Matthew Shipp Interview, NYC

By Filipe Freitas

Matthew Shipp, 2017 ©Clara Pereira

Matthew Shipp, 2017 ©Clara Pereira


Name: Matthew Shipp
Instrument: piano
Style: contemporary jazz, modern creative
Album Highlights: Pastoral Composure (Thirsty Ear, 2000), Equilibrium (Thirsty Ear, 2003), Piano Song (Thirsty Ear, 2016)




You have two fresh records coming out on ESP-Disk label in February, one solo (Zero) and one in quartet (Sonic Friction). 
What's the concept behind Zero?

There is no concept behind Zero except for a questioning of the same metaphysical concepts that have always been what I ask - How things come out of nothing? How poles of energy cohere into events and things? And the polarity between the abyss and the manifested. The abyss has always interested me and the poles of desire that the universe uses to make diversity come out of unity, so the universe can get to know itself, which it cannot by being the one entity it is. Also, the invisible glue that holds the world together is a fascination of mine. This is where I was at when I recorded the CD.

By listening to it, one can easily identify classical and blues elements. They are used, not in their traditional forms, but always as vehicles for your creative process. Which are your main influences/inspirations in these currents?
I don’t think in terms of genre. I think in terms of fields of energy that sort of manifest as language or what you might call a genre, so, classical music per-se does not interest me, but many classical composers touch on the ideas I like, and they interest me for that reason, not for the fact that they are classical composers. The language fields that have meant something to me are Bach, Chopin, Joplin, Webern, Debussy, etc. It's more the idea of a language field that interests me. I like Xenakis as far as math being a language along with the music. As far as blues goes, the blues is a field of resonance, and I don’t know if I have any specific influences within the blues language, but it is connected to a feeling and an emotion and though I play space blues like Sun Ra. I still have an interest in the field, and resonance, hence the blues.

Sonic Friction marks the fourth collaboration with Mat Walerian. How did you guys meet and who first had the idea of recording?
Mat Walerian contacted an old agent of mine. I originally did not want to work with him, mainly because I am not at a point of enlarging the sphere of people I play with. However, he used as a reference Hamid Drake, who he had done some playing with, and Hamid told me he thought we would be great together. So, based on Hamid's recommendation, I did a concert with Walerian. When I first shook hands with him, I knew we would really hit it off and it just happened. Things just took on a life of its own after that.

Walerian and Ivo Perelman are your frequent collaborators, but different sound explorers. In your point of view, what do they bring to your music in order to enrich it?
Ivo Perelman and Walerian are completely different animals. Both of them mean a lot to me. First of all, they are from different generations. Ivo is my age, and since we are the same generation, we tend to have a very similar worldview and way of going about things. Walerian is a whole different, pole of energy, and to some extent he was shaped by my generation, despite the fact that he obviously is influenced by some of the same people I am, like Coltrane, etc. 
Ivo, in some ways, postures himself in ways like David S. Ware and Charles Gayle would, in a certain tradition of a tenor hero, whereas Walerian does not posture himself as a sax hero. I'm not sure how I would word his posture, but it's different and a new form and mode of presentation plus he has found a really unique and unpretentious way of wedding his Zen and martial arts philosophy to the music. What both have in common is a real honesty about who they are. Both are very honest and completely unpretentious. They are vibrant for that reason plus their talents.

You had electronics, synth, and programming added to some of your past albums such as Nu Bop and Equilibrium. What are your thoughts about the use of technology in music?
I have no thoughts about electronica in jazz. I did it for a while and, at that time, it was perfect for what I was exploring and I am glad I did some projects like that, but as far as what others are doing, they have to do what is right for them and, in most cases, if they are doing it, I assume it's because it needs to be done. At this point, I am weeded to acoustic jazz for myself.

What else besides music interests you?
Interests other than music: metaphysics, fighting (boxing and martial arts), politics, history, literature. All kinds of things actually. This is a rich world. No one should ever be bored. If you are, it's your fault.

As a prolific creator, are you happy with the current music business? What would you change immediately if you had that power?
I do not feel the music industry is headed to a good place, but I don’t feel too good about many things in society. I have serious problems with streaming. I am glad I made my name in industry days before what we have now. There are so many things about modern culture that are very shallow and virtual or not really real. People have some serious soul searching to do about values that are solid and real, and in some ways, the way things have gone do not facilitate the values I think are important. I hope things do not have to crash before people are forced to reevaluate a lot of things. The music industry has no center today. It takes incredible persistence and willpower to cut a niche out for yourself in the middle of all the noise out here. It has always been like that but culture has seemed to have taken a dip down. Of course, there are tons of talented people with something to say out here, but there is some nasty haze over everything these days, so, an artist has to be really concentrated in their own source code.

