Kent Carter and the Continental Continuum
AAJ: It definitely cuts through on that Communications record [Jazz Composers' Orchestra, Fontana, 1965].
KC: He had all that stuff that he got from Monk, you know.
AAJ: Right, and Herbie Nichols.
KC: Exactly, and what Ros[well] and he were doing was just incredible.
AAJ: What was the first Lacy group you were in? I suppose [drummer] Aldo [Romano] wasn't in the picture yet.
KC: The first things I did with Lacy were in New York; we did a gig with Paul Motian that I remember very well. But this was the period before we went to Europe. We played a few gigs in New York, and then we did a thing for German television in Hamburg. This was a week's work in the studio, and we did a piece called "The Precipitation Suite" and some works based on the texts of Buckminster Fuller. I wish there was a recording of that; the tapes are around somewhere. Maybe Irene [Aebi] has them (I hope). Anyway, Karl Berger and Enrico Rava were on that, and Aldo Romano. It was a fantastic sound that the group had, too. After that, we went to Munich; certain gigs fell through, so we split up for a while. I stayed a month or so and then went back to the States.
AAJ: Lacy then came back to the States too, around '66 and '67.
KC: Right, though actually my first trip to Europe was with Paul Bley, in '64 I think, and I might have gotten together with Lacy then also. Anyway, the Paul Bley Trio went directly to Berlin from New York, and Barry Altschul was the drummer. We played at the Jazz Gallery for a week or two. Then we went to the Montmartre in Copenhagen; that was the period that he was with Annette Peacock. She wrote tunes like "Blood," very interesting tunes.
AAJ: Both Annette and Paul had this ability to waver around a tonal center; it was very ambiguous music, which made it interesting.
KC: Right, exactly, but structurally it was something else. They were very challenging to play on.
AAJ: So as far as small groups, was that a preference for you as compared to playing in the Jazz Composers' Orchestra, or were they worlds apart?
KC: They were worlds apart, but both very engaging. There was another part in Europe when Paul was here, as well as Carla and Mike, and they were putting together this European Jazz Composers' Orchestra. We were doing work for the radio in Holland, and I think Denmark and Germany too. There were people like Prince Lasha, sometimes Archie was there - whoever was in Europe at the time was on that gig, so it was something.
AAJ: As far as your music with both Lacy and Paul Bley, there was a transitional period at around '65, at least from what I can discern with recordings, where an album like Disposability was more straight-ahead and song-oriented, and then a year later, the music seemed totally free. From your perspective, how did that occur?
KC: Well, nothing is totally 'free'...
AAJ: That's true, but as far as 'dropping the tunes,' however...
KC: Well, Lacy wanted openness; he wanted to move out of something and get into another something. He wanted to move. He went through this period (and we all did) of working from scratch, just playing, and out of that process came his composing. I think this freedom was food for his compositions. That period you're referring to is the '70s, all those recordings we did then, right?
AAJ: Actually, I was thinking of the stuff from the later '60s, like Sortie [a completely improvised session from '66], and then up into the early '70s.
KC: I think that during most of the '60s he was still quite melodic; he never lost that, but he was also extending the horn more, which took us into other areas that could be interpreted as a free-for-all, but it wasn't.
AAJ: Spontaneous group creation might be better, then.
KC: Spontaneous group growth.
AAJ: Yes, process music.
KC: Right, exactly.
AAJ: You were also involved in some multimedia performances, bringing in painters and dancers and stuff like that.
KC: At least Lacy was, but there were some things in Judson Hall I think, and there was some contact with [choreographer] Merce Cunningham. We worked with some great dancers in Paris later on as well.
AAJ: Wasn't [painter] Bob Thompson involved too?
KC: Yeah, we hooked up with him in Rome; he was at the academy there.
AAJ: Right, he painted that great work of Ornette and his band, The Garden of Music [and the cover to Lacy's 1966 session The Forest and The Zoo (ESP)]. You've done some multimedia stuff in your own work, though, right?
KC: Oh yes, I've done some art videos and a lot of different things. I work with my wife [Michela Marcus] who is a choreographer, and I work with dance companies as well. I'm starting to work with a dance company in September as a composer and player.
AAJ: How do you integrate dance and music, or how do you view their relationship?
KC: Well, dance is a very beautiful thing and I like to be around it. The function is not quite the same as concert music, but there's a lot of room for creation. A lot of room for interesting things to happen; it's a wonderful environment. I love the theatre, you know.