Tradition and groove
When: Oct. 14, 8-9 p.m.
Where: Jazz Island, an area of the Jarasum International Jazz Festival
Jimmy Cobb, a largely self-taught musician, is one of the most accomplished drummers in jazz. He played in the legendary Miles Davis band in the 50’s and 60’s and can be heard on “Kind of Blue” — the highest selling jazz record of all time. Now his band — The Jimmy Cobb, Larry Coryell, Joey Defrancesco All Star Trio — brings their jazz legacy to Korea.
Joey Defranceso, another Miles Davis alumnus, is one of the pioneers of jazz-rock. He started playing gigs of his own and alongside the likes of Richard “Groove” Holmes at a very young age.
Larry Correll redefined jazz electric guitar. His eclectic musical technique ranges from heavy electric playing to intricate acoustic guitar lines.
Together they make up one of the best three-pieces in the world — certainly worthy of the moniker “All Star Trio.”
Groove Korea caught up with Joey Defrancesco for a phone interview.
Defrancesco described their music as sticking to tradition, but leaving room for innovation and improvisation. “The basis of it is swinging, because for me you ‘gotta be swinging, then after that we try to create something within the traditional elements, but we try to bring it to a different place,” he said.
This will be Defrancesco’s second trip to Korea. He performed here in 1995 with John McLaughlin.
Groove Korea: You’ve been touring this summer as a trio and it’s a delight to have a group of your talent bring their legacy of jazz to Korea, where the genre has relatively recently caught on. How did the three of you originally form as a group?
Joey Defrancesco: It came to my mind. I played with Jimmy Cobb a few years back and I played with Larry a few years back — with different groups, not together — so I thought to myself, it would be good to have a trio with three all-stars. They’re the guys that I thought of, so we all got together and talked about it.
It started with a recording we did in March that’s out now, of course. And that’s how it came about.
What inspires your music today? What is involved in your process of coming up with new material?
Just living day-to-day. Things that happen in my life. Those experiences and different things that happen are how I get ideas for material. Most of the things don’t come from sitting down and figuring out the music, harmony. It comes from things that happen in your life. I think that happens when you get older. When you’re young, everything’s more technically based musically. But then you get more ideas from, you know, life. Just walking down the street, looking out the window, flying on a plane, walking on a beach — those kinds of things.
You certainly have an extensive range of deeply rooted jazz feeding into your performances today. In your present approach to playing jazz, what kind of message do you wish to communicate with the audience?
What I’m hoping is that if the musicians on the stage are enjoying playing with each other, and they’re true to what they’re doing and they’re really doing the things that they love, then I’m pretty sure the audience is going to enjoy that. I mean, I’m not looking for any particular thing from the audience; hopefully they can get involved and have the feeling that we’re feeling. I want them to feel how I feel. I’m not doing anything deliberately to make them feel one way or another.
Jazz is not like a pop show with a bunch of smoke and mirrors and things like that going on. It’s about the music, and the musicians have to be serious about what they are doing on stage, but have fun at the same time. I don’t think they have to look like they’re miserable. They have to have fun. The audience is going to enjoy that more.
It has been said that you’re the successor to Jimmy Smith’s legacy. What similarities do you note between yourself and Jimmy?
Obviously (he is) a very big influence. The biggest thing is the sound. You know, Jimmy came up with the registrations on the organ for the sound — the most expressive element for you to have. ... So first of all, it’s the settings on the organ that made the biggest impact on everybody that played organ. So it’s the sound first. Then he did a lot of things harmonically, and he was very soulful with blues. …
Between the two of us, it’s the sound and approach; the continence in the playing. And everything he played means something. There’s no holding back and there’s no guessing — it’s all yes, yes, yes when you’re playing. Those are the similarities — more, I think, the approach and the feel than the notes. So when people say that I sound like Jimmy Smith — I think that’s what they’re hearing, because we play a lot different harmonically. I mean, that’s just a fact. But for people who don’t know about harmony and things like that, those who just go by feeling and approach, yeah that would be the closest comparison.
Is there any other particular person or place that had a big impact on your musical career that you wish you could work with more?
I was very lucky; Jimmy Smith was one of my major influences and I got to know him and we worked together and did a lot of things together. And that was great.
Miles Davis would be my other huge influence. There are so many different aspects to Miles.
You take those two musicians and you got everything — you got the blues, you got classical, you got b-bop, you got avant garde — you have everything. And I got to play with Miles, but I would have liked to play with him more. Spend time with him. Unfortunately he’s not here anymore. That would be one.
I really love the legendary players. That’s the foundation for me. That’s why I like playing with Jimmy Cobb. If I have a chance to play with Jimmy I’m going to grab it.
One of the great features of jazz is its allowance for improvisation. Over the course of your trio’s tour and history of playing together, has the group’s style of improvisation changed much?
That stuff is always changing. You make a record — you play it. But, you know, it evolves so much since you originally recorded it. The melodies and arrangements stay pretty similar, but the improvisation is different every night. We’re always searching for something else.
With regards to the trio’s output, the combination of your prolific backgrounds and the diverse talents of yourself, guitarist Larry Coryell and drummer Jimmy Cobb must result in a wide range of sounds. You also released “Wonderful Wonderful” (High Records) this year. Is there a particular dominant stream of influence that you all steer towards in your performances?
Yeah, I think musically, the approach to this group is very much in the tradition of some of Miles Davis’ great groups. Particularly because we have Jimmy Cobb playing the drums. I’m such as fan of that music, as is Larry.
I know Larry is much older than I am, but in music that’s not a factor anymore. All that goes out the window. It’s about knowledge and cohesiveness of the musicians that play together. But we pretty much play in that genre. It’s a very historical kind of music.
Within the tradition, we’re also very innovative and moving forward with the improvisations. …
The basis of it is swinging, because for me you gotta be swinging, then after that we try to create something within the traditional elements, but we try to bring it to a different place.
How would you hope to see jazz evolve?
I’d like to see harmony keep evolving and add a little more exotic scale into the music, but I think something you can’t get away from that a lot of these guys get away from is the groove and the feel. That’s gotta be there no matter what style the music is.
You can do all kinds of things with harmony, but without the groove, to me, it doesn’t move people. If they can’t feel it, then it’s pointless. So before you get too far involved with something else, don’t forget the tradition and the groove.