Tag Archives: Ben Stolorow

Interview Excerpt: On “Definitive Versions” of Tunes and Playing Fast

Here’s another excerpt from my interview in Thomas Erdmann’s book How Jazz Trumpeters Play Music Today. (Part 1 is here. )

On “Definitive Versions” of Tunes

TE: When I interviewed Chris Botti he said that after Wynton Marsalis recorded “Cherokee” no one else should ever record that tune. I beg to differ, and your recording of “Cherokee” [from Duocracy with pianist Ben Stolorow) proves my point. You found a unique and original way to approach the difficult changes by playing a series of wonderfully connected short motives before you work yourself into serving as an accompanying voice to Ben’s solo… When approaching such defining moment standards, such as “Cherokee,” how do you recommend young trumpeters approach the music in order to make a personal statement?

IC: That’s a good question. It’s interesting Botti said that about Wynton, because if you follow that logic, then Wynton shouldn’t have played it because of what Clifford (Brown) did! But thankfully he did because his recording is pretty amazing. By the way, Wynton probably shouldn’t record it anymore either, because he already set his own high watermark!

This sounds a little cliché, but I think for “Cherokee” or “Giant Steps,” —any of those watershed tunes that are really hard and you have to practice the hell out of—that the answer is that you have to learn them so well you can forget them. I would not have tried to record “Cherokee” 15 years ago, or I might have, but it would have sounded pretty self-conscious.

I talk about this with friends of mine sometimes, where you hear a someone playing along, swinging, then you hear something that sounds like a new lick they just learned. They put the lick in the middle of the solo and it sounds totally prepared and out of context; it doesn’t fit. The solution to that is you need to get tunes like that to a point where it is in the subconscious and subsumed into your musical language. When I listen to our version of “Cherokee,” the thing I’m most happy about is how little it sounds like we’re trying to impress anybody.

For tunes like that, the flag-wavers, as one of my old teachers, the great drummer Michael Carvin, said, there are different ways to approach solos. You can start simple and build; or you can take one motive and develop it; or as he said, “You can come in doin’ it, and keep on doin’ it.” I think that’s great, if players are really at that level. For me, I didn’t want it to ever feel like it was a fast tune. Some of the reviews of that recording said we were playing that tune at a “leisurely tempo,” or something like that—but it’s not at a leisurely tempo! We did it at something close to 300 beats per minute. That was gratifying, to me, that it didn’t sound like it was fast. I think the reason for this was because we both internalized it to the point where we forgot about the tune. When you’re able to forget a tune, you can be surprised, and stumble on things, more so than if you are really conscious of the tune as you’re playing it.

On Playing Fast

TE: Talking about playing fast, on “Cherokee” you also play some beautifully constructed improvised contrapuntal lines with Ben after his solo, not to mention the ripping fast notes that are absolutely locked in the rhythmic pocket. You also play fast flawlessly on “Tom/Tom” from Contextualizin’, and rip it up on your Interview Music CD as well. How do you practice in order to be able to play as fast you do, yet still play so cleanly and rhythmically perfect?

IC: Thank you. This goes back a little to what I said about swing earlier, in that I realized, when I was learning lines back in my 20s, that you really want to practice that stuff evenly. I remember Claudio Roditi came to The New School when I was there. His chops were so fluid, clean and smooth. He was giving people a hard time when we were playing Brazilian tunes about how they were swinging too much. He said, “No, no, play straight, play even.” These were kids who had heard all of the (Stan) Getz records; to me Getz doesn’t sound very Brazilian on them. I remember after that going back to my line practicing—like everyone else I was learning ii-Vs and transcribing Wes Montgomery solos and so on—and taking Roditi’s lessons to heart; trying to practice playing lines perfectly evenly from super slow to fast. If you’re trying to learn something and you start at a slow tempo and are swinging it and not playing evenly, then by the time you get it up to a fast tempo it’ll be a jumbled mess. … I also feel like I don’t sit on fast lines for a long time. I like to use them as a color, throw that color and texture out there, let it sit there and allow people to think about it, and not just have a solo be a constant string of fast notes. If you are judicious about playing fast notes they become more effective than if you’re just burning eighth-notes all the time.

