JV: It’s the truth.
Jazz Monthly: If something is done honestly…
JV: I think music has to translate something. It has to translate something truthful about the human experience in general, and even more specific than that, something truthful about the experience the people were having in the time period the music was created.
Jazz Monthly: Yes. Very well said. When did you make it to New York City?
JV: Well I have been playing in New York for the last three years regularly, but I just moved to New York about four months ago.
Jazz Monthly: Let’s talk about your debut CD “Triptych.” Now I know – I was an art minor in college – that Triptych was sort of a 3D ancient Roman panel painting or piece of art. Isn’t that what a triptych is?
JV: Yeah. It’s a three panel relief. It tells stories, read from left to right, and it can be folded up. For one thing, I really like the idea of telling a story. That’s one of the main things I listen for in music now. Like when you read a novel there’s an exposition, a series of plots, a conflict, climax and resolution. I think that still applies to music. That’s what I really look for, and that’s what I try to get across in my music. This idea of evolution – telling a story in three parts – that’s sort of how the idea of a multi-record project came about.
Jazz Monthly: Yes.
JV: I just have so much music that I want to try and get out. I wouldn’t be able to do it in one record.
Jazz Monthly: That’s right. I know that there will be a “Triptych Two,” and a “Triptych Three” coming soon.
A Triptych was also a Roman writing tablet too, wasn’t it?
JV: Yeah. It’s sort of pre-dates Christianty. It’s been around since Greece, but it became very prominent in Christian art.
Jazz Monthly: Well it’s a great title because it really describes what you’re trying to get across. In talking about “Triptych,” you really just did one brief rehearsal – with some great musicians, whom we’ll mention in a minute. I understand you went over only two of the tunes, and even that it… was just for form. You didn’t even go all the way through it… and then you recorded it! That actually worked to your advantage, didn’t it Justin?
JV: Well I took a lot of care in choosing the musicians. I knew very well who each of the musicians were, and I chose people that had already played together and already have a rapport with each other. I knew that people weren’t going have to think about anything… they were just gonna play! The music kind of plays itself. It’s more difficult to read than it is to play, in a sense. I was very lucky to get such an amazing group of musicians together two days in a row to play my music.
Jazz Monthly: Tell us about your supporting cast. Tell us about some of these great musicians.
JV: Well, Aaron Parks played piano on the record. He’s, without a doubt, one of my favorite pianists of this current generation. He’s played with so many people. He’s played with Terrence Blanchard, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Gretchen Parlato – who also sang on this record. I first really knew that I wanted him when I heard him on Terrence Blanchard’s “Flow.” He has amazing technique! You know, a lot of times guys that have amazing technique… they sort of throw it at you constantly – which is not necessarily a bad thing. It just happens often. Aaron’s playing style is not defined by his technique. It’s defined by his restraint, his nuance, and his amazing sense of timing. He knows when to add something… when to add tension with a chord or to answer something. It really is one of the very special things about his playing that I wanted to bring on this record.
Jazz Monthly: Yeah, he’s a great player! Of course the guitarist, Adam Rogers…
JV: Adam Rogers is one of my favorite guitarists! He’s been a part of so much music in New York. Like I said before, I’m a “live recording” obsessive-compulsive collector. I remember the moment I decided I wanted Adam on the record. I was listening to some recordings of him in Michael Brecker’s band. He has an amazing breadth of style that he can play. He can sound like, “Wes Montgomery,” one second, and then, “Jimmy Hendrix.” the next. He does it all in this amazing fluid style where nothing is disjunctive. A complete idea flows into another; it’s absolutely amazing! I needed people that understood: Country music, all the Bebop music and Post Bop, Coltrane… and a wide variety of styles. Adam is the consummate musician in that sense.
Jazz Monthly: Yes. Absolutely! You also have bassist, Orlando Le Fleming.
JV: Orlando has been playing in New York for years. Not many people know this about him, but he was a professional cricket player!
Jazz Monthly: I never knew that! (Justin laughing)
JV: Orlando has got great “time.” He and Clarence have such a “lock in” that I knew he would be perfect for this project.
Jazz Monthly: You’re talking about Clarence Penn, who’s just a drumming virtuoso.
JV: Clarence is another guy who’s played with everyone from: Winton Marsalis… to Josh Redman... to Maria Schneider. He also played with Adam in Michael Brecker’s band. I remember listening to them; they have such a hook-up! They have such an ESP about their playing. We almost didn’t need to rehearse. They have an amazing hook-up; so they work really well together. Clarence has a sound. I wanted someone to bring “drama” to the record, because that’s what a lot of my music’s about – creating these dramatic moments where the “bottom” drops out and then there’s this “build.” Clarence has a sense about that.