Live Rehearsal at la Folie NYC
During this live recording / rehearsal session everything was centered on the material we played, and not on the opportunity to impress the audience at the club. We wanted people to listen, and become aware that we were completely committed to the music we performed. The songs featured on this CD were not previously rehearsed among the three of us, and further on, neither has this band ever played together before, although we have all played with each other many times on separate occasions, as part of other bands and functions. Bass player John Loehrke was introduced to me by Alan Kamen, pianist and music director of "The Angry Squire" jazz club in Chelsea, where we played in the late eighties. Loehrke was the bassist in Alan's house band, and has recorded with him as well. I have asked Alan and Loehrke to join me, together with John Tank, a great Canadian tenor and soprano sax player, in forming a straight ahead jazz quartet. Shortly thereafter the idea of THE JAZZ ENTERPRISE was conceived, which is also what we named the band. Loehrke and I have since worked together on and off as part of either Alan's, or my own band, within a trio, or larger band formats, depending on how many horns we were capable of "reeling in", or allowed to include, at various gigs and sessions throughout town. We got accustomed to each other's style, enjoyed the interplay, and solid groove we were capable of delivering. Guitarist extraordinaire Kenny Wessel, on the other hand, was introduced to me by another good friend, whom I have worked and studied music with for a long time in NYC, a truly phenomenal pianist, composer, and keyboard player - Charles Blenzig. At one point I needed a guitar player for a steady gig at a small venue on Second Avenue in Manhattan, which lacked space to accommodate an upright piano, and decided to give Kenny a call. At first, once I discovered more about Kenny's impressive musical resume, I felt a bit intimidated by the fact that such a great, acclaimed guitar player, has accepted to work with me solely based on the recommendation of our mutual friend Charles, with whom we both have often played, but again never at the same time...I was primarily worried if I was going to be able technically to match his virtuosity, and advanced level of playing, which was understandable considering Kenny's career. To mention a few facts: Professor of jazz guitar, improvisation and harmony at the renowned and respected Manhattan School of Music; guest lecturer, and master clinician at The Yale University; guitarist with Ornette Coleman's Prime Time band since 1988; during the eighties member of Arthur Prysock's ensemble; performed with such jazz giants as Pat Metheny, Lou Reed, The London Philharmonic, Dewey Redman, the list goes on... In the end we "clicked" smoothly, and started working together steadily in a trio, and occasionally as a quartet format for many years. Kenny became the foundation of The Jazz Enterprise Trio 'featuring strings', a.k.a. 'The Jazz Enterprise 2', and took upon the same role as Charles Blenzig, and later on Jon Davis have held in my piano trio, the original Jazz Enterprise line up. For quite some time I have maintained two separate working bands, which I was the leader of - What an awesome privilege! During this session we decided that serving the music would be our main goal...and were not much concerned with anything else. We tried to play the repertoire our way, only thinking of music, and Kenny's spirited, immaculately phrased single string solos gave the group a relaxed, swinging feeling, in addition to the chime like harps which beautifully sustained blues phrases. It is easy to develop a good rapport with artists and to understand what it is exactly that they're looking for, if it's only about the music. You have to understand what the song requires, and not what people want to hear. Kenny, John and I just let ourselves go completely, and played the music, while the tape was rolling. There are many things to take into consideration once confronted with a live recording session, which is what the three of us were confronted with during this session. Namely to timely gauge each others attitude and mood, whether it being receptive or competitive, and try to communicate immediately, spontaneously, opening up completely, listening to each others opinions, and trying to understand current phrases, and predicting the ones to follow immediately. We also tried to obscure our surroundings, which we couldn't completely control, due to the nature of a live club type setting, with people freely roaming around us with cocktails in their hands. It was also very important to me, as well as to the rest of the guys from the band, to have a drum set that I felt comfortable with, and small stage monitors we can hear everything with, otherwise the situation could have gotten confusing and, sooner or later somebody would have ended up playing too loud. Since all of us prefer smaller stages, vs. large auditoriums, La Folie met our demands, and has proven to be almost perfect, from an acoustical point of view. The sound on the stage was good, and I didn't have to play on a drum riser, eventually causing the drums to move too much, which made it all the more convenient. I like everything set solidly in place, and I don't like having to dampen the drums with anything, although this recording session required an adjustment of the drum projection, because of the room layout, but, in spite of all those circumstances, I tried to dampen as little as possible, so as not to affect the feel of the sticks on the heads too much. What I learned over the course of the years from my NYC piers - Darko, Ken, Jon, Charles, Travis, Ron and many others, is that in order to become a real professional and have a significant career in music, you have to be able to really get into the music, any kind, and be a good listener. Communicate with people, listen to what the bassist and the other musicians are playing, and do it with assurance. Sometimes drummers, including myself, like to be in charge of a situation, but in doing so they intimidate the rest of the musicians and there's no give and