Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Dwayne Burno Interview Part 2

It's great to see good responses about Part 1 of  The Dwayne Burno Interview. There have been a few negative responses, which is normal for anything on the internet; I am not opposed to that, however, I insist that you keep your opinions clean and respectful, or I have to delete them. Mr. Burno is very opinionated, which is typical of artistic types. I would rather hear true opinions than the hunky dory "I love the world" types of interviews you tend to read in the Mainstream Jazz Propaganda Press. And your are welcome to disagree, let's just keep it civil and clean, no shots below the belt, as it were.

Burno had even more to say after this; he is clearly thoughtful and articulate. So there may even be a Part 3! So stay tunes for that. Here is Part 2. (Note: I usually try to put some pictures up with the text, but it's not working for some reason. I might add some pics at a later date, but I wanted to get this posted, so here goes.)

GC: Can you give me your 5 desert island discs? Although I realize that this idea is pretty old fashioned, what with ipods, and all......

DB: First......Lee Morgan,The Sidewinder. I've fell in love with this record in 1982 (at age 12) when my brother brought it home between collegiate semesters. The funky, infectious, dance-inspiring 15 minute groove laid down by Billy Higgins, Barry Harris, and Bob Cranshaw. The compositions are The Sidewinder, Totem Pole, Gary's Notebook, Oh Boy, What a Night!, Hocus Pocus. I always felt the Sidewinder was one of the most complete and fulfilling recordings ever made. It has five tunes of with varied flavors, characteristics and feelings. Though there are three looks at the blues form (two long meter blues and one. In a minor key) and two standard-based form compositions (one, loosely based on Duke Ellington's "The Mooche" and the other, a take off on "Mean to Me"), each composition has a feeling unto itself. Also, you have five, distinct and diverse improvisational styles and voices that work together as one and this recording is one of the best examples of this.

Number two is Edvard Greig, Piano Concerto in A minor. I was lucky enough to grow up in Philadelphia when receiving a public school education as a student was still worthwhile, attainable and possible. Our school had music classes. Our schools had music programs. I learned Latin beginning in fourth grade through my senior year in high school. We (teachers with classes of students) took an interesting variety of field trips. A few I fondly remember were a trip to the Acme bakery where we witnessed the bread making process in a plant. My second grade class went to an Asian exhibit at the Philadelphia Civic Center. This was my first encounter with Asian cuisine items like nori, wakame and my introduction to chopsticks. This planted the seeds of my affinity for Japanese culture and cuisine. This continued for me through high school and specifically as a result of being in the music magnet program. A few times throughout the school year, the members of the orchestra were afforded the opportunity to attend open rehearsals of the world's (at least it was considered as such, at that time in history) greatest symphony orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra. I saw it under two conductors. Eugene Ormandy and Ricardo Muti. One such rehearsal was my introduction to a composer and his well known piece. This theme caught my interest and his never left me.

This three movement piano concerto has always moved me to tears or tears upon every listen.

Third is Shirley Horn, Here's to Life. Just to hear this lady sing, sing and accompany herself on piano or hear her sing with orchestra or big band is heaven, for me. Her voice, timing and vocal phrasing are like her lush piano harmonies. Rich, sublime, subtle, quietly suggestive while. Intense that it feels like the lid on a pot of boiling water is threatening to fly off. I took my now, wife (then, girlfriend) to hear her at the Blue Note in New York City on a magical night when Ron Carter substituted for her regular bassist, Charles Ables, who was ill and passed away shortly after. The disc, Here's to Life, contains great songs like Bruno Martino's "Estate" (Summer, in Italian), Mandel's "A Time for Love", and magnificent orchestrations by Johnny Mandel. Here's to Life, the disc and the title song, bring me to tears almost upon every hearing.

I was listening to my iPod while riding New York City public transportation (as I often do) which serves as a soundtrack as well as a great and necessary diversion from the chaos and strangeness of the everyday subway or bus ride. This particular day was the anniversary of my late mother's death. Born September 24, 1935, she passed away May 30, 2001. The blow of her passing has waned and the pain decreases with time. Usually, these "commemorative" thoughts don't even raise their heads. But this May day in 2009, I was on the B54 (a Brooklyn bus route) and these two songs served as the setup of an emotional one-two punch that left me on the canvas. reeling. I'm actually welling with tears as I type.

