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Mark Feldman: Taking an Eclectic Path

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AAJ: I imagine, going from that regimented hierarchical scene to something like the way things were here.

MF: It was also I was working so much in Nashville and then I came here. The first year, it was the first time I got audited by the IRS too [laughs].

Mark Feldman (left), with Masada String Trio



AAJ: They didn't believe you?

MF: They didn't quite believe what was going on: from working to no work. I didn't report all those quarters I made in Times Square [laughs].

AAJ: Like you said, you've whittled down to certain projects that have become kind of enduring—like Masada String Trio, and obviously the duos with Sylvie.

MF: And the quartet with John Abercrombie, that's been over 10 years. It started out I was added on to his trio with [drummer] Adam Nussbaum and [organist] Dan Wall. The first record was with those guys with me and [saxophonist] Joe Lovano and [trumpeter] Kenny Wheeler, and that was called Open Land [ECM, 1999]. That was a nice record.

It's not that I decided to do that, it was just sort of like that was the way things unfolded. Those groups got more busy and more successful, so I became less available for a lot of the other things I was doing. I didn't plan anything out: say "this is what I want to do," or "I want to work with those groups," or "I have this kind of goal." I just kind of wanted to get by and that was the way it worked out.

I stayed in New York all these years and played on a lot of records and went to Europe a lot. I had these concertos written for me that I did with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic, twice. Then once with another orchestra in Einhoven [Holland] [written] by Guus Janssen, and it was a violin concerto with improvising violin also. With the WDR band [of Koln, Germany], Bill Dobbins wrote me a concerto for the violin and jazz orchestra, and I did that with the WDR band. That was actually a tour; we went all over.

Then I won the Alpert Award in the Arts [2007], which was a big thing for me. After I won that award, I was able finally to get a good instrument for the first time in my life. That really made a big difference; it kind of changed my direction. Even a few years before [that], but for about the last nine years or so, I stopped playing electric violin, and now I just play through a microphone. I went back to my acoustic roots a little bit.

AAJ: Does that necessitate a different kind of approach, a different dynamic range?

MF: I can only play with people that have a certain dynamic range. Because if it's too loud, then I can't play with a microphone.

AAJ: Because you did play in quite a few bands that had horn sections, and everything else, electric instruments.

MF: I mean I play with Abercrombie with a microphone, so I can get pretty loud with a microphone, but not to a certain point. Back in the days when I was working with [drummer] Billy Hart's group and stuff like that, I always used a guitar amp.

AAJ: With New and Used and Mosaic?

MF: Guitar amp. When I moved to New York, it was in the late '80s, I had all the stomp pedals; I had a big budget for 9-volt batteries when I moved here [laughs]. I was way into it; I could even put them on my tongue [laughs]. But that's where you draw the line: the guys who do that, and the guys who don't [laughs]. So yeah, I was way into stomp boxes, and it was still kind of the analog days, a different vibe too. Little by little, I got out of it.

AAJ: These days you're also kind of concentrating a little bit more on leading and co-leading projects as well?

MF: A little bit, yeah. I did this record for ECM while I had a band, and that was a record called What Exit. That was 2006, with [pianist] John Taylor, [bassist] Anders Jormin, and [drummer] Tom Rainey. I led that band, did that record, and did a tour in Europe with some of those same guys, I think with just Tom. For the piano and the bass, I had a pianist from England, Huw Warren, from Wales actually, and Drew Gress on bass for the tour. Then I sort of didn't really pursue it after that. But now this new thing with Sylvie, this quartet, we're co-leading it, with Thomas Morgan and Gerry.

AAJ: It's the same instrumentation, but kind of a different...

MF: Totally different vibe. I mean the ECM thing was [that] I made an "ECM record" in the best way that I knew how. But it's different, it should be different, it's four years later.

AAJ: And then there's also the new duo record.

MF: Right, Oblivia (Tzadik, 2010), it's called that. We recorded, me and Sylvie, before, mostly playing John Zorn's music, and this is the first one we made of all of our own music.

AAJ: There was the other one, Music for Violin and Piano (Avant, 1999)...

MF: Oh yeah, we started out with one with our own music. But that was so long ago I don't even count it as a real one, I think that was a practice record [laughs]. No, not really.

AAJ: You reinterpret the one song from there ("One Too") on the new record (Double Windsor).

MF: Yeah right, we do, you're right. Glad somebody's paying attention... But we play it much better now, I think.

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