quinta-feira, janeiro 03, 2008

Entrevista com Conrad Herwig

Publicada há já uns anos (12) esta entrevista conduzida por Bob Bernotas com o fantástico Conrad Herwig fala de coisas "saborosas" (e, convenhamos, pouco habituais em trombonistas...) - inside/outside playing, pentatónicas, Coltrane, substituições.

Apenas transcrevo uma parte da entrevista que poderá ser lida na integra em trombone.org
Página oficial de Conrad Herwig e MySpace

BB:............And that's why J. J. really came into his own once modal playing became prominent in jazz, since that was perfectly suited to his approach to the trombone.
CH:Rosolino's playing used a lot of the harmonic series in thirds and fourths, that's really bebop. And if you want to know the truth, as much as I love Frank's playing, you're right, the jump into modal-chromatic playing is really through step-wise playing. That's the difference between Carl Fontana's playing and Rosolino's playing. Carl has a really smooth, step-wise motion. So if you're trying to take a style of, like, John Coltrane or Wayne Shorter, for example, their kind of modality, you can use the technique of J.J.'s or Carl Fontana's playing more than a guy like Rosolino, who's really grounded in a bebop style.
Although both work, because some of the ideas that Rosolino used intervallically, that's what Freddie Hubbard and Woody Shaw were doing later, using fourths and fifths. And really there it is: you can improvise using small intervals, like half-steps and whole steps, you can use fourths and fifths, and then you can use wider leaps. I mean, guys like Dave Liebman do this. Trane did this in some of his later stuff, a wider use of intervals, like jumping octaves, minor ninths, stuff like that. And also octave displacements. It sounds more pointillistic and it's a way of breaking up a chromatic line with wide intervals.
To take it one step further, if you think about it, why is the pentatonic so useful in jazz? What's great about the pentatonic scale? What makes it so motivic? What makes it stick in your ear?
One thing, it's a combination of whole steps and minor thirds. I'm talking right now about a minor pentatonic scale. For example, if the chord change was D minor, it would be D, F, G, A, C, D. What you're getting is minor third, whole step, whole step, minor third, whole step. It's very symmetrical. There're lots of interesting factors about pentatonic scales. They just seem to have a natural quality.
I haven't done an exhaustive historical analysis, and I'm sure there are musicologists that have, but it would be interesting to go back and figure out why in so many different cultures--Balinese gamalon music, Japanese folk music, Korean folk music, African folk music--why is the five-note scale so prevalent? What is it about that five-note scale that makes it so essential to human creativity? And also it seems to be the bridge from bebop into modal playing into what we would call modal-chromaticism and motivic and cellular playing, because the pentatonic is, basically, a cell. It's a five-note motive and it sticks in your ear. So then the so-called habit of going "inside" or "outside" really sets itself up.
It seems to me, in modern, modal-chromatic improvisation what you're trying to achieve is an equation that's universal: simple to complex, and back to simple. If you start complex, it doesn't give you anywhere to go. For example, there is a tune on my New York Breed CD, Code Mode, that centers around a Db minor tonality. Now, realistically the Db minor should be C# minor, if we say it enharmonically. I don't want to be into Fb's and all that stuff, so I'll just say C# minor. A C# minor pentatonic would be C#, E, F#, G#, B, and C#. So those are the inside pentatonic sounds. Well, what are we getting?
We're getting the root, we're getting the minor third, the natural eleventh, the fifth, the dominant seventh, and the root again. So you see that there are no non-harmonic tones. In other words, when you talk about inside playing, inside pentatonic playing means no non-harmonic tones. Now that same C# minor pentatonic, when played over an E major 7 chord, you're getting the thirteenth, root, ninth, third, fifth, and then the thirteenth again. Then when you go to D major 7, you're getting the major seventh, ninth, third, sharp eleventh, thirteenth, and then the major seventh again. So you're getting all the upper structure alterations over D major, and it's still inside the tonality. In other words, there are no so-called "outside" notes." So what sets itself up then is what I call "control of dissonance." You're controlling your alterations.
My solo on Code Mode basically consists of inside pentatonic sounds. And there's lots of little tricks you can use. There's a rule: if it's a minor seventh chord, say Db minor 7, you can play the minor pentatonic off the root (as I spelled it out before), the minor pentatonic off the fifth (Ab, Cb, Db, Eb, Gb, Ab), or the minor pentatonic off the ninth (Eb, Gb, Ab, Bb, Db, Eb), and have no "wrong" notes. That is, there'll be no non-harmonic tones. Really, we want to get away from saying there are "wrong" notes, because there are basically no wrong notes anyway. Nothing is wrong, it's only contextual and the way you harness, the way you control, dissonance. Some people might think, "Well, that's an intellectual approach." The thing, though, is that there's a duality in jazz soloing, just like in life, between the intuitive and the intellectual. You have to train your intuition by your intellect. In other words, what really matters the most is what sounds good, but you use your brain to figure out what sounds good.
Now, there are no hard and fast rules. There are just what I call "jumping-off points," points of departure. If you figure out the inside pentatonic sounds those are pretty obvious, because what we're talking about is no non-harmonic tones. Now, once you start using non-harmonic tones, or so-called outside playing, that's basically what we call superimposition, which means superimposing a different tonality onto another tonality.

