Hi folks, I’m very excited about our Wood/Metal/Plastic premiere next Friday at The Sound Room in Oakland. The music is really coming together and I’m looking forward to getting it off the page and into your ears! (Tickets here!)
Last night I had the chance to visit the great local DJ and music writer Larry Kelp’s “Sing Out” show on KPFA to talk about the project and share some rehearsal audio. You can listen to the show here (for two weeks I believe).
And here’s some footage from our recent rehearsal with snippets of several tunes. It’s a little rough around the edges as we were still working on the music, but should give you a taste of what kinds of things we’ll be up to at the show. Hope to see you there!
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 yourInterview 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.
A couple of years ago I was asked by author and trumpeter Thomas Erdmann to participate in an interview for his book How Jazz Trumpeters Play Music Today, along with 11 other players of varying renown including Christian Scott, Wadada Leo Smith and the late (great) Ted Curson.
We had a very interesting conversation covering a lot of ground, but since the book has been out for a while, and isn’t in a price range where most people can afford to pick up a copy (currently around $200, which I guess is the norm for academic publishing these days), I asked Dr. Erdmann for permission to post a few excerpts, which I’ll be posting in bits and pieces. Here’s the first:
One can’t help but know, in listening to you, that it’s obvious you practice the trumpet; people don’t just pick up the trumpet and sound like you do without putting in the time. What does a practice session of yours look like these days?
Thank you—it has not been a straight-line journey as I’m sure any musician in their middle age will tell you. I went through years of really difficult embouchure challenges that I think were formative for me. I was late in getting serious about practicing. I played the French horn up until high school, and didn’t get serious about practicing the trumpet until I was 16 or so. But at that first burst of trumpet interest things came really easy. I had high chops even though I wasn’t doing it in a healthy way; using lots of pressure and making all of the usual mistakes. In college I was unsatisfied with the pace of my progress and felt I had to move things along faster, so I was going to fix my embouchure for good. At the time I played out of the side of my mouth and so I decided I was going to move my embouchure by playing right in the middle of my chops. That would be the secret to finding a shortcut. Instead of being a shortcut it ended up being 10 years of wandering in the wilderness where I could not count on anything from day to day. It was tough, and there were many times I was on the verge of quitting.
There were some really positive things that came out of this like discovering late Chet Baker after his chops got smashed. I learned how much music there is to be made even if your body is not at its best that day. As messed up as he got he never lost that amazing gift for melody and swing. There is a version of But Not For Mehe did on The Touch Of Your Lips where he plays a trumpet solo and then scats a solo and there’s almost no difference in feel between the two of them. The trumpet and the chops have nothing to do with what he was doing musically at that time; he was “letting a song go out of his heart” if you will. To me, that was a valuable lesson. … As things started to slowly get better with the help of teachers as well as dumb luck, and as I worked my chops back to regularity—it’s easy to kick myself over that detour—but as I came back to chops normality after having learned all of these lessons about music, the trumpet and my chops, I think it took all of that mess to be at the level of self-knowledge that I am now in terms of how my chops work and how to play.
I forget who said it, but the saying goes, “There are two things you should work on, stuff you’re good at and stuff you’re not good at.” The reason is that on the stuff you’re not good at you need to develop it, but with the stuff you’re good at you also want to work on it because it will become your sound, your thing. You don’t want to stop working on things you do well, you want to build on those things.
Hello folks! If you missed our CD release show last week, you have another chance to see this band and hear music from our new CD on Kabocha Records, Interview Music. (The title is sort of an inside joke about the jazz scene. More on that here.)
This Sunday (4/24) at 4pm we are thrilled to be returning to Chez Hanny in San Francisco’s Portola District, an intimate “jazz salon” that has been presenting unique concerts for over a decade.
The band will feature my longtime partners in crime Kasey Knudsen on alto saxophone, Sheldon Brown on bass clarinet and tenor saxophone, Jon Arkin on drums, Fred Randolph on bass, Adam Shulman on piano, and myself on trumpet. We will be playing all the music from the new album (including my four-part title suite) plus new expanded arrangements of music from our previous albums Sink/Swim, Contextualizin’, and Roads & Codes (“★★★★½” —DownBeat).
Chez Hanny (click link for more info) is located at 1300 Silver Avenue, San Francisco. $20 donation is requested. Email reservations are strongly recommended (see previous link) as seating is first come, first served (doors open at 3:30pm). I hope to see you there!
BUT: If you can’t make it and still want to hear Interview Music, the album is now available on CDBaby , Amazon, and iTunes . And you can hear a full track from the suite here:
ALSO: A few weeks ago I was fortunate to be invited to do an interview with Alisa Clancy on our great local jazz station KCSM to talk about the album. You can listen to the interview below.
ALSO ALSO: I’m going to be playing this Saturday afternoon with the great drummer and composer Bryan Bowman and his quintet at a new house concert venue in the East Bay. The show is at 4pm at 1034 Talbot Ave. in Albany, $10 donation requested. Thanks!
Duocracy has only been out a few days (pick up a copy here!), but we’re already seeing some nice reviews coming in, which is really gratifying. Here are some of the first batch!
