May 29, 2024

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Interview with David Rudolph: The intellect comes in to play after that first wave or two of inspiration: Photos, CD cover, Videos

Jazz interview with jazz drummer David Rudolph. An interview by email in writing. 

JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?

David Rudolph: – My family moved around quite a bit when I was younger, but I spent the majority of my youth growing up in Pittsburgh. My parents had a great stereo system – my stepdad repped for different audio electronic companies – and they always had some good stuff blaring on that thing. Early on, I heard lots of music from the Beatles, the Doors, Tom Petty and the Police.

JBN.S: – What got you interested in picking up the drums? What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today? What made you choose the drums?

DR: – When I was about ten or eleven, my parents took me to see the Police at the Civic Arena. They were such a fun high energy band, and I knew a bunch of their tunes going in, so it was a really exciting first show for me. Anyhow, for some reason I got fixated on their drummer Stewart Copleand. Something about the way he played drew me in – he was a physical player and had a big sound. I didn’t really know why I liked what he was doing at the time, but I really did. Anyhow, I guess I mentioned this to my parents and a couple of days later, they got me a pair of sticks and a practice pad.

JBN.S: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?

DR: – Well, I started out playing hard rock and metal when I was in middle and high school. But a friend of mine turned me on to jazz and fusion when I was about 16, and I started buying recordings that opened my ears to different sounds – on the drums and otherwise. He made me a mix tape of a bunch of different music like King Crimson and Return to Forever. I gravitated towards the high energy fusion stuff at first, because it had a similar intensity to the rock music I grew up with. But as I really started getting into bebop and post bop, I noticed that my musical approach was going to need a bit of an overhaul. Those early guys I checked out like Tony Williams, Roy Haynes, Lenny White, Elvin Jones, Jack DeJohnette could play with fire and chops, but also a ton of finesse. All of their power, control and mysterious artistry really drew me into this music.

JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?

DR: – My ‘routine’ changes a bit here and there. I play along with recordings to try to develop some ideas that fit different styles and grooves. I’ll explore bop phrasing ideas, specifically I’ve been experimenting with maintaining various sticking patterns while singing through tunes. It’s a fun way to check in with my time and phrasing, while being conscious of the melody and form of the tune. I also enjoy writing exercises to address my own musical weaknesses. I listen to lots of music and take mental notes of phrases of other drummers so I can try to work them out when I get to the drums. Lately, I’ve been listening to different pianists and guitarists to try to ‘steal’ some of their comping ideas.

JBN.S: – Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now? You’re playing is very sensitive, deft, it’s smooth, and I’d say you drift more toward harmony than dissonance. There is some dissonance there, but you use it judiciously. Is that a conscious decision or again, is it just an output of what goes in?

DR: – Hm, yes I suppose I find myself drawn to lyrical melodies. I love what Wayne Shorter and Kenny Wheeler often do with their melodies. Like Kenny tended to write longer, largely diatonic melodies but then at key moments in the phrases’ resolution, he would include a chromatic or borrowed chord or use an altered extension to support that ‘arrival point’ – to create this unique musical moment. In other words, he usually gives you the note that you are expecting to resolve the melody in a clear way, but changes the harmony underneath it, which totally changes the context of that note. That to me is just wonderful writing. I tried to do some of that with the song Resonance, specifically. That said, I also enjoy the playful writing of Monk, which I sort of paid homage to with the tracks Bounce and Night Squirrel.

JBN.S: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?

DR: – Well, I think in some ways the flavor, style and even tempo of the first section of a tune really helps shape its’ direction. If I start writing something more angular, like a bop head, I might tend to rely on a slightly more straightforward harmonic progression supporting it. And then that in turn, might tend to have me hear a more ‘traditional’ bop bridge both melodically and harmonically. I guess in general, I’m ok with disparate influences as long as they make sense to me in a formal design and regarding the style or groove of the tune. Like in the tune the Vine, I used lyrical melodic line with a modal progression for the A sections, but when I got to the bridge I felt it needed to open up melodically and move through some different harmonic areas. So disparate influences are ok, if form and balance are considered.

JBN.S: – What do you love most about your new album 2019: <Resonance>, how it was formed and what you are working on today.

DR: – I think my favorite part of Resonance was the collaborative process I had with my great band. I’d come into rehearsals with tunes that were in my mind, more or less complete… and then I’d record those rehearsals, usually realizing that things weren’t really as polished as they could have been. These recordings gave me a birds eye view of things compositionally and regarding individual performances. Plus I’d get great feedback from the guys, too – everyone in the band is a gifted composer, which was hugely helpful. Anyhow, all of this information would help shape my revisions. Currently, the band is gearing up to do some support gigs for the album. Everyone is excited to get this next stage moving.


