Matt Otto interview- part II

Here is part two of the Matt Otto interview. This part has questions from some of Casa Valdez's regular readers for Otto.

DCV: What projects have you been working on these days?

MO: I've been recording with a few different groups:

Josh Welchez, a great trumpet player here in L.A. Did a recording with myself, Joe Bagg on piano, Mark Ferber on Drums, Ryan McGillicuddy on bass. It's mostly straight ahead originals and a few standards.

I recorded on a sextet album with Brian Swartz, another fantastic trumpet player here in L.A. This group includes Andy Langham on piano, J.P. Maramba on Bass, Martin Sullivan on Trombone, Jens Cuross on drums, and Robby Marshall on tenor sax as well.

I also just did a trio album of all original material with Jason Harnell on drums, and Ryan McGillicuddy on bass, we call the group 3-ish and we're hoping to get that recording out soon.

My most recent quartet album is also done, and I'm waiting on some funds to press that one as well. The recording is a tribute to the Paris Commune of 1871 and will be titled, "La Commune".

Question from Steve Neff: Matt, I’ve been struggling with tendinitis and varied pain in my hands and forearms over the last year and a half. It seems like you have overcome your problems in a great way. I'm struggling with the pain everyday and would love some tips

MO: Hand pain is something I've dealt with since 1990. I was playing nearly all day for a long time, without stretching or breaking and I finally got carpal tunnel syndrome and had an operation a few months later. After surgery, my hand doctor said that the inside of my left wrist looked like the hand of a 60 year old man. The surgery did help but I've had problems off and on ever since. After years of trying everything I could find here's the best I've come up with:

1. Lift light weights with your wrists... forward wrist curls, reverse wrist curls. This will increase the muscle mass in the injured area increasing blood flow/circulation thus increase the healing process. This is the best thing I've found, I think babying your hands will only decrease blood flow, decrease healing potential and increase injury potential.

2. Stretch everyday at least once, or up to 3x. The main stretches are reverse forearm stretch and forward forearm stretch. Videos of these stretches are linked to my website and below.

3. The rest of these solutions are optional and I've had varying results with them... Alexander Technique, study this with a private instructor if possible. It is a postural awareness art that will help you regain your natural healthy human posture, this will help the healing process and help your bones align themselves with gravity, so that your musculature does far less work and does not become locked in spasm.

4. Exercise as much as you can, cardio 30 minutes 3x per week, light weights for all major muscle groups. Just go to the gym and work out, don't worry about big results or goals... keep it simple, just go and keep going. If you can't afford it, take a 30-minute walk every day.

5. Eat better and live healthier, more veggies, more raw food, more water, less sugar, less meat, less alcohol, less smoke. You don't have to be perfect, just be better. Moderation really works.

6. Practice with a timer. Buy an egg timer... find out how long you can play (after stretching and light weight routine) before it hurts. Time it... once you know, set the timer for 5 minutes less and only practice that long before taking a break, walking around, stretching and drinking water, Always use the egg timer, develop some discipline, over time your good habits begin to out way your bad habits and your hands and wrists will start to heal.

7. Listen more then you practice...as you probably know, listening is great practicing. You could try this, practice for 15 minutes then break, stretch etc... then listen to music... anything you like, just a little more than 15 minutes worth. If possible, repeat this a few times each day.

8. Try to slow down... stay relaxed and try not to practice fast, if you find you're enamored with speed, you may be in music for the wrong reasons, try to play slow, use a metronome, develop some patience and discipline. Try doing all your practice at metronome 40 until you break your habit of practicing too fast. Once you break the habit, met. 60 will seem like plenty of freedom.

Here are some of Otto's stretching and weight lifting for carpal-tunnel videos:

Question from Tom Periera: I'd like to know about Otto's teaching approach. When I studied with Joe Allard we rarely played the instrument. It was an approach that was more about why than how. Matt has a philosophy that seems to combine both a physical approach and a deeply spiritual and philosophical approach. I'd like to understand that process better. The reason why I think this is important is I believe that it illuminates Matt's own approach to playing.

