Displaying items by tag: Bass - jazzreview.com - Your Jazz Music Connection - jazzreview.com - Your Jazz Music Connection http://jazzreview.com Mon, 22 May 2017 16:35:43 -0500 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Edwin Livingston http://jazzreview.com/jazz-artist-interviews/edwin-livingston.html http://jazzreview.com/jazz-artist-interviews/edwin-livingston.html Edwin Livingston
Born in Dallas, Texas and now happily domiciled in Los Angeles, bass player Edwin Livingston could be described as being on the crest of a wave.  His CD 'Transitions' was released in late 2010 and when recently I caught up with him in LA I first asked him about the creative process that brought the project to fruition.

Born in Dallas, Texas and now happily domiciled in Los Angeles, bass player Edwin Livingston could be described as being on the crest of a wave.  His CD 'Transitions' was released in late 2010 and when recently I caught up with him in LA I first asked him about the creative process that brought the project to fruition.

"The majority of the tracks were put together in 2003" he explained.  "I was in New Orleans at the time.  In fact I left there just six months before Katrina but that's a whole other story.  Anyway, back then my life was going through some changes, changes I needed to draw a line under.  The title 'Transitions' describes that change.  For me it represents a different kind of music, a different kind of me.  It's about moving on and clearing my head.  I finally completed the album in LA early in 2010 and now that it's done it feels very good."

The complexity that underpins the music of 'Transitions' might suggest to some that Edwin is a 'straight ahead' jazz musician yet there are other examples of his work which luxuriate in a tight R & B inspired groove.  I wondered which of these styles were closest to the real Edwin Livingston.

"I'm a lucky guy" Edwin confided.  "I like music of many complexions and in my career have been fortunate enough to perform with artists of different styles and from different genres.  I guess you could best describe me as being versatile and skilled enough to do justice to every style that I play.  Yes 'Transitions' is basically a 'straight ahead' piece of work but then again I have worked with Ronnie Laws whose groove is always 'right in the pocket'.  I enjoy that too and touring with Natalie Cole has exposed me to even more variety."

The Natalie Cole connection has taken Edwin to many parts of the world and soon he will be on the road with her again for performances in both Eastern Europe and Brazil.  I was interested to know how audience reactions changed from country to country.

"It's interesting" Edwin began.  "Audiences in some parts of the world have discovered Natalie through her standards, you know from the 'Unforgettable' CD.  It provides an instant link to her father's music.  In other places, the United Kingdom for example, the fans are more into Natalie through her R & B work.  In fact, I am hugely impressed by how UK audiences are so knowledgeable about R & B and soul music.  They totally get it and that's refreshing because in some places that is being lost.  So these different audience preferences make for good diversity in the music we get to play."

 I was aware that in addition to Edwin's playing, touring, and recording career he is also on the faculty at USC (University of Southern California) where he teaches bass in the jazz studies department.  I speculated on how this must present some schedule challenges.

 "That's a very good point" Edwin replied laughing.  "You know, way back, when I was on tour with various musical acts it would be road trips for months on end.  With Natalie it's not like that.  We might be out on tour for two or three weeks but then return to LA before going on to somewhere else.  That means I can balance my teaching workload, reschedule some teaching or have a colleague stand in for me.  It works pretty well."

 I queried how he enjoyed being a music educator.

 "You know" he said, "I really enjoy it.  There are some really good kids coming through.  I feel their ingenuity is partly due to how the internet, YouTube for example, has exposed young musicians, wherever they might be located, to a whole range of influences that they can absorb, adapt and ultimately make their own.  Its technology fuelling creativity and that's wonderful."

 Of course Edwin Livingston is not only a recording artist, touring musician and educator.  He is also a movie star.  His film debut came in the motion picture 'Ray' and I wanted to know how that had come about.

 "It was when I was still in New Orleans" Edwin told me.  "I got the call that they were making this movie in town and wanted a whole range of musicians, bass players, saxophonists and so on and so forth.  I went down there and at first they were a little worried that my hair style didn't really fit with the Ray Charles era of the late 50's.  Anyway, one haircut and a tuxedo later and I was in.  I am a big believer in one thing leading to another...and so it was with 'Ray'.  I was very new to the business of movie making, how a few minutes of footage can take hours to shoot.  I was totally intrigued by it.  I got to know the costume designer and it was through her that I relocated to Los Angeles.  As I said, I was in transition' and had thought about moving to New York but she convinced me that LA would be my best option.  Shortly after I arrived, I got wind of the motion picture version of 'Dreamgirls'.  They needed musicians and so that was my next opportunity.  You know, being professional, doing the right thing, being flexible and having the confidence to take the chance.  That's how one thing does lead to another."

Along the way that approach has led to television appearances on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Today Show and notably Live with Regis & Kelly where he played alongside Queen Latifah to perform the great Phoebe Snow classic 'Poetry Man' (from Latifah's 2007 release 'Trav'lin Light').  In fact, for Edwin, a particularly memorable experience from that tour was when Phoebe Snow actually attended one of the shows.

All things considered that's quite a resume and I was curious to know what was coming next.

"Well" smiled Edwin.  "It's funny you should ask that.  I am working on a new project with a neo soul flavor to it.  You know, kind of what artists like Jill Scott and Incognito are known for.  I will be writing some tunes with lyrics and this, for me, will be different.  I'm lining up some vocalists to help me with the process.  We will probably put a few tracks out digitally and service them to radio stations.  From that an album will follow."

