June & July: The Summer Festival Issue

The sun is shining and the Purple Cabbage Summer Festival issue is out, featuring interviews with Vijay Yier, Ben Monder, and Adrean Farrugia, and an article on the state of today’s Jazz Festivals. Looking to keep up with upcoming issues? Just click on the Facebook icon on the right hand side of the page and click the “like” button. Also follow us on Twitter @PurpleCabbageTO for occasional updates. For comments, input, listings, or article submissions, write in to thepurplecabbage@gmail.com and let us know what’s up!


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Desert Island Picks… with Adrean Farrugia

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Now sporting a Juno nomination for his latest record with Toronto super-group, Ricochet, Adrean Farrugia is continuing to capture fans with his amazing playing and a constantly evolving original sound. Although working though a heavy touring schedule this summer, Adrean was gracefully able to contribute to our new series of articles on the top five records you couldn’t live without. Although we originally tried to stay away from calling this his “desert island picks” – for no other reason than to avoid the common cliche – the image of Adrean on a desert island, pumping “Dancing Queen” was too appealing. So here it is: Adrean Farrugia’s top five desert island picks.

1. The Peer Gynt Suite – Edvard Grieg – Halle Orch. Conducted by Sir John Barbirolli.
This was the first album I heard that inspired something deep inside of me. It was this album that called me to be a musician. I still remember being 14 years old and sometimes waking up at 5 a.m. while my family still slept and listening to it loudly through headphones while furiously waving my arms around like a conductor. That album was my morning workout music for a while.

2. The Genius of Bud Powell – Bud Powell
My first jazz record. The groove, joy and complexity of this music makes me want to dance and play. Bud Powell could capture such joy and deep groove in his playing. This album captures his playing at it’s best. His super-fast-Art Tatum-inspired trio rendition of Tea For Two continues to inspire and amaze my ears after 20 years.

3. Standards Live – Keith Jarrett Trio
Keith Jarrett has been my very favourite pianist since I first heard him. To me, he is the most likely the greatest improvising musician alive today. His playing transcends the mundane and pulls me into a space that says there is something far greater in the Universe than only the things our five senses perceive. To me Keith Jarrettʼs music captures the God essence of music and his music sets the standard by which I measure myself.

4. Amadeus – The Complete Original Soundtrack – Sir Neville Marriner and the Academy of St. Martin-In-The-Fields
This soundtrack comes from my favourite movie of all time — director Milos Forman’s adaptation of the play by Peter Shaffer. This music makes me so happy when I hear it. It’s as though it somehow has a cleansing effect at the molecular level. Whenever I listen to this album if feel realigned. The Queen of the Night Aria from the Magic Flute just might be the most beautiful piece of music I’ve ever heard.

5. Greatest Hits – ABBA Gold
What can I say? I grew up in the late 70ʼs and into the 80ʼs listening to these tunes at family barbecues, school dances, and while roller skating hand in hand with the various girls I had crushes on throughout grade school on Saturday afternoons at Roller Gardens in my hometown of Hamilton, Ontario. These songs provided a backdrop for a lot of wonderful, and not so wonderful memories from my early youth.

I really hope I don’t ever end up stranded on a desert island with only five records. Although these five are some of my very favourites I’d really hate to ever be left without so many other favourites like:

Glenn Gould’s last recording of the Goldberg Variations
Bill Evan’s Sunday at the Village Vanguard, Alone and We Will Met Again
Oscar Peterson’s Canadiana Suite and We Get Requests
Ahmad Jamal’s Live at the Pershing and Awakening
Hank Mobley’s Soul Station
Chick Corea‘s Now He Sings, Now He Sobs and Trio Music Live in Europe
Michel Petrucciani’s Pianism
Paul Bley’s My Standard
Hank Jones’ Tip Toe Tap Dance
Phineas Newborn‘s A World of Piano
Geoff Keezer’s World Music
Sonny Rollin’s The Bridge and At the Village Vanguard Vol.1 and 2
Kenny Wheeler’s Music for Large and Small Ensembles and Flutter By Butterfly
Herbie Hancock’s Maiden Voyage, Emperean Isles, and The Piano
McCoy Tyner’s The Real Mc Coy and Supertrios
Miles Davis’ 64 Concert, Miles Smiles, and No Blues
Keith Jarrett’s The Cure, Still Live, Tribute, The Vienna Concert, and Bye Bye Blackbird
Joni Mitchell‘s Both Sides Now
Wayne Shorter’s Schizophrenia and Footprints Live
David Bowie’s Hunky Dory
Elton John’s Elton John
and just about any version of Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony… to name a few.

