It depends. Everybody's got their voice and what they enjoy doing.
It kind of sounds like you've found your voice.
Yeah‚ but I would also love to do a tour where I don't bring any pedals. Or to do something where I'd play smaller rooms‚ 80-100-person rooms where everybody's jam-packed into this small room and if I play the piano real loud‚ it sounds loud and people are like‚ "Whoa‚ okay." In a more sensitive room‚ it would maybe make more sense. But we're playing to‚ like‚ 300 people in bigger rooms. And also‚ Matt is such a rocker. If I have a tune‚ I'm just sort of imagining‚ "Okay‚ what would my drummer do?" In this case‚ Matt's drumming‚ and it's like‚ "Yeah‚ okay‚ he's gonna go (Marco makes drumming noise)." You know‚ playing a rock beat. Whereas if I was doing a gig with Ari Hoenig‚ who's an amazing drummer... Have you checked him out?
Yeah‚ I've heard some of his stuff. I don't know where.
He's amazing‚ incredible. He's just an amazing New York drummer. He's played with Jean-Michel Pilc‚ the French pianist. He's got more of an intricate‚ dynamically abundant drumming style. He'll just change it up a lot‚ and do a lighter touch and do a different take on the tune and really mess with the obvious progression of where the song should go. Matt's definitely capable of doing that too‚ but Matt likes to lay down the head‚ a melody‚ a melodic verse‚ a bridge-lay down a nice drum part. You know what I mean? He's great at playing a drum part and Reid's great at playing a bass part. Though it's nice to also know that if at any moment we wanted to get really freaky‚ they would get really freaky‚ too. [laughter]
Yeah‚ they'll really go out there.
Yeah‚ they're really musical. So much of playing music has to do with your conception of it all. What could you do to make the song sound good? I've talked to teachers and people about this‚ and one of the greatest bits of advice I got from someone was‚ technically‚ it doesn't matter what you know. Conceptually… ahhh. If you have a concept of what you're gonna do… now you're talking. It's just like when you get older as a musician‚ when you grow in your years of being a musician‚ you're more mature‚ you're more comfortable at your instrument‚ so you maybe know what to do a little bit better. You know‚ as compared to when you're 20 or 18 and you're just thinking‚ "Woo‚ I can play real fast. Check it out‚ woo!" So‚ I think that the concept of playing your part and being a musician and helping the song move along is an underrated sort of task in music.
It's interesting that the first time I interviewed you in 2003 we discussed you eventually having the opportunity to have your own piano trio.
Yeah, you said, "There's a part of me that really wants to express this someday."
That's pretty cool. I mean, I did. And every once in a while when I was home between Duo tours, I would always throw together some projects. One time I was home-I don't remember what year-I did a little run of shows with Marc Friedman and Ari Hoenig, who's the drummer I was telling you about. And I saw Ari playing with Kenny Werner, who's a big influence on my playing. That's how I met Ari.
Anyway, so we did a tour: two nights in Boston, two nights in New York, or something like that. We were cruising along, and I was driving, and Ari said, "You know, I bet in like five years, you'll put out a trio record. And when you do, don't forget to include me on it." He sort of saw it: "Yeah, I see what's going on. You're gonna do that. It'll happen; just give it some time."
There are a lot of people that I called for these gigs. A friend of mine was, "Dude, don't forget about your jazz roots." And I'm like, "God, are you kidding me?" He's like, "Why don't you call Ellis?" And I called John Ellis. I called up a lot of people. I called Ari, I called up Chris Potter-a bunch of people. More in that world, per se, but obviously they were well-versed in many other styles of playing. So there were other people that I had called to do the gigs, but they weren't able to do it. A lot of it was just availability. It was a Wednesday in November. Who's free, you know?
Joe and I covered our own tunes in an acoustic sort of way at the Knitting Factory. We did an acoustic show back in… I think it was April, actually. It was really nice to be in that setting with Joe, just an acoustic setting, more of a jazz setting. But it takes a certain crowd to sit down and enjoy it, too. Frequently, throughout the Duo's acoustic show, there were people like, "C'mon dude, bring the fucking shit!" And you're like "Whoa… Dude, there's chairs out, people are sitting, we're experimenting with some sounds. Just enjoy the music." And they're like, "When are we gonna get up and dance?!" And you're like, "Oh my God."
"Didn't you get the memo?"
Yeah, it's like, "Uh, this is an acoustic show." I had a piano. It's like as loud as I could go. So imagine that. With Joe-who definitely is a rocker-it was a really different Duo show for us. And considering we had been playing these gigantic venues with Trey and Mike (the GRAB tour) and then going on our own to do our own thing in the Bowery Ballroom-these were all bigger venues. It makes sense that maybe some of the crowd was like, "Well, where's the Duo? Who are these guys?" [laughter] But, you know, I'm a big fan of the piano and the limitations you have on that.
That's one of the things that really came across on this disc. It was really nice to hear you play that way. You could always kind of hear the organ, though you're playing a completely different instrument.
Well, I mean, the organ, the way you can get volume on your organ is with your foot, not your finger. On the piano, it's like, you hit it harder and it's louder. And with the organ, you move your foot lower and it's quieter. It's a whole other thing. There's the whole hammer system as opposed to the tone wheel generating the sustain on the organ, which will sustain forever if you hold your finger down and the power doesn't go out.
On the Tonic night that I did with Reed and Matt, the last Wednesday in November, I brought along a little Rheem organ. Rheem is a company that makes dishwashers and air conditioners and shit now, but back in the day they made these awesome keyboards that I've found along my travels. So I brought the Rheem, and I was really thankful that I did because I could have that sustain and that sort of abrasive organ sound. It was nice to have both worlds of piano and the organ. That song "Clouds," the first song on the first disc, that's the Rheem at its best. That thing just sounds dirty. So, actually, speaking of "Clouds," that's a tune by Quasi, which is an organ and drum duo (from Portland, Oregon). It's Sam Coomes on the keys and Janet Weiss from Sleater-Kinney on the drums. All the Quasi records that I've gotten are amazing. You have to check them out. The dude plays an RMI keyboard. Because I heard him play one in Quasi, I actually had to go out and find and buy an RMI keyboard. It's plunky and righteous… [laughter]