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Posts Tagged ‘james muller’

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.

Later,
Eamon

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One of the things I’ve wanted to do with the blog is not only put up articles about my peers but also put up interviews with some of the people who have inspired us to make music.
I sat down with guitarist Carl Morgan a few weeks ago to come up with the following series of questions to ask Sydney based Guitarist James Muller.
Here’s what he said:

What motivates you to keep practicing/disciplining yourself to continue working on furthering your craft?

A lot of it is being inspired by other musicians, especially my contemporaries and the new-breed. I get jealous sometimes when I hear my friends sounding better than me. Ha. I don’t want to be left behind sounding old and lame! Also, I get bored playing the same old stuff.

What are some of the ways you’ve approached working on time/feel?

Mainly, it’s just something I’m always aware of rather than working on specific things. I’m more conscious of time than harmony or melody. It’s the most important component of jazz, I think. I play little rhythmic games when I practise – usually just picking a tempo and then subdividing the beat in different ways. I like going up and down through quavers, quaver triplets, semiquavers, semiquaver quintuplets and semiquaver sextuplets. Then I try and mix them all up randomly. Also, dividing regular quavers/semiquavers into odd groupings 3/5/6/7/9 etc… All of these things really help your basic 4/4 playing. Feel, is different. It’s harder to work on. I listen to players with great feels and try and analyse what it is that makes their feel great. Usually, it’s about the way they accent certain notes and where the lay on the beat, but it’s also the shape of the melodic line itself that makes it feel groovy or not. I don’t think you can play any old bunch of notes and make it swing, no matter how good your time feel is. The way the notes are arranged is really important (and the rests too!). It’s taken me a long time to figure that out…

What are some of the key aspects that you feel are most important for younger aspiring musicians to work on?

If you’re a pianist or guitarist – COMPING. I’ve only really just started to get into that. What a fool I’ve been. It’s so important to learn how to do well. Transcribe comping as well as solos…

Business skills! I’m not kidding. I still have no idea with that stuff and I really regret not learning more about it. Hopefully it’s not too late.

Are there any bands or musicians (of any genre) you’ve recently discovered that are challenging or inspiring you to think differently about music and improvisation? If so, what aspects and/or ideas have you drawn from them?

At the moment I’m on an Allan Holdsworth kick. He is a real genius. Listening to him has totally reinvigorated my practising. The way he constructs lines and chords is incredible and completely unique and I think everyone should be checking him out. He’s as heavy as Coltrane, I think. He has changed music. Sean Wayland is a constant source of inspiration. Simon Barker has some great views on music and life. I guess I haven’t “recently discovered” these guys technically speaking. All of these guys are really methodical about the way they practise and learn. I have always been really erratic and just noodled for practise which I guess works to a certain degree but it’s time for me to actually start thinking about precisely what I want.

How has living in Australia affected your development as a musician?

That’s hard. I could be nasty and say “adversely”. There is some incredible talent here and Australia it’s a wonderful place to live but I can’t help thinking we all (jazz musos) would be better off living in the US or Europe. We would be better players and might be a lot better off financially, certainly artistically. It’s not the musicians’ fault really. The more I think about it the darker I get about the way we are viewed by the general public over here. Still, there are many worse places to be.

You recently completed a tour with Sean Wayland’s band featuring Mark Guilliana. Can you tell us about your history with Sean and some of the highlights of the projects of his that you’ve been involved in?

Sean started booking me for gigs in 1997, a year or so after I moved to Sydney from Adelaide. Soon after I was in pretty well all of his subsequent groups right up until he left to live in NY. I’m not sure why he kept me on. I think initially he was impressed with my playing but later it became just as much about having a friend around that respected his music/vision. I think that’s a big part of why I played on his most recent US recordings. I think having another Aussie around experiencing these great rhythm sections and horn players is important to him. It’s great for me!! It’s been amazing to watch Sean develop so consistently over the years. He is one of the great thinkers and problem-solvers in music today, I think. As far as highlights go, the most exciting/fun gigs I did were when Sean brought out Jochen Rueckert and Matt Penman from NY in 2002. That was my first taste of a top-notch modern American rhythm section and I was in HEAVEN! I have recordings of those gigs. Really great experience. I did a couple of gigs at the 55 bar with Sean in 2007 with some great players – Will Vinson, Orlando La Fleming, Henry Cole, Rudy Royston. Matt Clohesy – they were awesome fun too. As soon as I get in the studio though, I can’t enjoy myself. Playing with Keith Carlock, Tim Lebvre and Adam Rogers on the Pistachio CD was great but I couldn’t relax. I wish we did a gig. There were Aussie highlights too – recording with Sean, Nick McBride and Brett Hirst in “the shed” – Sean’s old house in Jarrett St, Leichhardt. My amp was in Nick’s car in the driveway, turned up to 11, Brett was with the double bass in the bathroom and Nick in sean’s bedroom. The only way sean could communicate with the other guys was to speak “live” arrangement instructions into a microphone which came out on the recording! It actually sounded pretty good!!