BB:How would that work, let's say, over the Db minor tonality you're talking about here?
CH: This goes back to some of the innovations of John Coltrane, for example, superimposing tonalities based on minor thirds. Let's say if you wanted to superimpose something on Db (or C#) minor, you could superimpose an E minor pentatonic (E, G, A, B, D, E), up a minor third. Or you could do a pattern utilizing minor thirds. You could do a Db minor pentatonic, an E minor pentatonic, a G minor pentatonic, and a Bb minor pentatonic, back to Db minor pentatonic, up in minor thirds.
A real common one, and this is one that you hear Coltrane do--and Dave Liebman has talked about this little pattern--would be Db minor pentatonic, then E minor pentatonic, then down a whole step to D minor pentatonic, then slide a half-step down back to Db minor pentatonic. What you have to realize is that all this time the bass is not going anywhere. The bass stays on Db minor 7. Now another super-crucial point is that you have to get sensitive comping from the rhythm section.
The word "comping" has come from the word "accompaniment," but really, I like to think of the word "comping" coming from the word "complement." For example, one thing that's necessitated is that the chords that are complementing the solo have to be more open-voiced, for example, in what we call "chordal voicings," chords voiced in fourths.
BB:Why does that kind of voicing work better?
CH Let's say in this case it's Db minor or, enharmonically, C# minor. You have C#, F# and B natural. Well the thing is, you have the root, you have the eleventh, and you have the dominant seventh. But you don't have any other color tones in there. You have the dominant seventh, but you don't have the minor third. When the voicing is ambiguous, it gives you more of an opportunity to superimpose different things on top of it than if the chord was voiced C#, E, G#, B.
BB:Then there would be no doubt about what chord it is.
CH: Yeah. It's all there, and it can work almost as a handcuff.
Like I said, the word is really complement, and not only to the soloist. If we step away for the moment from pentatonics and just talk about soloing in general, you have to pick your spots. I mean, I don't always play pentatonics. For example, I just did this recording with Benny Golson where we did Killer Joe. Well, I didn't play modal-pentatonic-chromatic out stuff over my solo. I mean, if you're standing next to Benny Golson, you better be able to play at least some form or some facsimile of hard bop. So what you have to do is call your shots.
What I'm saying is that this style, used in the right context, can open you up. And if you want to start to come to grips with the innovations of the 1960s, then you have to know something about this modal-chromatic-pentatonic approach to playing. And there are a lot of aspects other than pure pentatonic playing. It's not just pentatonics. It happens to be modality. Studying really goes back to the ancient church modes: Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, and Locrian modes, which just happen to be major scales from the first step to the first step, second step to second step, etc. You have to know that. Pentatonics is a way of opening up those modes melodically and intervallically.
Then there's intervallic playing, using intervals and using motivic development, not just pentatonics. You can't just run scales. But it's a jumping-off place. Really the way I look at pentatonics, they're like tonal fields. Or it's like the artist's palette. For example, heavy artists, they don't just show up with a box of paint. They take a palette and they have the primary colors laid out and they have other colors all laid out. Before they've even touched the canvas they have their colors in order. So for us, we have our modes, we have pentatonics, we have chromatic approaches, which we're not really talking about here, either. Dave Liebman talks about the difference between tonal and atonal chromaticism and the use of non-harmonic sounds. It's all sort of spread out on a palette and we take and we create our solo the way an artist creates on a canvas. It's like a sonic canvas, and we have this tonal color and that tonal color, and our instrument is the brush. And we also use our sound.
Sometimes we have an airy sound. Sometimes we have a penetrating sound. Sometimes our sound is tender. If you're playing a ballad and you play really loud and rough and abrasive, it sounds out of context. And the same way if it's a burning up-tempo, real energy tune and you're playing really laid back and with a small sound, it's not contextual. We have to match it. So we're really like sonic artists. That's the way I look at it. But one thing I'm trying to stress is that you don't have to play like this exclusively. Nothing is exclusive.
You know, styles come and go. There's lots of styles. But the ability to expound or be fluent in musical ideas bridges styles. So what's the reason to check out this stuff? Well the reason is, you might get called for a gig and the cats are playing modal tunes. They're into a Coltrane bag. So if you don't know that, it limits you. The same way that if you don't know how to take a plunger solo on a Bb blues, it limits you from working there. So even for people who really want to pursue a particular thing, like they have their own gig and want to play bebop, the reason to check this out is to have another color on your palette.
The point is, it's not about scales. It's not about notes. It's not about licks. It's about transcending your own ego. It's about transcending your own desires. It's about expressing something inside of yourself that there's no other way to express other than on your instrument. For me, I'm really only myself when I'm playing my trombone.

