Download the PDF of Eddie Gomez interviewed in JAZZIZ magazine!

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Download the PDF of Eddie Gomez interviewed in JAZZIZ magazine!

Sweet and LowEddie Gomez remains among the most revered of bassists.By Ted Panken


Eddie has the most surprising flexibility.Sometimes I wake up in the morning to The TodayShow and see an Israeli folk group playing theirfolk music, and there’s a bass player in the backplaying like he was born in Israel. It’s Eddie. Or he’llget on that very free, expressionistic bag. Eddie ismarvelous in that he has a very wide scope. Asmuch as he fits me like a glove, you would almostthink that this is the only way he can play becausehe does it so perfectly, but it’s not true.” —Bill Evans, Helsinki, 1970.“Certain musicians arrived on the scene whowere just complete. Paul Chambers would be oneof them. Tony Williams would be one. They hadeverything already in place, and they were innovative.Maybe I was too busy being fragmentedto develop that. There’s a positive side to playingin many genres, which I like to do. But to play myown devil’s advocate, maybe it took away myability to focus on one particular way or style. Inany case, that’s who I was, and still am.” —Eddie Gomez, New York City, 2012Thirty-five years after leaving the Bill Evans Trio to pursuenew opportunities and musical adventures, Eddie Gomez, onceaverse to public discussion of the 11-year run that made him themost visible — and perhaps most emulated — jazz bassist of thatera, is happy to dwell on the subject.“It’s been a third of a century, there’s a body of work, and I’mmore self-assured and confident in my career and art,” Gomez saidin June at a café a few blocks from his Greenwich Village home. At68, he looks a decade younger, his barrel chest and muscled forearmsobscured by a loose black sport jacket and black button-downshirt. The skin on his fingers, which he spreads in fan-like waveswhen emphasizing a point, is smooth and barely calloused.“I feel there are lots of other things to talk about, but being withBill is huge in my heart,” Gomez continued. “It’s like getting awayfrom a parent or father figure, recognizing what a certain time inyour life really was, that it’s part of you and you are part of it. So I’mable to feel it and express it and verbalize it.”The Evans-Gomez connection is once again a hot topic, thanksto two recent drops of first-commercial-release archival material.Few extant Bill Evans trio dates can match the creative energygenerated on the two April 1968 sets with drummer Marty Morellthat comprise Live at Art D’Lugoff’s Top of the Gate [Resonance]. Nordoes anything in the canon more effectively represent the breatheas-onesimpatico the pianist and bassist could achieve as the fiveduets they play on Disc 1 of The Sesjun Radio Shows, recorded in theNetherlands in 1973.36 july 2012 jazziz Photo by Steve Sussman


Performed with the real-time bustle of late-’60s Bleecker Streetunfolding outside the club’s glass doors, the Top of the Gate tracksare unremittingly intense, the protagonists exchanging opinionswith a freewheeling, serious-as-your-life attitude akin to the SouthVillage coffee shop and saloon culture that prevailed when Evanshimself was coming of age a decade earlier. The radio broadcasts —which include a five-tune 1975 performance by Evans, Gomez anddrummer Eliot Zigmund — retain only a hint of that unruly flavor;the musicians, intimate with each other’s moves after years ofbandstand proximity in clubs and concert halls, finish each other’sthoughts with burnished, cosmopolitan phrases.In both contexts, Gomez displays the gifts that placed him atophis instrument’s food chain by his early 20s. When accompanying,he gooses the flow with clear, limber lines that both anticipate andcomplement Evans’ train of thought. When soloing, a horn playeror singer might envy the speed and dynamics of his phrasing, ashe moves in the course of an idea from fortissimo bellows to mezzopiano whispers, seamlessly incorporating extended techniquesmore commonly associated with “outside” playing into Evans’harmonic world, never with “because I can” intention, but alwaystoward unfailingly musical imperatives.In recent years, Gomez has applied his skills to several projectsthat denote his willingness to no longer “shy away from trio thingsand homages to Bill.” These include an Italian tour in 2010 with ahighly stylized trio comprising pianist Mark Kramer — a frequentpartner in the ’00s — and late-period Evans drummer JoeLaBarbera, and a summer 2011 concert with LaBarbera and Sicilianpianist Salvatore Bonafede devoted to the legacy of the virtuosobassist Scott LaFaro, who, during his 20 months with Evans andPaul Motian from 1959 to 1961, established the template of bassexpression upon which Gomez would place his own unique stamp.Gomez’s gift for melodic expression and the commanding auraof his tone, whether produced by his fingers or the bow, suffusesrecent duo recordings with pianists Cesarius Alvim (Forever) andCarlos Franzetti (the 2008 Latin Grammy-winner Duets). His voiceeven more palpably dominates CDs of trio concerts in Mexico Cityand Italy with his longstanding pianist, Stefan Karlsson. Thathe’s fully capable of subsuming his Olympian gifts to one-for-allpurposes is evident on two recent releases: Sofia’s Heart, whichGomez produced for saxophonist Marco Pignataro, and Per Sempre,a Gomez-led studio date with Pignataro, flutist Matt Marvuglio,pianist Teo Ciavarella and drummer Massimo Manzi.But the only item in Gomez’s recent corpus that stands up to therarefied environment of clarity and unfettered interplay that Evansfacilitated is Further Explorations. A two-disc masterpiece of collectiveimprovisation on the Concord Jazz imprint, it cherry-picks froma fortnight-long engagement at the Blue Note during which ChickCorea, Gomez and Motian (it was the late drummer’s first recordingwith either partner) refracted Evans-associated repertoire in theirown manner. Among the many highlights are Gomez’s arco soloson the second disc. (It’s hard to think of a location recording onwhich a bassist has bowed improvised melodies with the spot-on