The Purple Cabbage
July 2011

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From Jazz to Jazzy: What happens when an expanding genre buries the music

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Many festivals and venues have begun to diversify their music in order to capture a larger audience. You can find examples across the country, starting with the Beaches Jazz Festival, which commonly hosts rock and reggae bands, to the Ottawa Blues Fest, which hosted Metallica just a few years back. Besides Buddy Guy probably spinning in his grave, attendance was great and the festival a success. But with so many jazz festivals going mainstream, true jazz music and culture is getting lost in what has become a new definition of jazz – often including world, R&B, soft pop and rock, and funk music. So is there still a home for true jazz fans, or are jazz festivals increasingly becoming unrepresentative of the music we know and like to call jazz?

Perhaps right off the bat we should acknowledge the festivals we already have, because there surely are benefits to mainstream jazzy fests. With a relatively small (and proportionately dwindling) jazz fan base, venues across the city would just not fill, counting on jazz fans alone. By targeting a larger audience, festivals are able to book smaller artists while riding the income from the packed tents and concert halls that serve as the festival’s main attractions. And hopefully someone who purchased tickets to see Aretha Franklin this year may be compelled to see Adam Rogers or Donny McCaslin at the Rex in a few months. Jazzy Fests give listeners the opportunity to get into the music, as superficial as that opportunity may be; kind of like giving your guitar-shredding buddy a Mike Stern or Chick Corea Elektric Band record to listen to. But for those of us who have long ago been converted, there is very little in place to represent the music and culture that has been lost in this diversification.


I began writing this piece a few days before the June issue of Downbeat hit my doorstep. Flipping through the pages, I landed on a small, half page article that probably passed most people by, entitled European Scene: Swedish Jazz Celebration sets the pace for national priorities.

The article looks at Sweden – one of the countries that has voted for financial support for the arts opposed to the cut-backs we’re accustomed to seeing in Canada and the States – and the kinds of initiatives being taken with the financial support devoted to the arts there. The focus is the Swedish Jazz Celebration, a ten-year-old festival put together by the Society of Swedish Composers to promote Swedish jazz abroad. The festival invites booking agents, festival organizers, label representatives, and journalists from around the world to check out Sweden’s stock of jazz players. Between the 30 groups and two full days of music, the festival provides opportunities and aims to open doors abroad for Swedish players.

And although our politicians’ priorities don’t necessarily lie in this direction, it is not only government money that makes this festival work, but also a set of some really great ideas! Every other year, the festival moves to a new location in Sweden, getting the attention of fans across the country. The festival is paid for in part by royalties off the recordings that are made of the performances, which are broadcast on European television stations. And perhaps best of all, it only lasts two days – a sort of miniature and manageable, undiluted, compact festival, flourishing within the confines of it’s own curious and devoted fan base.

New York
New York is home to the world’s greatest jazz musicians, and at just a 10-hour drive away, it should provide Toronto with a rich pool of affordable artists for any jazz festival. Sure, maybe Bobby McFerrin is a write-off, but put any other gigging jazz musician on a bus to Toronto for a fully booked, two day stay, and I wouldn’t be surprised if most said yes. After all, for those looking to promote their latest record, I’m sure they’d rather have someone else schedule the Canadian tour altogether, rather than start sending the emails and dusting off the ol’ touring van themselves.

Every year in June, Toronto is host to the North by North-East (NxNE) music festival, and almost none of the bands playing are big enough to fill a room the size of the TD Jazz Festival’s main tent. The festival, like any other, naturally requires a boatload of press and buzz, as well as three to four opening acts to help sell out moderate capacity club venues. And due to the work that goes in each year, it succeeds in attracting the bulk of Toronto’s concert-going, indie-music-listening youth. Today, it has become probably the most renowned indie music festival in Canada.

