Trumpeter Curt Ramm, saxophonist Dan Moretti and pianist Bill Cunliffe excel in a myriad of musical settings; funk, fusion, Latin, r&b and classical. However, their true love is straight-ahead, soulful and grooving jazz. This common ground is the seed that germinated The Foundations Jazz Record label and as a result of this, we have the product of their first collaboration, Foundations. The new CD combines their skills as soloists, composers and creative forces. Foundations also features bassist Marty Ballou and drummer Marty Richards. The ensuing music can best be described as; infectious material that is fresh and new, while continuing the influences of the post bop era. Foundations is both accessible and creative, modern yet timeless. Partial funding for this project was made through the MacColl-Johnson fellowship for composers administrated through the Rhode Island Foundation.
Dan Morretti from the Foundations project took a moment out of his busy performance schedule this summer to share some of his thoughts and the group's collective ideas for this highly enjoyable project.
JazzReview: Bill Evans is quoted as saying, "It bugs me when people try to analyze jazz as an intellectual theorem. It’s not, it's feeling." With that said, what is your opinion about this statement and how would you apply it to your latest release Foundations?
Moretti: To us, jazz is primarily a feeling based on an extensive language. It’s natural for academics to intellectualize art. The point is that, in order to speak a language; you not only have to have vocabulary, but years of experience communicating with that vocabulary. Foundations is about communicating that jazz language in a personal way to each other and the listener, while crossing many style boundaries.
JazzReview: How did the collaboration of Ramm/Moretti/Cunliffe come about?
Moretti: Curt and I have been performing together for years in many musical situations and Curt and Bill came up together in Cincinnati. I know Bill through Curt, and Bill contributed a few songs to one of my CD’s ten years ago. The three of us have wanted to do a project together for years and finally we were able to pull it off.
JazzReview: Talk about the writing, did all three of you write the compositions together?
Moretti: The process was split, I wrote five pieces and Curt and Bill co-wrote the other six. It was a six month process of preproduction and demos that brought us to the final selections that ended up being recorded and making it on the new CD, Foundations.
JazzReview: Your music has been described as an important set of twenty-first century jazz. Describe to us what you feel 21st century jazz is.
Moretti: Let’s face it, there haven’t been any real "new" innovations in jazz since Coltrane. What has happened is that the world has gotten smaller, and jazz has mixed with other cultures which have brought about a variety of new sounds, instrumentation and ideas. When I played in Istanbul last year, I was a guest with a Turkish quartet and I played their music with them and they played my music with me, and the result was a real mix of both our perceptions of jazz through our cultures. So with that said, the Foundations CD was a new approach to the standard Trumpet/Tenor canon, swinging like the early Lee Morgan sound, while adding the "jam band" style groove and simple melody, as-well-as a variety of other hybrid grooves, that all reflect our individual tastes in jazz. The performances were all live in the studio and the sounds were the real mix, electric and acoustic bass, B-3, Rhodes, Acoustic Piano, Tenor/Soprano, Trumpet, Muted Trumpet, and Plunger with that 80’s CTI kind of drum sound.
JazzReview: Talk about bassist Marty Ballou and drummer Marty Richards and their contribution to this release.
Moretti: Marty and Marty have been my first call for years. They are "one" in the groove and feel. There is no replacing a drummer bass player team that has been playing together for over 30 years and they are not restricted by styles.
JazzReview: As an artist, was there a moment of epiphany that brought you to the craft you embrace?
Moretti: For me, it was first hearing The Blues in the Abstract Truth, by Oliver Nelson. The moment I heard that, I knew I wanted to be a tenor/flute player. That did it for me and the coincidence is that Cunliffe just came off a #1 release The Blues in the Abstract Truth, Take 2, which is his rearrangements of the classic Oliver Nelson recording.
JazzReview: Your talent(s) are said to bridge the gap between soul jazz and hard bop sessions of the 1960s, and ahead to future developments in modern jazz; some even say it is rare in today’s jazz stage. Where does this sound come from and tell us why it might be called rare?
Moretti: On one level we are trying to play homage to the past and reflect our influences, and on the other level we are stepping out of the box and just writing and playing music that we feel good about and that is current, so we held ourselves to traditional sounds recorded in the highest quality environment. Our music is a mix of all those styles and we are just being ourselves trying to record music that is vibrant, fun and challenging.
JazzReview: "Don't play what's there, play what's not there." Those are the words of the great Miles Davis on improvisation, a gift you all are very well known for. Talk about your approach and those moments and what is "not there" for you.
Moretti: That was easy for Miles to say! But seriously, to me improvisation is the language we speak. When you don’t have to think and it flows from the moment then the essence of what we are doing surfaces, and that’s what the band and the listener responds to. It’s in those moments that pacing and structure happen, you can’t make it happen, but you have to be prepared and ready for it to happen.
JazzReview: Ramm and Moretti seem to collaborate together as side players on many projects, how did the inclusion of Cunliffe shape the sound of this project?
Moretti: That’s easy; Bill is a great musical being that brings to the table a clear sense of himself and the music. You can trust that he is being his best with no preconceived notion. And his collaboration with Curt’s songs really added his signature to the music.
JazzReview: It seems every artist has what are their favorite moments on a recording, on the Foundations release what do you feel are your most "magical" moments and why?
Moretti: OK, starting at around 3’05" on the tune "Totem Dance" . That’s where I really hear the solo and the band merge and the groove, feel and playing is all in sync.
JazzReview: When you completed the project what in that moment was your hope for the listening audience to take from this recording?
Moretti: I hope they would take the energy, sound and performances and feel the grooves and enjoy the variations in mood and textures and experience it as a whole not a one tune download.
JazzReview: What can we expect next?
Moretti: There will be a new trio CD of mine coming out in the fall entitled, Tres Muse and another collaboration of Foundations, and I’m sure Curt and Bill will cookin’ up new projects.
JazzReview: Ok, now to some fun. The next sets of questions are so the public can get to know you outside of the realm of music, and get to know you as a person. Now, to get to know one, you need to have fun, so let’s do! Answer if you will these probing questions and be blatantly honest
1. What is your favorite comfort food?
Moretti: Fried Chicken Thighs.
2. Tell us about your activities outside of music and how they help you stay balanced?
Moretti: I surf and work out.
3. Favorite book or movie?
Moretti: The Making Of Kind of Blue.
4. If you needed to get away where do you go?
Moretti: To the ocean.
5. When not in the jazz mood what do you listen too?
Moretti: Classical, especially smaller chamber ensembles.