Prossegue a publicação em fascículos coleccionáveis da extensa entrevista que o trompetista norte-americano Dennis González
deu a João Pedro Viegas
no idioma original, a melhor forma de preservar o alcance, a autenticidade e os múltiplos sentidos das palavras de González, artista completo. Dennis González, Fascículo II
. O Fascículo I está disponível aqui
. Renovados agradecimentos a JPV e a DG pelo trabalho a que se deram e pela oportunidade que me proporcionaram de publicar o escrito.
It looks like you're having a great and busy time making music. What made you come back in 1999 after 5 years of total silence as a jazz musician?
Those five missing years were probably the busiest times for the school musical groups that I teach. We were playing as many as two or three concerts a week, even though this is a very specific, almost esoteric style of music, where Mariachi, Tejano, and Latino musics intersect. This kind of music is very popular in this part of the US and Northern Mexico, and because of that, we were never without a gig! At this particular time, I had coincidentally started my Tejano trio, Banda de Brujos, due to the demands of the people who would come and listen to my student groups. They would ask me, “Do you have your own accordion group?”, and after being asked again and again, I decided to put together Banda de Brujos. At first, it included my old friend, the bassist Drew Phelps, a student of Dave Holland’s, and a few years into the “experiment”, I replaced him with my son, Aaron, even before we formed our family jazz trio, Yells At Eels. We were featured on television and on radio, and we played festivals and special events, including the grand openings of new stores and art exhibits, plays, dance recitals…anything and everything! But jazz did not interest me at this time, until my sons asked me to form the Yells At Eels trio with them.
My sons had been playing as a hardcore punk duo for a year or so and one day sat down with me and asked why I wasn’t playing jazz anymore. I gave them my reasons, which were many, and they told me that it was time for me to start again. They had both been around as young children when Charles Brackeen, Fred Hopkins, Malachi Favors, Andrew Cyrille, “Kidd” Jordan, and the young Roy Hargrove (and so many others) were at the house playing and rehearsing for some of the Silkheart recordings, and they remembered those exciting days well.
In May of 1999, we sat down for a week of rehearsals and got our repertoire together, called up our old friend from New Orleans Tim Green (he plays with The Neville Brothers and Peter Gabriel, among others) and our button accordionist Jesús Vasquez, and played our first show as a group, in our own neighborhood!
According to your answer, in 1995 you lost interest in jazz. That’s the main reason for your disappearance from the jazz scene and the concentration of your efforts in Tejano and Latino music as well as teaching your students. To me you are definitively a jazz musician. Do you agree with this? How do you define yourself as a musician?
I’ve considered myself a jazz musician since around 1975 or ‘76...that was the time I consciously began playing my horn in an improvisatory way, with the ideas in my head reflecting earlier sounds I heard in my mind now arranged in a way that I could communicate those sounds and rhythms in a “jazzy” way. Of course, I’d listened to jazz in one form or another since my childhood, since my father was a great fan of the 1940’s Big Bands, and since my mother taught me the great Negro Spirituals, which we played and sang in church from the time I was 5. In high school I was given the album Contours by Sam Rivers, and this set my ear on its side. And then in college I discovered the great jazz musicians who I still admire greatly, Stanko, Garbarek, Towner, Rava, Miles, Shorter, Zawinul, Schoof, Namyslowski, and so many others. I was interested in a world view of improvised music and how it related to my ethnic roots and my church upbringing. Then, as I began to shape my sound and concept, I began to idolize the Great Black Music practitioners, The Art Ensemble of Chicago as well as the St. Louis school of Free Jazz, and even the purveyors of funk and reggae, then on to the diatonic music of Istria and the Arab-African tinged music of Sardinia. Eastern European “Dark” music and the music of India and the Middle East were next, and on and on in a globe-circling odyssey of sound. But always, these sounds were organized in simpler and simpler ways under the blessing of jazz, in order to make the music have a form and a context.
One of your great influences, which you didn‘t mention before - I’ve read it somewhere and couldn’t agree more - is Don Cherry. Not in the mannerisms of playing and certainly not in the world semiotics that you employ in your music. I think that Don’s way is present in your music in the form of thinking and putting together a composition; in the openness of spirit and in the liberty you give to your colleagues to help develop a song. Do you agree with this?