I would take the B54 bus from downtown Brooklyn as the final leg of whatever journey home. This particular day, as I listened to my iPod, the music dragged me to the memories of my mother. The first song that got to me was "A House is Not a Home" recorded by Ronald Isley and it's composer, Burt Bacharach. The words and feeling of the recording made me think of home which naturally made me think of my mother. Then, as that song ended came the knockout punch, Shirley Horn's version of "Here's to Life" as arranged by Johnny Mandel. This song began about three blocks before my stop so I knew if I didn't stand up immediately and get off this bus, I'd be a blubbering idiot and I preferred not to leave folks with that image of myself.

After leaving the bus, I continued to listen to Shirley while the tears streamed in a steady flow on my half block walk home. I was about thirty feet from my house when I noticed my downstairs neighbor was standing on the brownstone stoop. She clearly noticed my blubbering and asked out of concern if I was okay. I tried to gather my composure bit couldn't. I actually sobbed harder and lost. 

Now, most that know me (or THINK they do), think of me as a quiet, mostly nice but sometimes gruff, honest and sincere but maybe not the warmest or fuzziest person that doesn't hesitate to speak his mind if he believes or thinks something. Some may think or term me in sensitive. This would only be because they really don't know me at all. To know me is to know that I cry when the wind blows and am one giant, emotional teddy bear. Our (former, since both families vacated that building) downstairs neighbors, the Jones family (Ervin, Nicole and Cydni) had been my wife's neighbors for her entire thirteen years and the six years I resided there. Over time, they became family to us and hopefully, vice-versa. The mother in Nicole led her to rest my head on her shoulder and comfort me through my tears. I'm sure seeing me in a broken state was unnerving for her. Even with my times of illness with kidney disease, I must have appeared like some pillar of strength because I was always up, moving, headed out the door with bass and suitcase to go make music in some distant part of the globe.
I, again, made an attempt to gather myself and stop crying long enough to explain what was behind why I was crying.

I explained the significance of the day and date and the torrent of emotion that overtook me on my bus ride and walk home which culminated in an outpouring of tears. All of it really was an acknowledgment of how much I truly love and miss my mother and selfishly wish she were still here for me. She never met her two grandchildren or one great-grandson or my wife. There were questions I never asked. Recipes I wish I'd gotten or not lost over the years. There are thank yous I would say especially now that I'm a parent and truly KNOW what she went through and why and what sacrifices and decisions were made.

Nicole said some things that put the experience in a different light for me. She told me that maybe hearing these songs was my mother's way of communicating with me that day from the great beyond. This experience made me respect and appreciate Nicole Jones as a warm, caring nurturing mother and parent and also reaffirmed my belief in the spirit and power of music, both earthly and ethereally.

My fourth choice would be Juan Carlos Laguna's Brasileiro:
 (Heitor) Villa-Lobos. I have always loved the musics of other countries south of our North American borders, but most especially, Brazil.
Of course we all know "Tom" (Antonio Carlos) Jobim or Luis Bonfa from their music's association and popularity garnered from the bossa nova/samba craze in the late '50's. We also know popular artists like Sergio Mendes, Dori Cayimi, Ivan Lins, and Milton Nascimento.

I became aware of the music of Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos through a jazz guitarist friend of mine (David Moreno). We were rehearsing in preparation of a concert performance. Included amidst the repertoire was an adaptation or arrangement of a classical composition (more likely a guitar etude) of Villa-Lobos' that Moreno entitled "A Day of Orchids". The musical richness, depth and beauty of this piece made we want to know more of Villa-Lobos' music. The next person to bring me to Villa-Lobos in a roundabout fashion was jazz trumpeter "Kenny" (McKinley Howard) Dorham. There is a quite popular guitar etude that trumpet players have adapted as a practice/chop warm up exercise. Dorham recorded this piece on the recording "Inta Something/Music Matador". 