What was the first jazz record you fell in love with?
The first jazz album that really interested me was Phineas Newborn Jr.'s Solo Piano.

Can you name two persons whom you've never collaborated with but you would like to?
Kool Keith and Ikue Mori. I would also love to play with the great saxist James Spaulding.

You have found your own voice. What's your advice for the ones who are still trying to find theirs?
I feel lucky that I found my voice. Don’t know what to say to people who ask how. You have to really trust yourself. How you do that, I don’t know. You must have an intense desire to have your own voice, you must have the poetic vision to follow your own demons and thought forms. Hopefully, you can draw on something primal that you knew as a 3-year-old. Of course, at that time, you would have had no way to articulate what you knew on an instrument or in any other form, but there are secrets in nature that we are aware of as kids that are educated out of us at a later date. You need to find some way to break down the layers of socialization that were thrust upon you by society and to find your primal self.

Any other projects for 2018?
Concerts with my trio, solo, and with Ivo Perelman. There might be a film also, more on that later.

Uri Gurvich Interview, NYC

By Filipe Freitas

Uri Gurvich, 2017, ©Clara Pereira

Uri Gurvich, 2017, ©Clara Pereira




Name: Uri Gurvich
Instrument: tenor and soprano saxophone
Style: contemporary jazz
Album Highlights: The Storyteller (Tzadik, 2009), BabEl (Tzadik, 2013), Kinship (Jazz Family, 2017)







When did you decide to become a saxophonist? How did it happen?
I started playing the saxophone at age of 10. When I got into high school I was already pretty serious with it and got more into the instrument. Eventually as the years passed it evolved into being my profession. It wasn’t a certain decisive moment; it was just something that happened naturally.

Who are your favorite saxophonists?
My top three are John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, and Cannonball Adderley. These are the three I studied the most. I also love Joe Henderson, Sonny Rollins, Joe Lovano and Michael Brecker. 

Kinship is such a strong word and concept, which was the conceptual basis for your new album.  How did the idea come up as motivation/inspiration?
With the album Kinship, the compositions came first and then the title. I tried to write tunes that had a certain connection or a shared message, showing the band’s special bond as a multi-national group of people. Being from four different countries, we have certain cultural differences but we share a common language and affinity through music. On a broader scale, we have seen a lot of divisions within society (especially in recent months), but our goal with this album was to spread a message of global unity. For me, the word “kinship” evokes all of these ideas.

Can you talk a bit about your compositional process?
I don’t have a specific compositional process, but I usually try to start with one decisive element; it can be a certain form, groove, portraying a certain place or person etc., even though sometimes this leads to a completely different thing! Then I see where it takes me from there. Also, I often write some little ideas or motifs in a notebook, and many times will go back to it or utilize some of those. Every couple of years, I try to keep the compositions within a certain vibe, with the hope of eventually creating a cohesive book/album of compositions. 

Tells us an adjective that better describes you, and then do the same for your bandmates.
I think that the best adjective that describes us is – Courageous.

Your top three jazz albums?
John Coltrane – Crescent, Charlie Parker – Bird with Strings, John Coltrane – Live at the Half Note, and many others... 

Name two musicians whom you've never collaborated with, but you'd like to.
It would be a dream to collaborate with Chick Corea or Bill Frisell.

What do you have to say about the current jazz scene?
I think that jazz music, all around the world, brings positive energy and uplifts the listeners’ spirits in these hard times. For me, that’s what jazz is about. Of course, the jazz scene is changing and will change as the world changes, but the message is here to stay. 

Can you briefly describe the hardest and the happiest moments of your career?
My happiest moments have definitely been playing live music in different parts of the world. Usually, these moments were achieved through hard work and sometimes struggle, making them all the more memorable.

Projects for the future?
This fall, I’ll be presenting the new album in Germany, France, and Spain and also will be touring across Europe with the Danish bassist Kenneth Dahl Knudsen, and with the Argentinian guitarist Ramiro Olaciregui in Ecuador. 
I’m also working on writing music for two new projects, which I’ll present in January 2018 in a weeklong residency at the Stone – one is a chord-less quartet featuring trumpet player Adam O’Farrill, and the other is an electric-centered band featuring bassist Panagiotis Andreou. 

