Interview with John McLaughlin Pt. 1

IMG_0002This interview took place June 2, 2012 at the Alfa Jazz Festival in Lviv, Ukraine. The festival had arranged a meeting room for us in the hotel and invited half a dozen photographers and other journalists to shoot and watch. Despite distractions and endless clicking of camera shutters, McLaughlin remained focused, thoughtful and open throughout.

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Before & After: Larry Coryell

IMG_2997Unlike some wary musicians, guitarist Larry Coryell seemed to really enjoy the Before & After experience. In between selections, we talked about his 40-year recording career, lessons learned from working with Gary Burton and Jimmy Smith, his role as a jazz-rock fusion pioneer, his current power trio with Paul Wertico and Mark Egan, the shrinking jazz record industry, global politics and a recent fascination with Abraham Lincoln. His 2007 autobiography Improvisation: My Life In Music has been published by Hal Leonard, along with a retrospective print folio of  Coryell compositions.

1. Tal Farlow
“Gibson Boy” (from Legends of Guitar Jazz Vol. 1, Rhino) Farlow, Barry Galbraith, guitars; Oscar Pettiford, bass; Joe Morello, drums. Recorded in 1954.

Before: It’s beautiful. Yeah! That’s Tal. [listens, chuckles] I sat with his records when I was 16 years old. He and Jimmy Raney had no text book, they just lived in New York and tried to play like Bird. I cut my teeth on that guy; His tone, his time feeling, his ideas. Tal Farlow was one of the greatest musicians in the world. but he was off the scene during the revolution, the revolution that I helped start in the middle 1960s. After he came back I went to see him in a small club in New York and George Benson was there that same night. I talked to him and I related to him a lot of things I had read about his life on the back of his albums and he said, “Oh, those are just fables.” Later on we hung out and did a  bit of jamming. I showed him some of the tunes and solos I had learned off his records, he was flattered and pleased. His intro to “Yesterdays” was amazing. His entire solo on “Autumn In New York,” I carried that with me forever. That really shaped my ballad playing, it’s still with me today. That’s not even a song. That’s a composition.

After: Oh, I love Barry Galbraith. He was so humble. He made a good living as a studio musician and at that time in the middle to late 50s, that’s all I wanted to do, be a studio musician. I grew up in the sticks, man. I just wanted to make a living. I wanted to be like Barney Kessel and Kenny Burrell and Barry Galbraith.

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Jazz Conversation with Jim Hall

Guitarist Jim Hall gave a concert with Steve LaSpina and Joey Baron at the Library of Congress on March 20, 2009. It was his first public performance since recovering from back surgery the year before. Hall graciously agreed to sit and talk a while just before sound check. The studio lighting was a bit harsh that day but the insights flowed as his story unfolded.

Before & After: Joe Morris

Joe Morris may be inspired by the traditions of Chicago blues, free-jazz and West African music, but the 47 year-old guitarist, bassist and bandleader continues to develop his own musical language and vocabulary. While the New Haven-born musician and composer is currently on the faculty in the Jazz and Improvisation Department at the New England Conservatory, he still tours the new music circuit with his own groups, and also collaborates with fellow creative improvisers William Parker, Joe Maneri, Matthew Shipp, Lawrence “Butch” Morris, and Ken Vandermark. In the last two decades, Morris’s intricately edgy innovations have been documented on nearly 30 recordings for various labels, including ECM, Aum Fidelity, Omnitone, Knitting Factory, Leo, Soul Note, and hatOLOGY.

 

1. Kenny Burrell & John Coltrane
“Why Was I Born?” (from Kenny Burrell & John Coltrane, Prestige OJCCD 300-2). Recorded in 1958. Kenny Burrell, guitar; John Coltrane, tenor saxophone

BEFORE: The guitarist has a great sound. Is this Jim Hall? No, he’s not playing like Jim Hall. His voicings are bigger. I’m trying to figure out who the saxophonist is, but it’s hard because it’s so plainly stated.  Oh, it’s Coltrane and Kenny Burrell. One little inflection and one note gave it away. Well that makes sense why it sounds so incredibly clear and the guitarist’s sound is so good. I haven’t listened to this since I was a kid. Kenny plays such choice notes and he’s impeccable in his technique. His time is really good and his sound is really great. He and Joe Pass and Grant Green are so great that they’re beyond criticism, you know?

AFTER: Before Kenny Burrell played like that, no one played like that. It’s just as much about invention as it is about being correct.  For as long as I’ve been playing the guitar it’s been assumed that that’s the correct way to play. I don’t think it was the correct way for Kenny Burrell. It was the creative way for Kenny Burrell. And without him, and Herb Ellis, and Sal Salvador and guys like that, that style of playing never would have existed. They invented that creative way of playing the guitar and that’s why they’re great.

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Before & After: Earl Klugh

Earl Klugh’s music matches his disposition; warm, relaxed, gentle and thoughtful. The Atlanta-based nylon string guitarist took a break from his sold-out weekend engagement at Blues Alley to drink coffee (must have been decaf) and listen to music. Afterward, he reflected on changes in the music business since he began recording 33 years ago. In spite of vicissitudes in the record industry, Klugh has cultivated an audience loyal to his smooth blend of jazz, pop and contemporary. His latest release is The Spice of Life (Koch).

1. Ulf Wakenius

“Seven Days of Falling” (from Love Is Real, ACT). Wakenius, guitars; Lars Danielsson, bass; Lars Jansson, piano; Morten Lund, drums; Till Brönner, trumpet; Radio String Quartet. Recorded in 2007.

Before: It’s a very nice piece; great groove, memorable melody. The way that the band was able to move the piece along, it intensified without knocking you over the head. At first the electronics were a little off-putting, but once it developed it became really interesting. I’ve never heard anything quite like that. The tune is understated, the guitar solo was great. Whoever the guitarist is obviously is a really good player because there were moments when it really took off. But he was more concerned with the piece as a whole.

After: I don’t know him. And I didn’t know that Esbjörn Svensson died. I like the guitarist’s ideas. His solo moments were little gems. And he really laid in the groove. This is really cool.

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