From a thoughtful review from Stephen Graham on the great site marlbank (check out the site for two versions which inspired our rendition of “Goodbye”):
More traditionally minded on the surface at least than Roads and Codes, last year’s Ian Carey Quintet + 1 outing, Duocracy opens with ‘Little White Lies,’ the Walter Donaldson song from 1930 that Paul McCartney has mentioned was a childhood favourite of John Lennon’s. Trumpeter Carey, who’s in his late thirties and is from New York state, teams here with NYC-born pianist Ben Stolorow a few years his junior who debuted in 2008 with I’ll Be Over Here and whose input gives the album its deceptively early jazz feel. Carey has width and expressive resource in his approach, Stolorow too, and while Roads and Codes found Carey more in Dave Douglas-land here the trumpet stylings are far more mainstream, for instance the sound of Ruby Braff springs to mind a bit, and I suppose Stolorow could be compared to the late Dave McKenna in that his style borders on stride but never quite goes the full furlong as that would be just too retro. … Ultimately whatever the way in to the song, and the same applies for the album as a whole, while Stolorow and Carey play their own particular blend of goodbye, jazz fans may well prefer a firm hello to this appealing duo. (3 1/2 stars)
Face it, a duo format is almost as “naked” as a performer can get so any apprehensions from the artists are more than understandable … yet there is unique chemistry that allows Carey and pianist Ben Stolorow to form a dynamic duo of sorts that slays the more pop oriented tunes from the classic days of jazz. Ben moves well away from the more traditional role of accompanist to achieve that “duocracy” of equal lyrical footing… There is an understated eloquence that takes hold throughout the release. Melody is back, changes are done with finesse and not a self-indulgent pretentiousness that may find one artist attempting to out perform the other. While the tunes are familiar and some bordering on eclectic, the original composition “Comin’ Along” is an abstract showstopper formed around the Benny Golson standard “Along Came Betty.” Rodgers and Hart’s “You Took Advantage of Me” is the perfect vehicle for the harmonic gifts of pianist Stolorow. The Mancini tune ” Two For The Road” is a master class for trumpet players that are looking to work on a more expressive tone, Carey simply nails it. (5 stars)
San Francisco jazzmen Carey (trumpet) and Stolorow (piano) did some gigging together last year in the Bay Area and decided to make it legit, the result being Duocracy. The album offers 10 tracks, including American Songbook standards and showpieces like “Cherokee.” Carey’s tone and approach are in the hard-bop style, somewhere between Lee Morgan and Clifford Brown in their bouncier moods. Stolorow skillfully backs him up, and there’s a meeting of the minds on every song. When two fine players are having fun, it’s good to listen in.
Always interesting to read which influences different listeners hear in one’s playing! From Chris Spector in the Midwest Record:
After years of striving and making albums everyone raves about, this duo that has worked a lot together but never recorded together decided to take a tip from us and go after hours. Just the two of them smoking it up hotel piano bar style on a set card of warhorses carries the day quite nicely and you can tell they enjoy recording with the pressure off. In fact, these Bay area staples sound like they were kicking it out in the bar at this swank hotel on the rehabbed Berkeley waterfront with the sun going down in the background and the glasses clinking. First class throughout, loaded with the joy of playing for the fun of it. Infectious–in a good way!
The duo of Richmond trumpeter Ian Carey and Albany pianist Ben Stolorow is the most adventurous and exciting trumpet-pianist pairing since cornetist Ruby Braff and pianist-organist Dick Hyman played together a quarter century ago. But whereas Braff and Hyman’s music was rooted in the pre-bop mainstream, these two East Bay musicians draw stylistically on a somewhat later era. They have a terrific new CD titled Duocracy on which their approach to melody, harmony, and rhythm suggests Thelonious Monk as they playfully explore “Cherokee,” “Little White Lies,” “You Took Advantage of Me,” “All the Things You Are,” and other popular standards, plus Gigi Gryce’s “Social Call,” Monk’s “Four in One,” and a tune of their own.
Meanwhile, I was a guest on KCSM’s great Desert Island Jazz show last week, and had a great time talking about some of my all-time favorite music with host Alisa Clancy and producer Michael Burman. My playlist can be found here–it was incredibly challenging to winnow my list down to 8 tracks, but I feel good about who made the final cut. I also recommend taking some time to check out their full list of past guests and picks (who range from local heroes to international legends), which is fascinating. You can listen to my episode here:
Finally, don’t forget that Ben & I have one more CD release show next Friday (March 7)–our North Bay version–at Old St. Hilary’s in Tiburon. If you weren’t able to make it to the Jazzschool (uh, make that California Jazz Conservatory!), please consider heading to beautiful Marin County next week to hear us!
Hi folks, I’m continuing to be happy with the good press and airplay Roads & Codes has been getting–it’s in the top 100 in the U.S. jazz charts, and the top ten in Canada, which is more than I expected for an album with no standards and multiple tracks over ten minutes.
Meanwhile, here are two quick audio cuts for you–first, I had a nice chat yesterday with Nicholas Mokover at KZSC (UC Santa Cruz). We talked for about ten minutes about my background, and the old NYC vs. Bay Area question. The entire interview is here:
Second, here’s another cut from our Takoyaki 3 show last month in Berkeley–this is our version of the classic Ornette Coleman anthem “Lonely Woman” (originally on The Shape of Jazz to Come). Check out the looping effects at the end of the track–that’s something I’ve been experimenting with more & more since originally attempting it to recreate the effects we used on our version of the theme from “Dead Man” (which you can hear a streaming version of here).