totusek brubek / rec.music.makers.jazz 2000

Some musical questions now. Would you have any advice for piano players who want to develop playing in a poly-tonal fashion? When you are playing or practicing, just experiment with each key relationship against the key center you're playing in. For example, if you're in C (Major), D-Flat, D, E-Flat, E, F, F-Sharp, G, A-Flat, A, B-Flat and B are all going to work. When I started using those relationships in the beginning of the '40s, it wasn't well received. But I hear players using them all the time today. Do you mean as in a Major-scale sense, or as a dominant-chord scale sense, for example? When you're first starting to explore this, I mean as in two fundamental Triads against each other. The Triads, in root position and all the inversions are the basic key to opening this kind of thing up. For example: C-E-G/D-F#-A is a beautiful sound. Then you can extend either or both Triads to Major 7ths, Dominant 7ths, Minor 7ths, Minor 7ths with a Flat-5th, Diminished. From wherever you are starting to wherever you want to go, or explore. You can try altering the Triads or other types of chords, suspending the 3rd(s), trying inner-voice movement in each key center. And yes, you can build all kinds of lines and scales around each Triad or other type of chord. Many years ago, for some reason, when I would be playing in a G-Major, I would keep hearing E-Major a lot in the Bass register. So I'd play what I heard. So unlike a lot of people, you don't just play by superimposing a different key center in your right hand, against whatever the home key center is being played by your left hand and/or the band. The home key center can be in the right hand and you superimpose different key centers in your left hand. That's very different from how many players approach it. Like Paul Desmond's old story about the first time he played with me. He said that he called a Blues in B-Flat. Then I came in with G-Major in my left hand and B-Flat in my right hand. It totally wigged him out! It's probably better not to do that when you're playing with a bass player, but I do it anyway. So, there's what music teachers used to claim are impossible relationships. That they said shouldn't work, but they do. I feel that all of them work. Like I've had it happen that I'm playing in C-Major. And all of a sudden I start hearing B-Major, which I start playing in my right hand. According to tradition it should sound horrible, but it's a beautiful sound! I started hearing these things in the early 1940s. Like people have said that G is the first overtone from C, and most related to C. But for me, I kept hearing F-Sharp instead of G. F-Sharp was the center of the scale I heard, not G. Also count up to F-Sharp or down to G-Flat chromatically from C and you'll see it's in the center. That relationship, the augmented 4th being the center of the scale from the root, is the springboard that I've used for years. In the key of C, if you use the F-Sharp or G-Flat Major Triad, then you've got the augmented 4th, the 7th and the Flat 9th. And they're so related. When you stick 'em right next to each other, like play the C-Major in second inversion G-C-E, and put the F-Sharp in root position a half-step from the G. Then you've got all these neat intervals: half-steps, minor 3rds, whole step, together. I was always told that the half-steps in particular were the worst dissonance there is, but to me they were always beautiful. I would also sometimes hear another key center against the two I was already playing and end up with both of my hands in two different key centers than the band was playing in. When I was experimenting I would deliberately hit dissonant or unresolved chords or tone-clusters. Then I would experiment with different ways of resolving them or just find ways to make 'em move into where I wanted to go. I've always loved the sounds of minor and major seconds too. I've heard a lot of inner-voice stuff in your playing, not only contrapuntal ideas, but many things where you've got different points of tension in your lines. Then your inner-voices start moving all kinds of ways and I can never quite predict where they're going to go, because you are always exploring. This is why Paul used to stand in the crook of the piano listening, this is what always fascinated him the most, night after night. It was the inner-voices. A lot of times he'd just look over at me and laugh in delight. I was very unpredictable for him. What was going to happen next? That's what "Jazz" is all about, is being inventive night after night. That's why you should play "Jazz". In terms of poly-rhythms, is there anything you can recommend to develop greater independence of hands and to learn to hear the two meters? So that you've got an equal balance between them, instead of having one meter overpower the other in your hearing of them? Yes. When you're walking down the street. Walk in a steady meter of two, or three, or four, or five, etc. Then when you've got that steady beat going, practice playing another beat against it, using one of your hands on your chest. Then when you can keep that going, use your other hand to beat out another rhythm. Then when you can do that, sing or speak another rhythm on top of what you've already got going. Listen: {Brubeck taps his feet in two, beats three against it with one hand on his chest, then adds five against it with his other hand}. Sounds like an African Drum Ensemble. Do you have an influence from African rhythms? Oh yes! I had the good fortune of hearing African rhythms before anyone else I knew. It was an acetate recording called "The Dennis Roosevelt Expedition into the Belgium Congo". Roosevelt carried an acetate recording machine into the jungle, can you imagine how difficult that was to do back then? I used to rent that recording from the record store. I was too poor to be able to buy it, so I'd save whatever I could and rent it as often as I could. This was back in '46, when I started the Octet. Right then I knew that "Jazz" didn't reflect Africa hardly at all, that we were only using a little of it. This music was so complicated rhythmically by comparison. I used to tell "Jazz" players that they needed to get into these rhythms, that they needed to think about what came from Africa, instead of just thinking about what came from mostly Western Europe. Also, my Quartet was one of the first groups of Western musicians to jam with East Indian musicians. Have you found a common thread between the African rhythms and East Indian rhythms, when you were in India playing with Indian musicians? Indian and African musicians were usually rhythmically so far ahead of "Jazz" musicians. And the great ones still are to this day. I played with some great Indian musicians. Their rhythms were just way beyond what I could think. They were there from years and years of discipline. They told me that when you went to your teacher, you usually lived with him. It was often for a twelve year period. And you did nothing except rudiments for all that time. You had to learn how to sing or say all of them, as well as play them on your instrument. Then when you knew them all, you were then allowed to improvise. What a dream! Both the Indian and African drummers are so far ahead of us. I remember seeing "King Solomon's Mine" early in my life. It had some African music in it. I came away thinking "This is the greatest percussion sound". I wrote a piece two years ago called "JAZZANIANS" based on one of the rhythms I remember from that. We recorded it on the new C.D. "TRIO BRUBECK", which is Danny, Chris and me. So everything you've heard from other parts of the World, both rhythmic and melodic ideas, you've fused into the music you do. You're very much the true eclectic. Yeah. I understand that you helped pave the way for other "fusion" musics to occur in 1950s, ‘60s and '70s, by being one of the early proponents of what became known as “Third-Stream Music”? I believed that "Jazz" should draw on all musics from around the world, especially African, Eastern ethnic and "classical" musics, and European "classical" music. Beginning in the mid-1940s, I adapted rhythms and melodies from World musics into the "Jazz" traditions. My approach fuses "Blues" piano styles, Swing-Bass left hand architecture, tone clusters, harmonic fragmentation ("Shells"), single note lines, the "Bach Chorale" approach, canons, rounds, imitative counterpoint, fugal structures, with the aforementioned World music elements. What do you consider to be the universal language common to all cultures? Melody? I perceive that the universal language in all cultures is rhythm, even before melody or harmony.