take. With a little coaching from my fellow musicians, I have realized that I can be successful without being too aggressive, but I needed to improve my self confidence. I learned how to show respect and compassion towards other musicians, and at the same time, guide things along. I think this is most important. Obviously, you need the capacity and the skills, but technical skill alone is not enough. Many times drummers try to play everything, hoping to be great in jazz, rock, funk, latin & pop, but I don't think that being a great drummer depends on the number of styles you can play. I could consider playing in a heavy metal band, but I probably wouldn't be passionate about it. At this point in my life, I know I could do it, but I don't want to do it just to prove that I can. We've got to be true to ourselves, and in my case - I realized I owe it to my past to release this recording and honor at least a few of the many fine musicians I had the privilege, honor and pleasure to work with during my tenure as music director of The La Folie Jazz club in NYC, during the 90's. In the past, there were some musical situations I was involved with where I had no idea what to play! Sometimes you might not understand exactly what the producer or your fellow band mate expects from you, and other times you could be listening to what they've programmed and realize that you never would have thought of that. It's interesting to see people who really think like musicians, and not only as drummers. My versatility is derived from the concept of serving the music, and I do it because I like it. All of the above mentioned is the reason that the concept of this CD is rather different...a live, spontaneous, jazz documentary... but also one which is very difficult to achieve. I don't know exactly at what point this idea was conceived but I know in the past I've always imagined that there was a way to achieve it, and then I decided to do it. When I played that session, with Kenny and John I really believed in it. At that moment it meant everything to us. We did it because we spontaneously agreed to do it that way, improvised, on the verge of instinctive, and were totally sure of what we were doing, although uncertain of what the final outcome would sound like once recorded. I developed my personal vocabulary by listening to all the drummers that I found fascinating and who inspired me. Both Billy Cobham and Tony Williams were very important to me, and so were Jack DeJohnette and Dave Weckl, and everything in my vocabulary is derived from there. It's also a question of music language; It took me years to learn the 'words' and the 'sentences', and only then was I able to 'interchange' them and use them in the most disparate ways, with unending variations, and then pick the ones that I liked best and sounded better to me. In this way you discover one thing that you like more than another, and in the end all these small things together contribute to form your musical identity. I started taking note of how important it is to have a certain 'touch' to execute certain phrases, and I applied it to every style of music I played, integrating it into my vocabulary. All this had a certain effect, and I started to feel that I was beginning to say something. Subsequently, this became a very physical question. For example, for many people, it's not important what drum set they're playing - but for me this isn't the case. I need to feel perfectly at ease behind my drums, because I play with a certain touch and I find it difficult to change and play on a drum set that is uncomfortable to me. I depend on how I've developed things and on my muscle memory. My leadership skills were developed while working as a session drummer and band leader in NYC in the late eighties and throughout the nineties and have logically resulted with the release of my CD, 'Jazz Enterprise Live at The 5 Spot', which featured pianist Jonathan Davis, a former member of Jaco Pastorius' trio years ago, while he lived in San Francisco. There is a big difference between being a band leader and a hired musician. You know exactly how the music should sound, and you need to know how to communicate this to the musicians, taking responsibility to offer direction or to let them loose to play whatever they feel. It all depends on how you've imagined it to sound. It's a big responsibility. I wanted to record this CD in order to realize my ideas, and follow up on the previous one with a different kind of band, with no pianist, with melodies being delivered by string instruments, and with softer, more subtle arrangements. Above all my goal was to document music that was representative of my personality at that time in New York, because beneath it all it's a revelation of your musical mentality, and integrity. In the last few years I have gone through many changes, even lost touch with music for a while, but have recently managed to get somewhat of a grip and establish a new foundation to balance out my every day life with my music goals. This is a part of who I am and it's part of my life. It's something I need to deal with. I don't see playing or writing about music as a valid or 'proper' career. My family and friends (at least I hope) understand it, because when I am home I often start playing rudiments on my Vic Firth practice pad, spend hours on music web sites, or listen to, let's say, Jerry Bergonzi for hours. It's all part of a never ending learning curve! It's simply being yourself. It's the music that sooner or later,comes to us. You can only do it right if and when you feel it. I believe that with this ability, I need to stay dedicated to music as long as I have the strength and the passion. Musicians have the responsibility to glorify music. If I think about all of this I understand the true meaning and I try to understand what should be done, and I do it the best I can. If I can't play a paradiddle alternating between my hands and feet, that's okay, I'll probably be able to do it tomorrow. You've got to have the right attitude and do the best that you possibly can. I think I am the type of person who can communicate well through music. When I'm playing I feel that I have a certain