When you have a friend who devotes a CD to you, honoring your contribution to music, that’s respect and admiration. When that person asks you to compose something for the CD, that’s an awesome gesture. So it is with the new release called “Zigsaw: Music of Steve Lampert.” Just out earlier this month, the album is the brainchild of tenor sax player Noah Preminger (Part I – more about “Zigsaw” here).
Lampert is a trumpet player with a substantial career as a composer. Aside from his amazing collab with Noah Preminger, Lampert’s recent oeuvres include 2016’s “Rhythms of Dreams, Rhymes of Reason” (very experimental: spurts of electronica, wide, warm horns, over-enunciated spoken word, lush but brief strings, and is that an oboe in the track “Hope Ave.”?); and the 2015 CD “Zahskl’s Jukebox” (Preminger guests here), with many hyper-speed, multi-tonal tracks.
What first inspired you to compose?
As a young teenager I began to write tunes primarily under the influence of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and the Blue Note recording artists whom I loved. Their tunes inspired me to attempt writing similarly styled tunes. Of course the music I produced in those years sounded nothing like what I’ve been presenting via recordings across the past fifteen years. Getting to the first music which I considered my own was a very slowly evolving process.
Were you always attracted to post-tonal sounds and mixed rhythms?
Yes. I was open to it as a child. From the age of nine I was admiring and closely following the ever-evolving work of Miles, Coltrane, and other searching improvisors. By my early teens I was also listening to Stravinsky, Ives, Stockhausen and other 20th century composers. I found the pitch materials, rhythmic materials, ensemble interactions, textures, styles, etc. of contemporary musical expression endlessly fascinating and expressive.
Why is trumpet your instrument of choice?
I first fell in love with the trumpet upon hearing Louis Armstrong when I was five years old. I began to study the trumpet at age nine – the same year in which I first heard Miles Davis. The impact of those two players was more than enough to make the trumpet my instrument of choice. Beginning as a teen I was blessed to hear Miles, Dizzy, Kenny Dorham, Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard, Woody Shaw and most of the other great trumpeters of the era in clubs and concert halls which is to say I had no lack of continuing inspiration.
Do you consider yourself a composer primarily?
I certainly spend far more time writing music than playing the trumpet but I primarily consider myself a life-long student of music who aspires to contribute original work which speaks of existence in musically meaningful ways.
Listeners used to more traditional (even contemporary) jazz might not know how to experience this music. What would you say to them?
Perhaps it would help to let go of the word “jazz” along with the boundaries and stylistic tendencies which the word implies to the listener in question.
I find it helpful to come to music without expectations of what it should be. Framing a piece of music within pre-existing labels and concepts often focuses a listener on what the music should be rather than what the music is. I find such an approach deadening and prefer to experience music on its own terms.
What kind of reaction do you get from audiences?
I think the most common statement I get is, “I have no idea what you’re doing but I love your music.” Such comments make me happy. The music isn’t a test. It’s meant to be enjoyed!
Why do you think working together with Noah Preminger was the right combination for this CD?
He requested a piece and I said yes immediately. It was an absolute joy to work together because I love Noah’s playing, his writing, his concepts of ensemble interaction. I love his devotion to spontaneity, to real improvising. I love the way his uniquely personal sound, its endless nuances, and his wide-ranging imagination serve a deeply felt expressiveness.
I knew that our combined efforts would be not only the right combination but produce an exciting and artistically rewarding collaboration.
Who are the other musicians on this project and what do they bring to the overall character of the music?
Alongside Noah’s leadership and tenor sax artistry the CD features Jason Palmer on trumpet, John O’Gallagher on alto sax, Kris Davis on piano, Rob Schwimmer on synths, Kim Cass on bass and Rudy Royston on drums. What they brought were their individually unique instrumental languages and styles, all of which I love. It was their interactions with each other and with the conception and materials of the piece which then created the character of the performance. I am thrilled with the result.
What do you want this album to convey?
There is only one piece on the CD. As with many long works it has a number of sections but it is not a suite, a medley or a collection of separate pieces. It is truly one piece which is to say it is one musical action from start to finish.
I can only say that in my music I seek to explore what I experience as the distances, the relationships between what is and the dramas of human experience.
I wish for each listener to find his or her own meaning in the music.
Can you shed some light into the name “Zigsaw”?
It’s a blending of the words zigzag and jigsaw. It represents to me the character of the piece… a type of wild journey through a dreamscape within which groups of musical ideas are stated, fragmented and recur in similar shapes but with transformed content… as if a jigsaw puzzle containing many uniquely colored pieces in a constrained variety of shapes had been strewn across… not a tabletop… but across a somewhat chaotic and puzzling dream.
The dreamer knows that the episodes and fragments of the dream somehow belong together, but how they do so is intriguing, mysterious, yet compelling.
I’d like to thank you for your interest and for this opportunity to speak about the music. I’d also like to thank everyone who chooses to listen to the music. Needless to say I’d like to thank Noah and his group for a fantastic performance and recording engineer Jim Clouse for a brilliantly clear recording.
For more information, visit www.steve-lampert.com.
© Debbie Burke
Photos courtesy of and with permission of Noah Preminger and Steve Lampert.