And much like jazz music, this music is not necessarily for your average listener – ranging from reverby, shoegaze, stoner pop, to deafening, sweaty-mosh-pit, garage rock – but by promoting small clubs across the city, assembling smart bills of several supporting acts, selling inclusive passes to all shows for an affordable price, and creating buzz about some of the key acts to check out through social media and blogs, NxNE manages to succeed each year.

By putting on such festivals year after year, festival organizers develop a community and network of sponsors, media outlets, industry representatives, and volunteers who come back again and again, looking forward to the next exciting installment. I believe the community and network is there – for both jazz, as it is for indie rock – it’s just a matter of pooling and organizing everyone together into one, well-oiled machine.

And although adopting ideas from other festivals can help create a clearer image of success for jazz in some areas, don’t forget to consider some of the specific advantages in being a jazz musician. Clinics at Toronto’s jazz schools and one off private lessons can not only bring in additional work for performers, but can also work to develop the nighttime attractions into whole day events.

If a true jazz festival has no chance of selling out large venues, then it needs to be hosted in small clubs. And contrary to many people’s beliefs, Toronto has many – most of which have had to diversify their music to stay afloat, but who will more than gladly host a packed room of devoted jazz fans (don’t believe it? – read more about that in a previous article by clicking here). Between local players and University students alone, a Queen West or College strip of three to five clubs within walking distance of each other would quickly pack up on most weeknights. With creative bills, buzzing special guests, clinics and lessons during the day, and late night jam sessions, Toronto would be bustling with jazz fever – if just for a day or two.

I don’t yet want to say Purple Cabbage Jazz Fest 2012, but if anyone wants to beat us to it, you’ve got our full support!

The Purple Cabbage
July 2011

P.S. Hats off to the Emmet Ray for hosting the first Emmet Ray Jazz Festival this month – a great lineup and a great time! More to come about that.

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Ben Monder: Setting New Standards


This past week the Purple Cabbage we had a chance to catch up with New York guitarist Ben Monder, who will be playing at The Rex on Monday, June 27 at 9:30 for the TD Toronto Jazz Festival. We had a chance to speak about his previous experiences playing in Canada, as well as his upcoming record.

Purple Cabbage: You’ll be playing with Kieran Overs and Barry Romberg for the festival, have you played with them before?

Ben Monder: No I’ve never met Barry before. Kieran I’ve played with, but not too much – maybe just once actually.

PC: How did you come across them?

BM: If I remember correctly, we played with this drummer in Edmonton, he got us a quartet gig at the Yardbird Suite. I’m pretty sure that’s the only place I ever played with Kieran. And he came over for a guitar lesson recently because he’s also a guitarist.

PC: Having to play with unfamiliar players, is that something you’ve had to do a lot of in the past, when you’re playing your own music?

BM: Well I generally try not to play too much of my own music with people that I don’t know, especially if there is not much rehearsal time, because it’s just not realistic to try to get it, you know what I mean? So when I play with people I don’t know so well, or at all, I try to generally play standards or just really easy stuff. And it is something that I’ve had to do quite a bit, because sometimes somebody will book you at a festival, or a club in New York, but they won’t have the budget to take your whole band, so you’d have to find some local players to play with, so it’s always hit and miss. So I try not to do too much. But that’s not really the case with these guys, because Kieran and I know each other, and Barry has a great reputation.

PC: You have a very unique playing style, definitely unlike anyone else in Toronto. Is there anything in particular you look for or expect from players you play with – stylistically perhaps?

BM: Well stylistically maybe not so much, but, you know, I hope that people have good time, and you know, don’t try to follow me too much if I go off on some kind of, you know, rhythmic path – that could wind up being a disaster but I don’t know. Really, the basic qualities that make a good musician I think, just good sound and good time.

PC: So you’ll be playing standards then, mostly, for the festival?

BM: Yeah, but also incorporating some pop tunes into my repertoire. Not current pop tunes, but older ones that I like, and that seem to have forms that are fun to play on. A lot of Jimmy Webb and you know, various other things like that.

PC: Is incorporating pop tunes into your set something you were inspired to do from other players or was that something that came from you?

BM: My idea (laughs).

PC: It seems that that has become a lot more common now. I had a chance to speak with Vijay Yier recently and he’s been recording pop tunes on his records.

