Thursday, July 12, 2012

Catching Up With Joe Alterman Give Me The Simple Life The Interview Part 2!

Continuing my interview with Joe Alterman from Part One which you can find at:

As an artist and even a listener...What makes a good piano trio work for you?

From an artistic perspective I can appreciate any trio for what it's doing, but from my listening perspective, I like to hear a trio that swings (really swings!), incorporates and plays convincing blues (!), uses dynamics, sense of humor, and interacts well with one another.
This may sound vague, but here's a few things about some of my favorite piano trios that I like. Hopefully it will help explain. 
I like how in the Ahmad Jamal Trio w/Israel Crosby and Vernell Fournier there are no bass solos or drum solos; the music is just so free and open that, even while they are swinging behind Mr. Jamal it sounds like they have the same amount of freedom to do whatever they would have done if the rest of the band stopped and they got a "solo". 
I like how Oscar Peterson's Trio with Ray Brown and Ed Thigpen used tension and release. Man, when they are playing that 2 feel, they just build it and build it until I almost can't take it any more; and just then, when the tension has almost reached breaking point, they let go and hit you with that 4, which is really pushing harder on the swing pedal, but makes me feel relaxed and relieved because they released that tension.
I like Gene Harris' use of dynamics. He and his trio can go from a loud, rollicking roll one minute, to a quiet almost Wynton Kelly-esque line within a matter of seconds.
One trio that I like everything about is the Les McCann Ltd. This group is rarely talked about today and Les is surely underrated as a pianist (he's fantastic!!) but the LTD is, to me, the whole package. I wish they'd release more of their records on CD today. 

Solid reviews on Give Me The Simple Life so...when is a critic NOT doing their job?

J.A. - "Thank you. I'm feeling very lucky that reviews has been well so far. I'm not going to lie - of course I pay attention. I'm very interested in what people have to say. One thing I've learned though is that everyone likes and dislikes different things, and not to take anything personally, because after a while of trying to remember what one person thought worked and another person didn't, it just gets confusing. 
To me, I think a critic has done his job if he is honest in that he wants the music to shine, not his clever writing ways, in a review. I often wonder why people would bother writing negative reviews anyways; why take the time to write about something you didn't like? Often times, these reviews seem to be much more about the writer and what the writer knows how to cleverly say than what the music is about. Maybe that's being selfish as a musician, but Nat Hentoff - one of my all-time favorite writers -, told me, regarding "Hear Me Talkin' To Ya", his book in which he interviewed hundreds of jazz musicians throughout the entire history of jazz, that, when writing the book, the best thing he could do for the music was let the musicians, the ones who really knew what they were talking about, do the talking. I thought that was very interesting. And that's what I appreciate in a good jazz review; an educated, well-written review that accentuates the music and not the writer; I think the review automatically accentuates the writer if it is a well-written review."

A release that simply screams passion. Are too many younger players playing more from the head and less from the heart in an effort to try and be the next "big thing?"

J.A. - " Thank you. I've grown up relating everything that I've heard in jazz to a certain emotion and memory. I grew up with music in general as soundtracks to different events in my life, as cures for ailments, and as a magical thing that made everything about a certain moment better. So yes, emotion has always been the most important factor in music to me. Even when I was younger and learning difficult technical ideas, I wasn't thinking about them as having to do with any sort of intellect, but rather as a passageway to get to a certain feeling.
I still see music in this way, but realize that everyone wasn't brought up in a similar environment. Jazz wasn't played at their barbecue parties, so they really don't know how good a hamburger tastes when that Wynton Kelly/Wes Montgomery "Smokin' At The Half Note" is swinging in the background, those chomps synching to Jimmy Cobb's quarter note. 
I see it as a blessing that I was brought up in an environment where music was encouraged to be accessible; where I was playing music for people who wanted to enjoy themselves. My older brothers were huge Grateful Dead fans and all my best friends in high school were in to Phish, not jazz. I always loved how Dead fans were really, really in to some very musical things that the Dead played and I always wanted the people I care about to enjoy the music that I enjoy playing most, so that was a big factor in my musical development."

My review of Give Me The Simple Life: