MM: (laughing) It's good to have a second opinion‚ huh?
MB: Yeah‚ definitely‚ or I'd be the solo organ tour (laughs). I think about that a lot‚ you know‚ like what if we put another person in the band? For now‚ and forever most likely‚ it will stay the Duo unless we form a whole other band. It's really free and it's really fun. Musically speaking‚ this is what we want to do; we play our tunes and cover's the way we want to play them - as opposed to being hired to play a gig like a lot of musicians are. So musically and in a business sense‚ it's really rewarding. Plus‚ being a two-man band is much easier.
MM: Yeah‚ I imagine that makes life a lot easier with just the two of you touring.
MB: Yeah‚ we tour in a Subaru station-wagon.
MM: (Laughing) There you go‚ no need for a fucking van breaking down on you‚ right?
MB: If we did get one that would enable me to bring my bass pedals for the organ‚ but for the time being this is working fine. That's been the story behind the Duo thus far‚ everything ends up working.
MM: I find it interesting that you and Joe were played together in middle school and then reconnected years later in NYC - that eventually lead to the Duo.
MB: Yeah it's funny because we grew up being influenced by the same music‚ you know‚ like Zeppelin and Black Sabbath and all the eighties bands like Def Leppard and Tears For Fears and Paul Simon as well...
MM: So you two grew up being influenced by the same music‚ then during your time apart it seems that both of you discovered the world of jazz music.
MB: Umm...yeah‚ definitely in our time apart. I know Joe was doing a bunch of stuff with Fat Mama; that band had a ton of influences. All of those guys were really into Miles Davis and they we're often compared to the whole Bitches Brew vibe. Joe was getting into the jazz thing on his own‚ like Herbie Hancock's Headhunters‚ and certain areas of jazz. I was kind of more...when I was at Berklee I didn't even know what a jamband was. It wasn't until I got out of college that I realized that this scene was going on. I was way into jazz - experimental stuff like Larry Young's Emergency and John Medeski‚ and I was into straight up stuff like Oscar Peterson. For the most part‚ I was ready to be in a piano trio‚ with an upright bass‚ you know‚ living in NYC. My passion was the piano‚ and I studied with great teachers; Brad Mehldau‚ Joanne Brackeen‚ Kenny Werner‚ all of them are great pianists and huge influences on me. I didn't think I'd be playing a lot of organ‚ honestly. I just used the organ for this funk band I was in called the Jazz Farmers.
MM: Yeah‚ the Jazz Farmers - great band. I remember seeing that band play a few years ago before I knew about you and the Duo thing. That band was a lot of fun.
MB: That was really fun - we're all close buddies‚ so more than anything it was fun. In New York I just kept getting called to do organ gigs and...well‚ it's hard in NYC unless you have a name. So starting out you couldn't get more than fifty bucks a gig‚ so the organ was an easy way to eliminate a band member‚ because I could play bass (laughter). It gradually happened where I would play more and more organ. I have such a passion for studying jazz and playing piano that I could definitely see myself doing that at some point in time down the road. I guess you would call it jazz‚ but kind of has a different definition now...
MM: That's the thing about jazz‚ and some people will argue‚ but I consider a lot of what The Slip is doing or what Vorcza is doing as the next step in jazz. A lot of the music that gets categorized in this scene I feel is the next step in jazz…
MB: Yeah‚ it's true. A lot of bands that get considered jambands could be considered jazz trios or whatever.
MM: I consider you guys to be jazz-oriented…
MB: Yeah‚ definitely.
MM: Well let me pick your brain about how you feel about this scene; you have show reviews on and a lot of times when the Duo is playing‚ it's not people coming to sit down in a jazz club‚ you're playing to kids who go see Phish and Deadheads who love dancing to improvisational music.
MB: Well‚ I think a lot of people who listen to jambands might not necessarily listen to jazz‚ like Miles or Chick Corea and all those cats. The thing about these people in this scene is that they are so psyched about live music. They love being there. It's so much fun to be playing to a really receptive and psyched audience. I mean it's great to have someone who is sixty being really receptive to live improvisational music as well‚ but‚ the young people‚ hippies or whatever you'd call it‚ are really into it watching it and being a part of helping the band make their music. It makes it really‚ really fun to be part of that scene where kids aren't going to sit down‚ they're going to get up and dance. I've always been impressed by the music listener that goes out and sees so much live music. It's like damn‚ they're not even musicians‚ you know? They go out because they love live music and they're freaks about it. I mean‚ and not that it should be‚ but they don't know if it's a minor thing or a major thing. I mean‚ I'm sure a lot of people do‚ but I think a lot of them don't know technically or in theory what's going on. I think a majority are in it for the vibe. I love people who are into music and the enthusiasm that people can bring‚ you know‚ whether it's punk music or whatever‚ but it's like this chain reaction where someone really digs it and then they play it for their friends and so on. As a comparison to the more straight-ahead jazz scene‚ the cool thing is that they're more of a sit down crowd‚ like at the Village Vanguard. They want to be soaked up by impressive‚ virtuosic and involved music; where the majority of the crowd is musicians and they want to see what this cat is playing over these changes. And that's really cool too‚ I love that. We played a sit down gig in Cleveland after this avant-garde jazz trio‚ and I really liked it. You have to work harder and you really have to listen a lot more as opposed to playing at a bar where people are up dancing. I feel Joe and I are going to play more rooms like that as openers‚ and playing rooms of that nature. I feel if you're going to be playing experimental improvisational jazz music you need to play those rooms as well‚ and we would love to start selling out those types of rooms. I know in the fall we're going to be playing some shows like that opening for the Bad Plus. We definitely would like to try tapping into those crowds as well. We've been on the festival circuit‚ you know‚ doing the High Sierra and Berkfest‚ so we're going to try to expand our audience by throwing in some jazz club gigs as well as playing the rock clubs‚ which I'm psyched about because I love playing each room. I'm psyched for the future of the Duo.
Originally published on‚ July 2003
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