From New Orleans to LA and through a tapestry of musical genres it seems like Edwin Livingston is still 'transitioning'.  If indications so far are anything to go by it promises to be a fascinating journey and one well worth following.

morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Denis Poole) Jazz Artist Interviews Sat, 05 Mar 2011 13:51:11 -0600
Dear Miles by Ron Carter http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/straight-ahead-classic-cd-reviews/dear-miles-by-ron-carter.html http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/straight-ahead-classic-cd-reviews/dear-miles-by-ron-carter.html Dear Miles by Ron Carter
Recently, Ron Carter has been receiving his due. Though many listeners think that Carter’s most notable achievement was his participation in the second great Miles Davis qu…

Recently, Ron Carter has been receiving his due. Though many listeners think that Carter’s most notable achievement was his participation in the second great Miles Davis quintet, in fact Carter was busily recording before and ever since Carter’s Miles Davis years that ended in 1968. Carter no doubt rivals Milt Hinton as the most recorded jazz bassist, and Carter has been a leader on his own albums since the early 1970s, including, since 1991, with Blue Note. Carter’s own quartet, heard on Dear Miles, has been in existence, with several personnel changes (most notably percussionists) for 15 years. But Carter’s career of a half century of making unforgettable music was unforgettably recognized during the 2007 JVC Jazz Festival when he reunited, excitingly, with Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter, not just to recollect their years with Davis, but also to celebrate Carter’s seventieth birthday. Jim Hall was there, too, to recall his remarkable duo albums with Carter.

Carter’s choice of musicians to honor Davis, however, consists of the members of his quartet. For Carter is a strong believer in the value of recording with a regular group, despite entertainment industry pressures to vary accompanying musicians on successive recordings. Not only is Carter’s enjoyment of the rhythm section’s role evident (for the basic nature and feel of his quartet is that of a rhythm section given the opportunity for extended interplay between horn-led choruses). Also, the quartet is more manageable, allowing Carter to shape the music and providing breathing space for his bass work, rather than serving solely as a rhythmic foundation or a connective instrument in a larger ensemble. Dear Miles, starts with a suitable demonstration of the group’s encapsulation of a larger group’s music when but four instrumentalists perform the song made famous by Davis’ Porgy and Bess recording with the Gil Evans Orchestra. With a pouncing liveliness, the quartet’s interpretation serves as an attention-getter as Dear Miles, begins. Yet, after the concept of minitiaturing the Orchestra’s configuration takes hold, Carter’s group has some fun with "Gone," as quotes start to fly and the spontaneity of the members of this steady group locks in.

However, the quartet’s playfulness contained within the respectful tribute continues on the next track, "Seven Steps to Heaven," buoyant and still full of quotes. In fact, one of the constants of Dear Miles, is the use of quotes, which infuse most of the tracks, as bits of "Moody’s Mood for Love," the chimes of a grandfather’s clock (on "As Time Goes By"), "Grand Canyon Suite" or "Teach Me Tonight" emerge and disappear within the fabric of the music. Obviously, this is a group which enjoys instantaneous give-and-take and which is comfortable with one another’s musical choices.

Carter’s fond reminiscence continues throughout the album as he covers some of Davis’s well-known versions of songs like "Someday My Prince Will Come," begun with the famous ostinato bass line before the loping melody ensues. But the project includes a few songs not as closely associated with Davis, such as a re-interpretation of his 1950’s recording of Milt Jackson’s "Bags Groove." In addition, Carter includes two of his own original compositions. His lightly swinging "595" is the last track, and it incorporates, cannily, suggestions of the modal approach of Kind of Blue with its allusions to "So What."

Even now, Ron Carter enjoys playing in the moment, and he challenged his quartet members to focus their thoughts on making each note count as he insisted on just one take of each track. Concentrated and energized, the Ron Carter Quartet captures the ineffable musical spirit that makes performances unforgettable.... the way that the Miles Davis quintet’s recordings stay in the mind, as part of the listener’s consciousness, four decades later.

morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Don Williamson) Straight-Ahead - CD Reviews Mon, 26 Feb 2007 12:00:00 -0600
George Anderson http://jazzreview.com/jazz-artist-interviews/george-anderson.html http://jazzreview.com/jazz-artist-interviews/george-anderson.html George Anderson
For fully thirty years Shakatak has remained at the forefront of British jazz-funk and for much of that time the band’s bass player has been George Anderson. Now, brand new for 2010, and with a few of his Shakatak friends around to lend a hand, Anderson has released his debut solo recording, the wonderful ‘Positivity’. When recently I talked to him from his home in Middlesex, England I first asked if he ever imagined that the Shakatak adventure would endure in the way that it …

For fully thirty years Shakatak has remained at the forefront of British jazz-funk and for much of that time the band’s bass player has been George Anderson. Now, brand new for 2010, and with a few of his Shakatak friends around to lend a hand, Anderson has released his debut solo recording, the wonderful ‘Positivity’. When recently I talked to him from his home in Middlesex, England I first asked if he ever imagined that the Shakatak adventure would endure in the way that it has.

"Back then", George explained, "we were really taking it year by year. Soon after I joined the band we released the album ‘Nightbirds’. The title cut became an instant hit and ‘Easier Said Than Done’ also found its way into the UK top ten. I guess we were delivering the right music for the right time. Then we really took off in Japan and for a time ‘Shakamania’ really was the order of the day. Our following remains tremendously strong and just as loyal. When we perform some of our classics we do it for them and in so doing the music may be familiar but is never ever old."

I commented on the new CD ‘Positivity’ and wanted to know if it had been long in the making. "Not really" he said. "It basically happened over an intense period between January and July 2009. Jill Saward had released her own album and I worked on that with her. I thought it might be good to do the same. For me it has been an important part of my musical development."

Written, produced, recorded, mixed and mastered by Anderson, ‘Positivity’ can truly be regarded as all his own work. I surmised that this must have been a very different experience to when collaborating within Shakatak. "When writing with the band it is very much a collective venture. With my own project there was only me to answer to. I liked that. In music as in life we are the sum of our previous experiences. It’s natural that the creative process taps into this but still comes up with something new."

I inquired as to how the title ‘Positivity’ had been arrived at and George’s answer surprised me. "Those who know me think it is hilarious" he joked. "Heavy with irony you might say as I have from time to time been described as one of life’s cynics. That apart, the collection is meant to convey what is basically a very positive vibe. Hopefully listeners will hear this with songs such as ‘The Wonder Of U’. It is one of several tunes that features vocalist Debby Bracknell and this too has contributed to the positive message that ‘Positivity’ portrays."

