Interview with Gary about the re-release
of, and musical experiences encountered from, his first record, Gathering.
Description of the session/s. What were the highlights? how long
did it take? Where was the recording done?
We recorded Gathering in Ultra Sonic Studios in NY. I was
living in Boston at the time but I was playing once a month at The Mercer Arts
Center in New York City. A recording engineer came to the gig, liked my
songs, and asked if I wanted to make a record. I said, "Sure!" I was 21 years
old at the time. He said, "Do you have a band?"
Until that point I had only performed solo and didn't like "jamming" with people Honesty,
I couldn't find too many players that could play the very long-formed,
odd -styled songs I was writing. And I didn't really have an interest in playing
other people's music. But I said, "Sure, I have a band," because I definitely
didn't want to just do a solo record. There is such a great opportunity to
control big sounding things in the studio. I wanted to take advantage of that.
So I went back to Boston and began looking for musicians to be in
my band. I began to walk around the music rooms of all the universities,
believe it or not, listening for potential band members! One day I heard
Michael Cochrane playing piano. He was truly great, even as a young player, and
I was pretty blown away. So I knocked on his door after he finished playing and
asked him if he wanted to join a my band and do a record, which of course was
an odd thing to ask under the circumstances. Odder still was that I proceeded
to sit down on the floor of this little practice cubical with my guitar
in my lap and started playing him my songs while he was still sitting there at
the piano, kind of stunned at my invasion of his practice space. Then
we started jamming on the songs. After that Michael said if we were going to
record we just had to get his buddies John Scofield and David Samuels to join
We rehearsed for a few months at Michael's house. I had to scream
/ sing over the band because I didn't have an amp for my voice that was loud
enough to be heard over the rest of the instruments. It was pretty crazy.
When we got into the studio none of us had ever recorded before.
We had no idea about overdubs so we gathered around in a big circle facing each
other and just went for it. Almost every song was a first take. We
had a very good day. . . .
I understand that this was John Scofield's first ever time in a studio
? What was that like for him?
John was always very low key, very calm, and very funny. So he was
really quite relaxed in the studio setting, as was David. Michael and I were
a bit more on edge, I would say. John and I always enjoyed each other's sense
of humor. David Samuels was also a very brilliant witty guy, so we had a
lot of fun rehearsing and recording together, and did so a few times after Gathering
Michael was more serious. He became a mentor of mine. I became his
piano student shortly after "Gathering" was completed, instead of going off to
tour all the "Gathering" songs in Europe. I had only played guitar until
then. But I knew piano was another great instrument for song writing, and I wanted
to take the opportunity to explore it since Michael's teaching skills
were extraordinary. I think he got a kick out of teaching me because I never
learned how to read notes, and he figured once you're in your 20's
it's usually too late. So he used my ear and my mathematical sense to teach me.
He'd teach me pages and pages of jazz theory every time I took a lesson
and then I'd go home and practice 12 hours a day -- to not embarrass myself
at the next lesson. So then he'd give me another massive amount of work thinking
I could handle it, since I'd handled the last lesson OK. And I'd leave there
dazed and reeling again, and practice for another 12 hours a day.
So I learned jazz and blues from Michael and then got more
deeply involved in the NY, and eventually the San Francisco/Berkeley, jazz scenes in
the mid-1970's. I immersed myself in that world until I decided to go back
to my rock 'n roll roots in the 1980's. . . .Then I would still have my Keith
Jarrett "Facing You," and Chic Corea "Improvisations Volume 1" tapes in
the car, but at home I'd be listening to The Beatles, Ray Charles, Steve
Winwood, The Police, Bruce Hornsby, and Peter Gabriel.
Did this group play together on your next album/s?
John and David played on my third album, "Thoughts of Why," as well
as on "Gathering." Paul McCandless also played on "Thoughts of Why." The
second album, "Upon Oanda's Wing," I recorded on the West coast with Art
Lande, and his band, including Mark Isham and Bill Douglass.
Description of the other players on the record and why they
were chosen for
the album? What were the other players doing at the time?
Paul Brickey was a great acoustic bass player that Michael turned
me onto. David Samuels was actually the drummer on many of the Gathering
tracks. He is an amazing musician who also plays tabla, piano, and I think trumpet
as well. But vibes and marimba are his main instruments. Larry Schneider
played soprano sax on a few tracks, and Chip White, a Latin jazz player from
NY played drums on some tracks as well. But John, Michael, David and I were the
Any recollections of the time-period and what was going on socially and
politically that may have inspired or influenced the GATHERING?
The political landscape in 1972 / 1973 deeply affected our daily
lives. We were all embarrassed that Nixon was President. I'm still embarrassed
that he ever WAS President, and I was deeply involved in protesting the war. .
. Hmm, embarrassed about the President and protesting a war -- in America some
things never change.
Brief description about the writing of the songs and if
there is any song/s
that may have a particular story?
I wrote a lot of political songs back then but "Gathering" took
on a softer tone as the band and the songs merged into a cohesive framework.
It took on more of a spiritual resonance than a political one over time. First
Snowfall was an inner diary of a winter day in Boulder. Seasons is
about the evolution a person's heart has to take when you lose someone you love. Him
Sometimes was about the person I could be when I meditated and practiced
yoga early in the morning! Sherry's Song was, well, you'll have to read The Dance
and the Diamond Sky to know who Sherry was. A pretty amazing "first
love." Gathering is dedicated to her.
What was the response to the album on it's release?
I was a bit overwhelmed actually. Carla Bley asked to distribute
the record world-wide through her Jazz Composers Organization of America (JCOA)
label. Then I was getting called to come and play in Europe. I was 22 and excited
about the whole thing. But really, then, like now, I was a lot more interested
in writing new songs and recording them than performing the same songs every
night. "Gathering" received a lot of great reviews and had a lot of support in
various circles. But every time a record deal or a manager would come into the
picture the thought of touring endlessly kind of torpedoed the momentum.
Did the band want to tour?
Some of them may have. I never asked. Each song was a story and
had to find its peak moment in the studio. But then that was the best it could
be. Why try to repeat that?
Is there any artist/s that has/have been heavily influenced by GATHERING?
I was honored to have Art Lande as a Gathering fan. I don't
think he was influenced by it, but he really liked the record. I met him in Berkeley
and he would play the record for Eberhardt Weber and other great players who
would come into the area to play at The Great American Music Hall or Zellerbach
at the University of Berkeley. Maya Weber drew/painted two of my album jackets,
as she did for so many ECM artists back then. So I had a great opportunity
on the next record to have Art Lande and his band, Mark Isham, Bill Douglass,
and Kurt Wortman, play with me. . .basically the entire band of "Rubisa Patrol," (ECM
records). They played on my second record, "Upon Oanda's Wing."
A year or so later, I introduced Paul McCandless to Art Lande
at the Berkeley Square. Then I brought both coasts of musical friends together
on my third album: Paul McCandless, John Scofield, David Samuels, and Marks Isham all
played on "Thoughts of Why."