intonation that Gomez brings to his variation on Motian’s “ModeVI,” which transpires in the cello register.)Gomez and Corea have brought out each other’s best since 1961,when the pianist, then a 20-year-old Juilliard student, and thebassist, a 17-year-old senior at the High School of Music and Art,jammed together in Corea’s loft in the Manhattan neighborhoodnow known as Tribeca. At the time, Gomez, a bass player for all ofsix years, was already a member of New York’s Local 802, and hadconceptualized the bass-as-an-extension-of-the-voice approachthat he follows to this day.“We moved to New York when I was about a year old, and mydeepest recollection of music is my mother singing to me at home,”he recalls. “My grandfather had an evangelist church in Puerto Rico,and when we visited, I’d sing in the church in English. Singing wasmy musical connection, not an instrument.”A junior high school music teacher placed Gomez on thecontrabass path. Once in high school he dual-tracked in classicalmusic and jazz, becoming ever more embroiled in the latterendeavor via such classmates as Jeremy Steig, Jimmy Owens, BillyCobham and Richard Tee, and such fellow members of MarshallBrown’s Newport Youth Band as Eddie Daniels and Ronnie Cuber.By 15, he was studying privately with “a wonderful mentor-teacher”named Fred Zimmerman, “a crusader for broadening the scope andrepertoire of the double bass.”“I wanted to play music and sing, and although the bass seemedan unusual instrument to be a singer on, Zimmerman playedexpressive, gorgeous melodies that inspired me,” Gomez says. “Ilistened to a lot of saxophone and trumpet, but singers — Sinatra,Nat Cole, Peggy Lee, Cheo Feliciano, Bobby Capó — were crucial. Tome, it’s all singing or dancing, and if there’s no pulse, as is oftenthe case, then it’s cerebral. But I’ll make the dance and singingwork through the brain somehow. I think there’s song and dance in12-tone music, too. Genre didn’t get in my way.”At Zimmerman’s suggestion, Gomez enrolled at Juilliard in 1962.For the next four years, in addition to his studies, he supportedhis young family by playing gigs of every stripe. He worked anextended engagement at a midtown steakhouse with MarionMcParland, who welcomed sit-ins by such elder icons as BuckClayton, Edmond Hall and Bobby Hackett. He played on a Latin jazzalbum led by conguero Montego Joe, titled Arriba!, with Corea onpiano and Milford Graves on timbales. Via Graves, Gomez begantaking downtown outcat gigs, including concerts with GiuseppeLogan and Paul Bley — on whose ESP recordings he performs — aswell as with John Tchicai, Roswell Rudd, and the Jazz ComposersOrchestra. His future direction became more focused in 1965, whenhe went on the road with vibraphonist-composer Gary McFarland,then played a stint with Gerry Mulligan’s sextet.“I could play the bass pretty well, but I wasn’t mature as amusician or as an artist,” Gomez says. “Gary and Gerry were verynurturing. Perhaps my role was defined, but traditional contextsmade me dig deeper inside to find the creative part of myself.”In the summer of 1966, Gomez was at the start of a run at theCopacabana with Bobby Darin when Evans — who, when his trioplayed opposite Mulligan a month earlier at the Village Vanguard,ALFREDO RodriguezSounds of Spacethe debut from Cuban pianist andcomposer Alfredo Rodríguez“He is very special and I do not say that easily because I have been surrounded by thebest musicians in the world my entire life...and he is the best!” – Quincy Jones“elegant yet explosive technique and command of an array of musical idioms”– Reed Johnson, Los Angeles Times“classic melodies within a uniquely spacious approach” – NPR Music“Rodríguez proved himself one of the most original keyboard talents to come outof Cuba since Chucho Valdes and Gonzalo Rubalcaba. So striking was the nearlytwo-hour performance that the audience briefly sat in stunned silence at its end beforeerupting into a roaring ovation.” – Boston Herald“Young Cuban pianist Alfredo Rodríguez sounds the way Monk might have soundedif he had been born in Chick Corea’s body and raised on a diet of Bach, Chopin andStravinsky in a Havana conservatory.” – Richard Scheinin, San Jose Mercury Newsavailable wherever you like to buy musicmackavenue.com38 july 2012 jazziz