I knew Bracknell as a backing vocalist with Shakatak and asked George how he had first become acquainted with her. "Debby first joined up with the band as maternity cover for our regular backing singer" he explained. "In terms of our musical interpretation we clicked immediately. She brings energy and optimism to everything she does so is a perfect fit."

He went on to tell me that Debby had also suggested R & B singer Fil Straughton might be someone worth including. Straughton’s excellent lead vocal on the soulful ‘Lay Ur Hands On Me’ bears testimony to how right she was. It is without doubt one of the CD’s outstanding tracks yet in terms of favorites I had already singled out both ‘Moments’ and ‘Cool Operator’. I wondered what George’s take was on this. "I really like ‘Beauty Inner Smile’. I have worked on giving the number a Stevie Wonder kind of a feel." In fact I had read somewhere that Anderson draws much of his influences as a song-writer from Stevie Wonder and was eager to know why. "That’s easy" he said. "He is totally original, completely unique, and has been a giant influence to an entire musical generation. The chord structure, everything, it sounds like no other music. Everything he does has Stevie Wonder written all over it."

I proffered that Shakatak has long been regarded as a jazz fusion band and queried into which genre George would place his own music. "I know you journalists enjoy labels" he replied mischievously "but I would describe Shakatak as a jazz pop band. As for my own music it has elements of jazz, soul and funk, you might describe it as a light fusion. I am a big fan of George Duke and would like to think my sound also has some of his funkiness." This is indeed the case with the track ‘Herbie’ yet the entire collection can perhaps be best summed up in Anderson’s own words.

"I want it to take the listener on a journey but, like all the best journeys, to include some interesting detours along the way. Music has to come from the heart, not from a formula. Artists should be out there, writing and performing for the sake of the music, because it matters."

Maybe it has taken a while for ‘Positivity’ to come to fruition yet the wait has been completely worthwhile. Not only that, and in everything that he does, George Anderson demonstrates that it does matter, and then some.

For more, and to purchase ‘Positivity’, go to www.gabass.co.uk. The album is also available from iTunes.

morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Denis Poole) Jazz Artist Interviews Sat, 29 Jan 2011 11:39:57 -0600
Eric Revis http://jazzreview.com/jazz-artist-interviews/eric-revis.html http://jazzreview.com/jazz-artist-interviews/eric-revis.html Eric Revis
Grammy winner Eric Revis knows what he desires and how he prefers it done. As a bass instrumentalist and composer, such power have assisted him fully to establish himself as a high skilled musician and enable him to release his latest CD Laughters Necklace of Tears, which features collaborations with Orrin Evans, Gerald Cleaver, John Ellis, Stacy Dillard andOz Noy. He remarks that jazz found him when he started off playing electric bass in funk …

Grammy winner Eric Revis knows what he desires and how he prefers it done. As a bass instrumentalist and composer, such power have assisted him fully to establish himself as a high skilled musician and enable him to release his latest CD Laughters Necklace of Tears, which features collaborations with Orrin Evans, Gerald Cleaver, John Ellis, Stacy Dillard andOz Noy.

He remarks that jazz found him when he started off playing electric bass in funk and rock bands as a teenager. As he got older and began improving, he started working in a variety of bands, playing all types of music. Revis explains he was lucky enough to have an older musician with whom he played with and introduced him to an extensive Jazz record collection. Soon after he switched to the double bass.

Revis willpower and long-range vision have created the space for sacred sparks. Music is life for him: "It is really ingrained into my being. I don't think of it as being something separate. It is as much a part of me as breathing". He recalls that for a number of years his main concern was to just improve and develop himself. Though this is still his main objective he now feels obliged and compelled to live up to the great tradition of this music and the great heroes of his instrument.

Those heroes he refers to are Wilbur Ware, Jimmy Blanton, Paul Chambers, George Tucker, Charlie Haden, Gary Peacock (1964), Beb Guerin, Jimmy Garrison, Fred Hopkins, Malachi Favors, James Jamerson, Bootsy Collins, Aston "Family Man" Barrett, Cachao, Cachaito,and Andy Gonzales.

Revis has always been totally connected with his personal mission and musical goal. At various times in his development different types of music were very influential: when growing up it was Funk, R&B and Rock. His first forays into jazz were the music of Miles Davis, Ahmad Jamal, all of the great Blue Note recordings and Ornette Coleman. Then, when he attended university in New Orleans, he embraced the music of Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton and such. He reflects: "during all of these phases, I was always drawn to the music that is considered "free" or "avant-garde".

Eric Revis, who was born in Los Angeles and relocated in San Antonio moved to New York in 1994 and became the bassist for Ms. Betty Carter. This was definitely life changing for him. He recalls: "during my first few years in New York I had to come to grips with contextualizing all different elements. This often involved me doing a lot of different gigs on a lot of different scenes".

Though the move to New York put Revis on his amazing journey, he transcended burdens opening the channel for greater visions. He outlines : "The funny thing about NYC is that it is very cliquish, so a lot of times people had no idea that while I may be doing a very "conventional" jazz gig...I was also doing "free" jazz gigs.....as well as some experimental hip-hop gigs...etc."

Revis reflects: "this atmosphere benefited me tremendously; because while most musicians are seemingly stuck in a certain element and feel that their particular element is somehow superior to others...I saw no hierarchy as it pertains to creative music. I have always felt that if it is good and done with conviction, I am down with it. On the other hand, the problem it presented was that a lot of times I would be inspired to draw on these different facets...and on certain gigs the other musicians weren't feeling it at all. So I kept these different elements separate for quite a while".

It wasn't until he started composing and performing with his own group that all of the things that he felt make of him an individual. Revis affirms: "of course it also comes with getting older and become more assured of one's self as a person".