Nothing brings me closer to the unknown in music than having idle moments with nothing but time on my hands. My summer touring schedule during the year 2000 took me to Suomi (Finland). The band spent five days in the country and four of them were off days. Because of Suomi's physical relationship and positioning in such close proximity to the northern polar axis, the city experienced "daylight" for about twenty hours of the day and about a three to four hour period of twilight before returning to daylight. The band was scheduled to perform one set at the Pori Jazz Festival but our days off were spent sitting in Helsinki. Our hotel happened to be adjacent to a music store. I was so bored that I decided to go to the music store and purchase a nylon string guitar and a disc of Villa-Lobos etudes. I was determined to learn how to play that one etude, in particular. And I surely did.

My favorite piece in particular of Villa-Lobos' is Bachianas Brasileras no. 5. You've got to hear it, to feel, understand or believe it. Wayne Shorter, recorded an arrangement of it on his disc, Alegria. Genius acknowledging genius.

My fifth choice is interesting: Myron Walden's Like a Flower Seeking the Sun. This is my "vanity" moment. This is the only recording I listed that includes my musical participation. This is one of the recordings I've made that I truly walked away feeling proud of. There are a few others like George Colligan's The Newcomer, Bright Nights by tenor saxophonist Johannes Enders, the three discs I've recorded with Jeremy Pelt (November, Men of Honor, and The Talented Mr. Pelt), David Hazeltine's Blues Quarters, Volume 1, trumpeter Alex Norris's A New Beginning, and John Swana's Tug of War.

I have know Myron since he was a reverent, respectful, inquisitive seventeen year old. I watched this talent grow, develop and mature into the genius that presently occupies his mind and body. I have participated in a great deal of the incarnations of his working bands. I appreciate his dedication, work ethic, and his commitment to music. Myron has this uncanny ability to conceptualize and eventually realize or actualize his musical ideas. I've seen him think of a grouping of instruments and hit the compositional drawing board and return with ten or twelve tunes specifically for that grouping and its sound qualities and characteristics. We recorded Myron's debut disc as a leader, "Hypnosis" (NYC Records), through a "collection" of sessions which were used to satisfactorily complete the entirety of the project. 

I must admit that our personal and musical friendship and relationship were experiencing tense challenges. Myron had one drummer that he regularly hired for which I shared an iron-clad musical and personal affinity. He and this drummer were having struggling with issues of maturity, professionalism and boundaries and it was affecting our group unity. At this point, Myron brought three other drummers into the fold. This began to start a divide between us. One drummer was perfect. The three of us had a great kinship and trust and shared personal and musical history together. The second, though talented and a nice enough guy, doesn't play modern jazz drums. Basically, this drummer plays with characteristics of swing era drummers (ie. Loud, heavy bass drum ala four on the floor style as opposed to the bebop technique of "feathering" the bass drum, the reasons and significance of which is because the low tonal and sonic register and frequency levels a of the bass drum when played hard rather than lightly feathered, makes the notes of the double bass virtually inaudible). This drummer played a style which incorporated a mix of older era elements and more contemporary elements but my feeling was this style was ill-suited for the trio's sound and feel. Then, the final drummer was brand spanking new to town. Within the week Myron brought this drummer to my attention, I heard this drummer for myself, rehearsing with a guitarist for a recording date. What I heard was potential but what most of us term "not ready for prime time" playing. This drummer's time feel and sound were wrong. So wrong that almost an entire two days of session takes were rejected and to complete Hypnosis, sessions that were "demos" were used to round out and complete the project. I felt like I was pulling the most obstinate of mules.

Then, came Myron's next project idea. He wanted to incorporate another voice into the trio but he wanted them to function differently than what would be normally expected of this instrument. Myron choice of instrument was guitar and his musical foil, Kurt Rosenwinkel. I knew Kurt from Philadelphia. I did not at all know him well but had heard him once or twice before we both exited Philly for Boston's Berklee. Kurt was always leaps and bounds beyond the rest of the pack. This sounds like a great idea and the music that could be created and realized would likely astound. Nothing could be further from the truth.

From the end result, the music on the released final product, one might think it was a ride on easy street with caviar and roses but I can tell you it certainly was not.