Cooper-Moore talks about Vision Festival 22 and his music, NYC

By Filipe Freitas

Cooper-Moore at Vision 21, 2016 ©Clara Pereira 

Cooper-Moore at Vision 21, 2016 ©Clara Pereira 



Name: Cooper-Moore
Instrument: piano, harp, hand-crafted instruments
Style: avant-garde jazz, contemporary jazz
Projects: Digital Primitives, Black Host, William Parker's In Order to Survive. 







American pianist Cooper-Moore will be at the Arts For Art's Vision Festival 22 on May 29th with three different projects. This year the Festival is honoring him with the Lifetime Achievement Award.

You've been a constant presence in the Vision Festival, which by itself is an achievement. 
What does this Festival, and especially this Lifetime Achievement Award, represent to you?

It’s a high honor. It is recognition by some, that during my life I’ve in some way been a contributor to and instrumental in the creation and growth of the communities where I have been a part. Being selected for a lifetime achievement award for this year’s Vision 22 Festival is especially rewarding in that I have always believed in the goals of Arts for Art and the Festival from their beginnings.

Besides Digital Primitives and Gerald Cleaver's Black Host, which are relatively recent projects, you'll be playing with William Parker's In Order to Survive, just like it happened almost 20 years ago in Vision 1. 
What do you think are the main changes both in the festival and in the way you make music? 

Digital Primitives goes back 15 or 16 years, not recent. It happens to be the ensemble with which I have most recorded, toured and performed, of the three that I’ll be performing in on May 29th at Judson Church.
Producing the Festival cost a lot more money. 
It is shorter by half or more. 
The Festival pays better than it did 20 years ago and has, by its pay policy example, been instrumental in increasing the fees that musicians are awarded in some of the newer created festivals in New York City. 
The audiences are older.
I perform with fewer and fewer people. 
I am more efficient in my playing. I know where I want to go when I begin to play. There are people who say, “Come, and let’s take a trip, a musical journey.” They say that they don’t know where the journey will take them or us. That might be how I was in the distant past. But as an elder of the music, that is not how I feel anymore. 

What made you choose avant-garde/free jazz in detriment of bop variations and mainstream?
Avant-garde/free jazz are not terms which I have ever labeled myself. When I was twelve years old and started listening to the music it was labeled progressive. What I do is for me a next step. The music has never stayed the same. It has always moved on, standing on the shoulders of those who have gone before. Labels are often a problem in that they infer judgment, hierarchy, and status.
The music that I play is nearly all blues based. Blues is music that I grew up listening to. In my mid-teens, I heard Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk. They were all playing music that was obviously blues based. It was new blues. Teens are always looking for something new. So I started playing from those roots.
How tough can be the life of an alternative jazz musician in NY? Any advice for the younger musicians who are giving their first steps? 
I do not consider myself an alternative anything. I am a musician. But your question might suggest that those who follow a more traditional, conservative path, to how the music has grown and progressed, are practicing that which is alternative. What most people listen to is what they are in the habit of listening to. This habit of listening, just like the diet of most folks, is formed early in life and is not easily changed.
But to your questions: Life for any artist in America can be tough. The creative life makes us vulnerable to many of the difficulties of life. The best way to do what you want to do is to hang out with the folks who do what you want to do. Learning from a mentor or in an apprenticeship is the best way to move ahead as a young creative artist. Work on doing what you want to do as much as you can. Be obsessed. 

You not only play a bunch of different instruments but you also design and build them. Where did this passion come from?
Building instruments is not a passion. I build an instrument if an idea for one comes to me that I believe I can make manifest in a short length of time, a day or two. Or I build because I have to replace one that is broken or no longer playable.  

What other styles do you listen to? Tells us your favorite musician for each style.
First, I am my favorite musician.    
I don’t listen to music other than the music that I am creating unless it’s music that I have to learn. Then I drown my ears and my brain in it.

Tell me 2 persons who marked you the most as a musician.
Both were born and raised in Washington DC, where I spent a lot of time: Duke Ellington and Lawrence “Fox” Wheatley 

Tell me 2 musicians whom you've never worked with, but you'd like to.