Revis compositions come from a variety of places. He revels: "it’s pretty different with each of my compositions. It can go from a bit of a melody that I develop....or a bass line. Sometimes they are fully realized and sometimes it takes quite awhile to develop them. The one thing I can say about any of my compositions is that none were ever written from the place of me deliberately sitting down to write a song. For better or worse they all come from an organic place. I detest the idea of writing as an exercise. It seems to me a lot of "new" jazz compositions come from a very academic perspective....people writing out patterns that they have practiced and they place some chords under them and the call that their compositions"

He talks about the musicians who played on the record: "Orrin Evans (Piano) is one of my dearest friends and a kindred spirit as to how we perceive music. We have played in several groups together (including the Ralph Peterson Quintet) as well as in each other's groups. He also appears on my first record. The thing I really like about Orrins' playing is that he is not a "pianistic" pianist. He is always in the music....as opposed to being on top of it.

Gerald Cleaver (Drums) is one of the most sought-after drummer's on the scene and I was very lucky to have him on this. His awareness of the music and his support are unprecedented. He has played with everybody.

John Ellis (Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone and Bass Clarinet). I have known John since I attended school in New Orleans. He also has a varied background and is able to simultaneously draw upon his many influences and knowledge. He has a very organic approach to all of the instruments he plays. Great musician.

Stacy Dillard (Tenor saxophone). I met Stacy a few years ago when he first got to New York. What impressed me most was that his maturity as a musician and as a person was well beyond his age. With all of these musicians I must point out the willingness in which they approached the music...and their ability to not only interprets it ...but to put their personality into it.

Oz Noy (Guitar). Oz is phenomenal. He is one of the few guys I know who's knowledge of music is matched by his unbridled willingness to be very ballsy. He's very sophisticated ...but loves the edgy slop as well. He's great....and has some great records as a leader"

Besides music, his universe, Revis is attracted by energy from other abstract universes like the one of visual artists, painters, sculptors, film makers. He confesses:" Growing up, my father was a sculptor and was involved in arts collectives...so I grew about around that type of collaborating environment. Unfortunately I haven't done as much of that as I'd like recently"

Sharing the flame is important for Revis, his character taps into the infinite, the hidden dimension, the ultimate source of strength and pure sharing. He muses:"I think the ultimate goal for all artists is to create beauty in the universe....and the more we do it together the better".

When eulogised for his new compositions, Eric Revis humbly expresses: "thanks for saying that they're great. I listen to a lot of music and have a pretty wide variety of taste. I think (hope) I am able to channel these things in an organic way". Yet he is inspired by everything: friends, family, art, movies, literature.

Revis also likes to read books which he believes served him as inspiration for many of the titles of his compositions. He analyzes:" I have found that my writing comes in spurts. It usually works out to where there is a period of time in which I am amassing ideas. Then as that cup becomes full, I go through a period of contextualizing these ideas and composing. Sometimes it hits me all at once"

As an explorer of soundscapes he refers to «Free" jazz as the ultimate form of improvisation and spontaneous composition. He explains: "often times, musicians become trapped in the tools and devices they employ while developing themselves. I feel that it is imperative that those "tools" be abandoned in order to get to the true essence of music and one's role in the music. In its very essence, music is based on certain logic. In traditional terms this logic is often dictated by chords and form....which for most musicians becomes a crutch of sort. The great practitioners of the "free" music tradition not only abandoned form and chords and such, but were able to do so with such a great sense of inner logic and feeling. In addition, I think the whole purpose of music and art is to objectify one's reality and I feel that we as human beings in the 21st century have far more to say that can be conveyed in traditional music structures".

He has indeed performed with main figures of avant-garde jazz including legendary German reedits Peter Brötzmann. He informs: "I first had the opportunity to play with Peter a couple of years ago at Tonic in NYC. It was a great experience. Peter is an icon of "free-improvised" music. He is a statesman in the tradition along with Ayler and the AACM and others. I am very much looking forward to the tour we have coming up". Peter Brötzmann, drummer and educator Nasheet Waits & Eric Revis will tour USA from 28th April to 10th May 2009.

When asked how he copes with a globe trotter and nomadic life he responds: "I once read an article with Henry Threadgill and he spoke of musicians being true World Citizens. After having travelled for so many years it recently has dawned on me that I have become just that. I am very comfortable wherever I go at this point and have many friends and associates all over the world. That feels very nice. It reaffirms the notion of us all being people and really encourages me about the state of humanity especially given the fact that we are constantly bombarded with what seems to be a very bleak situation in the world".

Music is clearly part of Revis daily existence and without doubt burns within him. What is magic is how he feeds it by sharing with others throughout the world. He reckons to be by no means a religious person...but asses: "I do feel that one can open one's self up to being somewhat of a conduit to a higher consciousness. To be able to channel, whether its in dialogue with other musicians in front of an audience (which also an energy giving source) or collaborating with other creative individuals who selflessly give of themselves to this consciousness....is the highest reward." He concludes: "in terms of the future...I would love to continue to develop myself as an artist and to be able to play with musicians who are near and dear to me"

Throwing away limitations Revis is defying gravity and has developed the power of mind over matter. With Laughter’s Necklace of Tears, Eric Revis has transformed all hardship into beauty and strength, knowing that from there, anything is possible .

morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Dr. Ana Isabel Ordonez) Jazz Artist Interviews Sat, 29 Jan 2011 11:38:57 -0600
Malcolm Creese http://jazzreview.com/jazz-artist-interviews/malcolm-creese.html http://jazzreview.com/jazz-artist-interviews/malcolm-creese.html Malcolm Creese
Bassist Malcolm Creese may not be a household name, but he’s well known in British circles, covering many genres. Creese has played on sessions for artists including Depeche Mode; toured and recorded with Cleo Laine/John Dankworth and Stan Tracey; been part of large symphony orchestras, including those that performed the scores for the recent films The Lord Of The Rings: The Return of the King and Cold Mountain; and performed concerts with artists including Kenny Wheeler and Sting. …

Bassist Malcolm Creese may not be a household name, but he’s well known in British circles, covering many genres. Creese has played on sessions for artists including Depeche Mode; toured and recorded with Cleo Laine/John Dankworth and Stan Tracey; been part of large symphony orchestras, including those that performed the scores for the recent films The Lord Of The Rings: The Return of the King and Cold Mountain; and performed concerts with artists including Kenny Wheeler and Sting. But Malcolm’s main priority is Acoustic Triangle, his all-acoustic trio that blurs the boundaries between classical and jazz in a way that has not been done before, also featuring Tim Garland, a saxophonist who is rapidly gaining international stature, and Gwilym Simcock, a young pianist who displays a remarkable maturity for his age.