Myron is a visionary. The best and worst of Myron's vision is that he knows exactly what he wants and will not budge until he receives it. We began about two months of intermittent rehearsals interspersed with Myron's regular night (the first Wednesday of every month) at Smalls to iron out the material. Kurt was into the idea of meshing and integrating with the band. Kurt believed he would comp and interject more like the role a pianist takes since he was the only chordal instrument. Myron's idea of Kurt's role was completely different and put the two at odds during the entire process of preparing to record. Myron wanted Kurt to play some doubled melodies, very sparse chordal comping with more sonic effects for the creation of drama. Kurt felt there was more he could contribute and more he could and should be doing to make the music happen. Myron would simply say "That's not the concept. Don't think of yourself as part of the band. Act ike you're listening to us and you hear us but every so often, you play a chord or long melodic line to suggest or direct but don't comp. Remember, you're not part of the band. You're separate from what's going on over here.". This seemed to infuriate and frustrate Kurt to no end. There was a point where I though Kurt was literally going to bag on Myron so I prepared to suggest guitarist Ben Monder who has a similar creative and artistic greatness and I knew might handle the directives with less frustration.

We finally made it to the finish line, Avatar recording Studios, to put the music down. The one thing about the date that nags and haunts me was the chosen recording methodology. There are some musicians that I've recorded with that cling to this fool's notion and belief that recording today like they did forty to fifty years ago is the best way to go. I thoroughly disagree. However, because I'm just the bass player rather than the executive producer, big-baller, shot caller, my thoughts usually remain in my pocket with my lint and change. 

We recorded in one room with very little separation from baffling yet I can't remember if we used headphones or not. The bass sound on this recording is lower than I felt it should be in the group mix. This will haunt my soul forever. Other than that, it is one of the greatest musical statements I've ever been a part of. The beautiful melodies and thematic dramatics are the captivating qualities of tjis recording. I feel like I've sat through an hour long saga on Broadway after listening to this from end to end. There are three varied treatments of the title track. We play it initially as an uptempo piece, then in the disc's middle, we play it as a lilting waltz and then we bookend the disc by playing it rubato (out of fixed, constant tempo). Othr highlights are "(my personal favorite) As Night Falls", "Pulse", "Path Of The Sun", "Tears Of the Fallen One", and "Momentum".

GC: What advice do I give to young jazz students?

DB: I try to tell whatever students I come in contact with to never stop listen and learning. The moment you think you know it all is the point where you plateau and there is more than enough inspiration within the history, science, theories, sounds, knowledge and information of music to keep you busy forever. Keep going beyond. Learn tunes. Buy recordings. Buy sheet music. Learn the lyrics, forms, verses, melodies, changes and harmonies of tunes correctly. Consistently, investigate. You hear a quote in someone's solo, ask where it comes from. Don't stop at the Real Book and take the changes to any tune as gospel.

I tell any young musicians that ask anything of me, to never stop listening. Investigate everything. Do your homework. Learn tunes, buy recordings, read and learn great and not so great artist’s histories. Practice and develop the things that put you atop the call list and separates you from the herd. Things like sight reading, intonation, quality instrumental tone and sonic production and projection, development of your ear so that you can hear and still perform if there is no music.

Do the intangibles. Dress appropriately and correctly for your engagement. Take pride in your appearance. Respect yourself, your craft and your audience. Arrive early to work which may require leaving earlier. Speak well which means courteously and without vulgarity or profanity. Know when to speak on and off the cuff and to whom you’re speaking and judge whether it is time to speak in a professional or more relaxed manner. Remember, you are in business. You ultimately work for the persons or commercial entities that hire your services. They are not your friends. At the end of the day, they are more concerned with their job and their families than you and your job and family. 

I recommend remaining respectful, courteous and professional when addressing those that employ you but I also recommend that you stand up for yourself and your band and accept nothing less than what is correct or fair and proper treatment. If you erode the face of professionalism with profanity, candor and off color commentary, you risk not being taken seriously when it’s time to talk money. Do not drink alcohol until the gig is over, especially if you can’t handle yourself well after one or more drinks. This you should know about yourself. Treat and take your music and work as seriously as you expect those in other serious professions and positions. Do YOU want a drunk or high airline pilot? Heart or brain surgeon train conductor? Bus or livery driver?

