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Wayne Krantz: Back on Track

Ian Patterson By

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Guitarist Wayne Krantz is one of the great non-conformists. An improviser who avoids stylistic limitations and cliche like the plague, his music draws from diverse elements and welds them sonically to create something quite personal.

Krantz has turned his back on recording studios for the last 15 years, choosing instead to release live shows through his own Website. After a month or so, these recordings are removed, as Krantz has little interest in the work which lies behind him and is always searching for new challenges. Like a painter with a new canvas, his palette always throws up some interesting new colors.

A decade-and-a-half later, and reunited with long-term associates bassist Tim Lefebvre and drummer Keith Carlock, Krantz has returned to the recording studio and released Krantz Carlock Lefebvre (2009) on Abstract Logix. It is a stirring, powerful statement full of groove, grinding rock, melodism and imagination, and it's a fitting testament to one of the great electric trios of our times.

All About Jazz: The new album is a sizzler; I guess you must be really pleased with the way it's turned out?

Wayne Krantz: Thanks. I think it's really good. We took some time with it, went over-budget on mixing, agonized over some detail.

AAJ: It's been 15 years since you last recorded in a studio; why did you stay away from the studio process for so long?

WK: I got into this independent thing. I didn't want to use a label because I wanted to make some kind of income from the recordings and the only companies that looked approachable—not that I ever tried approaching any—weren't selling many records. But I couldn't afford to make studio recordings on my own, at least the way I would have wanted to.

At the same time the music itself was so rooted in the live thing—the meaning of it was so connected to a gig and an audience—that it felt wrong to me to record it in a studio. We tried once but ended up bagging it.

AAJ: Why did you decide to go back into the studio for this CD?

WK: I'd done a bunch of live records and was getting a little bored with the process, frankly. But mainly I needed to try to add some kind of vocal element and wanted the clarity of a studio to present that for the first time. Plus the band with Tim [Lefebvre] and Keith [Carlock] deserved to be well recorded. Lots of long-suffering fans had tolerated the two-track stuff for years. And I'd like to take this opportunity to thank them for that!

AAJ: How much of the decision to record in a studio was because of the involvement of Abstract Logix? How did you get together with Abstract Logix and what has the experience been like?

WK: They happened to offer something at exactly the time I was considering all this. What's the word... "propitious"? It was a propitious moment so I jumped. They've been great. I'm a little weird, though. I'm having to reign in some anti-promotional instincts that have been ruling my behavior for some time now. I can't indulge all that when somebody else's ass is on the line. It wouldn't be fair.

AAJ: Your previous trio releases have been live, and this record has a live feel to it—by which I mean it sounds spontaneous and full of raw energy. What was you intention with this CD before going into the studio?

WK: Well, it was live, in the sense that we all tracked together. I wouldn't approach recording this lineup any other way. It's what we're good at. That's not always reason enough to do something, but this band needs to be heard doing its thing. Really, desperately, it needs to be heard. That energy you're talking about is improvisation. It has a different energy than composition, a different power.

AAJ: How much of the music was composed and how much was improvised?

WK: This one's a little more compositional than the last few, though the line is more blurred than ever. For example, anything that sounds like a "solo section" on this record is completely improvised, which means there were absolutely no instructions to anyone about what to play when those sections happened. No chords, no feel, no key, no groove, no style, no role—nothing. But instead of sounding free, those sections end up sounding predetermined, even though none of them will ever happen that way again.

So they have the strength of the compositional thing, but also have the improvisational energy you're talking about. To my knowledge that's not really being pulled off much these days, or any days. It's as spontaneous as almost anything else out there—but it sounds like a highly organized rock/funk/pop/electronica/blues/groove/something-else band. That's not essential information for somebody to be able to like it. It's something that impresses me, though.

The spontaneity of what I do and of what this band does is why I would ever think to call it jazz. To me jazz isn't a language, a vocabulary, a sound, a groove, or even a history. It's an approach to playing, a commitment to creating spontaneously. We happen to do it in the context of a deadly groove, but in terms of improvisation, that's no different than doing it in the context of swing or of no groove, or no pulse or whatever.

Sure, not every note we play ends up being new or without precedent, but our orientation is always on exploding the moment—blowing it up—right in people's faces, cutting to the quick of creative action and getting to the freshest stuff. I always felt that's what jazz was supposed to do.

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