Saturday, September 28, 2013

13questions Sheryl Bailey


Guitarist Sheryl Bailey is among the foremost bop-based guitarists to have emerged in the 1990’s. Jazz journalist Bill Milkowski described her this way: “a modernist burner with an abundance of Pat Martino-style chops, Bailey prefers angular lines, odd harmonies, and the occasional touch of dissonance as she sails up and down the fretboard with fluid abandon.” Her musical activities aren’t confined to the bop-based jazz tradition, however. She has toured and recorded with eclectic bassist Richard Bona, and is a member of David Krakauer’s Klezmer Madness.

One of her latest release is Bull’s Eye — with organist Gary Versace and drummer Ian Froman. The CD features nine new compositions and tightly woven trio improvisations. A track from the disc, “Old and Young Blues,” is featured in Master Anthology of Jazz solos, vol. IV, published by Mel Bay. Bailey is also working on a book for Mel Bay about modern approaches to jazz improvisation. Her last recording is A New Promise in Puremusic Records, with the Pittsburgh's excellent 16-piece Three Rivers Jazz Orchestra. She also teaches at Berklee, and at Stanford University's summer workshops.

1. Which was the first record you bought with your own money?
Peter Frampton — Frampton Comes Alive.


2. Which was the last record you bought with your own money?
John McLaughlin — Extrapolation.


3. What was the first solo you learned from a record — and can you still play it?
The first guitar solo was Alvin Lee [with Ten Years After] on “I’m Going Home,” from the Woodstock record. The first jazz solos I learned were saxophonist Paul Desmond on “Body and Soul” and an Oscar Moore solo from a Nat Cole Trio recording I had. I can’t play any of these solos note for note now, but they are all part of the stew.


4. Which recording of your own (or as a sideman) are you most proud of, and why?
The Power of 3, because it was done in just one day and we played our butts off! Also, David Krakauer’s Live in Krakow, because it was a fun recording situation — we recorded live shows for four nights straight. The audiences were so lively, the record is a nice souvenir of the event.


5. What’s the difference between playing live and playing in a studio?
Live, you have the influence of the audience’s energy. When you have a band that plays with a big dynamic range, you bounce it off of the listeners and it can get really intense. You could almost consider the audience another member of the band, because they contribute so much to the performance.


6. What’s the difference between a good gig and a bad gig?
I think that is all in the mind, unless there are some bizarre technical problems. Performance wise, I’m always a harsh critic of my work. It’s funny — often times if a gig is recorded and I hear it after the fact, I’m surprised. If it didn’t feel so good during the gig, it usually sounds good later, and vice versa. If the audience is happy, and if I’m a side-person and the leader is happy, then I’m basically happy. So I try not to judge things, and go with the flow.

7. What’s the difference between a good guitar and a bad guitar?
A good or great guitar makes it effortless to express your ideas. A bad guitar could be bad because of it’s tonal qualities or set-up. Some guitars don’t have a voice, or they suck the tone back into themselves instead of singing out. A lot new guitars these days have so much glossy finish on them that sucks up the sound.
The set-up is really important. I like heavy strings and a fast action. I want all of the notes to speak evenly and quickly. I want the strings to feel a little stiff, so there’s some bounce for my right hand and room to dig in without getting an ugly, pingy sound.


8. You play electric and acoustic. Do you approach the two differently?
Actually, I rarely get called to play acoustic, so it sits in the closet. It would be fun to have some experiences to really learn about the difference.

9. Do you sound more like yourself on acoustic or electric?

10. Do you sound like yourself on other people’s guitars?
Yes, because of the content of my ideas and the way I touch the instrument. There can be many factors that make the sonic quality different, but I’m sure you’d recognize my voice.

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11. Which living artist (music, or other arts) would you like to collaborate with?
David Bowie, or Laurie Anderson.


12. What dead artist would you like to have collaborated with?
Miles Davis.


13. What’s your latest project about (2011)?
I’ve had a trio with Gary Versace on Hammond B3 and Ian Froman on drums since 2001. I write music for the sound of organ trio, and for the vibe of those two players in mind. I was very influenced by the Grant Green/Larry Young/Elvin Jones trio, and I’ve played with several organists over the years, so I wanted to take something very traditional but approach it from a modern standpoint. There is a strong foundation of the post-bop tradition, but something contemporary about how we play. We can draw from so many influences.
I write a lot of music. We have a solid book of over 50 tunes. I write music that is simple and melodic, and most importantly, fun to blow on. The band is about the joy of improvising and, having worked together over the years, it has gone in directions that I couldn’t have imagined.
We’ve also developed a following, which has been very rewarding for me. When people come to shows and request tunes of mine that they know, I feel like they have been a guest at my house, because writing is the most intimate expression of my inner landscape. Even though there are no lyrics, the songs are all connected to places and faces. In the fall, we’ll record a live record. I am excited, because our live shows are off the hook. That’s where it gets the most intense.

2013 Isle of Klezbos and Sheryl Bailey Duo
Saturday, 28 September 2013, 08:00pm
Isle of Klezbos and Sheryl Bailey Duo play the Kleinert/James Center for the Arts, 36 Tinker Street, Woodstock.
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Adam Levy