Interview with Ken Vandermark, Andrew Morgan and David Ryan

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DR: Andrew, moving on to your project…again we were talking earlier on, about the various histories of combining jazz and classical music (very overly convenient labels as they both are) but I wondered if you could say something about the project in relation to some of these issues…?

AM: I guess the things I was really attracted to, when I was introduced to free improvisation, and the more experimental corners of jazz, or free jazz what have you; was very much the energy and the gestures in it, rather than the specific language itself. What resonated with me were the same things I was attracted to in contemporary classical music. It involved areas – in both camps – which moved away from the choices of pitch and more into the overall gesture, the attack, energy, and contrast of material. There have been a lot of collaborations – Stan Getz did a collaboration with Eddie Sauter, with Stan Getz playing over buy hydrocodone online strings; it’s all very nice, but the people I wanted to hear do that were people like Ken or Evan Parker; or, what would happen if Coltrane and Gyorgy Ligeti got together? Those were the sound worlds I wanted to hear collide. So having heard Ken’s playing, I thought that’s the energy, that’s the sound, that’s the exploration that is the common ground between the two; not classical instruments doing ‘swing’ or something…that is completely uninteresting to me. It’s the common ground of these ideas and the approach to the sound world which is exciting. And each area has its own expertise: the classical players that are playing tonight are so sharp and so amazing, sight-reading the hell out of stuff. Jazz players tend not to read like classical players, they tend to spend their energy working on other elements – so how do you get everyone doing what they’re best at? How do you get the end result to come together in some convincing way. That’s one question, musically, that I would pose to myself. I’m not saying Ken isn’t a good reader either [laugher] – but his improvisations are stunning, really exciting. And I want to create a world that will give him something to react against. Other collaborations of this kind have included Don Cherry and Penderecki, which was re-released recently, but there hasn’t been a lot of it unfortunately. Or I guess there have been collaborations but not all of them have stuck. I heard of Edgard Varese working with jazz musicians but nobody can get there hands on them…who was that with?

DR: It was with Teo Macero, who was Miles Davis’s producer, but also a baritone player and arranger. [to the audience] There were some sessions with Edgard Varese, the French-American composer. And those sessions included various jazz session musicians; another associated with such projects was Eric Dolphy, who played the Varese flute piece; also guitarist Jim Hall who, along with Dolphy and Bill Evans played with Gunther Schuller, a name associated with ‘third stream’ which was an attempt to combine classical music and jazz…

AM: Yes, and he established university departments of ‘third stream’ music…so he worked quite hard in this regard to establish such practices…

DR: And he brought together a composer like Milton Babbitt with somebody like Bill Evans at the Brandeis jazz festival in the 50s…bizarre in some respects, but that’s what he did.

AM: …I understand that these people started looking at each other in the 50s and 60s. I can imagine, in New York, you had these super complex, serial ideas, and then going down to a jazz club and hearing more exploratory stuff, like hard bop; also complex, very dense, very quickly moving things, but from a completely different set of ideas. So there began to be a lot of similarities in many ways. So it sort of makes sense. I just heard a great record of Sun Ra and John Cage doing an album together. I just wish this stuff was easier to find! So, looking beyond Kenny G you get to Cage and Sun Ra making noises at each other. [laughter]

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