Ben Goldberg: Clarinet Communion
AAJ: Do you see any signs of change in that regard?
BG: Oh, I don't know. It's the same story over and over. People play music because they have to. You're not going to get rich or appreciated doing it. It's life.
AAJ: Let's talk about your label BAG. What led you to start it, and what are you hoping to do with it?
BG: Yes, BAG Production. You know, the name comes from a Beatles song ["Come Together"]. I kind of got forced into it because I couldn't find a label to release the Go Home record. It was astonishing, but finally I realized, "Okay, I've got to do it myself." I began by thinking I was only going to pretend to have a label. But as soon as I started working on it, I realized that's the way I want to do it, anyway. It's a lot of work, but it's all up to me. And I can do the work. I can work on publicity if I want, or on finding distributors for my music.
Anyway, I've had enough experiences with record labelsall of whom have been run by the most well- intentioned peoplebut I've had enough experiences where you release a record on somebody's label and not only does it not get publicized, but it's like they enlisted the CIA to make sure that nobody would ever hear a word about it. It's an incredibly frustrating experience. So for me, running my own record label is just like, well, it's all up to me. I'm going to make sure that I do whatever I can to help put the music out there, and that's a good feeling.
The first whole record that I really decided to put out was the Tin Hat record [Foreign Legion (BAG Production Records, 2010)]. That's when I realized that it's actually a real record label. And I've got things lined up, like a beautiful record that I made with Joshua Redman.
AAJ: What advice would you give to someone starting out as an instrumentalist?
BG: Yeah, I think it's a good question. You've got to know your instrument. There are no shortcuts. Actually, when you get right down to it, the classical (what they call pedagogical) approach for instrumentalistsyou can't beat it. No matter what instrument you play, that's where it all at. After that, you can do whatever you want, but it takes a long time.
AAJ: One last question, and this is entirely optional: Could you put together an ideal band for yourself from out of history?
BG: It's like, people are in history for a reason. They did what they had to do, and I love them. I mean, how much time could I spend with Louis Armstrong? He's my absolute favorite musician in the whole world, but would I want to play in his band? That I'm not sure of.
What Steve Lacy said to me once was, "Your home living room can be the jazz center of the universe." That was cool advice. And I finally learned what he meant by that.
Ben Goldberg Quartet with Jamie Saft, Baal: The Book of Angels Vol. 15 (Tzadik, 2010)
Myra Melford's Be Bread, The Whole Tree Gone (Firehouse 12 Records, 2010)
Tin Hat, Foreign Legion (BAG Production Records, 2010)
Ben Goldberg, Go Home (BAG Production Records, 2009)
Ben Goldberg, Speech Communication (Tzadik, 2009)
Scott Amendola/Ben Goldberg/Devin Hoff, Plays Monk (Long Song Records, 2007)
Tin Hat, The Sad Machinery of Spring (Hannibal, 2007)
Nels Cline, New Monastery (Cryptogramophone, 2006)
Ben Goldberg Quintet, The Door, The Fact, The Chair, The Hat (Cryptogramophone, 2006)
New Klezmer Trio, Short for Something (Tzadik, 2000)
Junk Genius, Ghost of Electricity (Songlines, 1999)
Ben Goldberg/ Michael Sarin / John Schott, What Comes Before (Tzadik, 1998)
Junk Genius, Junk Genius (Knitting Factory, 1995)
New Klezmer Trio, Melt Zonk Rewire (Tzadik, 1995)
New Klezmer Trio, Masks and Faces (Tzadik, 1991)