a Free Jazz Genius
by Sergio Sorrentino - third part
How do you proceed when you're composing?
I usually start by letting my instincts guide me to some melodic material, which I then either sing into a recorder or write down, depending on whether I’m in my car or someplace where I can write it down. Then I develop it further with playing or in many cases now with more writing. These days I have much less interest in composing and I rely more on improvisation and the configuration of my ensembles as the formal material I use. I trust my ability to adjust what I play from one situation to another, through the use of technique and what I call “the properties of free music”—the parts that affect the pulse, the structure of the music whether it is melodic harmonic or timbral, the form, as well as the bits that are presented by the other players. This approach allows me to make many different kinds of performance with very little or no composed material at all—and still arrive a the kind of unique result that a composition might provide. And so my sense of composition really does include the idea that having nothing written down may be the best way to achieve a very strong and distinct musical idea.
Can you talk about your gear?
For many years my only guitar was my Les Paul custom. I still play it but mostly for the louder things I do. I have a few fairly inexpensive archtops and Eastman ar-810, a Ibanez af-120 and a Washburn j6, and a Washburn Hb-35 which is a semi-hollow body like a 335. I say they are inexpensive because I travel with them and so it is not safe to travel with a great old Gibson L5 or L7. I need instruments that I can afford to lose. Fortunately so far I haven’t lost anything. I change the pickups on some of my guitars. I like all of these instruments and once I get them setup in the way I like them I think they are as good as anything else. I have a 1974 Fender Deluxe silverface with an EV speaker. A Marshall JCM 2-12” combo 100 watt, for loud gigs and to amplify my Eastman on some gigs I use a Roland AC-60. I
“Mess Hall” the last piece of my Big Loud Electric guitar Trilogy, with Steve Lantner on keyboard and Jerome Deupree on drums. A new quartet featuring Jim Hobbs on alto and two amazing very young musicians Pat Kuehn on bass and Nick Neuburg on drums I am restarting my quartet from the 1990’s with Mat Maneri, Chris Lightcap and Gerald Cleaver. We record later this summer.
Thank you very much!