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Interview With Mad & Eddie Duran
By MuzikMan
(more articles from this author)
1999-11-30
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I reviewed Mad & Eddie's most recent project "From Here To The Moon" at the beginning of the month. Terri Hinte from Fantasy, who sent me the piece notified the couple of my review. Mad responded with a very nice E mail and one thing led to another and I found myself talking to Mad on the phone for nearly an hour. It was a very interesting and informative conversation. I asked them if they would like to do an interview via cyberspace and they agreed. So here it is in all it's glory! Read on...

MuzikMan: What are you and Eddie's thoughts on the CD? Can you talk a little about the recording process and how long it took etc..your personal feelings and what was going on in your lives at the time?

Mad: The CD "From Here To The Moon" was at least a ten year project of refining, carefully selecting each tune and crafting each arrangement. We picked a wide variety of material because that is what we do. We also picked tunes to display my multi-instrumental background. Because Eddie and I play quite a bit as a duo, we wanted to expose our duo to jazz listeners, we think we have something different to show the listeners. The recording took place over a two day period, the first day was the Latin material, and the second the mainstream cuts. We recorded the duo pieces at the end of the second day, but we were not happy with the takes so we went to another studio at a Junior College, Los Madanos in Pittsburgh, CA. Our recording engineer, Rick Shiner teaches at the college. The college has state of the art equipment and the room to record was out of sight, very inspiring. At Bay Records in Berkeley, where we did most of the recording, I was very disappointed in the headphone mix, we were limited to only two different mixes, which most studios can mix each players headphones, separately. But I made the best of it.

What was going on in my life is I was just playing the very best I could on my first CD as a leader. It was very inspiring practicing hard for about six months before the session. I knew the better I played the quicker I could pull it off, rather than belabor the tunes. The whole thing about recording is to try to capture that musical moment on tape, to leave as close of an impression to the way you really play and sound. And to try to relax in this artificial environment with no inspiration from a crowd, just you listening to yourself under a magnifying glass. Oh boy, I love it, though!

Eddie: We treated this session as a live performance. We had a limited budget and realized we couldn't do too many takes which we would have loved. We chose great musicians to play with who were tuned into us. We had a few rehearsals. What was going on at that time in our lives was the energy and the will to get our music out. I'm satisfied that it showcased our talent and musicianship. I'm happy, and there's more coming. Amen.

MuzikMan: Can you both describe your upbringing and how you both were drawn to music?

Eddie: I remember listening to music from the tender age of three and on. Usually from records or on the radio. By the time I started to play I was able to pick out the harmonies to the music of the day, singers, big bands. On Sundays we listened to classical music. My Mother loved music and my sister played piano and she taught me and my third and oldest brother. He continue on and I switched to guitar.

Mad: My parents encouraged me to have interests at the age of ten, they weren't sure of my commitment to an instrument, but within a very short time I proved my intent and enthusiasm for music and the clarinet especially. I excelled beyond my classmates, that felt good to me, getting positive attention. I was a kid that was always clowning around to get attention from others, so the music centered me and gave direction to my life at a young age.

MuzikMan: What do you both feel is the "state" of Jazz right now? Are there any particular players that have caught your ear?

Eddie: Encouraging and discouraging. Encouraging because there are a lot more younger people listening to jazz and studying jazz and discouraging because they're studying more about the mechanics and theory about jazz and not listening more to the soul of jazz.

Mad: This is a big question, it's depends on what day it is, or what I just hear on the radio, or what part of the country you live in. Based on living in San Francisco, we only have one real jazz club in the city, Jazz At Pearl's, of course there's is Yoshi's across the bridge in Oakland. Pearl's is really great, the best players in the Bay Area play and hang out there. But it's not well supported by the community, maybe only on the weekends. There are other venues that feature some jazz players on a fairly regular basis but I wouldn't call them jazz clubs, I call them restaurants that sometimes feature some form of jazz music. On a local level, the state of jazz is not very good. One reason is that getting gigs, are not based on talent. The people booking the club don't know much about jazz. They don't know what is really good and what isn't. Getting gigs is based on how much the musician hustles for gigs, and how many people they can bring in to spend their money, with the club spending as little time and money on advertising. Musicians want to play no matter what hoops they have to jump through. In general, the audiences are not musically demanding nor educated about the music. As long as the music seems entertaining, they're happy. On a national level jazz seems on a higher level, based on what I hear on the radio. The jazz clubs are disappearing and the players find it more difficult to hone their craft. This has sent people to jazz schools. I don't think you can learn jazz in school. In an over generalization what school has done for jazz-it has turned out a bunch of technically proficient musicians, who have learned and studied the same approach, study the scales, learned the theory of jazz and how to apply it, and suddenly they're recording artist on a major label. Let's face it, we are all trying for attention, there's such a small percentage of the population listening and supporting jazz, we are all trying to get the recognition we deserve. Music first, then ego.

