Bill Mays: Inventions, Conventions and Dimensions
BM: Almost all. I don't enjoy big bands anymore. I turn them down when called. Not that much fun.
BM: I guess I want to have more of my voice out there than I get a chance to with a big band. I did a lot of stuff with the Vanguard Band, I've played with Maria Schneider's band a number of times. I worked in Mike Barone's big band out in LA, and Bob Florence's and Bill Holman's.
AAJ: In a big band, you're really just a cog in a wheel.
BM: Yeah. I didn't have that much fun doing the big band on the ship two or three years ago, but that was the assignment: they said you'll be onboard as an All-Star player and there'll be four big-band gigs. But Judy [Bill's wife, photographer Judy Kirtley] would never have forgiven me if I'd turned the cruise down.
AAJ: I was wondering how many other trios exist with piano, cello and trumpet?
BM: None that I know of, in classical music or in jazz. The closest thing would be piano, violin, and cello, in classical music. No, The Inventions Trio with Mays, Marvin Stamm on trumpet and Alisa Horn on cello is weird. Do you know the way it came about?
AAJ: Do tell.
BM: You thought you wouldn't be able to get me talking, right? Alisa's father, Howard Horn, is a respected cardiologist and a trombone player. He grew up with Marvinthey were kids in high school together. Marvin went on to become Marvin the trumpet player, and Howard became the doctor, and gave up the trombone. And Alisa was born, and Marvin and Howard stayed friends all those years.
So about ten years ago Marv and I were playing a concert in Memphis and went to the Horn's house for brunch. Marvin says, "You've got to hear their daughter play." So she played a Rachmaninoff pieceit might have been "Vocalese," which we've recorded. It was wonderful, we all applauded, and I said, "Let's try something. Sit and play that again, and let me come to the piano and play with you." So I improvised on top of it. This time she played it with a big smile on her face.
Somebody said, "Jeez! That's really neat! You should write something, or you should play together." The upshot was her father commissioned me to write a piece. We hadn't yet formed the trio; he just said, "I'd like to commission you to write a piece for Alisa and Marvin and you. Anything you want."
So we agreed on a fee, a timetable was set, and I wrote the "Fantasy." I had some free studio time somewhere, and I took us in to make a recording of it. And it turned out so well that it wasn't just a reference recording. It sounded wonderful. I had been recording for Palmettohad done about four records with Matt Wilson and Martin Wind, so I went to them with the tape in hand and said, "This is nothing like what I've been doing for you, I don't know if you'd be interested in this." Well, they loved it, and that's how that record [Fantasy 2007] came about.
Now the second trio record, Delaware River Suite (2009), was another commission from her father and another doctor, since the fee went up, and he had to pull in more forces. I put it out on my own label because Palmetto wasn't interested in another one.
AAJ: And what's your own label?
BM: It's called No Blooze Music, Inc., which is the name of my publishing company. I don't really have a working label, I just used the name.
AAJ: Chega de Saudade = no more blues.
BM: No more blues, exactly. The third Inventions Trio record is coming out on Chiaroscuro, and that's the one called Life's a Movie, which includes four cues in search of a film. [Note: the piece is listed as "Suite: Life's a Movie" on the track list, which also features a medley of four Bill Evans compositions, the pairing of "Concierto de Aranjuez" by Joaquin Rodrigo with Chick Corea's "Spain," and three tunes by Thelonious Monk].
Going back to my film background, I wrote a score for a non-existent movie, and the titles of the movements are from the real studio world. There's "The Main Title," the music you hear at the beginning of a film. Often it contains a memorable theme that occurs many other times throughout the movie, and might even become a popular song, like from The Sandpiper.
AAJ: "The Shadow of Your Smile."
BM: Right. The second movement is called "Love Theme: Bittersweet," and is very film noir. I had the Chinatown score kind of in the back of my mind, since it also has strings and trumpet. Very 1940s The third movement is called "Chase," 'cause nine out of ten films have some kind of a chase, and the fourth is "End Credits"the music you hear as the credits roll. It's a great piece.
AAJ: Now all you need is a movie for it.
BM: I'm looking forward to being on Chiaroscuro. They've got a terrific distribution system.
AAJ: That's unusual these days, to hear about a record label with great distribution.
BM: And they're going to produce physical CDs.
AAJ: What a concept!
BM: Of course, they're also going to make it available as an online download.. And I've got another record, Intersection, coming out with Road Work Ahead, a co-op quartet we formed in 1977 and recorded for the Discovery label.
I moved to New York in 1984 and the band broke up. We didn't work again for 18-20 years. We came back together and made another record five years ago. This latest one is guitar, bass, drums and piano. Everyone in the band writes for the band, we all work to book the band, and split the profits evenly.
The other musicians are Bob Magnusson, you know that name, the wonderful bassist, and Peter Sprague, the great guitarist who's worked with Diane Reeves the last few years and has a lot of his own records out on Xanadu and Concord. Jim Plank is a percussionist of 50 years' standing with the San Diego Symphony, retiring in May, and also a great jazz drummer. We've been friends since the early '60s. They're like family. The record is terrific.