This week we have a bit of a drummer’s feature with an interview with ex-pat Adam Pache and a top 5 list with Simon Barker. The first time I met and played with Adam was when I was 16 in about 2003 when I used to sit in with Matt Baker’s trio when Adam was playing with him and Ashley Turner. I remember being awestruck by those guys and always looked forward to getting a chance to play with them. Since then we’ve had a few jams and always at least a year apart and its always how things have changed and developed with time and experience. Adam has spent 4 of the last 5 years living in New York and currently resides in Italy and has been playing with saxophonist Steve Grossman. He’s currently out here on tour leading a quartet with James Muller, Gerard Masters, Steve Newcombe and Jonathan Zwartz. I thought I’d take the opportunity to ask him a few questions about the experiences of leaving Australia and making music in other parts of the world.
Here it is:
1.Tell us about the music on this latest tour.
We are playing songs I chose, largely based on the personnel. I was extremely glad that James Muller and Jonathan Zwartz could do all of the gigs, and the piano chair is split between Gerard Masters in Sydney and Steve Newcomb in Brisbane. I tried to imagine what the music might sound like as a group, and I ended up thinking of Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, John Coltrane… tunes that have an in-built vibe but are still open, such as “Pinocchio” and “The Sorcerer”. With that as a base I added some other tunes, old and new (from Billy Strayhorn to an original by a Norwegian friend of mine) that I thought would fit that mould and make sense together.
2. You’ve lived in Sydney, New York and Rome making music. What have been some of the experiences of making a transition into a new city and new scene?
For me, the move from Sydney to New York was much harder than New York to Rome, despite having to learn Italian. New York’s jazz scene is so immense and so competitive to try to break into. In Sydney and Rome I feel like there is a sense of a “jazz community”… everyone knows each other and is supportive, whereas in New York I feel there are many, many different cliques, so it takes some time to work out where one fits in, and while there is a mutual respect for each other, as everyone is battling to survive there, it can be very cut-throat. I had a few close musician friends there, but I think due to the enormity of the scene and how busy everyone is with making ends meet, it can be hard to build relationships that go deeper than just knowing the person’s phone number, where they live, what they sound like and who they play with, even after more than 4 years there. By comparison, I found the musicians in Italy to be extremely warm and welcoming and I made friends instantly the night I arrived. After only 8 months there I have some friends that are truly like family… People I know I could trust with anything and I could always call on for help. That really makes a difference.
I also think in New York you have to play the game to work. You have to hustle. I haven’t felt that in Italy. It’s more like you hang out, go to jams, make friends with people and you end up playing. It’s more natural and based on genuine relationships. Hustling on a New York level there would seem really crass and out of place. It makes it easier to concentrate on music, not having to deal with playing games in order to work. Of course politics exist in any music scene, but so far that has been my experience there.
I have realised that as a musician, the ease or difficulty in moving to a new city/country/scene is actually less to do with music and more to do with people. If you like a city and a music scene enough to move there, the people are what can make it or break it for you.
3. What do you notice about audiences around the world and their responses to jazz and improvised music?
It varies so much, and I think it largely depends on how the music is presented. One thing that I think can really be detrimental to jazz is when somebody gives a speech at the beginning of a gig about how important the music is and how everyone should be quiet and respect the artists etc. It can strangle the music and make the audience feel like they are in a classroom. I would much rather play to a room full of people enjoying themselves, even with a bit of chatter, than a room full of people feeling like they have to wait for the song to end before they can cough. I think it’s one of the big turn offs for young would-be jazz listeners and helps to perpetuate this notion that jazz is for elitists. It’s hard to relax and have a good time at a gig after you’ve been told all of the things you can and can’t do. I think no matter what country you are in, if the music is presented in an honest, down to earth manner, played with conviction and passion, people respond in a positive way. Not every playing situation is perfect, and not everyone will like what you do, but I think if you can play with enough spirit, you command attention, and conversely if the audience is restless and chatty, maybe it’s a sign you are not putting out enough (or maybe the music is lame!)
Having said that, I think people in Europe generally have more respect for musicians. They seem to appreciate people playing music for them without being told to appreciate it.
4. Who are some of the European musicians worth checking out that we may not know about?
There are many!! The first that jumps to mind is Roberto Tarenzi (from Milan). He is one of the most exciting and original piano young players that I know of. He is influenced by McCoy Tyner and Ahmad Jamal but is really going for something else… something very contemporary. I would love to see his trio tour Australia… the members are all on an extremely high level. He has a few CD’s out and I would highly recommend his latest, “Dig Deep”.
There are some great young drummers in Rome worth checking out too: Roberto Pistolesi, Nicola Angelucci and Marco Valeri are my three favourites. All have incredible dexterity on the drums and an individual approach.
5. What are you working on right now?
I am getting back into studying harmony and playing the piano and trying to write some of my own music. I would really like to record an album of originals within the next year or so.
On the drums the list is long, but basically I am trying to refine my technique, so I can cleanly execute what I am hearing in my head, and I’m trying to focus more onstage and play with as much spirit as I can, every time I play. Playing with Steve Grossman has really been a big lesson in that. He plays with so much intensity… there is no room for auto-pilot… he demands 100% all of the time. I feel like anything less is an insult, not only to him but to the music, and I would like to carry that level of commitment through to every playing situation, no matter who it is with or where.
5 in 30 seconds:
Favourite YouTube Video:
Best Gig you’ve seen: Elvin Jones, 2002
Best gig you’ve played: with Steve Grossman in Ischia, Dec 2009.
Current favourite artist and album: Herbie Hancock – Speak Like A Child
Where can we see you next? at the new 505 venue for Jazzgroove this Tuesday the 16th at 8:30.