Rob Reddy: The Fine Line Between Composition and Comfort
AAJ: How much rehearsal did this group have before you did the recording? The performances are very good.
RR: I played out in New York with that ensemble maybe twice and then we did two really healthy, long rehearsals just before the record. They were very relaxed rehearsalsit was actually a rehearsal studio in Brooklyn that doubles as a yoga studio, so we had this beautiful space to stretch out in, no pun intended, for two days. So we could really rehearse the music and just relax with it. And really get to know it. It was great; I seem to remember always scrambling in the past just to get one or two rehearsals before the record if I hadn't already played the music out live a lot. Everybody just learned the music really well. I would say that about 75 percent of what's on the record had already been played out live by the guys a couple of times at least. Then there were two or three new things that I had just brought into the rehearsals a couple days before. It wasn't overly rehearsed but everybody really took the time to learn the music.
I remember the first rehearsal of that band. Everybody was really excited because it just worked as an ensemble personality-wise and sound-wise. It's just a great band to be around. It's a pleasure. It's really easy. And it was the same with the recording session. It was a good time; it didn't feel like work or that I was conscious of making a record. class="f-right s-img"> Return to Index...
AAJ: That does sound like a band you can't break up. "The Unnamable is a glorious, wonderful song with a propulsive, polyrhythmic groove and that unforgettable harmonized melody line that's somehow as Eastern European as it is Latin. It's very elegant and very joyous. Brandon Ross's electric guitar comps so interestingly that it's really contrapuntalvery un-clichéd. You're on alto on this one. Tell me about this one.
RR: That's interesting that, with "The Unnamable, you bring up the thought of there being something Eastern European or Spanish to it. There has been a bunch of ethnic music I've been listening to in the last couple years. But "The Unnamable is a bar of five and a bar of six. It's in eleven, essentially. I remember putting it first in front of one of the musicians, and he was like, "Oh, man, what a bear this is going to be. I said, "Do me a favor and do not count anything. And I sang the bass line, and everybody played it. I just wanted everyone not to count it, just play itjust listen to the melody. So I sang that melody, and everyone was like, "Oh, okay. Because I didn't write a bar of five and a bar of six to flex my time-trickery muscles or anything like that. But I do write a lot of things, it seems, in five, seven and eleven naturally; it's not like I'm ever conscious of wanting to sit down and write something in an odd time signature.
AAJ: Well, you write from the melody anyway.
RR: Yeah, exactly. So I think "The Unnamable grew out of that bass line, which I wrote on piano. Then I think I just looped the bass line and composed the melody on saxophone and flute on top of it. And then the bridge of that song is played twice; it's in six and the second time it's in seven. I remember playing through the bridge once and thinking, "I want to repeat the bridge; I like the way the changes are moving and I want to hear it again. So I played it, and recorded it on my little digital recording machine, and by mistake I played it the second time in seven. And I liked it. I thought it made a lot of sense. I thought, "If I'm going to play it again, I might as well play it a little differently. So that's "The Unnamable. class="f-right s-img"> Return to Index...
"One (For Jef)
AAJ: The last song on the CD is "One (For Jef) which is, I think, dedicated to Jef Lee Johnson. I can't think of a more appropriate way to finish the CD. It's slow and somewhat ominous and starts with that pensive acoustic guitar intro. Brandon Ross is the free agent herehe gets to improvise on guitar over the entire piece, during the written French horn melody that's taken up by the ensemble over that sparse bass and percussion procession. It's certainly got that contrast between freedom and composition that marks your work, and it's one of my favorites here. I love your crying, keening soprano solo with its pregnant rests that just goes on as the piece fades. Any insights?
RR: I wanted it to be sort of dirge-like. I think we got that out of it. And yes, I remember my instruction to Brandon was that from the time he plays that improvisation out in front of the piece, I wanted him to improvise from the beginning to the end. He's improvising and, if we pulled the rest of the ensemble out, you'd hear this beautiful solo going on. He just played this gorgeous stuff on acoustic guitar. But it's sort of a situation where if you want to focus on what he's doing, you'd hear this beautiful acoustic guitar solobut I wanted that texture of an acoustic guitar improvisation to support the melody instead of, again, everything being a vehicle to support this amazing guitar solo.
AAJ: I really like the harmonized violin-soprano-French horn voicings during the ensembles.
RR: Yeah, and that melody the second time around with the full ensemble has a serious rub going on. It's a really tight, dissonant harmony between the soprano, French horn and violin. Charlie, Mark and I played that melody through in the rehearsal first, because I wanted to hear the harmonies myself, and one of the guys went, "Umare you sure, Rob? Is this correct? I said, "Yeah, yeah, just play it. And then when I added the rhythm section, that person said, "Oh, okay, yeah. It sounds good.
The tune was written for Jef Lee Johnsonabout something not particularly pleasant. Something tragic. And I think that that recorded version of it really got the point across. class="f-right s-img"> Return to Index...