|Larry Goldings. Photo Credit: Scott Engelhardt / Creative Commons|
Hammond organist LARRY GOLDINGS will be on a short January UK tour with long-term trio partners guitarist Peter Bernstein and drummer Bill Stewart. The three Americans have also recently released their first studio album in ten years, ‘Ramshackle Serenade.’ Kathryn Shackleton interviewed him:
LondonJazz News: You have been playing Hammond organ with Peter Bernstein and Bill Stewart since the late ‘80s. How did you come to form a trio?
Larry Goldings: I met guitarist Peter Bernstein at a music camp when I was entering my junior year in High School in the mid-80s and it was that summer that I heard about The New School jazz program starting up in New York. I ended up going there, where I met up with Peter again. Peter introduced me to the amazing drummer Bill Stewart, and we found a little dive uptown called Augie’s. We made Augie’s our regular place to play and just sort of became a band!
LondonJazz News: How does the personality of your organ trio with Peter and Bill come across in your new album ‘Ramshackle Serenade’?
Larry Goldings: We all have individual voices as players and although we are all aware of the organ trio tradition, we also just look at it as music and try not to be too conscious of that tradition. The Hammond organ trio is sometimes labelled as bluesy and greasy – we like to play that way sometimes but I don’t think we fall into the typical organ trio in terms of the repertoire that we choose. Also, the organ isn’t really at the centre when we play. In our group the guitar doesn’t take a back seat, with the organ playing the melodies, which might be the case in a standard organ trio. We’re more democratic in our approach. Bill has such a strong voice on the drums too, and the group is about each individual and their strengths – we all just want to play good music!
We’re really looking forward to touring the music in January. We have a good fan base in the UK and the British audiences tend to be educated and sophisticated in terms of what they listen to.
LondonJazz News: You also recorded a piano album, ‘Music from the Front Room’, with a new band recently. How does the experience of playing with your piano trio differ from the experience with your organ trio?
Larry Goldings: The piano group with David Piltch on bass and Jay Bellerose on drums is just finding itself so it’s a completely different experience. With the organ there’s a different approach as you are the bass player as well. The dual role makes me think differently when I am at the organ, and it means I’m able to control and guide the music in a completely different way. The piano trio is not really steeped in jazz tradition as much as my organ trio with Peter and Bill – and for that reason we get into a completely different repertoire. We are so new and just discovering what we can do that I am very excited about it!
LondonJazz News: As a pianist and organist on tour, you must be faced with a different instrument every night. The pianist Hiromi says she likes to make friends with each piano she meets and says that a piano that’s been well-cared for has a happy and balanced personality….. but how do you cope with meeting rogue instruments?
Larry Goldings: It’s certainly a point of anxiety at each new venue, as to how much the instrument is going to distract you from making music! At the same time, you can get surprised by yourself when you deal with the challenge – I’ve always enjoyed how different instruments get you to play differently. Of course, when an instrument isn’t working properly you have to decide whether to fight your way through, or to give in, or you try to find what’s good about the instrument and concentrate on that part of it. I envy non-pianists who can travel with their own instruments, though for me there is a sense of discovery and freshness on every gig. All Hammond organs are old so you’re always dealing with some kind of issue!
LondonJazz News: You already seem to have worked with everyone under the sun including Jon Hendricks, Jim Hall, Michael Brecker and Pat Metheny. Is there anyone, though, who you’d still like the opportunity to play with?
Larry Goldings: Oh yes. Some of the elder statesmen of jazz, like Sonny Rollins, Roy Haynes, Bobby Hutcherson… I would love to play with them. There are also some people that I have played with but not nearly enough, like Lee Konitz. He’s one of my favourite musicians ever! I’d like to play more with some of my peers like Chris Potter and Kurt Rosenwinkel. There are people in other musical traditions, too, and living in LA I have been able to play with some of my heroes from the pop world, but I would still love to play with Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, Donald Fagen – I can dream, can’t I?
LondonJazz News: What projects will you be working on in the coming year?
Larry Goldings: Lots of touring with James Taylor and some other short tours with Peter and Bill. I also hope to work more with my piano group, plus I’m working on some projects with lyricists and singer/songwriters.
I was lucky enough to be invited to study at Sundance Film Festival’s feature film lab last year. Over 2 weeks, at George Lucas’s studio, they walk you through the process, then give you a studio of your own with instruments and sampled sounds and you write the score for a scene. Each of us scored the same scene, but the work that each of us produced was completely different. It was a fascinating, once-in a lifetime experience led by some of the major film composers. I would love to be more active in writing more film scores this year – they are a great challenge and a lot of fun.
LondonJazz News: Do you have any musical New Year’s Resolutions for 2015?
Larry Goldings: To keep getting better! I’ll try to remember what my own strengths are rather than judging myself too hard. I have so many heroes that are always in the background when I play that it’s always a challenge to try to forget they are there! It’s also a big challenge to try not to be so reliant on your influences so that you are playing in the moment and being you. When I’m on a gig, it’s about trying to be in the moment and not being too judgmental about my playing, and just enjoying myself.
– Ronnie Scott’s, London on Jan 19th and 20th
– The Lantern at Colston Hall, Bristol on Jan 21st
– Watermill Jazz, Dorking on Jan 22nd
Goldings, Bernstein and Stewart’s ‘Ramshackle Serenade’ CD was released in May 2014 on Pirouet Records
– Larry Goldings’ piano recording ‘Music from the Front Room’ was released by Sticky Mack Records in December. ‘Music from the Front Room’ features Larry on piano, David Piltch on bass and Jay Bellerose on drums, with Sebastian Aymanns adding percussion on 3 tracks.