Leader/guitarist Tyler Cooney’s first full-length studio album Modern Ideal is melodic, accomplished, and highly listenable. Easy on the breeze is “Country Sumthin” where spare, uncomplicated guitar playing has a perfectly light touch to bring the tune on its journey. Cooney’s solo is accompanied with a collaborative warmth from Tim Firth’s gentle brushes and Nick Quigley’s accomplished stroll on the bass strings. A smooth groove that transports thoughts to happy places. “Villa Villain” is a complex mood that has a subdued strength and combines airiness with the after-echo of well-chosen harmonics. Vying for top contender in favorite song title would have to be “Hip Replacement Mix,” whose energy definitely brings the humor as it’s fast and nimble and how you hope to be when your surgery is over. Overall, the tracks have a hint of the blues with original solos and a natural rhythmic togetherness.
The album drops August 18, 2022 and kicks off the trio’s Australian tour.
When and why did you start guitar?
Around age 10. My parents bought me an acoustic for Christmas.
What was your first exposure to jazz?
First exposure to jazz what probably when I started studying at the Jazz Music Institute in Brisbane in 2014. Before that I had never really listened to jazz properly.
Do you like the tightness of a small group – your trio – and talk about that “telepathy” you mentioned?
Yes I love it. I love hearing the musicians really shape the performance of the music. I love larger ensemble stuff as well, but with fewer members, each member’s actions mean more to shape the music, and to tell the other members where they might want to take the music.
When you compose, do you start with just an idea or with a fragment of a melody or just a mood?
Usually I’ll start either with a small musical idea in my head and try to realize it on the instrument, or other times I’ll noodle on the guitar and something will come out that generally acts as the seed to the rest of the tune.
If you were to add in new instrumentation, something different, what would it be?
I would add a sax player. I love playing guitar trio because its means I’m at the front of the team captaining the ship, but I also love comping for other front-line instruments and going with someone else’s direction.
What is the jazz scene like where you live? How does it compare to pre-lockdown?
The jazz scene is pretty good in Brisbane. There are lots of different pockets of people playing straight ahead, more contemporary or freer stuff. The scene isn’t anywhere near as big as Sydney, or Melbourne, or any of the international hubs like NYC, but it’s growing and it’s pretty good.
Why the name “Modern Ideal”?
It’s the name of the ballad on the album. It came about like all my song titles – they’re generally words that seem to capture some sort of vibe that goes with the tune. Other times it’s a more intuitive, less obvious thing. For instance, “Collision Dance” came from me thinking of a name that would go with the hectic nature of the tune. The tune “Wood Glue” literally come from me watching American homestead videos and the guy mentioned wood glue and I thought “that’s a tune name.”
Discuss why saying “modern jazz” can scare some people off (the more traditional jazz lovers) but it shouldn’t?
Jazz itself as an idiom is huge. People that say they don’t like jazz haven’t heard all the jazz there is. I’m a jazz musician and I haven’t heard all the jazz there is. If you don’t like one type of jazz or a particularly player or album, that’s fair enough, but jazz is so all-encompassing that you’re going to find something that you love sooner or later. I think the term “modern jazz” is a commonly associated term with certain types of jazz that is jarring for a lot of people. But there’s plenty of modern (or contemporary) jazz that doesn’t sound anything like “Love Supreme” or Ornette Coleman.
How did you come to choose the other players on this album and why do you admire them?
I played two gigs with Tim Firth right before lockdown, and he made me play the best I’ve ever played and made everything so easy. That made it an obvious choice that he had to be the drummer for my album. I was a big fan of his from playing with James Muller, so he was always on my radar. Nick Quigley I’ve known since the beginning of my jazz music journey through JMI and has always been a really solid player that I like playing with. The last-minute nature of how the album was recorded lined up with them both being free, so it worked out in the end.
Most challenging part of production?
Honestly the whole process was quite easy. The players made it easy, the sound engineer made it easy, the mixing and mastering engineer made it easy. I had faith in myself as I was shedding the material for weeks beforehand, so I knew everyone involved would pull their weight and do a great job.
Best thing about this CD?
I think the best thing is that it’s an intimate trio, playing well-written, strong tunes that lend themselves to the interpretation of the players. I think we really made something of these tunes, took the solos to interesting places, and everyone played with great feel and swing so I think it’s really enjoyable to listen to.
For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/tyler.cooney.98.
Photos courtesy of and with permission of the artist.
© 2022 Debbie Burke