Catching Up With Lewis Porter
LP: I prefer to write for a specific soloist. It inspires me, because I not only know the melodic tastes of the soloist, but what he or she is capable of as an improviser. In Dave's case I know that he can improvise with a minimum of guidelineswe've done some of this together. So, for example, in the first movement Dave will play a written melody over the orchestral accompaniment, but at a certain point the orchestral accompaniment continues and there are no more notes in his part, so it's up to Dave to improvise something that flows naturally from the written melody. He also gets a cadenza in the first movement, for which I have also written out the beginning only, and an open cadenza in the last movement.
From left: Lewis Porter, Dave Liebman
AAJ: Gunther Schuller and others fashioned a jazz-classical form known as Third Stream during the 1950s. Would you describe your piece as an extension of the Third Stream tradition or something else entirely?
LP: There seems to be a knee-jerk consensus today that the Third Stream movement was a "failure." To me, it is absolutely obvious that a lot of really interesting and creative composing came out of it. It's also obvious to me that the meeting of jazz and classical music has been going on since very early on, in James P. Johnson's orchestral music, in Gershwin, in Duke [Ellington]'s suites, etc. So I really don't quite get why there is this idea that Third Stream was a failure, and I don't agree with the critics who seem to be trying to promote that as some kind of established fact. To me, there's only one factthat the more open you are to different kinds of music, the more variety there will be in this world, so it's only a good thing.
My influences include Chick Corea and Coltrane, but also Stravinsky, Prokofiev and Messiaen, among many others (I think my piece "Olivier," written in 1998 and recorded in 2000, was the first jazz piece for Messiaen). I'll be curious to see if people hear this as a jazz or classical piece.
AAJ: Describe your partnership with Liebman over the years. How have your past collaborations with him influenced your work on the concerto?
LP: I first saw Dave perform in 1968, along with a young, skinny, long-haired Randy Brecker. In April 1979, I met Dave in a professional circumstance. I was the first ever jazz band director at Tufts University (and soon after became the first at Brandeis as well). Dave and I stayed in touch over the years, and gradually became good friends. We performed together as a duo in 2007 in Tours, France, and since then on a few other occasions. So when Dave asked me in early 2008 to help him write his life story, I agreed, and the book is now out.
In September 2011, Dave and I made the recording with Ribot, Jones and Taylor. Working with Dave in all these different situations, I've gotten a good sense of what he's capable ofwhich is a lot! So, for example, I didn't provide chord changes for any of the solos. The solos in the first and third movements basically take off from the melodic material, and from there he can go anywhere he wants. The solo in the second movement is based on a vamp between two scales, which I have provided in his part.
AAJ: How does this work fit in the body of your work? Is this your most ambitious work, a synthesis of all of your influences, a calling that you had to answer...?
LP: Certainly, in terms of composition, this is the most ambitious work I have completed to date. I am almost done with a four movement concerto for classical saxophonist Paul Cohen (not involving any improvisation) which is probably about equal in terms of size and scope. I've also completed three or four shorter classical pieces that just involve two to four players. Orchestral music is probably the most demanding of all, but it's also exciting so I'd love to do more. I'd also like to complete some big band pieces I have in mind.
AAJ: Are there any features of the piece that you would like to explain or comment on for members of the audience at the premiere on April 19th?
LP: I'll be writing program notes for the event. Some details of the piece were already mentioned above. One thing I would like to mention nowthe middle movement represents in sound the life of my late friend Corinne Mond, who died from cancer in March 2011, at the age of 58, while I was writing this piece.
AAJ: Will the event be recorded or broadcast?
LP: The piece will be recorded by an excellent engineering student from Berklee College named Jett Galindo. We hope to present some or all of it on the radio sometime soon after the premiere.
David Rothenberg/Lewis Porter, Expulsion of the Triumphant Beast (Terra Nova, 2011)
Lewis Porter/Marc Rossy, Transformation (Altrisuoni, 2010)
Lewis Porter, Second Voyage (Altrisuoni, 2009)
Lewis Porter, Italian Encounter (Altrisuoni, 2007)
Page 1: Ed Berger
Page 2: Remi Angeli