Interview with Pachi Tapiz of TomaJazz from January 22, 2011
published online (in Spanish) here
PT: Last june you played in Anthony Braxton 65th Birthday Benefit for the Tri-Centric Foundation" with Marilyn Crispell, Mark Dresser and Anthony Braxton too. How was it to play again with them?
GH: All of us have strong feelings about this quartet. This particular group had a unique understanding of how to navigate the multiple disciplines of compositional interpretation and improvisation that are intertwined in Anthony's compelling musical world, and did so in a fluid, dynamic and organic way. Each of us also shared a part in the legacy of being a part of the development of this huge body of work and I think it has impacted each of us as individuals in a very positive way. And I say this both in a musical sense and just in the general spirit of creative effort that surrounded the many performances we did together. Anthony was clearly touched by the outpouring of musicians who participated in this birthday benefit and it was interesting to revisit this music with Mark and Marilyn again. John Zorn who also participated in this concert (we did a quartet together on the same evening with Dave Douglas, and Brad Jones playing one of Braxton's older themes), was so intrigued by the reunion that he is producing a recording for Tzadik of Anthony's music, by this trio with Mark and Marilyn later this year (April 2011 recording date).
PT: Your last records are mostly duos (four Auricle releases, Old Dogs with Anthony Braxton): It’s just something casual or at this moment the duo is your favourite for playing music?
GH: There are five Auricle releases in a row which are all duos (AUR 7 w-John Butcher, AUR 8 w-Thomas Lehn, AUR 9 w-Terrence McManus, AUR 10 - w-Jin Hi Kim and AUR 11 with Ellery Eskelin), there is Old Dogs, there is a duo coming out later this year on Intakt records with Marilyn Crispell, there is a duo with saxophonist/pianist Ivo Perlman, called Apple in the Dark on Leo records, look a little further back and you will find another duo with Marilyn Crispell on Knitting Factory works, two others with Thomas Lehn (Fire Works and the first now rare double cd on Erstwhile), one other with John Butcher, (Shooters and Bowlers) a duo with vocalist Andrea Goodman called "Divine Doorways", look further back there are duos with Earl Howard, one of which is part of the Clepton release on New World Records, and also a duo with Ned Rothenberg, now re-released on Tzadik records (The Lumina recordings). In the beginning of my work in the 70's I performed regularly as a duo with Leo Wadada Smith, and my first composition grant was a for a series of duet works (Duets 8 Parts- 1977).
So casual would not be what I would call it. Duos are important to all improvisors, and improvisation is the dominant musical modality of the majority of these projects. Duos are dialogue, one of the most essential musical relationships that often is in its most crystalline form in the duo setting. Second only to the solo in displaying the musical core of a musician, I believe these dialogues reveal a very rich and diverse language that has grown and flourished in all these remarkable musicians I have had the honor of making music with for many years.
PT: Your music of every of your records is very different. You’ve played with Thomas Lehn, John Butcher, Ellery Eskelin, Mr. Braxton... what are you looking for in your collaborations with Jin Hi Kin and Terrence McManus?
GH: There is much work in a variety of contexts associated with each musician with whom I have done these duo projects . With Terrence McManus, who I met via the bassist Kermit Driscoll, we have spawned a number of projects that we have had each other in. We did a bunch of duo gigs in New Jersey, some of which were in places not so interested in our wide musical terrain, but because the music was coming from a very sincere place - people who would normally pay little attention were drawn in to listening more deeply to the music. With Jin Hi Kim I have done many projects in the past decade, some with other Korean traditional musicians and over time I have assimilated some of the language of the traditional music into my own playing. I think that is what you might find different about this duo versus the others. This language I am referring to in the traditional Korean music is a music I have been aware of and influenced by for some time, so that is another strain of why this duo is successful in finding its dialogue.
PT: All those collaborators are very different and you sound different but you’ve some unit. How can you find some neutral territories for playing with them?
GH: Well, I wouldn't think that I search for neutral territories, that would suggest that these duos are more like negotiation then dialogue ! Perhaps the differences emerge as a result of a desire in each duo to intensify and highlight the unique relationships that emerge naturally in this musical state of invention. It begins with being in the here and now, able to be very present in the moment and with that state of being comes a kind of listening to each other where one finds ways to connect that come from a very fluid intuition, difficult to describe, but palpable to both of us as players and to listeners who themselves listen with the same level of commitment as the musicians offer in their creation.
PT: You are related with world music or music from different places of the World. What are you looking on those musics?
