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Mat Marucci interview page 3

MM: Eddie Harris and Les McCann. In fact I did the gig with them at yoshis in Oakland when they celebrated “Swiss Movement” when they did that in Switzerland at the Montreux Jazz Festival, they did a celebration of the release of “Swiss Movement” Album from I think the sixties. I think it was 25 years or 30 years or something like that. Anyway I did that gig with them. I’ve got kind of a funny story with that one.

mat marucciI’m sitting here and the phone rings and I pick it up and said “hello” and he said “ is this Mat Marucci” and I said “yeah” and he said “you play drums?” and I say “yeah,” he say “ you worked with Eddie Harris?” And I said “Yeah,” and he says “Well listen. Eddie and Wes and Les McCann are gonna be at Yoshis in Oakland for a week and they’d like you to do the gig with them.” And I said, “Who is this man?” (Both Laugh) And he says “This is Fred I’m Les McCann’s manager and we got this gig.” I said “ Wait, how’d you get my number and he said “ I got it from Eddie Harris!” (Both Laugh) I thought it was somebody pulling my leg.

Jazz Monthly: It might have been your friend, that same cat that said  “about efficient but maybe not unpretentious” (Mat Laughs)

MM: So I made this guy send me a fax (Laughing) But anyway that was nice gig too to work with Eddie and Les McCann. I’ve worked with Eddie a few times.

Jazz Monthly: Yes. Yes. You know, Mat I’ve had the great pleasure, and I don’t use that word loosely either, of listening to one of your CD’s “No Lesser Evil,” I know that’s not your latest CD, and we’ll talk about your latest in a minute. But, what a great CD! The thing that I was immediately struck by was that there was no pianist or guitarist on it. It was simply: You on drums, Doug Webb on tenor and soprano sax, and Kerry Kashiwagi on bass. And you know what, you really didn’t miss the piano or the guitar there because, the way you and Kerry on bass really locked in and were like an anchor to it all.

MM: You know we’re actually doing our fifth Trio Album like that next month. We’re doing a live date here in Sacramento. And we have a different bass player, and out of the five recordings we have used four different bass players and it kind of gives us a little bit of variety to what we do because every bass player approaches it a little differently. It gives us a little bit of an edge, and it takes away the monotony. Not that it would be monotonous with any of these guys if there played over and over, but, it just gives us a little bit of a different approach to the music depending on who the bass player is.

Jazz Monthly: Yes.

MM: One of the reasons we did that was… we were working as a quartet in LA and the guy Donald Vega moved to New York and Doug and I really liked his playing. After he moved we were using different piano players, it just didn’t have the same fire we were looking for. And whenever the piano player lays out we go in a different direction you see and I’m not locked in by the harmonies that he’s playing and this and that. And he (Doug) said maybe we should do a recording like that. Doug and I also worked a duo at festivals in Santa Monica.

Jazz Monthly: Tell us a little about Doug Webb. How did you meet up with him?

MM: Well I was working with a pianist in Southern California and he (Doug) knew the pianist and I think he had just graduated from Berklee. This was like in the early eighties. Like eight-one or eighty-two. I might not be totally accurate on this but I’m pretty sure he had just graduated from Berkeley. So, he came in and sat in. That was the first time that we had met. He was a friend of another pianist who I was working with up in North Hollywood, and he brought Doug over to my house one time and we started playing… we just had a good time playing!

Jazz Monthly: There was an instant simpatico right?

MM: Yeah. Right from the start we hit it off. So from that point on from the mid eighties we just started playing together. I would work with him, he would work with me, we would work as sideman with somebody else, and it was like that.

Jazz Monthly: Mm-hmm. We can’t talk about every cut on the CD, but I really urge everyone who visits Jazz to check out “No Lesser Evil” because I just had so much fun listening to this. And the thing, Mat, is we always try and put labels on things, you know, even myself. Would I call this Hard Bop, would I call it Progressive, would I call it Post Bop. And you know… I guess you can call it… all of it! I mean there’s something there for everyone. It’s like a… Jazz Buffet!

MM: Yeah it’s Post Bop and it’s Progressive and there is a taste of the Avant-garde on a couple of tracks, and there’s a taste of Standards on a couple of tracks, and Straight Ahead. It is kind of hard to categorize, but I would categorize it as Post Bop Progressive.

Jazz Monthly: Yes. And one thing I loved about your playing on here is that it shows just how dimensional you are as a percussionist. You have a light touch when needed…  like if you listen to “Emily” where you start with the brushes before you open it up. You almost sound like an ice skater. Beautiful brushes. And it’s kind of like an implied Waltz. It’s not a “set in stone’ Jazz Waltz, you worked around the contours of a Jazz Waltz just beautifully. And then you opened it up.
But also on other tunes here, Mat, you can be as strong as a bull when you need to be, you know?

MM: Well, you know man, I appreciate that. That was recorded live and everything on there is just one take.


Jazz Monthly: Wow!

MM: And that’s generally the way we do it. Like I said, we went to CIMP and we recorded seventeen tracks, and when we got there to record we said “we have to leave tomorrow” because we had to catch our flights and get back to LA to do our Gigs. And the producer Bob Rusch was worried that we weren’t gonna get a whole CD because usually the guys go there and they take two days to come out with the CD. Well, we did seventeen tracks in about eight hours of recording and we got two CD’s from it!

Rusch records with one big stereo mic. The thing is like the size of… a gallon of milk you know… maybe a little bit bigger! And it’s a real, obviously quality stereo mic, And the engineer, Marc Rusch, gets the balance and you get your sound and everything. There’s no monitors, there’s no headphones, there’s no amplification except a little bit for the acoustic bass, and that’s it! And then you have to play and all the dynamics are you. And as you know, that’s very demanding!

Jazz Monthly: Talk about playing organically, right Mat?

MM: Yeah, you have to play dynamically. The secret is: if you can hear everybody, then you’re not too loud. You know if you can’t hear everybody, (both laugh) then you’re too loud.

I did a lot of albums before this, where they were my albums, but I had to take kind of a back seat in the role because the composition of the other players were important to it, so I had to play for the music. But with this trio format, it gives me an opportunity to do a lot of stuff that I couldn’t do. I’m not locked in by how the piano player or the guitar player’s comping. I’m doing the comping. You’re not locked in by their ideas because all the ideas… are ours. It’s just a trio. And because of these trio albums, Joe, it’s given people who have known of me for a long time, its given them a different perspective. Because I did take a role of almost like being a sideman in the previous CD’s, and they didn’t know what I could do with the drums… as far as being more out front with them.

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