Early Years

Creese comes from a musical background. "I’m very lucky," says Creese, "that I do come from a musical family. My father is a professional violinist, semi-retired, who was a violinist for almost thirty years with the London Symphony Orchestra, which is one of the top orchestras in the world. My mother is a pianist, mostly an accompanist; she’s one of those clever people who can look at an orchestral score and play it on the piano instantly by transposing three or four of the lines and condensing it all into two hands on the piano."

Picking up the cello at the precocious age of three, Creese continued to make the cello his primary instrument through his schooling in classical studies at London’s Guildhall School of Music. He was also exposed to the music world at an early age, when he joined the choir at St. John’s in Cambridge, which, explains Creese, "at the time was one of the world’s best choirs, rated very highly. We did a lot of touring; we toured North America as long ago as 1970. We made a lot of albums as well; I was with them from the ages of eight until twelve, so it was a very good early start in the music business."

Late Comer to the Double-Bass

Creese came late to the double-bass, picking it up at the age of twenty-five. While he is completely self-taught, the discipline of a classical upbringing made the transition easier. "I found it easier than the cello," Creese says. "I think it’s an easier instrument insofar as it’s tuned differently, in fourths instead of fifths. That means you can play straightforward scales without too much shifting of position, whereas on the cello you’re constantly shifting position. I also think that in the classical world you are asked to play more difficult things on the cello; with the average orchestral score the cellos and violins are often scraping away frantically while the bass is playing long, slow notes."

While it was the lure of jazz that drew Creese to the bass for the most part, he still finds himself playing bass in orchestras although, as Creese explains, "it took a while before I was able to do so. To be honest, I had to do a lot of work and get some technique together and, of course, work on my sight-reading. You’re reading the same notes in the same clef as with a cello, but they’re all in different places on the instrument, so that was a hard thing, to learn how to sight-read on the bass. I actually joined a lot of big bands early on in my bass playing career, and learned to read that way; I did a lot of woodshedding with rehearsal bands, and just practiced my sight-reading for a long time to get it sharp.

"So now things have really come full circle," continues Creese, "as I find myself playing in orchestras on bass and occasionally I see some older members who say: ‘Hang on a minute, I thought you were a cellist the last time I saw you.’"

Interestingly enough, one of Creese’s earliest jazz influences on bass was electric bassist Jaco Pastorius. "I went to see Weather Report a lot in the 1970s," says Creese, "and I was absolutely blown away by them; I briefly toyed with a fretless electric bass, but then I was able to buy a double-bass, and that was it for me; it really was the instrument I wanted to stick with, so I gave up the electric, but Jaco was still a major influence. He was very lyrical and very unusual; his whole sound and approach was new."

Double-bassists who influenced Creese included Paul Chambers, Ray Brown, and British bassist Mick Hutton. Creese is also informed by Dave Holland; "his sound and approach to the bass," Creese explains, "is in some ways similar to mine although I certainly wouldn’t put myself in the same category; he’s an absolute star."

Finding an Instrument

Picking a bass that serves well for both the more pizzicato style of jazz playing as well as the Arco style more prevalent in classical work is a challenge. Creese’s instrument is an early 19th Century instrument, a good hybrid. "It’s a 7/8 size instrument," says Creese, "a lot of jazz basses are what’s called 3/4 size, while classical basses are bigger, more generous, and deeper. This instrument is somewhere in between the two, and it happens to be an instrument on which I’m happy playing jazz and classical music. I really wanted one instrument rather than to keep swapping; you grow into an instrument, you wake up in the morning and pick it up and it feels like another arm. I’ve found it difficult on the bass to readjust to different instruments, so this really suits me."

First Breaks

Creese’s first big break came around 1990, when he hooked up with pianist/bandleader Stan Tracey. "He had about seven different bands of different sizes at the time," says Creese. "I toured with Stan for about six years."

In 1991 Creese was asked to join Cleo Laine and John Dankworth, a relationship that lasted eleven years. "For a while I was playing with both Cleo and Stan at the same time," Creese explains, "which was tricky as I was juggling dates a lot, and I’d sometimes find myself playing with both of them at the same festivals. But Stan Tracey was my first really big gig in this part of the world, and I enjoyed that. I did a lot of touring; in fact I played every continent except South America with Stan; and then I joined Cleo and we also did a lot of touring, recording and broadcasting; I absolutely adore her."

Creese still maintains an active career as a freelance musician, in the studio and for live events; in addition, about eighteen months ago, he joined Trad Jazz legend Acker Bilk. "I have to say I enjoy that kind of music," says Creese. "I enjoy Kenny Wheeler and I enjoy Dixieland, and there’s a world of difference between them, but I do like the variety and I hope that makes me a better player; to be aware of these different genres and different areas of jazz, which is such a diverse art form these days. It’s gone in so many different directions and I like to try to keep in with as many as I can.

"The other thing about Acker’s band," continues Creese, "apart from the fact that it’s lovely and laidback, very easy and great fun, is that we play just one or two gigs a week, on average, but we’re playing to two or three thousand people every night, and I just don’t get to do that very often. I did that with Cleo obviously, but most of the more modern areas of jazz just don’t have audiences of that size, and it’s very nice to be able to entertain that many people; to be able to go around and play in big venues, be treated well, be paid well and at the end of the day to come home thinking that a lot of people have been very moved, that they’ve all walked away tapping their feet and smiling; I think there’s something to be said for having that opportunity. After about a year-and-a-half I’m still really enjoying it; Acker’s a lovely man and the guys in the band are great."