effect on people listening, those who can hear and recognize my melodic approach to playing percussion. Musicians are always trying to find a way to leave their mark on something. I try not to worry about it; I just let the music speak to me, and my body totally responds to it. It's really very simple, but it's the key to it all. A few years ago, while visiting with my parents in Europe, I had an interesting conversation with Zak Vasic, a great drummer and dear friend of mine, from whom I have many moons ago learned a lot about basic drumming techniques, and rudiments, about the importance of having a teacher who could also be a guide, a mentor, not only when just starting out, but even as you mature into a professional, experienced musician, further out through one's career. We agreed that it's really important, because we all need a mentor whom we can relate to and who can guide us, interactively. We need someone appealing to believe in, someone we can respect. This is a great thing, something precious, and the type of relationship that is missing in today's society. But then again, if you're insecure, and before you get on stage you're wishing that your 'personal trainer' was there with you, then this is wrong. My dream players and silent drumming mentors have been, to mention a few: Vinnie Colaiuta, Dave Weckl, Gavin Harrison, Horacio, 'El Negro' Hernandez, and Peter Erskine. Ken Wessel and John Loehrke are people I love and who I have great respect for. Respect being the most important word. Their musicianship truly shines on this CD, and I am extremely grateful for their immense contribution to this project. It is great playing with people who are also your friend, it adds a certain comfort, which in turns allows you to express your ideas easier, knowing you won't be misunderstood, or misinterpreted. The interaction becomes more intense and energetic, but at the same time calm and steady, which is hard to achieve if you play with people you don't know well. Since moving from New York, years ago, I was going through a strange period; I allowed myself to be pulled by the current, following the flux, and on the one hand it might have been a good thing because it kept me open to all sorts of non-music related opportunities, but it also meant that I wasn't seizing the moment to concentrate on any one particular ambition. Working on mixing and mastering these tapes, originally recorded in 1996 with Kenny and John at La Folie, in NYC, definitely helped me recover my focus and revitalize my enthusiasm, after a period of time that I've been in situations where I experienced difficulties communicating with others, or even when I was 'forced' to play in a way that I absolutely hate. I passed through a long period of difficult times, but, as my father used to say - nothing lasts forever ! Last, but not the least: I think that there are many musicians who are searching for 'their' sound, so that they can have their own precise identity. If you have a sound, and you think it's good, it helps you pull out your ideas and improve the music you're playing. For instance, I like it when my hi-hat isn't too thick or heavy, the roll needs to be sharp and precise, the toms need to be open and resonant and should have a very clean note, and I like cymbals that have a very open sound. You need to have your thing sounding exactly the way you want it, which consequently will play an important role in forming your style. In this way everything becomes very personal, and that's exactly what I like. Take Jack DeJohnette for example, and listen to his 22 inch wide in diameter "Istanbul" heavy ride cymbal that's as dry as the sand in the desert! It's beautiful, and I have myself used a similar hand hammered 20 inch earth ride cymbal for a long time, but recently felt a change of heart towards it because I felt it couldn't be a part of my sound on this project. L developed an interest of playing into the cymbal and hearing it open up, rather than being restricted by a tight, dry ride, lacking both undertones, as well as overtones. Playing with string instruments, within a trio format I realized the need for cymbals which are capable of more projection, sizzle and longer sustain, compared to the 20 inch hand hammered, dry Zildjian K used on the Jazz Enterprise Live, vol. 1 CD, within a quartet setting, including piano, bass and tenor saxophone, which required a more precise, clear ride pattern. As far as I'm concerned, you can't consider technique separately from sound. They amount to the same thing. You've got to use them together. I've had this argument with several people who have been trying to convince me that 'your sound is in your hands, and that You can play anything the way you want!' But I don't see it that way any longer. If you play on a lousy instrument you're going to end up fighting with it. Could you ever get a nice tone from a cheap violin? You can't. Maybe you should get a Stradivarius! Why should you fight with your instrument? I don't want to fight with my drum set! My drums need to respond the way I want them to. I need to feel at ease behind my drums and everything has to be where I expect it to be. The smallest details are very important. I played Yamaha drums, DW pedals and Zildjian 'K' cymbals whenever possible, for longer than 20 years, which is also the type of percussion used on this recording, although somewhat 'customized and modified' (small combo set, with only one tom tom, including a 3 ½ X 12 inch wooden Sonor piccolo snare, less cymbal variety,and some additional latin percussion, used on the sambas and bossa novas that night). Things change in life, so now i play a 9 piece Pearl VBX Vision Maple series, with a DW snare, DW and Tama Iron Cobra pedals, and a combo of Zildjian's, Sabian's, Wuhans, and other cymbals, and have transitioned to Pro mark oak sticks, ! Upon completion of this CD I feel that i am ready to start working on my new project, since next 'in line' is my favorite pianist and keyboard player, Charles Blenzig, and we owe each other a studio recording after so many years of playing together in NYC ! Stay tuned folks, it's coming up soon... I promise ! Lale Nenadovic, spring 2010.