BM: Yeah, he stole that from me (laughs). No, I’m just kidding.

PC: So have you had a chance to play in Toronto a whole lot?

BM: Yeah, quite a bit I think at this point. I’ve played the Rex a whole bunch. A couple of times with Andre White’s band – we did this one record release there — and then one other gig with Kirk MacDonald and Neil Swainson. And then I brought my quartet up there about eight or nine years ago, but yeah, a bunch of times.

PC: How do you find Canadian players in comparison to guys in New York?

BM: Far inferior (laughs). No, I mean I haven’t – well Kirk [MacDonald] is you know, fantastic, and that band, but I haven’t played with that many Toronto musicians. Andre [White]’s band was great and Andre is really one of my favourite drummers — he’s from Montreal, but – umm, yeah Neil and Kirk are fantastic too. I think in general in terms of getting up there it’s been mostly with people I know from here, you know, Donnie McCaslin, he did a couple of nights there. So I can’t really say I’m that familiar with the Toronto scene.

PC: So when’s your next record as a leader coming out?

BM: Oh, funny you should ask because I just went into a studio yesterday for the first time to start the process of doing another record. It’s Ted Pour on drums, Skuli Sverrisson on bass, and Theo Bleckmann on voice, so basically the same band from the Oceana record, but just one bass player. I’m expecting it to be kind of a long process because we’re going about it real slowly and kind of concentrating on one song at a time. So we did just one tune yesterday which pretty much took all day (laughs) and probably another one in about a month and a half. We still haven’t finished writing everything yet.

PC: Is the music going to be along the same lines of Oceana?

BM: Pretty much. Over-written, through-composed stuff with not too much soloing.

PC: Was there a lot of material that came out of working with that group? I mean, you guys playing together, did ideas come out of that, or was it more-so your brainchild?

BM: No, it was pretty much what I wrote. I mean, I wrote a bunch of stuff and put it in front of them, and they sort of executed it. There wasn’t really a whole lot of group experimentation that resulted in that sound.

PC: Were you writing for that group in particular?

BM: No, not really, but I would write and then I would think who would be the best people to realize this. So it’s kind of the same thing, just the other way around.

PC: Do you have a release date for that record in mind yet?

BM: No idea. My goal is to have it finished by the end of this year, and so, ideally it would be coming out early 2012.

PC: Do you foresee some touring for that?

BM: No sure. Playing some of this stuff live, I don’t know how realistic that is because there’s like overdubbed voices and you know — I think without all the parts it would lose something. There are three voices at once at times, so I’m not going to hire three singers to go on tour with me. And then there’s two guitar parts. You know, ideally I’d like to. I really haven’t toured with an original band in a long time, so it would be nice to do that but I’d have to make some adjustments.

For sound samples and lots of other great things visit Ben Monder’s website at www.benmonder.com
Visit the TD Toronto Jazz Festival website for more information about Jazz Festival shows.

The Purple Cabbage
June 2011

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On The Road Again… With Vijay Yier


For those unfamiliar with his work, Vijay Yier is one of today’s leading pianists in jazz and improvised music, drawing influences from his Indian heritage as well as pop music to create a truly innovative and original sound.

For this month’s festival issue of The Purple Cabbage, we caught up with Vijay to talk about touring and how it has affected his life as a performing musician. Vijay will be appearing at the Glenn Gould Studio on Tuesday, June 28 as part of the TD Toronto Jazz Festival where he will be performing material from his most recent solo piano release.

Purple Cabbage: How did you start touring, and what was the process like?

Vijay Yier: Well, the first touring I did was in the mid 90’s when I was living in California, in Oakland, and I got hired by Steve Coleman to go to Europe. So that was sort of my first experience doing anything of the sort, and that was really exciting and it changed my life, really. I was at the time also leading my own group too in the Bay Area, but I guess touring started to first become possible after I released my first album and I had gotten enough press and enough promo and a reputation among the sort of aficionados, who thought that I had something to offer, you know. But then translating that into gigs, that was still pretty slow. I remember I was able to do some college gigs, and some small galleries and campus things out in California — like I was mostly west coast, you know when I was living out there. So things didn’t really jump off for me, as far as touring widely, until more recently.

