This was a great conversation that touched on the fusion of jazz and blues, improvisation, and Robben’s musical heroes. He also shares some great Miles Davis in the final 10 minutes of the video.
Incorporating Jazz & Blues (2:45)
Rick referenced Robben’s playing on the Yellowjackets 1981 self-titled album to set up this topic. The album has a lot of blues playing over the altered five chord.
“Where you hear the jazz influence is in an altered five chord situation…”
Note from Andrei: An altered chord is a diatonic triad or seventh chord that has had one or more pitches lowered or raised by a half step.
Part of Robben’s influence was to emulate the sax players he was enjoying at that time.
Jazz voicings in blues playing (6:30)
Robben learned his chords from the Mickey Baker’s Complete Course in Jazz Guitar book.
“I started incorporating those chords very easily into a blues band, it’s the same music…”
Eventually started to learn scales out of another book in order to learn what to play over the chords.
“The diminished scale could be used as an altered chord, and I like 13 flat 9, as opposed to flat 13 raised 9 chord, I would use that, I gravitated towards that diminished scale sound…”
Thoughts on why Fusion fell out of vogue (11:25)
“For reasons that are so broad, you could call it the cell phone, it may have killed virtually everything culturally, I would get very dramatic in answering a question like that because it’s painful to me, music has been devastated in every way, financially, quality, it’s been smashed to bits…”
“To me it’s a way of life…”
Personal expression. A way to express yourself.
“It’s a spiritual thing, even though I’m not hearing much spirituality in improvisation these days. Technique has become the art, as opposed to feeling the need to say something…”
“You can be the most sophisticated person in the world, but if you don’t have that connection to the blues, there will be something big missing from your playing, it’s the spiritual element…”
Favorite solos by other people (15:20)
Mike Bloomfield on the song “Our love is driftin”.
Paul Desmond on the album “Take 5” & “Desmond Blue”.
“The first things that I really connected with in improvisation, was with people who sounded like they were talking to me, not people who were blowing me away with their amazingness…”
“Improvisation for me always had that element of communication going on as opposed to showing what you can do…”
Improvisation heroes (17:30)
Paul Desmond (sax), Jim Hall (guitar), Sonny Rollins (sax), Miles Davis (trumpet), John Coltrane (sax), Rolan Kirk (multi-instrumentalist), Archie Shepp (sax)
Producing records (20:00)
“This is the environment I work to create when making a record, let’s do this, everybody is equally important attitude…”
“I don’t have a home studio because I don’t want one. I want an engineer who knows how to do that. A studio that is cool, I want to go there, I don’t want to stay home…”
Tone in the studio (21:50)
Ideal setup is to have headphones on one ear, and next to the room where the amp is with the door open. Likes to have the interaction/feedback from the amp.
“I’ve used my Dumble amplifier, Overdrive special, built by Alexander Dumble in 1982 or 83, I’ve used that amp on every record I’ve ever made, it needs to be out in an open room…”
Favorite solo of his (24:45)
“My favorite guitar solo on record, sound, everything, is the guitar solo on “Rose of Sharon” from the “Into the Sun” album…”
Frequency of playing, picking up the guitar with purpose (25:15)
“When I was touring more, I wouldn’t play the guitar for 2-3 weeks sometimes when I got home, I was just tired of it…”
“I pick up the guitar for a reason, I don’t pick it up just to play guitar, I pick it up because I want to write something, or work on something that comes to mind. I don’t sit and play for enjoyment very much, generally it’s for a reason…”