Book Review: Innerviews by Anil Prasad

Book Review: Innerviews: Music Without Borders by Anil Prasad.
Abstract Logix Books $19.95. Published October 19th 2010. Review by Mark Ramsden

A fantastic collection of twenty-four absorbing interviews which will aid deep thought and spiritual growth.

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The grey cover perhaps not uplifting but the contents are a nourishing iridescent rainbow. Mixed metaphors are appropriate for genre mash up specialists like Joe Zawinul, Ani DeFranco, John McLaughlin, Zakir Hussain, McCoy Tyner, Bjork, Bill Bruford, Stanley Clarke, Bela Fleck, Eberhard Weber, Ralph Towner and Tangerine Dream, among others.

Miles’s remix man Bill Laswell, for example, is unlikely to be working in the diplomatic service any time soon, but as he created Herbie Hancock’s masterpiece ‘Rockit’ he can say what he likes, which he did to Miles Davis when offered only half an album. Mr Prasad’s intelligent questions trigger thoughtful replies, after a useful introduction to each artist.

Most people are talking about the spiritual aspects of their music, plus there is a little technique and instrument talk. Bassist Eberhard Weber has the perfect answer for over-ambitious composers who appear armed with parts full of demi-semiquavers in uneven time signatures, a cross between Spinal Tap’s Jazz Odyssey and The Rite of Spring, generally music they couldn’t sight read themselves. Mr Weber says, “Do you want me or do you want a bass player?” Which saves a lot of time and trouble.

I thought I knew all about Joe Zawinul, as a total Weather Report completist. But then this protean master was one of the pioneers of fusion. His output is prodigious and he claims to have invented not only the hip hop beat -on Sweetnighter 125th Street Congress – but the whole World Music genre too. Listening again to examples quoted in the book, I believe him to be right on both counts: he probably did.

Zawinul makes the interesting point that Cannonball should be esteemed as highly as Miles Davis. As Mr Adderley did not copy Charlie Parker, has his own sound full of sweet, sassy soul and was exploring fusion before Miles Davis, let’s hear it for Cannonball. Joe Zawinul explains the reason Jaco was unable to continue with Weather Report, how his Danube symphony project came about and how rubbish Wynton Marsalis is, despite perfect intonation and technique. I heard that! “To me this is very boring music – most of it…it’s dangerous to Jazz itself”. It’s not in Innerviews, but Keith Jarrett, criticized by Marsalis for his excellent fusion music, said Wynton is jazzy like a bank manager in a sports car is sporty.

I was particularly taken by Ani DiFranco’s ideas on atheist spirituality. “Music is my church.” Amen. She’s a successful self-promoter, her company Righteous Babe is even in a position to support other artists. Go girl!

It was pleasing to find Chuck D in agreement with my belief that most rap acts are terrible, at least when performing publicly. They don’t care, selling that many units, but he points out that early Rap performers like Grandmaster Flash and Public Enemy had a stage presence and something for the audience. Nice to hear Chuck D stressing the values of live musicians and performance skills.

Good to see gifted guitarist Michael Hedges’s memory kept alive, he died young at 43 in an automobile accident, some of his thoughts and life-lived wisdom are preserved here. And here are some fusioneer suggestions of my own: Paquito D’Rivera, Herbie Hancock, (not in that order), Steely Dan. Anyway, check out the Innerviews website which has been thriving for sixteen years.

The book is available from Abstractlogix.com

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3 replies »

  1. You won't be disappointed.

    Should have said that Mr Prasad is a musician, hence relevant questions, and it's all music, life skills and spirituality-based rather than 'what instrument do you play?'

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