MuzikMan: Mad you are two generations apart from Eddie do you feel that you have been able to close the gap in regards to music?

Eddie: Yes to the second part of the question. My influences on Mad have been to listen to the music, to train your ear, hear the harmonies, separate the instruments, get a feel of the melody and the lyrics, especially in ballads, something I find lacking in so many of the newer players today. Mad: Close the gap, who wants to do that?. Let's put it this way, we have learned and have a natural instinct to play together. Good musicians enjoy the way other good musicians with a musical concept play, that's what I enjoy about playing with Eddie. We both play our instruments from a very musical concept- you know, good tone, control over our instruments, technique, good intonation, in other words, what you might learn if you are a classical player. We learned and learn music from different ways. I'm a reader with a very good ear. Eddie is an ear player that reads a little. I went to school for music and played in orchestra, chamber music, studio orchestra, contemporary ensemble, wind ensemble, small group jazz and jazz big band. I first got involved with jazz, or I should say improvisation, through a rather avant-garde concept, influenced by my classical upbringing. When I first improvised I didn't know anything about chords, I just used my ears and played whatever I thought sounded interesting.

MuzikMan: Do you both feel that there are influences from both backgrounds and respective disciplines in equal proportions?

Mad: I have learned to use my ears a lot more, I think knowing my instrument readily makes using your ears a reality. MuzikMan: Mad, you have a classical background. It seems as though classical works very well with jazz, your thoughts?

Mad: It can, from a standpoint of playing our instrument extremely well, classical techniques can be good. Classical music won't teach you how to swing, there is nothing in classical music that will teach you where to place your notes in order to swing. In fact classical can be a hindrance. I think where classical is useful is in learning to sculpt beautiful melodies, interesting intervals and harmonies.

Eddie: A little classical background works well as long as it doesn't dominate. We don't want any stiffness in jazz. Bill Evans is a perfect example of a classical background and a jazz soul coming together. I never studied classical but when I listen to Rachmoninoff or Debussy to name a few that's my classical background.

MuzikMan: The interplay between you folks is incredible. Do either one of you feel that there is a leader or one of you initiates more than the other when you play? Eddie: No.

Mad: I would like to think I am the initiator, but we both have a good musical sense, and work ideas off each other. Also playing guitar licks on saxophone can be very challenging because of the range of guitar is wider. I generally lead rehearsals with other musicians, because I write out the music. But our input is pretty equal.

MuzikMan: You have Cockatiels? Can you tell me about your birds? How do they react to your music? What's the fascination with birds for you both?

Mad: We have three cockatiels, they are our pets, I teach them to appreciate culture; jazz. They sometimes interact with us practicing, whistling some intervals they have picked up. They are a lot of fun, and very sensitive, funny creatures. I guess my fascination with them is trying to get closer to Bird, Charlie Parker. But I'm sure Bird got his name from birds in the wild, not these domestic things that whistle everything back to you, that's my stuff to start with.

MuzikMan: You are both incredibly talented and gifted musicians. To whom do you owe your inspiration and development?, besides each other that is. What inspires you to create your music?

Mad: Stan Getz, Cannonball, Hank Hobley, Johnny Hodges, Lester Young, Gene Ammons, early Coltrane, Joe Farrell, early Sonny Rollins, Johnny Griffin, Ben Webster, Chick Corea, Bill Evans(pianist), Art Tatum, Mc Coy Tyner, Clark Terry, Dizzy, Oliver Nelson, Shelly Mann, Monty Budwig, Herbie Hancock, Tom Harrell, Carl Fontana, Irene Krall, Freddy Hubbard, Duke Ellington, Miles, Milt Jackson, Dick Oats, Kenny Garrett, Bobby Hutcherson, Joe Henderson, Elvin Jones, Louis Nash, Phily Jo Jones, Clifford Brown, Max Roach, Billy Higgins, John Clayton, Art Blakey, Hourse Silver, and from the Bay Area hall of frame- Al Plank, Vince Lateano, Mark Levine, Larry Grenadier, Benny Barth, Mel Martin, Harvey Wainaple, Noel Jewkes, Nobert Stachel, Paul Hansen, John Wiitala, Madeline Eastman, Smith Dobson, Danny Spencer, Eddie Marshall, Eddie Moore, Bruce Forman, George Cables...I could go on and on. Eddie: The spiritual satisfaction it gives me, the peace, the excitement of improvising, creating the music of the great composers, being a part of all that. MuzikMan: Mad tells me you are going to be moving to the Los Angeles area. You have been Bay Area residents for a long time, why the move?