Trio Beginnings

In the mid-1990s, Malcolm began working in a trio that included pianist John Horler who, at the time, was also Cleo Laine’s pianist, and British clarinet/saxophone legend Tony Coe. "I’d worked with John before I joined up with Cleo," says Creese, "and on one occasion we had a week at Ronnie Scott’s in London and the singer, Elaine Delmar, hired Tony Coe to play with us. Of course I’d heard of him, but I hadn’t met him at this stage, so we showed up at rehearsal and he just knocked me out. Tony’s an extraordinarily individual musician; I don’t believe there’s a clarinetist in any field of music who has taken the instrument as far as Tony; he does acrobatics on the instrument that most people just can’t believe; we’d play concerts and there’d be fantastic classical clarinetists in the front row with their mouths wide open; absolutely astonishing. And on saxophones he’s such an individual voice; he’s also a creative composer, simply one of the best musicians I’ve ever had the privilege of working with.

"So we had a great time at Ronnie Scott’s," Creese continues, "and then I thought ‘wouldn’t it be great to do some other things with him?’ I thought of maybe just doing a trio with him; Tony doesn’t like drummers and so I thought there’s no point in doing a standard sort of jazz quartet because he wouldn’t like it; so I thought, ‘let’s do something different.’ I really adored John Horler’s playing, I always have, so I talked to John and asked if he’d fancy doing a trio with Tony. So I put the trio together around 1994 or 1995, and we had five or six years of touring with that trio; we did a couple of albums, and it was a lot of fun."

It was with this trio that the idea that would become the foundation of Acoustic Triangle first took shape. "That’s when I first introduced the premise of playing completely acoustically," explains Creese. "We decided we really needed a grand piano, so there was no point in doing places which didn’t have a good grand. ‘Let’s aim high,’ we thought and, by the way, ‘do we really need microphones?’ So we thought no, and decided to try it without. We did a couple of concerts in nice venues, and it was so nice. I make quite a big noise on the bass, because I have very high action, my strings are quite a long way from the fingerboard, which means I can hit it quite hard and get a lot of acoustic sound; so I’ve never been one to rely on an amplifier to get volume anyway.

"If you think of an acoustic bass as a big sound box," continues Creese, "the strings are supposed to vibrate and push air out of these two holes; the harder you hit it the more vibrating it’s going to do and the more air you’re going to push out; it’s as simple as that. You can still have a nice quality of sound; you just get more sound if you hit it harder."

Creese’s approach eschews the use of amplification. "I like to have attack and dynamic variation," Creese says, "and if you depend on an amplifier you lose some of that; it becomes a much flatter, level sound. I thought if I could compete with a grand piano with the lid up, and a saxophone player, without an amplifier; if I could get enough sound to fill a hall, then this will work. And I managed to do it. I remember we played a hall with Tony that sat four or five hundred people, and we had a wonderful review afterwards that said ‘you can hear the bass singing at the back of the hall,’ and I thought, ‘that’s it, I don’t need an amplifier again in this situation.’

"The acoustic thing is great," continues Creese. "the trio with Tony and John, which grew into Acoustic Triangle, was and still is the only acoustic jazz outfit in all of Britain, and I don’t think there are many in the world; even with those that call themselves acoustic, you usually find the bass player has an amp, at least, or someone’s got a microphone stuffed under the piano lid. It just doesn’t happen very often and it’s the sound I really want; I think it’s really starting to pay off now because a lot of people are beginning to notice that we’re doing this; it gets a lot of attention, a lot of people are asking questions about this acoustic approach and are surprised that we can get away with it.

"It’s a nicer sound," Creese concludes, "and people behave quieter so they can hear you; when you are amplified you do lose some of the quiet moments; you just can’t come down to nothing the way a classical player can; you do lose some of the dynamic range."

Acoustic Triangle

The trio with Horler and Coe had begun to think classically; Coe, in particular, is an expert on Berg and a few other contemporary classical composers; but the repertoire primarily consisted of material by Horler and Coe. There was, however, the intention of incorporating certain ideas from classical music. Performing acoustically was clearly one, but Creese wanted to take it further. "It’s been a process, but I’ve always wanted to do this because I was a classical musician first, and I’ve always wanted to find a way of bridging that gap between classical and jazz; there’s an artificial barrier there which annoys me, and I’ve always liked the idea of reflecting my classical background in my jazz work."

After six years Coe decided to part company with the trio, and the search was on for a replacement. "John and I sat down," explains Creese, "and drew up a list of possibilities. We had both worked with Tim Garland a lot over the years and I’d always admired his playing; he is a diverse player his tenure with Lammas was interesting because he was incorporating all these folksy influences he’s done all kinds of things and I just love the breadth of his musical understanding and experience.

"So we were going through this list," continues Creese, "and I said to John, ‘you know the guy I’d really like to play with is Tim.’ John said, ‘yeah, but you won’t get him, he’s just joined up with Chick Corea, there’s no way he’ll be able to do this.’ So I said, ‘well, I wouldn’t mind ringing him,’ and John said, ‘you’ll be wasting your time.’ So I rung Tim and I said, "look, Tony’s just left the trio.’ And Tim said, ‘yeah, I know, I heard.’ So I said, ‘is there any way you’d be prepared to work with John and I?’ and he said, ‘you know, when I heard that Tony had left I was secretly hoping you might think of me; there’s nothing I’d rather do more right now than work with you and John; I love your music; I love your playing; and I love your first album with Tony; I’d be delighted; but can I write for the band?’ And I said, ‘yeah, of course you can write! When do you want to start?’