I think that, though I tend to agree with your assessment that it’s not Cherry’s mannerism’s or the world semiotics in my playing that show his influences in my music, it’s those very similarities and hints that give away this influence of Cherry in my music! I have never copied him, although for a while, I played the pocket trumpet almost exclusively. I listened to specific albums of his music, which I loved and was influenced by, but much of his music was not to my liking. By this, I mean that I have always loved his playing, a very spirited and original conception, but his music itself, especially later in his career, was not my favorite by any means, although I love Complete Communion (1965), Symphony for Improvisers (1966), Where is Brooklyn? (1966), and Brown Rice (1975).
I think that the thing that always impressed me about Don Cherry was his spirit and his openness, his search for the music that made me understand that the most important thing is to be kind to your fellow human beings, and that there is nothing nobler than inciting them to freedom, to liberate themselves from artificial constraints and tyrannies. His music showed that somehow.
Another idea that I learned from him was the path of peace, which is a harder weight to bear - being on this road - than being on the road to war and violent behavior. He was always a champion for the sanctity of life.
Probably the most important lesson he taught me, in which I was influenced, and which changed my playing is the way he used his very blatant mistakes and changed them into correct notes by his attitude and technique. Much of my earlier music relied on this concept of an instantaneous permission for a note to be right, whereas in other musics and contexts it would be considered wrong. As I have walked along my path in music, I have refined this way of playing, and it has made much of my playing exotic and beautiful.
For a few years before his death, my CD’s began to be regularly reviewed in the major jazz magazines alongside his concurrent releases, and it was always such a thrill to see that others understood the musical bond I felt with him from the first time I heard him play.
I saw him twice in my life - once in concert in Warsaw with Ornette and once at reception in a New York hotel, at a respectful distance - and had a chance to meet him twice, once at that very reception desk when I was too afraid to disturb him, as he was obviously very tired; and once when his scheduled airliner arrived in Oslo without him…he had missed his flight to record a CD for ECM, and I was an invited guest to the session, but he didn’t arrive until the next day. He was supposed to be the leader, but he ended up playing on only half the CD, which was called Dona Nostra. He died a year and a half later in Malaga, Spain.
Dave Douglas and Roy Campbell, Jr. invited you in 2003, 2004, and 2005 to play in the “Festival of New Trumpet Music”, where many of the trumpet innovators in America play. Who are your favourite trumpet players nowadays? And who are now the most important when talking about innovation and creativity (which is not necessarily the same question)?
I don’t listen a lot to trumpet players, because I learned my jazz techniques and playing style from saxophonists. But to the trumpeters: My favorite trumpet player now, even after he’s been gone for 7 years, is Lester Bowie. His playing style was amazing, and totally his. I have adapted a very few of his techniques to my playing, but it’s impossible to copy him - and of course I wouldn’t try. The two things about him that I am grateful for were his love of life and his sense of humor. Another master of the trumpet who I am constantly amazed at is Wadada Leo Smith. I love his ideas and his playing, and he is active all the time, new recordings arriving all the time, and his progress as a trumpeter can be tracked and studied, which is good for my listening. I still idolize Enrico Rava for the heart and honesty in his playing, even though the musical contexts that he puts himself into are not as innovative as 30 years ago. And for sound, I listen to Tomasz Stanko, again, another musician who through the years has settled into an easy groove, not that I blame him after all the years of paying his dues. But I still love the man.
Your second question is quite distinct from the first, and to answer it, I must say that Leo Smith is also on this list, as I have pointed out that he keeps innovating and he stays creative. I love the fire and daring of Taylor Ho Bynum, the young trumpeter now living in New York whose most high-profile gig is holding the trumpet (and brass) chair in Braxton’s ensembles. He is also, after his trial-by-fire and surviving so much strong music, a very fine person, and we are slowly becoming good friends. Perhaps the most different innovator who I did not understand for a long time, but now I see how important his sound and style is, is Jon Hassell. His slips and slides and wobbly sounds, gleaned from arduous studies with the masters Karlheinz Stockhausen, LaMonte Young, Terry Riley, and most importantly, Pandit Pran Nath, have placed him above the fray of the usual trumpet technique. And then three guys who I met during a solo trumpet concert in London in 2004, and who play the trumpet using totally different techniques, in which they use the whole instrument differently are Matt Davis, Jamie Coleman, and Guillermo Torres.
(Fim do Fascículo II. Complete a sua colecção!)