IC Quintet+1 at the Presidio, Duocracy Workshop, Fred Randolph Quintet

Hi folks,

I wanted to let you know about some exciting events coming up:

First, next Friday July 31, I am very happy to be bringing my Quintet+1 to the Presidio Sessions series, which is presented by San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music at the Presidio Officers’ Club. The room is beautiful, parking is easy, and best of all, it’s FREE! (However, seating is limited and these shows have been popular, so they suggest you reserve a spot through Eventbrite.) As a bonus, I’m very excited to have as a special guest, from New York, the amazing flutist and saxophonist (and alumnus of the Quintet+1) Evan Francis. We’ll be playing music from our albums Roads & Codes (“4-1/2 stars” –Downbeat) and my new suite Interview Music (coming to a CD near you in 2016). The series encourages a casual atmosphere and interaction with the musicians (but no stage diving!).

WHAT: The Ian Carey Quintet+1 featuring Evan Francis
WHO: Jon Arkin, drums; Sheldon Brown, bass clarinet & saxophone; Ian Carey, trumpet; Fred Randolph, bass; Adam Shulman, piano; and Evan Francis, flute & saxophone
WHEN: Friday, July 31, 6:00pm-7:30pm
WHERE: The Presidio Officers’ Club, 50 Moraga Ave, San Francisco
HOW MUCH: Free! (Reserve a seat here)

The following Sunday (8/2), my partner-in-crime Ben Stolorow and I will be presenting a two-hour workshop for musicians at the California Jazz Conservatory on the Art of the Duo. Drawing from the techniques presented on our 2014 album Duocracy, we will demonstrate the range of possibilities of the duo, outlining the traditional roles of each instrument as well as showing the potential for creating more abstract contrapuntal textures. Special emphasis placed on the importance of rhythmic feel in performing in this fun yet challenging format. Open to all instrumentalists and improvising vocalists.

WHAT: The Art of the Duo: a Workshop
WHO: Ian Carey, trumpet; Ben Stolorow, piano
WHEN: Sunday, August 2, 2pm-4pm
WHERE: California Jazz Conservatory, 2087 Addison St, Berkeley
HOW MUCH: $30 advance, $45 day of workshop

Finally, after the duo workshop, I will be heading to Portola Vineyards for an evening performance with the great bassist Fred Randoph and his Quintet as part of their summer jazz series. We’ll be playing music from Fred’s great new album Song Without Singing.

WHAT: Portola Vineyards Summer Jazz Presents the Fred Randolph Quintet
WHO: Fred Randolph, bass; Greg Wyser-Pratt, drums; Matt Clark, piano; Rob Roth, tenor saxophone; Ian Carey, trumpet
WHEN: Sunday, August 2, 5:30pm-7pm
WHERE: Portola Vineyards, 850 Los Trancos Rd, Portola Valley, CA
HOW MUCH: $15 adult, $4 child

Thanks, and hope to see you at one or more of these events!

Duocracy Live in Tiburon, 3/1

ben_ian_3Hi folks, I wanted to let you know about a show coming up I’m very excited about–my partner in crime Ben Stolorow and I will be returning to the hills of Tiburon for a Sunday afternoon appearance at the historic Old St. Hilary’s, a former church-turned-beautiful performance venue.

This will be our second appearance at Old St. Hilary’s–our show there last spring was one of my favorite Duocracy shows so far. We’ll be offering our unique take on favorites and forgotten gems from the American Popular Songbook, along with some jazz rarities and possibly even an original or two.  Hope to see you there, and please pass on the word to any North Bay friends!

WHAT: Duocracy (Ben Stolorow, piano; Ian Carey, trumpet)
WHEN: Sunday, March 1, 4:00p
WHERE: Old St. Hilary’s, Tiburon
TICKETS: $20/$15, available here

Spring Update: Three Sundays of Music

Hi folks, happy spring to you all! I’ve been keeping busy, recording what I think will be a great album with drummer and composer Bryan Bowman at the legendary Fantasy Studios, getting ready for my own recording there with the Quintet+1 in April, and playing as much as possible! I wanted to let you know about a few shows coming up which I think you’d enjoy…

First up is a show this Sunday at Rose Pistola in North Beach–pianist Ben Stolorow and I will be joined by bassist Doug Miller for an evening of standards, originals, and jazz rarities.