My musical listening and resources reach quite far and in many directions. I am often referred to as an omnivorous listener and collector of music and I delight in sharing my expeditions with students and fellow musicians. I receive inspiration from many places in music, some of which have no direct connection to my musical projects and expressive palette but for which I find something that lifts my spirit and gives me joy. THere is so much to learn from traditional musics of the world, traditions that are deep and spectacular in their sonic properties, their cultural heritage, their social function, their political power, their sheer beauty. I will never forget hearing the Peking Opera for the first time - it was extraordinary and even though I had no idea of the meaning of the text- I was touched deeply by the singer and the music.
PT: Can you tell us about the way you’ve evolved the way you play and your conception of music?
I would say both have been strongly affected by the way I hear. I distinguish between listening, which is a part of hearing, and hearing which includes the notion of understanding and translation. Hearing is informed by experience over time and assimilated into a various aesthetics which are at play in the choices I make as a player and as a composer. I have always thought of my playing as an integral part of my writing and vice versa. What I notice as a general observation of my evolution is something quite typical of maturation in many musicians and artists, a distillation of ideas into their most essential form. It shows up quite strongly in my solo playing which has become less jam packed with detail and more likely to get a lot of musicality out of a single sound.
PT: You’ve recorded pop music... Do you have some new project related with the so called post-rock-songs or post-pop-songs?
GH: no, not at this time. The only song based project I have initiated that is in its formative stage is a trio with cellist/vocalist Hank Roberts and steel guitarist Susan Alcorn, called "A Long Way". With this we explore rural music repertoire from the 1920's as a starting point for both a collective improvisational language and a kind of reframing of the very poignant themes this music still exudes, at least to me.
PT: Do you have some plan for a new release as “Songs” was? With multiple and different long-time collaborators, a singer...
GH: only the aforementioned project for now. You have to also understand that "Songs" took almost two years to create, more hours of intensive work than you could possibly imagine, and in the process almost undermined my taking care of making a living as a musician. In order to do another one I need an actual economy to support it. I am grateful that the heir to Between the Line, Volker Dueck of Sunnyside Records agreed to re-release it and I hope that it reaches more ears than on the first go round (where it went out of print in about 6 months).
PT: You’re also playing electro-acoustic music. Clepton is a favourite of mine. I didn’t rate it five stars because I think the short pieces doesn’t fit well the concept of the main piece. What’s your interest in this music? Is this a way for jazz to evolve toward creative music?
GH: Electro-Acoustic music permeates my entire repertoire from my first solo LP, "Solo Works" in 1982, through much solo work that followed including the whole CD devoted to electro-acoustic works on Random Acoustics, the duos with Thomas Lehn, the unreleased work with Arp Synthist Hal Freedman and multi reedist Ned Rotherberg ( a collective trio called IBEX) to the many quintet pieces including the 2002 "Double Blues Crossing" and yes to my long collaboration with the composer, saxophonist and electronic musician, Earl Howard. Clepton has to be seen as both a culmination of a recent project with the Graewe/Reijseger/Hemingway trio, and the formative and extensive duo work that offers the historical perspective on where this music evolved from and what musical initiatives are central to our collective thinking.
I don't have a reaction to the notion that jazz is evolving toward a creative music. Jazz IS and HAS ALWAYS BEEN a creative music and the incorporation of musicians whose vocabulary includes synthesis, sampling, live processing, and now visual-based medias all just part of the stew of possibility available to many players and to the multiple idioms that include jazz.
Earl is an exceptional composer and electronic musician. He has refined a very rich musical world which when experienced is quite compelling and immensely thoughtful from the standpoint of composition and substance. I recommend perusing the performance available online from the Roulette TV site, a trio with myself and Anthony Davis, and an interview with him.
PT: Do you have some plans for re-release your first records in Auricle Records? You’ve published five records in two years but some of your first records are not available.
GH: All of my recordings on Auricle records other than "Cooked to Perfection" the BassDrumBone cd (AUR-5) which is out of print will not be reprinted are available and in print. I still regularly sell the lps from my site http://www.gerryhemingway,com and there one can find everything I am involved in available in one place. My shipping is from Switzerland where I now live and work as part of the permanent faculty of the Hochshule Luzern.
PT: What are the next projects / CD you’re involved/you’ll appear.
GH: I mentioned already the duo with Marilyn Crispell on Intakt which should be out before summer. Also the trio with Mark and Marilyn of Braxton's music - not sure when it will be done - perhaps before the end of the year. A new BassDrumBone cd on Clean Feed called "The Other Parade" will be out in early May. And I am very excited about the release of a new quintet recording "Riptide" which will also be released by Clean Feed records in the summer. In October I will premiere and release my next solo project which is both an hour long film and CD as one package.
January 22, 2011