The other thing for me was playing with a hip hop group in the 90’s, and we got to tour a bit around the US. That was because one of the MCs had been on MTV’s The Real World [laughs] so he was kind of a celebrity and he had sort of parléd that into a career playing at colleges and we would often use that as a way to get the band in too, so that kind of gave us an opportunity to play around the US a bit. So through him, that group had a chance to come out a couple of times. Generally, it’s actually pretty hard to tour in the States. I mean, if you don’t have college things, you’re kind of bankrolling it.

PC: Have you found European touring maybe a little bit different?

VY: Well there are just many more places to play in Europe and some more density there. Probably because there is more funding for the arts there and so there are a lot more performing opportunities, like a concert series, a festival, or even often like a jazz club, which will have some city funding to remain operational. We hardly ever have that here. In February of this year I did probably the longest US tour I’ve ever done as a leader, which was nine shows in a row [he laughs] you know, which isn’t a lot, but it was the most we could string together in a row and it was really nice. I really like touring in the US, but it’s generally just not that viable. It’s nice to tour in places where you really feel that you’re “of the same stuff” as everybody else. When you’re touring in Europe you’re sort of more like a foreign specimen. It’s different from touring in the places you live.

PC: In an article in Downbeat Magazine a few months ago, Dave Douglas said that his first European tour was booked from his New York apartment all on his own. Is this something you’ve had to do, or something you’ve had to work with in the past?

VY: We’ll, I’ve done it different ways, like strung together a handful of things, but I think my first engagement as a leader in Europe was in ’99 in Verona at a jazz festival where I was just invited to go out there to do that with my band. So little by little we tried stringing together other gigs. Also by then I was living in New York City and was able to start working with a booking agent, after I’d reached that critical mass of people in the music industry who can connect you to the rest of the world. Actually if you don’t live in New York, it’s a lot harder to pull them together. There’s a sort of connectivity and a network here.

PC: Was that the reason for you moving to New York?

VY: I think ultimately that’s why everybody moves here. As a musician, this is where the world is watching, kind of. It’s where you can get connected to the rest of the world.

PC: Some see touring as something that takes away from the artist’s true art of simply performing and writing. How do the negatives and positives stack up, and what are some of them?

VY: There is a balance. I mean it’s possible to just become a kind of road dog. You can start to lose a certain aspect of yourself if all you do is tour. But I will say that, you know, last year I probably toured more than I ever have in my life, and it was really gruelling, but you know I’m definitely stronger from it. Also what I found is that especially with this area of music, that what you discover in the course of 4 months and in the course of connecting with different audiences, there’s no substitute for that, and in a way it’s the greatest gift that you can ever receive: the opportunity to discover that. I learned so much through all those experiences playing live — and not just about music, but about being a person. I feel like I wouldn’t trade that in for anything. And I also know that it’s important to find time off when you can think about the larger plan and kind of regroup and sort of reground yourself. So there definitely needs to be a balance at the end of the day.

But I am really glad that I was pushed to break my own understanding, which is what happened to me because of touring with my trio, and solo concerts, and by being in a different city every night for weeks on end, and seeing how music works in different countries. Having all these kinds of encounters that you do, an improviser, it means that you are responding to all of that at every moment. And that makes you, you know — the more pure your responses are, it kind of makes you a better person. I really believe that.


PC: Do you ever get a chance to compose on the road, or do you find it’s too hectic?

VY: I try, but I find it depends on the situation, like last week I flew around the world [laughs], but I was able to be in one place for three nights at a time, and another place for three nights at a time, and that was actually kind of leisurely and I felt like I had time where I could work on music because I wasn’t in transit all the time. There is only so much I can do while I’m in transit because I’m always worried about all the mechanics of getting around and things like not missing my train stop and stuff like that. I can’t really concentrate or really immerse myself in the creative process all that much.

PC: How have you found touring as a solo piano act, with no band on the road with you?

VY: Well it means that sound check becomes my favourite time of day. It went from being the thing I dreaded the most to a thing that I actually cherish, because it actually gives me alone time with the instrument and a chance to kind of drift out and be myself, while not having to worry about putting on a show or really worrying about anything.

