MM: Yeah‚ I agree‚ I think it's much more open. I remember seeing Vorcza at Nectar's last summer and half the crowd was young people dancing and the other half of the crowd was sitting at tables listening and clapping after solos like a jazz crowd. I found that to be interesting how you said you played at a rock club and a jazz club recently and something is happening in both rooms. It's not necessarily jazz‚ but maybe it is…
RP: I don't good friend Nicole lives in Brooklyn and she manages a few different bands and she is in the jazz world. I talked to her about what we're doing and she's heard us‚ and she really likes music. She thinks of it in terms of another step‚ or stumble‚ in the jazz world - like a new kind of thing. I'm not sure though; I mean it goes back to that whole thing of I don't know what it is (laughs). Its three musicians playing music...
MM: You‚ Rob‚ and Gabe playing music…
RP: And when we started it was Rob and I - before Gabe joined the group - and we came from a somewhat similar place and approach to playing music. Gabe comes from another world - I mean his dad is Keith Jarrett - so he comes from that jazz world but he's also keyed into all sorts of different music. We would play and at the end of the night we would feel like that was really something. We would have this 60% rule‚ where if at the end of the night that much was beyond good‚ like really great stuff that none of us have every played before‚ then that was a really good night. Gabe was saying‚ "Wow‚ that's a big number‚ I was hoping for 40%‚" (laughs) or something like that. It's a funny thing - you get a group of musicians that come together with different backgrounds and ideas about music and what comes out? If you like what comes out then you keep doing it. I think that's what Vorcza is dealing with - getting away from the idea of a genre. It's like it has to have a backbeat‚ it's got to swing‚ it has to be danceable‚ or this and that; any of those ideas aren't really discussed - the music is being made and it just happens. I think being in a trio you have a lot of choices and a lot of freedom in the arrangements. We're not a free-improvisation ensemble by any stretch. There are a lot of ideas within our compositions and they can be played any number of ways.
MM: It makes me think of this idea I read‚ Charles Mingus talk about in terms of spontaneously composing through improvising. He had this idea of having a conversation with his drummer...
RP: That conversation implies all different kinds of things that you can go off on. You talk about your dog‚ well‚ then I'm going to talk about my cat (laughter). You're going to talk about the dog shit in your yard and I'll talk about how I just fertilized my yard. It implies different directions to go‚ and it's great when you end up choosing the same direction. That's the gift: thinking the same thing as someone else. That's the beauty.
MM: I remember going to The Waiting Room one night Vorcza was playing and I walked in during the middle of a thing you were doing. You were completely into it‚ and something was really working. It was like nothing I've ever heard before.
RP: Yeah‚ I remember that night; it was a great musical night. I wish I could hear that someday. I never will‚ but yeah‚ it was all right there.
MM: That's the thing that continuously impresses me when I see you play. It was music that I never heard you play before‚ and I'll probably never hear you guys play again. Something was working and you guys were communicating on a higher level.
RP: Yeah‚ the wavelength thing. I love when that happens‚ and that's what you shoot for. It's not so much spontaneous composition‚ but it's the spontaneous arrangement of ideas. I mean they're tied together but‚ for instance‚ a riff or rhythmic idea will start happening and that will imply all this other stuff. If everyone is on the same wavelength then I can say stop‚ and before I even make that motion everyone has already thought about it. So that's spontaneous arrangement - it's not conducted; it's more about all thinking together and doing it. When that happens the well spring opens.
MM: How about talking about your experiences playing with Viperhouse‚ and what that did for your musicianship?
RP: Well the idea behind Viperhouse came from Michael Chorney‚ and his basic premise for it was...well in the 20's‚ 30's‚ 40's and even the 50's‚ popular music was jazz and people went out and danced to this music. His idea was to get back to that idea and take aspects of that music and make it fit into the modern day. I'm not sure if that succeeded...what it became was these compositions with room to improvise built in‚ and it was a big band so it was a difficult thing to pull off. I met Michael when I was twenty years-old or so and we had this band called The So Called Jazz Quintet; then it became the Sextet‚ and that was more of a straight up jazz concept‚ that type of thinking about music. The next step was Viperhouse‚ which was making something more accessible to people.