made a point of complimenting the young bassist — invited himon tour. About a month later, toward the end of a week at Shelly’sManne Hole in Los Angeles, Evans told him, “This is working out verynicely. It would be great if you joined the trio on a permanent basis.”During the ensuing 11 years, Gomez worked in other satisfyingcontexts. Notably, he subbed for Ron Carter on a few dozen gigswith the Miles Davis Quintet and performed in open-ended duoswith flutist Steig that stimulated him “to find different ways tothink about the instrument.” But Bill Evans remained his primecommitment.“After a couple of years with Bill, I knew I was in the rightdirection as far as the song and dance,” Gomez says. “I liked beinga soloist, which is what I was with Bill. So I made that choice. Hetalked to me almost as a son in this avuncular way. He’d tell menot to follow in his footsteps, to take his advice and not pick up hishabits. When we played at the Gate or the Vanguard, he’d oftendrive me home to Queens, where I lived then, and we’d talk abouthow lucky we were to be making art and getting paid for it. I thinkthe first trio formulated his idea of what the bass should do, andhe saw me as extending or expanding it. I may have done somedifferent things in using the bow, but I don’t know that I createdanything really new.“I recorded a lot with Bill, and I didn’t always like the recordingsfor myself. I like some moments on At Montreux from 1968 with JackMAC1063_KGarrett_JazzTmsAd_fnl.pdf 2/14/12 10:19:05 PMDeJohnette, and there are some nice things on Intuition (1974), but Ifelt I’d reached a pinnacle on You Must Believe in Spring (1977), a flow,a poetic feeling that I’m proud of. I felt I should leave on that note.”Gomez immediately plunged into several overlapping streamsof activity. In New York City, he became a first-call duo player,dialoguing with more pianists than he can remember at Bradley’sin Greenwich Village and with guitarists like Jim Hall, Tal Farlowand Chuck Wayne at The Guitar in midtown. Charles Mingus, aBradley’s regular, befriended Gomez, and, when ALS rendered himtoo weak to play, tapped him to fill the bass chair on his final tworecordings. At Bradley’s, Gomez also developed rapport with pianistHank Jones, who recruited him to triangulate the collectively-billedGreat Jazz Trio — among the drummers were Al Foster and JimmyCobb — on a series of Japan-centric projects throughout the ’80s.Although the prospect of staying home was part of Gomez’srationale for leaving Evans, he found himself traveling even more.He flew frequently to Japan for one-off guest-artist concerts andrecordings, among them several well-regarded dates with pianistMasahiko Satoh. He spent several years touring with DeJohnette,both in the drummer-pianist’s open-ended New Directions quartetwith guitarist John Abercrombie and trumpeter Lester Bowie,and on more impressionistic configurations — and ECM recordings— with guitarists Ralph Towner and Mick Goodrick. Corea, anemployer since the mid-’70s, brought him on board for his iconicThree Quartets band with Michael Brecker and Steve Gadd, both ofwhom Gomez would soon partner with in the post-hardbop-meetsfusionquintet Steps Ahead, with vibraphonist Mike Mainieri andpianist Don Grolnick.While in Tokyo in 1984, and again in 1985, Gomez made twosculpted, groove-heavy recordings, produced by Gadd, in whichSEEDS FROM THE UNDERGROUNDmackavenue.comkennygarrett.comavailable wherever you buy music“Seeds From The Underground is music aboutpeople, past and present, who planted seedsin my life—directly and indirectly.”–Kenny Garrett