"And he was just delighted," concludes Creese. "I phoned John back and he nearly fell over backwards, he was just amazed, he couldn’t believe it. We’re both big fans of Tim, and that was just a fantastic lift, and one of the best things that ever happened to us really. And Tony’s a hard act to follow; but Tim’s a totally individual player, he’s got this enormous hollow sound on tenor which I’ve never heard from anyone else; I think he’s got a beautiful sound. I think he’s simply the best soprano player in the world; I don’t think there’s anyone who can make the soprano sound the way he does. Sometimes he can wail and roar and other times he can make it sound almost like an alto flute; it’s an absolutely beautiful sound. On the second Ravel piece on Interactions, towards the end of it, his sound totally changes from being a saxophone to almost like a flute. Tony is, of course, another wonderful soprano player, but I really rate Tim as the finest in the world."

The trio with Creese, Horler and Garland recorded Interactions for Creese’s own Audio-b.com label. Released as both a standard CD and as one of the first dual-layer hybrid Super Audio CD disks (SACD), which allows listeners with SACD equipment to hear either an SACD stereo mix or 5.1 surround mix, both of which are characterized by a warmer sound and broader dynamic range, or for listeners with standard stereo equipment to hear a rich CD stereo mix, Interactions won a number of awards upon release. With material contributed by Garland and Horler, the album opened up with three songs by Ravel, beautifully arranged for the trio by Garland.

"Tim’s arrangements are so sympathetic with Ravel’s writing," explains Creese, "he really understands the writing, so they’re very thoughtfully done; they’re not irreverent in any way. I really feel that when you take a piece of classical music and mess around with it that it must be right; it must be done with reverence. The thing about Ravel is that not only did he spend a lot of time rearranging his own music, but he also rearranged others’; so I felt OK about doing this; also, Ravel died in 1937 while he was living in the States, and at the time he was fascinated with jazz and improvisation, so I thought we could realistically get away with it, without being insulting to the composer."

Bridging the gap between classical and jazz is still a difficult thing to accomplish. Efforts by other artists have stated classical themes, followed by obvious improvised sections. Acoustic Triangle, on the other hand, has managed to integrate the classical and improvisational elements, explains Creese, "by making it seamless between the written passages and the improvised passages. A lot of people aren’t really aware when we’re improvising and when we’re not; we’re sort of blurring the edges there."

With Interactions receiving unanimous critical acclaim, the group went through another upheaval when John Horler left the trio. "John is really a jazz player," explains Creese, "although he’s appreciative of classical music, he’s never been a classical player or had classical technique. He’s just the most wonderful jazz player."

The Next Step

But to take the trio to the next step required finding a pianist with broad experience in both classical and jazz arenas. Enter Welshman Gwilym Simcock who has a breadth of experience, and maturity in both his playing and his writing, which far exceeds his age of only twenty-two.

"Gwilym comes from a classical background," says Creese, "and he’s come to jazz more recently, just as I did. Tim and I had both worked with him; Tim has his Dean Street Underground Orchestra, and I first met Gwilym on one of those dates, when he was sitting in for the regular pianist. For the rehearsal Gwilym and I got there a bit early and he said, ‘do you fancy a play?’ So we played Kenny Wheeler’s ‘Everybody’s Song But My Own’ and I really enjoyed what he did with it, and thought, ‘God, this guy’s really interesting and he’s only about nine!’

"So when Tim and I did the same thing as I had done with John," continues Creese, "drawing up a list, we went through a few pianists and just thought that this guy, young though he is, sounds a lot more mature than he should do, and we both thought he was really going to go places. And it turned out that this was really what he wanted to do; find a jazz outlet that was going to incorporate his classical playing. He was unlikely to find many such opportunities, so he jumped at the idea and we did a lot of playing together, a lot of rehearsing and then the writing started again and things got a bit more classical and a bit more modern. I think Gwilym’s been a big factor there."

The result of their labor is the new album, Catalyst, which features a number of Garland compositions, as well as a three-movement suite by Simcock. While there are no reworked classical pieces on this recording, there are tunes by Kenny Wheeler, John Taylor and Cole Porter.

Working with Extended Composition

One of the defining points of Acoustic Triangle from its inception, but even more so since settling into the current line-up, has been its exploration of more extended form. "We just got fed up with thirty-two bar sequences," explains Creese, "or twelve-bar sequences going around and let’s face it; most jazz is twelve or thirty-two bars repeated. We thought we could do that with so many other bands, let’s do something really different; let’s do something more extended, more classical that can really grow, that has time to develop and isn’t formulaic in the same way.

"That was a conscious decision back when John and Tony and I were working together," continues Creese, "and we’ve just continued that through to Acoustic Triangle and that’s really what we’re up to; we want to do more and more extended writing. I haven’t done much writing for the group; there are a couple of things that I’ve done that we haven’t recorded yet, but frankly I’m so busy organizing the recordings, the booking, the promotion, the production; sometimes ten or twelve hours a day in an office. So while I’m certainly not a composer of the stature of Tim or Gwilym, I do plan to do a bit more in the future. I have some ideas of my own that I’d like to put on paper; and Acoustic Triangle is the perfect vehicle to play them with, so I am sure I’ll have the opportunity in future to put some more time into writing.

Developing a Distinctive Sound

Through the evolution of the trio, Acoustic Triangle continues to develop its own language, its own distinct sound. Creese explains that "there is a certain harmonic element to it; we keep discovering chords and thinking, ‘what’s this, what can we do with that?’ Each time we get together Gwilym’s found a new chord or something, and we take it to bits and analyze it and have fun with it. We are all interested in harmony, but there are other things as well. I think the group sound is interesting because, for example, on Catalyst there are only two or three points where it gets into a walking bass sort of thing; we just don’t do that very often, and that is because we are really into other things.

