melody. I wrote it out for the guys. We didn't even rehearse it, we just rolled tape. I felt it was one of the strongest things we did, so I wanted to put it first. I also felt it summed up the vibe of the record, melodic and free, but structured at the same time., with a lot of group ,playing as opposed to soloist after soloist after soloist.

About half of the record has traditional soloing, then there's a lot of group soloing, which I also really like.

"Jackie-ing is just a song I've known for a long time. I used to play it with Jon Hendricks; he had a lyric to it. It's not very often played. "Valsinha is by one of my favorite Brazilian artists, Chico Buarque. It's a very haunting, beautiful piece that has classical undertones to it. There is a perfect example of how the creative thinking of the other musicians really influenced the direction that the interpretation ended up going. I was going to play more or less a straight waltz. Matt and Ben started playing a free, out-of-time, but in time rhythmic idea as we rehearsed it. I said, "Why don't we just do it that way. We just went with it. It sounded very natural and also enabled us to take the tune into a completely different place, but still have the melodicism.

AAJ: How do you like the CD over all?

LG: I'm really happy with it. There's sort of a conceptual thing going through it. I don't know what the concept is, exactly. But there are a lot of things on there that I don't hear a lot on jazz records, in terms of how it's recorded, the freedom that's in there. The textures. That's what I'm going for.

I felt it was very honest and very much what I set out to do. It's also pretty eclectic, and that's kind of me.

AAJ: Are you touring to support it?

LG: I'm trying to. I've got a record release for four nights at the Jazz Standard. I'm trying to get the band on the road beyond that. Hopefully, we have a little stint in the UK in late April, early May. Realistically, I'm not looking at a bulk of stuff until maybe the fall. I'm trying to get on the road, but in the meantime, I've got other things going on.

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