I also found that putting on a solo concert night after night, there’s a certain purity to it. In a way it’s such a discipline. It was really cleansing for me, almost like a ritual or a kind of Herculean trial, or something like that [laughs]. You know, just to do it night after night is really inspiring and I learned so much about myself and the instrument and I tried to push myself further each night in terms of depth and nuances and power and sound. It’s a wonderful experience and I’m so glad I’ve had the privilege to do it.

PC: What has been your most memorable moment on tour?

VY: Well, last fall, it turned out that I was with my trio in Azerbaijan on my birthday and we played at the National Concert Hall in Azerbaijan, and they had a jazz festival there and the whole audience — well somebody told the audience [that it was my birthday], and after intermission we came back on stage and the whole audience sang happy birthday for me and they brought out a cake and everything. I just couldn’t, it was something outrageous or something because like I was holding this–. Anyway, it was just one of those moments in life that you’ll always remember. The other thing was that it was so remote. I had never been there before and never imagined that I would ever go there. But yeah, it was a pretty memorable moment.

PC: What advice do you have for young musicians looking to go on tour?

VY: Well, I mean, for me it’s always been important to think of what I’m doing in relation to everything else, so not just about getting MY music heard but about connecting with people. You know, it’s not just about you; it’s also about what other people need and want. If you’re an artist or musician, part of your mission is to help people. So I guess you kind of have to check your ego. It can’t just be about putting yourself at the center of things. You can’t just do it because you want attention. You have to have a larger purpose that’s bigger than yourself, or else it’s not worth it — for you, or the people that came to see you.

For more about Vijay Yier, read his complete bio at www.vijay-iyer.com/about.html
Also listen to full recordings from his latest record at www.vijay-iyer.com/albums.html

The Purple Cabbage
June 2011

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Summer Festival Issue

With summer finally here, The Purple Cabbage is getting into the spirit by covering the TD Toronto Jazz Festival this year. For the months of June and July, you’ll be seeing interviews with various festival performers who we’ve had a chance to speak to, reviews of festival shows, and the usual coverage of what and who to check out around town. Check back often and enjoy the articles!

Also, for up to the minute updates, add the Cabbage on twitter: @PurpleCabbageTO and like us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/The-Purple-Cabbage/151851184869218

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Ted Warren Interviews Steve Swallow


Although here at the Purple Cabbage we like to keep things Toronto, we couldn’t resist but share this next interview with anyone whom has yet to read it. The interview was written and conducted by Toronto’s own Ted Warren, and can also be found on his blog at trapdted.blogspot.com along with other fantastic thoughts and articles on music.

Steve Swallow’s career in music (as both musician and producer) stretches over five decades, from the 60’s to present day, and includes collaborations with many of the greatest jazz musicians of all time. For more of an in-depth biography on Steve Swallow, click here. Thanks for sharing this with us Ted, and we hope you enjoy.


Ted Warren: You’re a very prolific composer. Do you have any specific techniques for getting started if you’re not feeling particularly inspired to write?

Steve Swallow: I wish I did. The initial hours, or in my case often days or even weeks, of the songwriting process are the most agonizing for me. Early in my composing career I sat at the piano and noodled until I hit upon something I liked, but I’ve stopped that practice; I found that when I did that I was cycling through all the most banal material I knew. Now I try to sit at the piano as still and alert as I can, with my hands folded neatly in my lap, until a germ of an idea appears. This often takes days. But once I have an idea that interests me the process becomes much more engaging. It’s time then to put on the crisply starched lab coat, to analyze what I’ve got, how it sounds backwards, upside down, and backwards and upside down, to examine its rhythmic possibilities, to wonder where it’s going. At the end of that procedure, there’s usually a finished tune.

I do have one trick I’ve used successfully a couple of times to thwart writer’s block. That is to paste a bunch of Robert Creeley’s poems onto the piano’s music stand, and to stare at them until they yield a musical phrase. He’s been my saviour on several occasions.

TW: You were a very early adopter of forming your own label and also having your sheet music available for download on your website. Was this inspired by the changes you saw in the music industry over the course of your career?

SS: I’ve never had my own label, but I’ve helped Carla Bley administer hers, and it’s a lot of work. But the advantages are enormous; you control the pace at which you release your work, and exercise absolute control over its content. Pressure from a label to produce a certain kind of music can be insidious; I feel particularly fortunate to be free to record what I like. Fortunately too, it’s become easier over the years to record and manufacture CDs, and the internet has provided a means of distribution that used to be monopolized by a few powerful record companies.