WHO: Ian Carey, Ben Stolorow, & Doug Miller
WHERE: Rose Pistola, 532 Columbus Ave, SF
WHEN: Sunday, February 15, 8-10:30pm
HOW MUCH: no cover!

The following Sunday, I’ll be back in North Beach playing with the great new big band The Electric Squeezebox Orchestra (formerly the Bay Area Composers’ Big Band, but it’s still almost entirely original music!), led by the great trumpeter Erik Jekabsen and featuring some of the Bay Area’s finest. This is turning into quite a hang, so don’t miss it! (With a little luck I may even have an arrangement to premiere).

WHAT: The Electric Squeezebox Orchestra
WHERE: Doc’s Lab, 124 Columbus Ave, SF
WHEN: Sunday, February 22, 6:30p
HOW MUCH: no cover!

And the Sunday after that, Ben Stolorow and I will bring our duo project Duocracy back to the landmark Old St. Hilary’s (on the hill above beautiful Tiburon) for a very special show featuring our unique take on rarely-heard gems from the American Popular Songbook. This is a great, intimate place to hear music and was one of my favorite shows last year.

WHAT: Duocracy (Ian Carey & Ben Stolorow)
WHERE: Old St. Hilary’s, 201 Esperanza St., Tiburon
WHEN: Sunday, March 1, 4pm
HOW MUCH: $20/$15 (available here)

Hope to see you there!

UPCOMING:

April 24: Tony Corman’s Morchestra featuring Ed Reed, CJC
May 7: Bryan Bowman Quintet, Bird & Beckett
May 16: Ian Carey Quintet+1, The Sound Room

‘Duocracy,’ Canadian-Style

Even though my most recent record, Duocracy, came out way back in February, it’s nice to see it still getting attention here and there. This is a natural result, I think, of the constantly overflowing state of the reviewers’ inboxes—but just like I will occasionally see a CD laying around which I’d forgotten I bought and end up loving it, sometimes a reviewer will get around to a record long after it’s been released. In this case, the reviewer—Peter Hum of the Ottawa Citizen, a very thoughtful writer whose work I’ve read for years—paired the review with another trumpet/piano duo (Dave Douglas’ and Uri Caine’s Present Joys, which I have to pick up!). Here are some highlights from his very kind write-up:

With their fine and refined album Duocracy, trumpeter Ian Carey and pianist Ben Stolorow have a fresh and rewarding musical partnership. The album appeals immediately because the two San Francisco Bay Area musicians, both in their late 30s, are both lean, polished players with lots of facility and flow, but the good taste too to never throw in extra notes. Their disc reveres jazz tradition but feels unbounded too, blessed with spontaneity, poise and personality. The album presents savvy selection of 10 tracks… Cherokee, while taken at its requisite breakneck tempo, feels like a walk in the park, with Carey and Stolorow playing freely and expressively. Stolorow’s a sensitive and varied accompanist throughout the CD, but on Cherokee he really shines as he finds different ways to keep the tune moving forward… There’s more jazz cred on a rendition of Thelonious Monk’s striking, finger-stumping tune Four In One. … Versions of Gigi Gryce’s Social Call, which saunters nicely, and Comin’ Along, a contrafact built on the chord changes of Benny Golson’s Along Came Betty, keep the bop flame burning. On those and a few other tunes, there are stretches of tandem, contrapuntal improvising that stand out for their clarity and simpatico. Trumpet and piano duets pop up infrequently in jazz. Don’t ask me why. And yet, Carey and Stolorow make the pairing sound like the most natural and rewarding team-up going.

Overall I’ve felt that the press Duocracy received mostly focused on the “straightahead-ness” of the record, and failed to hear the ways that Ben and I tried to take the album out of the standards-jam-session model—especially those “stretches of tandem, contrapuntal improvising” Hum mentions above—so it’s gratifying to hear from someone who really picked up on that.