Two essential new interviews:
Ethan Iverson unleashes another epic conversation, this one with Tim Berne:
EI: You are a pretty rare example of someone who isn’t playing music already as a teenager but then has the willpower - because of a love of the music - to like really devote yourself to it, a bit on the late side, and then turn it around. In a few years you’ve made your first record and you’ve got your own voice coming.
TB: Yeah I was pretty strong-willed. I don’t know what possessed me. When I look back on it, it seems incredible, especially considering my overall lack of confidence. The more I learned, the less confident I felt. I would take these jazz lessons and stuff, but I didn’t really ever do sideman stuff. I think the first thing I ever did as a sideman could’ve been the Mark Helias record Split Image, where I played with Dewey Redman for a couple of tunes.
That was amazing. Mark might have given Dewey the music but I seriously doubt he looked at it. He came in from a gallery show, where he’d been drinking some wine. He’s kind of laughing and screwing around. And I’m paralyzed with fear. Not even just about him, but just recording a record in a studio. Somebody else’s music, some of the tunes have changes, you know I’m just mortified I’m gonna fuck up. And, uh, then Dewey just shows up and we play this thing and it’s like "boom." We’re playing this tango of Mark’s, and playing it “correctly” and all this, and Dewey comes in... his solo’s killing. And then we play the other tune he’s on, and it’s the same thing. He’s not nailing the music, but all of a sudden it has a vibe. It’s like this guy is a pro in the best sense of the word. This guy’s been around the block! He just knows how to cut to the music. Get to the music quickly. You put up all these blocks: “I can’t do this, I can’t do that.” I was just fighting myself on every issue. “I’m not as good as these guys,” or whatever. All that shit’s spinning out of control in my brain. And this guy’s coming in like “I’m Dewey Redman. I play the saxophone. It’s just music. I’m gonna play some music.” He wasn’t worried about somebody saying he fucked up letter B or whatever -- and if they had, he would’ve done it again, of course. But on the improvised stuff he just sort of killed it.
Ethan is famous for his extended interviews, but Marc Myers of JazzWax is giving him a run for his money. This week he is publishing his 5-part(!) interview with my mentor, Bob Brookmeyer, and it is riveting. There is a lot of stuff in here I didn't know!
So far, only the first two parts are up... parts 3-5 coming later this the week. I will update the links as needed.
JW: How did you come to play the valve-trombone?
BB: The stories about me starting to play it cold with Claude Thornhill’s band are wrong [laughs]. Yeah, right, I just walked into Thornhill’s band, picked up the valve-trombone and started to play it. The truth is I started playing the instrument when I was 13. I didn’t want to play slide trombone, so I found some old baritone horn in the band room and learned to play the valves. Then friends gave me an old Czechoslovakian valve-trombone. I learned to play the instrument by watching trumpet players.
JW: Why didn’t you like the slide trombone?
BB: Who likes the slide trombone? Sax players got all the girls because they were seated in the front row. Trumpeters got all the money because they were driving the band from the back row. Trombones sit in the middle and develop an interior life [laughs]. Trombonists didn’t get the money or the girls.