What are you working on right now?

Chords. Trying to comp better. Trying to remove other people’s licks from my playing..it’s EMBARRASSING when I hear myself do it these days. It will stop!!

5 questions in 30 seconds

Favourite Youtube Video :
Best live gig you’ve seen: John Scofield with Larry Goldings, Dennis Irwin and Bill Stewart @ The Basement Jan 1995.
Best gig you’ve played: Hmm Sean Wayland, Matt Penman, Jochen Rueckert @ Coogee Beach Jan 2002
Current favourite album: Allan Holdsworth “The Sixteen Men Of Tain”
Where can we see you play next? Feb 6 @ the Walsh Bay Jazz Festival and Mar5/6 @ 505.

Later,
Eamon (and Carl)

P.S check out James Muller at www.jamesmuller.com

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Last night James Muller Quartet played a set at The Basement and it gave me a chance to get this great band on video. Below is one of Matt Keegan’s solos from the night on 327 East 32nd St by Lennie Tristano. Matt is one of my favourite Sydney musicians and also one of the nicest guys around – always got time for a chat. Muller’s Quartet is amazing and I hope to get some more videos to put up for those who can’t see them live. In the meantime here’s a snippet of Matt Keegan blowing:

Later,

Eamon

Pssssst……. Matt Keegan trio has a new album coming out in June

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Hey everyone,

Last night I went and checked out Jazzgroove at the new venue for 505. It is a really great room and the upcoming programme of music is outstanding. I recommend everyone to get down there soon!

I bought a video camera on the weekend and tried it out last night. I hope to get videos up every week.

This clip is of James Loughnan with The Doig Collective last night. I thought he played a wicked solo and wanted to share it with you.

Later

Eamon
P.S There’s some great gigs happening this week – James Muller’s Quartet tonight @ The Basement and Mike Nock Friday Night @ The Soundlounge

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Guitarist Carl Morgan recently moved to Sydney (across the road from me) after growing up on the south coast in Tilba, studying in Canberra for 3 years and living in Melbourne for a year.
In the last 2 months of being neighbours we’ve had many discussions about music and found we have similar views and thoughts. Carl is going to be one of the baddest guitarists in Sydney and once you’ve heard him you’ll agree. I’ve been truly inspired by his discipline and approach to improvising and in particular his exploration of poly-rhythmic ideas in improvisation.

Here’s a few questions he answered for me:

1. Favourite/Most influential Jazz Musician?

For the last 3 years New York guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel has been undoubtably my favourite musician and the person who has had the biggest impact on my playing and conception of music. He is one of the most unique voices in jazz today and someone who has influenced many younger jazz musicians from around the world. I was initially blown away by his sense of melody on the first track, “Zhivago”, off his album “The Next Step”. He has an incredible sense of harmony, time and technique. His compositions have shaped modern jazz music. But the deep effect of his music goes beyond the notes that he plays.

2. Favourite/Most Influential Australian Musician?

James Muller is my favourite Australian jazz musician. He is an incredible guitar player as everyone who reads this I’m sure already knows. James is unique in that the stuff he can do on the guitar I’ve heard no one else do. He has an amazing feel and plays melodic and beautiful solos. Those who haven’t heard his album “Kaboom” with Matt Penman and Bill Stewart should really do so! I am also a big fan of Aussie pianists Sean Wayland and Barney McAll who are both doing great things in New York.

3. All time favourite album?

Thats a hard question, so I’ll just say a few:

D’Angelo – Voodoo

Wayne Shorter Quartet – Beyond the Sound Barrier

Kurt Rosenwinkel – The Next Step

4. Best live gig you’ve seen?

The John Scofield Trio/Wayne Shorter Quartet double bill at the Hamer Hall in Melbourne when I was in Year 12. Front row, right in front of Brian Blade! Wow!

5. What are you working on right now?

The Matt Penman workout off Dave Douglas’ Greenleaf Music blog.. Talks about practicing scales with a metronome, putting the clicks on various beats in the bar, e.g. playing a standard and putting the click on dotted crotchets. Also learning the tunes for the Dilworths gig at the Jazzgroove Festival next weekend!

Matt Penman Workout
Banff, May 2009
Metronome at 40.
Scales ascending and descending.
One note per click.
Two notes, etc…
Goes up to ten notes per click.
Metronome placement
Clicks are:
on 4.
‘And’ of 2 & 4.
‘And’ of 4.
Dotted half.
Dotted quarter.
12/8.
Different groupings of eighth notes.
Clap the polyrhythms.
Play the polyrhythms.
5/4.
Metronome on half notes.
3-2, 2-3.
Add eighth note groupings (twice as fast).
7/4.
Metronome on half notes.
Combinations of eighths against pulse.
9/8.
Metronome on dotted eighths.
Groupings.
Metronome on quarters.
Continue.

Later
Eamon

P.S Check him out on myspace

From Dan Clohesy Recording session

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