Eddie: Jazz is dead in the Bay Area, there is one jazz club in San Francisco and that's questionable. There is more action in Los Angeles and more of a selection of good players. And with a label behind us it's time to get on the road. Mad: New and exciting energy. Different people to play with, got to keep it fresh.

MuzikMan: Are plans in the works for a new CD? Did you ever consider doing a tribute to one of the greats? Or doing some covers of all the old classics? Or do you both prefer to nurture your creative fires with just original expressions of your chosen genre? Mad: I have plans for another CD. I want to play only alto on this one, I want to approach this next CD quite different than the first one by spending much more time developing the solos, not a lot of complex lines and no rehearsal, just go in and blow. I would like to play some tunes the public will recognize and some tunes they may not know - it's all good. I have considered doing a tribute on record, that comes later after people get a true sense for what I sound like, maybe my 5th CD. We have enough great material for probably six or seven CDs. That's comforting, in the meantime, I'll keep working on the material to perfect it. Eddie: All of that and more.

MuzikMan: Do you feel women need more opportunity in music? I feel people need to open up more to the wealth of talent that may go unrecognized because of gender. How do you both feel about this?

Eddie: I agree with you, the women need to be recognized in jazz but they have to be good, they have to be talented and they have to have soul. They have to listen to the music, go back to the roots like all aspiring players.

Mad: I would like to see the real talent, man or woman get the opportunity. I think you must have talent, then develop your hook or the thing that makes you stand out, or outstanding! I don't think jazz needs to fill a quota with female musicians, after all the arts is about ability and talent not about quotas. I have to say I do notice club owners, bookers, promoters and record labels aren't spending money on female jazz talent, except for vocalist. I was reading a discussion amongst pop-rockers, the female singers felt the attitude of the industry is turning around, more ticket sales by female artists, so maybe it's just a matter of time before "the chicks" get the gigs!

MuzikMan: Do you both get much of an opportunity to get on the web? What do you think of Zines like mine as a media outlet?

Eddie: Its plays a big part in getting jazz out to the public.

Mad: I use the web quite a bit, just about for everything. I love the idea of "Zines", it gives me the artist an opportunity to put my thought out there for the world to read. And I thank you Keith for that.

MuzikMan: You are quite welcome Mad! MuzikMan: I feel the Independent Music Community has tremendous talent and growth happening because of the opportunity created by the Internet and the D.I.Y. attitude that prevails perpetuates this growth. Your thoughts and comments on this? Mad: Most definitely! As a sales and marketing tool it's fantastic. No other time in the history of the music business has it been so easy for the artist to sell his/her work, pretty much cutting out the middleman. I think distribution will be a thing of the past, especially for the small indie artists and/or labels. When the artist can get his product to market and make most of the profit, times are good for the artist! The internet is good for the talented little guy.

MuzikMan: Do you think that you will both eventually return to the Bay Area? Have you ever given any thought to opening a Jazz club yourselves or creating your own label?

Mad: I haven't left the Bay Area yet! Open a jazz club?, I'd like to, but I'd have to win the lottery! I have a background in restaurant work, so I know what I'm up against- I have actually thought a lot about a jazz supper club in San Francisco, let's see what happens. We first released our CD" From Here To The Moon" on Mad Eddie Records out of San Francisco which is still happening.

Eddie: Only if they pay us big money and grant us the respect we deserve. MuzikMan: Do you both have any closing thoughts that you would like to make or any particular message you would like to convey to all the readers and music lovers?

Mad: If you really like this music do your very best to support it by going to live concerts, support your local musicians, they too are the future of jazz. Buy jazz records, videos, books, jazz magazines, give generously to your public jazz radio stations. If you want the music to be there for the next generations we all must do our part to support it!

Eddie: One of the reasons jazz is not being appreciated enough is it doesn't get enough exposure on radio. San Francisco has one jazz station as opposed to fifty rock and soul stations AM and FM. How can you expect to educate audiences to a musical art form if they don't hear more of it? One way to remedy that is whenever we get a chance to do an interview on radio is talk about it and let the people know what they're missing.

To find more info about us/and or purchase or our new CD "From Here To The Moon" by Mad & Eddie Duran pay by credit card, receive a fax order form, call your credit card in at: 610/566-9424 (between 11:00 am and 7:00 pm Eastern time, Monday through Friday) or go to http://www.fivespot.com


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