MM: I think it did. I remember seeing you guys when that was happening and it definitely had the big band feel‚ but it was modern and unique.
RP: Yeah‚ it wasn't just a funk band with a horn section. That was a composer's band; we all pretty much wrote‚ and Michael was the de facto head of the band but it was a fairly democratic endeavor. I think one of the largest things that I took from being in that band is how musicians work together‚ and for improvisational music to happen it seems like everyone has to want to do it. I think that has made the trio work so well. When Gabe started playing with us he was basically hired for the gig. We told him to just open up and go for it and to play your music. After playing together for awhile‚ that happened and it became one music. He's such a great drummer‚ and after more time playing together we decided to make an album. I think putting out the CD is basically what made the band a band. Going through that process it got so in depth and listening to what we played in the studio really critically. That was an investment; you know‚ if you're going to make a CD you have to play out and go for it. You don't just make a CD for the hell of it. So we did that and I think it's a really good album Maximalist that has a lot of interesting music‚ some music we don't even play anymore because we evolved past that and then other stuff we've never played live. Which comes back to the idea of what is the band‚ and what are we doing? (Pause).... I don't know if I answered your question.
MM: I'm not sure there was a question (laughter)... You've shared the stage and played with many different musicians with different backgrounds‚ so what about some of your thoughts about what some of these musicians that you've played with have brought out of you?
RP: Well it's hard to speak about any one individual because that's a personal‚ human relationship. But their music and how that person plays are on another level. You develop by playing with different musicians and you're going to hear things that become part of your own music. If you're playing with someone in which you're really listening then that's going to be incorporated into your own music - whether you like it or not (laughter). Playing with Gabe (Jarrett) is great because his rhythmic ideas have definitely pushed me more into thinking about rhythms in a different way. Just trying to keep up with him...
MM: Do you find when you play with him you begin to play things you didn't think you could play?
RP: Yeah‚ definitely.
MM: I think that's really beautiful thing; the idea that if you let go someone can play through you.
RP: That's true. It takes a situation to bring things out of a person‚ and musically it's the same way. There's still stuff that is really simple that I falter over. I don't know what it is‚ maybe I just think about it. I think for it to really come out of you‚ you can't be thinking about it. If you are thinking about it than it has to on a completely different level; you're not just communicating through your fingers‚ or feet‚ or tongue‚ or whatever your instrument maybe. That communication is just an automatic thing‚ and when that begins to happen you can play anything. I mean‚ as long as you have your chops up and you're physically capable of doing it. You can enter into a perfectly circular connection between what you hear and what comes out of you and it's instantaneous. That happens and certainly other musicians have brought that out of me. It also a combination of factors and if I knew the correct combination of factors I'd probably be a rich man...or an insane man (laughs).
MM: What about the spiritual side of it all?
RP: Well playing music is like a church‚ if you approach it that way. When you sit down to play it's a ritualistic act‚ and not in the sense that you're executing the correct forms but that there's this sacredness to it. The connection between spirituality and emotion is very close and a lot of it has to do with the way you feel. I think that the more you feel‚ in terms of quantity‚ whether it's joy‚ grief‚ or whatever‚ that there's more of a chance for you to forget about the safety net - and going back to improvisation‚ that can come out in a purer way. So spiritually you want to not forget yourself‚ but that's sort of the lure to playing music. It's an expression‚ and I guess that's really the point‚ that it is an expression of yourself. It's an outlet for the things that you are feeling. (Long pause) It can also be quite draining (laughs). If that stuff isn't churning away inside you‚ you have to encourage it‚ and I guess that's the real draining part. All the best music‚ you know‚ musicians come off the stage and they're just exhausted - you're pouring out feelings.