JBN.S: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

DR: – The soul to music I think comes from how personally involved you are with its’ creation and what motivates you internally to get your pen to start wiggling on the paper. I try to embrace whatever emotion or musical thought comes to mind, and then either start singing or noodling on the guitar to see if I can continue it in some way. If an idea is with me for a day or two, I usually feel that it’s worth writing down and I’ll start exploring new ways to explore adding to it. For me, the intellect comes in to play after that first wave or two of inspiration. At that point, it’s sort of like revising a first draft of a paper… you often look for clearer or maybe more artful ways to express your initial ideas. I’m pretty slow at this stage of writing, I’ve got notebooks full of ideas that didn’t make the cut. But I guess that’s the only way I know that I have my best version as the final draft.

JBN.S: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?

DR: – I try to make music that I truly enjoy hearing and playing. I don’t consciously try to create music that I know others will like. I hope they do, but trying to anticpate someone else’s likes and composing based on that, seems like a slippery slope. I think people react most positively to perfomers joy and comittment to the moment. I guess in this way, I give them what I think they want. Jazz audiences are very unique in that they go to see a live show, because they want to hear something different than what’s on the recording. They want to be present for the creative ride.

JBN.S: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

DR: – I had the opportunity to go on a little tour of Germany when I was getting my masters degree a few years ago. While I don’t have a specific gig story to relate, I can say that traveling overseas really opened my eyes to how jazz is perceived outside of the US. I was excited to have the chance to play for engaged audiences and I definitely look forward to going back sometime soon.

JBN.S: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?

DR: – Bringing young people to jazz is a big challenge, because there’s not much going on visually to hang on to. And for young folks brought up in the youtube era, that’s a hard sell. Plus, a lot of young people don’t seem to really have a great music background, so most of the time they don’t know what they’re hearing in terms of harmony, texture, melodic contour, form, etc. They tend to know artists, videos, and lyrics, but tend to not care about the nuts and bolts. I guess that’s ok for pop music, but jazz is a nuts and bolts kind of music, where you have to have some knowledge going in, in order to get the most out of it. Now with that said, I think a lot of young musicians coming up today are incredibly talented and motivated, plus they have the internet at their disposal to help them listen to all kinds of great stuff. There are some very visable bands out there like Snarky Puppy and Post Modern Jukebox that have their own brand of jazz that appeals to younger audiences. I’d like to think that a serious music student who enjoys one of these bands would be very inclined to listen to Canonball Adderly or Joe Henderson. I truly believe that Jazz will always have an audience.

JBN.S: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?

DR: – I think spirit resonates most directly on stage during a live performance. Part of the spiritual magic of jazz, is that the audience can watch musicans in a flow state where ideas develop naturally. And because there is no time for overthinking, ego, or fear, you usually get a really cool glimspe at something very personal from each player.

JBN.S: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

DR: – I guess I’d like to see more artistry and songcraft in pop music and less reliance on technology. The current technological advances are amazing, but should be used to enhance what is already a thoughtfully organized piece of music. I don’t think you should need NASA involved to recreate your tune. If a song is well written in terms of form, melody and harmony, you should be able to sit down at a piano and make it work.

JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?

DR: – My listening varies from week to week, but guys like Wayne Shorter, Pat Metheny, Kenny Wheeler, Chick Corea, John Scofield, Michael Brecker, and Joe Henderson are usually in my rotation. Some newer recordings from artists like Antonio Sanchez, Danilo Perez, Brad Shepik,

JBN.S: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?

DR: – The message will differ from tune to tune, but the concept behind most of the material on Resonance was to highlight the interaction between two different instruments – making their combined sound greater than the sum of their parts. I kept coming back to the importance of deep shared relationships – that is what makes life worth living, both personally and musically. I really tried to let that overarching idea, dictate many of my creative decisions. So lots of the tunes on the album incorporate little miniature duets, unison melodic lines or melodies presented alternately between two instruments. I tried to do whatever I could to to highlight that sort of one to one connection.

JBN.S: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?

DR: – Aaron Parks, and Kenny Garret have been in my phone lately. My tastes certainly lean toward the postbop genre.

JBN.S: – So putting that all together, how are you able to harness that now?

DR: – Where do you think jazz will be in 20 years – more isolated of an artform or more connected to pop music?

JBN.S: – Thank you for answers … I do not want and I think it would be bad if in 20 years jazz will be connected with pop music. I think, unfortunately, there will be a lot of technical music, but the real jazzmens will serve the roots.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan


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