"I think the lack of a constant obvious rhythm," continues Creese, "is a factor in our sound; the fact that a lot of the music we play is rubato or, even if it’s in tempo, it’s not stated all the time. I think Keith Jarrett’s Standards Trio is an important influence there, because when you listen to it there are times where there’s a really strong feeling of four to the bar, but when you analyze it, nobody’s playing it. It’s almost like slight of hand; Jack DeJohnette is almost playing a solo, Keith is playing these ridiculously long lines, going over the bar lines and all the beats, and Gary Peacock is doing something at the top end of the bass that’s also out of tempo; and yet you can still hear this "a-one-a-two-a-three-a-four" thing that nobody’s actually playing. Now we’ve taken that in a slightly different direction as we don’t need to imply it all the time.

"We don’t think of ourselves as having a front line and a back line," Creese continues. "Tim’s not a front line player exclusively in this trio, and Gwilym and I aren’t rhythm section players. In Acoustic Triangle we’re all equal soloists and equal accompanists, and we’re all interacting with each other all the time. So, as a bass player, it’s a different role; I like that role, the equality between the musicians; we’re all listening to each other and feeding off each other; the bass doesn’t often get to be that involved in that. There are passages, on "The Glide" and "Winding Wind" on Interactions, and on a couple of occasions on Catalyst, where all three of us are improvising together; we call it collective improvisation, and it involves me in a different role than is normal for the bass, where you’re supporting improvisers, or pumping away while they express themselves.

"We also don’t do much in the way of changing time signatures," concludes Creese, "whereas a lot of modern jazz groups feel that they have to change the signature every few bars or people won’t take them seriously. We’re not into that, we’re not going to be quirky for the sake of it; we want to be really melodic."

In fact, while there is a larger degree of abstraction with the current lineup, there is a lyrical quality to Acoustic Triangle that is fundamental to their sound. "There’s a passage in the middle of ‘Coffee Time,’ explains Creese, "where we go completely berserk, and play free with the bass clarinet playing funny harmonics, and then this sort of haunting tune emerges from this gloom; it’s quite evocative. There is certainly more freedom, more free improvisation and, while I think we’ll be doing more of that, I don’t think we’ll ever become an entirely free band because melody is so important to us.

Recording Acoustic Triangle

With Acoustic Triangle going for a completely acoustic sound in performance, it is only natural that they do the same for recording. There is the same attention to room acoustics and piano quality. Acoustic Triangle has, in fact, recorded both their albums in the same venue, St. George’s in Bristol, UK. "It is my favourite venue," says Creese, "the sound is wonderful; it has amazing acoustics. The BBC uses it for a lot of chamber recordings, they have their own piano that lives there, as well as a couple of other Steinways. I think there are three at the moment. It’s a lovely 550-seater room that was a church and is now a concert hall, and the sound just suits me."

The natural sound of the room is, in fact, such an important part of the overall recorded sound that it almost becomes a fourth member of the group. "That’s exactly how we feel," Creese explains, "The room is just so important to us. When we record we put two microphones way in the back of the church to capture the ambience; we mix it in as if it were digital reverb but it’s real and sounds much nicer; you just can’t beat that natural sound; it’s a spacious, wonderful sort of blooming sound that doesn’t suit more rhythm-based jazz ensembles, but it really suits us."


Creese formed his own record label, Audio-b.com, in the late 1980s, as a response to the inability to get more esoteric groups recorded by larger labels. "At the time," says Creese, "there weren’t a lot of independent labels, so I thought, ‘why don’t I try doing something myself?’ and it built up gradually from there. It’s never been a huge moneymaker, I must say; we’ve been going for about fifteen years and only produce, on average, one record a year, but they keep getting better; I’ve produced over sixty albums now, for Audio-b.com and other labels."

While some artists find self-producing to be problematic, Creese actually prefers it. "I find it a real advantage," Creese explains, "to be so familiar with the material, and really have an idea how I want it to come out. I don’t play on all the records I produce, but I do play on most of them because, selfishly, most of them are projects I am involved with as a bassist. The other thing is to find a really good engineer, and I’ve now found one who I respect enormously Bob Whitney, who engineered Catalyst, he’s just fabulous, he’s a musician himself, so he really understands what I’m trying to do."

The Future of Acoustic Triangle

Now that Acoustic Triangle has settled into a line-up that best combines the classical and jazz experiences, what does the future hold?

"One of the things we’d like to do," Creese says, "is to collaborate with other musicians. We recently did a gig as a quintet that included drummer Martin France and trumpeter Gerard Presencer, and it felt very good. We still played acoustically Martin is a very sensitive drummer, and he was into what we were doing so it wasn’t a problem, although I don’t always think we could get away with that, it also depends a lot on the room and the audience.

"What we’d also like to do," continues Creese, "is work with string quartets and orchestras a bit more. We’ve approached the Lindsay Quartet, who is pretty open-minded, about doing collaboration. What we don’t want to do is have the jazz people playing jazz and the string quartet accompanying them with long, slow notes; we want to write and perform things that really integrate the quartet and trio, so everybody’s featured as a soloist and everybody’s improvising. There will also be more extended writing.

"I also think," Creese continues, "that we’ll be moving away from doing other peoples’ material and moving more into exclusively original works. We’ll obviously continue with the acoustic premise, but I’d like to explore other venues that aren’t on the circuit, new venues and new ideas. And I’d like to write for the trio; the other two are always encouraging me to do so; I was working on this piece for Catalyst that simply never got finished in time, but I’ll have to finish it, along with doing some more writing."

Writing, performing, producing, promoting, arranging tours Malcolm Creese is certainly one of the hardest-working musicians around. And while these varied duties take up a lot of time, it is his work with Acoustic Triangle that is establishing him as a most unique artist, with a distinctive vision that blurs the boundaries between extended classical writing and collective improvisation. Along with Tim Garland and Gwilym Simcock, Creese is defining a new language for jazz; one that throws out popular convention and creates a new space for improvisational expression.

Article reprinted courtesy of Nick Lea and jazzviews.co.uk

morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (John Kelman) Jazz Artist Interviews Sat, 29 Jan 2011 11:23:09 -0600