Adam Rogers Discusses His Imminent Debut Release and More
AAJ: Can we look forward to you getting on the circuit a little more?
AR: That's my plan, I haven't done that much. I had those two great opportunities without even having a record out. I haven't really fully assaulted the idea of touring because I haven't had a record that's out and distributed.
AAJ: It must be tough for you..you have to weigh record dates and New York club dates against road work.
AR: I love touring and I love being home. It's a balance. I love being in different places and playing music. Hopefully I'll be doing more out-of-town dates with my own stuff as this and hopefully more records come out.
AAJ: How about the Uri Caine project you were on?
AR: I did a record Uri produced for a singer for Knitting Factory Works. I've played with Uri a lot, like on Binney's last record. Last May we went to Italy and performed concerts of Schumann music. We did a couple of concerts playing two consecutive opuses, one of which was performed by a string quartet and one of which was a song cycle that we played. Uri's recording of this music, which David Gilmore is on, has his arrangements of the song cycle. Live, we did the string quartet in traditional form and then Uri's take on it. We'd go back and forth onstage and we attempted to do it seamlessly. His versions ranged from straight ahead to bossa to country to gospel.
AAJ: You must be the ideal cat for that considering where your coming from.
AR: I loved doing it. Having a classical background, I feel I have some insight into it. I love playing classical music on its terms, not necessarily a take on it. One of the great challenges of classical is that you have these giants of composition throughout history and the music exists already, you are not creating it, so you, to some extent, have to go to it. Its demands on your technique and musicality are set by the music and you've got a history of guys who have already played it and played it incredibly..so it's such a challenge. You concentrate on sound, phrasing and interpretation. You're not focusing on improvisation so it becomes about a beautiful sound, a consistency of phrasing, a concept of phrasing, what you're going to do with the piece, what voices you're going to bring out and how you choose to phrase certain motifs.
AAJ: Hip me to the Klezmer side.
AR: For classical I studied with a great guy who ended up giving up classical music, Robert Secrist, and then my second teacher was Frederick Hand, who has played Lute and guitar tat the Metropolitan Opera for years. This was around 1990. He was a great teacher because he had done a lot of things classical guitarists don't do...a lot of ensemble music outside of the idiom. He brought a wider perspective to the teaching but he also referred me to numerous people as well because I could read well and had performed all these types of music. He was called by the manager of one of the most extraordinary musicians I've ever heard. His name is Giora Feidman, an Argentinean born clarinetist who was in the Israel Philharmonic for 25 years. He's very well known in Germany and Europe. They called me in '90 and I took the gig, which was a pretty incredible because I had never really toured before, and musically it was a great learning experience for me, although it was really outside of what I was focusing on. I was raised in a Jewish household, but it was a music that I really had not been exposed to that much - and this guy is just a phenomenal musician and clarinetist. He was really versed in classical and his take on Klezmer comes from a classical angle in terms of sound and refinement of approach- then, some of his stuff sounds like a Jewish wedding. We went to Russia, Europe and South America- playing with him taught me a lot about music. I played on about six of his records. Without sounding schmaltzy- he has an element of his playing that sounds like an Imam in a Mosque making the call to prayer. To a secular person it sounds like music, but it's actually prayer, a recitation of the Koran. When I was in Cairo in 1996 and would stand outside these mosques it just sounded like the most amazing music to me. At shows, Giora would do a prayer at some point. At different points in his life he was a devout follower of some aspect of Judaism, whether it was kabalisti with his back to the audience, and it was just incredible. It really reminded me sometimes of Coltrane and I realized that one of the things that always impressed me about Coltrane is that his music is so spiritual and so deeply emotional to me. I remember playing with Giora and being reminded of 'Trane. It wasn't because he was playing like Coltrane but because it had the sound of someone praying.
On a musical level he was demanding of playing things with a real intent.That boom-chink-boom-chink etc. of Klezmer might be something people feel is easy, but if you really get into it, and try to play it with grace and rhythm and a real intent, it can be very challenging, Whatever you're doing, know what you're doing. If you want it to sound kind of rough and folksy then do that, but don't just do it because you're not thinking about it. To have an intent in what you're doing is always in my mind, in a way. To conceptualize, 'What are you doing? What is it you are trying to communicate?', and having some kind of an awareness. Think of conductors. A certain conductor might bring specific feelings in a piece, a sad aspect or a fast tempo, or different concepts here and there in the music. The players that are powerful to me have this quality.
I played a little bit with the Klezmatics and I do some work with Frank London, their trumpet player. Then, I played with David Krakauer for a little more than a year. I played on two of his records. The last one we did, Klezmer in New York, is a very creative record. He was completely different than Giora in that I played electric guitar and I was kind of like the wild card. I would play wah and distortion and crazy stuff, around which was traditional Klezmer music.