The first word that comes to mind with the song “Shed” from The Maguire Twins is sophistication. With its complexity of rhythms that propel the central idea forward, this tune is the picture of stunning tonality and all-in communication among the personnel. It’s one of 12 tracks on the brothers’ new CD “Seeking Higher Ground,” a project which is a lustrous aural experience that swings, gallops and exhilarates. Even their cover of the much-adored “Someday My Prince Will Come” delivers its recognizable waltzy swish but bursts out into fresh territory with piano bluesing out, carving new paths, and again, a braiding of beats led by the brothers: Alan, on upright bass and Carl, on drums. “49th Street” has a moxie and an assertiveness that are further funkified by an ace sax solo…and later by the trumpet careening into melodic pretzel twists…and finally the piano that burns up the ivories.
This is The Maguire Twins’ debut US album and it has been produced to seamless effect. A generous heaping of jazz in many flavors.
Did you both have the same journey in discovering jazz?
Alan – Yes, when the both of us moved to Memphis, Tennessee we wanted to expand our musical horizon. This of course was easier said than done. We were accepted into the high school jazz band because the director assumed we had the skill of sight-reading music. Of course, this was not the case. We struggled to the point where we didn’t think jazz was for us. A few months later, we joined the Stax Music Academy and had the idea to study soul music. After our audition, we were placed into the jazz band there. While gathering our fundamentals the piano instructor invited us to come to his gig. We sat in and that’s where we learned the skill of improvising. We returned the following Friday and then every Friday afterward.
What led you to your particular instruments?
Our older brother Kevin was the first to become interested in music. He picked up the guitar wanted to start a rock band. Having two twin brothers, he assigned one on bass guitar and the other on drums.
I made the switch to upright bass. This began with my bass instructor telling my mom that if I were to begin playing upright bass I would get double the gigs. The rest of the story involved my mom driving me to Nashville that following weekend and returning home with a car stuffed with an upright bass.
What is the most challenging as brothers performing together? The most fun?
Alan – What makes performing with my brother fun is we both have similar concepts and are able to take the music to unexpected places, keeping it interesting for both ourselves and the audience.
Carl – The most fun is that I can always rely on the music feeling good when we play together.
What were the production highlights of making “Seeking Higher Ground”?
Alan – Recording with our favorite musicians. Aaron Goldberg was one of the first contemporary jazz artists Carl and I listened to in our first year of beginning our “jazz journey.” The fact that we got to work with him and see how he perceives this music was a big learning experience for us.
Does the title have a special personal meaning to you?
Alan – It was selected by our producer and mentor Donald Brown. He’s always seen our need to grow. The mindset we had for this recording reflected that.
Talk about the other personnel and how did you all find each other, including your producer.
Carl – We first met Donald Brown and Greg Tardy at the Stax Music Academy when the University of Tennessee Jazz faculty did a recruitment tour. Following that we took lessons with Donald whenever he was in Memphis and eventually went to UT as students to study with both Donald and Greg.
We met Bill Mobley and Aaron Goldberg the night before the recording date but we had been listening to both of them long before we met, especially Aaron since he was one of the first we listened to; so I was freaking out when I heard they were going to be playing.
How would you describe your individual sound on your instruments, and, the sound of the band?
Alan – The sound of an upright bass is more percussive than the ordinary listener would think. I love the punch it delivers with every pluck and the round tone that resonates throughout the body. To me that’s what drives the swing.
Carl – The sound of the band to me is intense, dynamic, and swingin’. The roster we have here is really tight and they were inspiring to play with. As for my sound, I’d say I’m interactive as a drummer. I like to have conversations with the rest of the band. I also always try to make sure the music is always driving and there’s always a good amount of tension and release coming from me.
What artists past or present inspire you?
Too many to list but some that inspire us are Donald Brown, Miles Davis, Greg Tardy, Wayne Shorter, Aaron Goldberg, Aaron Parks, Tigran Hamasyan, Ambrose Akimusire, Walter Smith III, Ray Brown, Christian McBride, Ron Carter, Terence Blanchard, Dhafer Youseff, Kendrick Scott, Eric Harland, Marcus Gilmore, Max Roach.
How does jazz make you feel?
Alan – Jazz gives me a different feel and experience compared to other genres. While other genres give you a steady beat with a boxed structure that is predictable, it often results in giving the listener a simple consistent emotion. The experience I achieve with jazz is more complex; when done right it delivers a flow of energy that takes you somewhere beyond your comfort zone while creating an intense level of excitement.
Your favorite audience reaction?
I love it when people get vocal and cheer us on.
Name a club you’ve always wanted to play.
Alan – I’m not one who wants to play at a specific club. My desire is to reach an audience that hasn’t heard jazz before and to build an interest within them. If I had to choose, though, it would probably be Dizzy’s Coca-Cola Club.
Carl – I’ve always wanted to play at the Jazz Standard ’cause I’ve seen many of my favorite musicians play there.
Where will you play for the rest of 2018?
Carl – We have a tour this month (November) throughout Japan. Other than that we have our local gigs with other groups.
Looking ahead, how would you like to develop your music and your reach as musicians?
Alan – To become more versatile than I already am today. Explore concepts and styles I am not comfortable with, and always learn something new.
Carl – I’d like to continually evolve as a drummer/musician and continue new and different approaches to playing; creating music that sounds modern and fresh; and to learn from and play with artists that I’ve always looked up to.
Talk about creating on the spot and how you all can read one another.
We grew up playing with each other and learning together so between the two of us we have a lot of trust and an understanding of how we play. That allows to communicate through our playing so we can take the song to wherever we desire on the spot.
How do you handle that musical twin telepathy and how do you get your band on board with it too?
Alan – Since we control the groove as a bassist and drummer it’s really easy for the band to get on board with whatever we do. They don’t have too much of a choice – haha.
The music consists of sharing similar musical concepts, and knowing/understanding the history of this music.
What do you want people to know most about this CD?
It couldn’t have been possible if we didn’t have this amazing roster of people on it! Greg, Bill, and Aaron are incredible musicians, Donald has been so much help as a teacher and producer, and Pete Matthews, our recording engineer, did a hell of a job making us sound good!
We’re always composing and trying out new tunes so make sure you follow our Facebook and YouTube pages!
For more information, visit www.themaguiretwins.com.