I urge all young musicians to stay fit, spiritually, mentally, physically and musically. This has been what I personally discuss, especially with younger, black musicians. Knowing that we as a ethnic grouping experience more disease and illnesses such as diabetes, high blood pressure, hypertension, heart disease and stroke as a result of stress, dietary and lifestyle choices, and lack of exercise. I urge young musicians to engage in healthier eating, trying to eat at healthier times (like not eating after your gig then going to sleep), exercise which could be as involved as hitting the gym 3 or 4 times a week or simply walking a mile a day, getting the right amount of rest and sleep, eliminating salt and saturated fat from your diet, participating in a stress relieving activity like a yoga class. I helped one friend, a pianist, James Austin to do what it took to take the steps to get a handle on his blood pressure. This was through me detailing what my life and routine were when I was doing daily kidney dialysis over a meal. He called a couple of months after hearing what I said and thanked me because after hearing what I was going through, he knew he had to regain control of his health and proactively make sound and necessary adjustments in his behavior and choices.

I urge all of the young musicians to get some form of health care and maintain it. You will never know if or when you'll need it. It should be as primary a concern as paying rent. I urge them all to see a doctor for bloodwork and a physical twice a year and the same goes for the dentist. If the body in part or in whole begins to break or shut down, we literally can't function properly as people or musicians. I've heard the excuses from all of the young musicians (and made the same bullshit ones when I was their age). I used to spend more on compact discs and vinyl records over two to three months and easily could have sacrificed and afforded and should have paid for health insurance instead. If you're lucky enough to be working, do yourself a favor and make the sacrifice.
GC:  How has fatherhood affected your outlook on jazz, the jazz scene or on life in general?

DB: Fatherhood completely changed my life. Most don’t know, but I suffered with kidney disease and eventually did six, straight years of daily, kidney dialysis. I underwent a much needed and successful kidney transplant on December 15, 2010. I have now re-entered the realm of normalcy. Most of my life, I hemmed and hawed and straddled the proverbial fence about fatherhood and deciding if it was indeed for me. Everyone that knew me would say or tell me I’d be the perfect father. I would see children one day and think them to be so cute and tell myself I wanted that experience. Then, I’d see a child while walking down the street, giving his parent or parents grief or hear a news story about an abduction or some cruel act perpetrated against a child or children and ask myself how could I ever consider bringing a child into this pit of a world?

I give a great deal of credit to my son, Quinn for keeping me alive. He literally gave me something to live for. I was diagnosed with kidney disease at the start of 2004 and began dialysis in September 2004. There were many times in my first year that I felt I was going to die or possibly not make it through to illness but once he came along, my focus was regained. I knew I had a great new job. I now had to help shape a kind new citizen of the world. I want to help guide him through to being a great man. I want to see him graduate schools, college, work, become a generous, productive, law-abiding member of society and the human race. I came to the conclusion and still hold fast and strong to it that if I never played one more note of music from this moment forward, I would hope that I am more if not equally fulfilled by doing the best job of raising my son to be the finest possible human being on this or any planet. I take raising him that seriously.

I actually believe that having or starting a family is more to the heart of the question. I juggle. I am home with my family, in spirit, at all times. probably even more so when i am physically absent. It has become increasingly more difficult to want to leave my house to play gigs that I may be less enthused about. There were some nights this past winter where I absolutely hated walking out the door and leaving the warmth of my family and aprtment to make music. Ever since my son's birth, I have genuinely hated traveling. It doesn't help that the American airline industry has gone to shit behind 911 with their lies and terrorism hysteria and fuel price excuses, baggage charges and having to suffer the ignorance and ineptitude of the TSA, all designed to gauge the consumers. I am in service of my family, then I am in service of the music. My health and my family are my top priorities.

The jazz scene is almost nonexistent to me. I'm the last one to hear the rumors or latest gossip. I feel like I live in a bubble. I learn of things now from reading them on Facebook. Otherwise,  I'm trying to scrape the pennies together for food, rent and child and home related expenses. I also try to maintain my fire and desire to grow within my dream of what music is and could be to me.


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