I’ve made it a point to make print versions of my songs freely available to anyone who might have use for them. My attitudes on this issue were formed at the time the Real Book appeared. I knew the guys who made that book; they came to me to ask if they could include some of my tunes in it. It was clear they were unable to maintain a structure to pay copyright royalties, but in the end I felt the over-riding issue was to make my music available to as many players as possible. I’ve seen this attitude vindicated over the years, and I’ve decided to make my songs available for free download on http://www.wattxtrawatt.com. My hope is that those songs will sustain a life of their own in the hands of players who have visited that site. I wrote those songs to be played, and I feel obliged to do what I can to further that aim.

TW: When you were making the transition to full time electric bass playing, was if difficult to go from plucking the acoustic bass with your fingers to electric bass with a pick?

SS: When I first switched to electric bass I played it with my fingers, but I was unhappy with the sound and articulation I was getting. I’d had the good fortune to play with a succession of excellent electric guitar players, and I looked to them for inspiration. I was particularly moved by Jim Hall’s sound and phrasing; I’d played with him for a couple of years with Art Farmer. I came to realize that, paradoxically, I could get a more singing sound and phrasing with the pick than I could with my fingers, so I set about learning to play with one. It took a while; I dropped a lot of picks on the gig and caused a fair amount of consternation within the front line, but I persisted anyway, and I’m glad I did.

TW: You have worked with most of the great drummers out there. (Roy Haynes, Pete LaRoca, Jack DeJohnette, Adam Nussbaum, to name a few). Do you have any favorites to work with and/or people you think you have an especially deep musical connection with?

SS: I’m reluctant to name names, for fear of leaving someone out. Clearly, the drummer I’m next to on the bandstand is the guy I’m most focused on; it’s a very intimate and intense relationship. If things don’t go well with the drummer I’m left with an incredibly sore lower back by the end of the gig, the product I suppose of trying to force the music into a smooth, relaxed flow. Of course, this can’t be done. Either you find a groove with a drummer or you don’t, and sometimes I’m surprised that it’s not there with a highly regarded drummer, or that it’s magically there with a drummer of less renown. I like that you refer to a “deep musical connection.” Really connecting with a drummer involves so much more than the placement of beats; touch, dynamics, the drums’ tuning, the drummer’s response to what’s going on elsewhere on the bandstand and many other factors are equally crucial.

TW: Do you have a favorite composition of yours, or do you have more of a “they’re all my children, I love them equally” attitude toward them?

SS: They’re all my children. At the time of its conception, each one was my favorite.

TW: Finally, according to Wikipedia, your classic composition “Eiderdown” was the first tune you wrote. True, or could the internet actually have gotten something wrong?

SS: The internet is more or less correct on this one. I had written many student exercises, and several failed attempts at tunes, prior to Eiderdown, but I’d discarded them all. I wrote Eiderdown in Berlin, at the instigation of Pete LaRoca. We were rooming together at the time, in 1964, on the road with Art Farmer and Jim Hall. Pete remarked one night that I’d been talking a great game about songwriting but had no actual songs to show for all the talk, and challenged me to write one. I took him up on it. Luckily, the song came out well enough that Art began playing it. Flush with success, I figured song writing was a piece of cake, and set about to write hundreds more. I often wish I’d failed, come to my senses and stuck to playing the bass, but here I am, still whacking away at songwriting, for better or worse.

TW: I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m feeling unbelievably inspired! Speaking of which, here’s a couple of clips that demonstrate (despite being on 2 different instruments and separated by 40 years) Steve Swallow’s passion and musicality no matter the situation. The first is Jim Hall Trio with Pete LaRoca (from the Art Farmer band mentioned in the interview) playing “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You” and the second is John Scofield Trio with Bill Stewart playing “Green Tea” (from the record A Go Go). Two guitar trios, two different basses, pure music.

Ted Warren is a Toronto drummer who recently released a new record with Toronto jazz super-group Broadview (featuring Mike Murley and Rich Brown). On the side, he also keeps a killing blog! Check it out at trapdted.blogspot.com.

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