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Take Five With Dave Scoven


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Like I said, being able to read music is super-important, but nothing is worse than listening to a bunch of people who sound like they are reading. I can't tell you how miserable it is for me to be in a situation, either playing or in the audience—and don't get me wrong, it's definitely possible to read while performing and not sound like it. But a real pet peeve of mine is to play with people—like if you're playing standards—and you know damn well the other guys have played "Autumn Leaves" six million times before—but it sounds like everyone is sight reading the tune for the first time. I just wanna scream.

Here's my thing—if you can't make the music your own, why should anyone pay to hear you?

Your dream band:
Oh, man. Where to begin. If I could play with Bill Frisell just one time before I die, I'd have lived a perfect life. Are ya listening, Bill???

I also just discovered this absolutely amazing musician named Alisa Apreleva. Her music moves me in a way that's really rare. I'd absolutely love to work with her.

Road story: Your best or worst experience:
Road stories. Boring, right?

Your favorite recording in your discography and why?
I've just released two recordings, back-to-back. First, Drum set Meditations" then, right after, the Tele-Phonic CD, Conversations. Pretty different recordings, ideas, etc. I love them both.

The first Jazz album I bought was:
Kind of Blue. Wasn't that everyone's first jazz album?

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?
I'm really an advocate for improv—spontaneous composition—free expression. You'd be totally surprised at the number of musicians who are just not down with that as a core concept. Improv for the solo of a structured tune? Sure; but not as a fundamental starting point. I understand that some people are just afraid of things devolving into noise. But, well, one—I think the operative word there is not "noise," the operative word is "afraid." And two—the more you improvise, the better you get. And three—it can sound pretty structured. I hate to blow my own horn, but if you listen to the Tele-Phonic record, those compositions just don't sound like what you think of when you hear the phrase "spontaneous composition."

Now, some of those pieces are structured improv, that's true. But 90% of that album is just what happened when we hit the record button. So improv can be "accessible," if that's important to you. For me, Coltrane's Interstellar Space absolutely blows me away. The music that Henry Grimes and Rashied Ali make together is, to me, beautiful.

Did you know...
I have a six year-old son who's an amazing photographer.

CDs you are listening to now:
Alisa Apreleva, Lucidus; Trilok Gurtu, Collection; Eric Dolphy, At the Five Spot; Bill Frisell, Music for the Films of Buster Keaton,

Desert Island picks:
Miles Davis, Kind of Blue; John Coltrane, Giant Steps; Eric Dolphy, Out to Lunch; Bill Frisell, This Land; Charles Mingus, Thirteen Pictures.

How would you describe the state of jazz today?
Wow. There's a lot going on and some incredible artists working. If you're plugged in, you can experience some great music. But it's impossible for musicians coming up. There simply is no place to play, and most of the jazz audience out there only wants to hear the famous guys. The number of real jazz clubs is dwindling, and it's sad. I'm pretty sure there are more real jazz clubs in France than there are in the entire US. The real jazz club, where people go to hear a performance, as opposed to a place where people go to eat dinner and listen to some nice background music while they chat; that kind of thing is really over, except in New York, Chicago, New Orleans—a few places scattered her and there. Anyway, without real performance opportunities for upcoming musicians, everything dies; you can't get bookings, so you can't get press, you can't promote your record, etc. It's just a hard time for musicians in the US.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?
Again, there have to be venues. But there can't be venues if there's no audience. It just isn't going to happen. Really, the jazz venues we have are closing, or are changing the kinds of acts they book. That makes it impossible for musicians who don't live in the few major markets left. Without jazz clubs, audiences have no chance to be exposed to new things happening in jazz.

What is in the near future?
Well, right now, I'm preparing to do my best to get out there and play; support the records, maybe sell a few even...wish me luck!

Photo Credit
Courtesy of Dave Scoven


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