BB:At this point, I'd like you to talk a bit about John Coltrane and the influence he has had on you.
CH:When we talked about that duality between intellect and intuition, John Coltrane used his intellect to train his intuitive improvisational nature to the highest degree that has yet been known. Ultimate technique. Ultimate control. But really, it actually boils down to ultimate freedom through ultimate discipline.
Coltrane is probably my biggest role model because he went from playing bebop with Dizzy Gillespie's band, to playing with Monk, playing with Miles, playing standards. He encompassed the blues language, what we would call "jazz common practice"--the ii-V-I language--modality in the early '60s, chromaticism, and along with guys like Eric Dolphy and Archie Shepp and Pharoah Sanders and, of course, Ornette Coleman, created modern avant garde music in the jazz context. And there was nothing exclusive about Coltrane. He included all folk musics, Caribbean music, Brazilian music, African music, Indian music, Oriental musics, European musics. He dug classical. He dug everything. And not only did he dig it, he understood it and conceptualized it and then integrated it into his own playing.
He also had the ability to include spirituality in his playing. I think that's one thing that can't be lost. I wish I was about 20 years older, only for the sense that I could have seen a guy who was on this earth who encompassed all these styles and never stopped growing. You know, a lot of players could have taken a five-year period out of Coltrane's life and made an entire career out of it. Certain guys have. But Coltrane, every five to eight years, just kept changing up his playing. And sometimes even quicker than that. If you take, say, from '60-'61 until '67, I mean, it got to the point where he was changing up every 18 months or less. And who knows? People talk about music for the twenty-first century or they ask, "What would the new jazz be?" Obviously, it would have been whatever John Coltrane played on his next album. That is the music of the twenty-first century. Coltrane was there--he just happened to be there in the '60s.
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