Bass ImpressionsCharles MingusAsked to name and briefly discuss five personall influential bassists, EddieGomez thoughtfully offered the following:“The very first bassist who came into my life was Milt Hinton. I bought a gloriousrecording where he did that slapping thing. When I was a kid, I took a lessonfrom him at his house. He was a sweetheart. So generous. He showed me a greatway to finger the chromatic scale. Later on, I realized just how good Milt was — sosupportive and also a great soloist, but in a different way than Paul Chambers, RayBrown and Scott LaFaro.“Paul Chambers was the second bass player who came into my life. I bought aRed Garland Trio date, A Garland of Red (1956), with Paul and Art Taylor, and the wayPaul played turned me around — his sound, how he supported the band, his swingfeel, his soloing, how he played with the bow. I got into him even more deeply whenI started buying Miles’ quintet records and Porgy and Bess. There wasn’t a bad note;everything was perfect.“I discovered Ray Brown a little later via the trio with Oscar Peterson, and althoughI heard him with other pianists and he always sounded great, that’s how Ialways think of him. Aside from being a great soloist, Ray’s propulsion, his particularswing feel and sound, was beautiful.“Scott LaFaro would be next. I didn’t get to see the Bill Evans Trio play, and theone time I saw Scott, when I was 16 or 17, I didn’t really hear him. I was rehearsingwith a big band at a place called Lynn Oliver’s, on the Upper West Side, and throughthe window to the other studio Stan Getz, Steve Kuhn, Pete La Roca and Scott wererehearsing. I saw Scott play a very unorthodox way of fingering. He innovated a wayof playing in space that became one of the junctions in modern jazz.“Charles Mingus is at the top of the list because he was such a great bassistand a huge composer. But I liked Sam Jones and Jymie Merritt very much. I likedSteve Swallow when he was playing the double bass, and you’ve got to include RedMitchell. Johnny Hawksworth was a great English bassist who played with JohnnyDankworth. Today I can enjoy listening to Ron Carter and Buster Williams. I likePeter Washington, and Christian McBride is a fine bass player, too. I’m still waitingfor some of these younger guys to develop a voice that says, ‘Oh, that’s him —there’s no doubt about that.’ All these guys I mentioned had a voice. Each one was abreeding ground.” —TPthe leader addressed the various genresand flavors at his command. “Everyonehad been urging me to do a solo album,and I forced myself to start writingcompositions,” Gomez recalls of these anda subsequent New York session for Epic. “Iwanted to do something against the grainof my past. They were criticized for beingeclectic, but I think the continuity is thatit’s all coming from me. There’s a lot ofvariation; I quite like them for what theyare. I wanted a sound on the double bassthat in opera they call a ‘lyric tenor’ — ahigh, clear, very melodic sound that bassguitarists get. Listening back, it’s tootwangy and trebly for me now, but in thecontext of the records, it’s very clear andmakes the bass sound like a solo instrument,which it is.“My sound has changed. My likes anddislikes have changed. I’m wanting tohear that older sound, the sound of PaulChambers and Ray Brown. Sometimeson these straightahead tracks, the bassshould sound like it’s going straightthrough the microphone, and not havethat direct pickup sound. It should soundembedded in the rhythm section, and notstand out, a little bit like drums.”It’s been a remarkable career, andGomez — whose obligations increasedseven years ago when he accepted the positionof Artistic Director at the Conservatoryof Puerto Rico, where he spends six weekseach year — has no intention of restingon his laurels. Among other things, heanticipates performing a concerto with asmall string orchestra, and hopes one dayto play with Sonny Rollins, a huge influenceduring his formative years.“Every day you wake up, it’s a challengeto play the double bass in tune,because there’s so much bass to miss,” hesays. “So you have to keep your energy,love and passion for whatever it is, thegood things in life — good food, a goodcup of coffee, going to a museum, greatliterature, an old movie. All of thatconnects to me. I tell students they needto know something about Caravaggioor Velázquez or Turner or Picasso orVermeer. They need to know somethingabout George Bernard Shaw. Know stuffabout things other than music, so you canbroaden your artistic sensibility.” s40 july 2012 jazziz

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