MO: My main approach is to sing over pedals, which I really enjoy and find it therapeutic as well as beneficial to my playing and hearing. It took me a while before this became my main way to practice. I started singing exercises while studying with David Baker at Indiana University back in 1986, but it was not until I got carpal tunnel that I really began working on it. Over time it has become my main way of practicing and now I do it almost exclusively.

I practice all sorts of things by singing over a drone. I often use a metronome too so I'll sing something in time over the drone slowly. Today, for instance, a sang over the drone in each key for about 5 minutes while the metronome clicked slow triplets, I just sang freely and thought of the fingerings of what I was playing, which tends to be some form of major minor or dominant, nothing ground breaking. This is the way a practice most days, just singing freely over the drone while thinking of the fingerings.

One simple exercise I give my students is to sing a Bird head over the pedal. You put the drone on concert F for example, and then sing Scrapple rubato over it, making sure every note is in tune, you'll most likely have to go very slow to get each pitch even remotely in tune, so that one pass through the first A section might take 2 ro3 minutes at first.... you can use solfege or just sing the notes, just make sure each note is in tune, that you're really going slow and hearing the intervals exactly over the drone, not just singing the rhythms and pitches that vaguely resemble the tune. While you're singing you visualize the appropriate fingering on your instrument. It is an easy thing to practice as long as you go slowly. You can hold note for as long as you'd like until it's comfortable and centered. This is basically what I do only improvising more or less.

I have drone machine which I really like, it's an electronic tompura or tambura that you can order from the Ali Akbar Kahn website. It plays drones in all keys. I do the singing at home and when I drive, and if I'm working on a new tune, I sing that over the drone. If I practice anything more, it's on the horn, long tones, tunes, and playing short intervallic ideas through keys while displacing the rhythms.

Question from Pere Soto: How is the LA jazz scene as far as the jazz music/composing energy?

MO: There are a lot of great composers and players in L.A. I believe it to be a great music town, although very spread out and decentralized. Chicago, New York and San Francisco are smaller; more localized, which puts all the musicians in a closer vicinity to one another, which I think, facilitates more comradery and collaboration. I feel fairly inspired to write and practice here, I just have to remember to get out and hear all the great players.

Pere Soto: Do you think that young people in LA are becoming more interested or less interested in Jazz music?

MO: There are a lot of young jazz musicians in LA... there are several strong schools producing many fine musicians every year, USC, UCLA, Cal State Northridge, Cal Arts, Cal State Long Beach to name a few. Many of these young players stay local, some move to New York and elsewhere. I think in general jazz is becoming more a music for musicians and not for the general public. Popular music, although it is sophisticated sonically and texturally, seems to have become harmonically simpler. The pop music written in the 30's and 40's is harmonically far more complex than the pop music of today and so is a bit more substantive to improvise over or through. Even the harmonies and melodies found on Beatles or Beach Boys albums are far more complicated than modern pop. As a result, I don't think jazz will become popular in the mainstream until music production for profit comes to an end, and culture is allowed to blossom freely without the profit motive influencing what the public hears.

Pere Soto: How do you think the Jazz musicians in LA feel about being so far from what's happening on the NYC Jazz scene? Is the LA Jazz scene vital enough to keep you from wishing that you were in big cities like New York or Chicago?

MO: I'm not sure how others feel about it. I miss the New York music community. The writing and improvising there is really inspiring. I like LA for other reasons, the pace of life, the weather, and the standard of living. I don't really lack personal motivation so I don't need to be in NYC to keep working on my craft, I was in NYC for 7 years, which isn't very long but I got a little taste of the city and the great musicians that live there. However, I'll probably go back one day.

Question from Adam Beach: To my ears, your playing presents a cross between Warne Marsh and Dewey Redman... (and I really dig it!) bringing what many consider to be 2 totally distinct forms of jazz into one. In one tune on your website I heard you go from the softest "inside" style of the former to the most energetic "outside" style of the latter. How do more Marsh oriented players and listeners react to that? How do more Albert Ayler oriented players and listeners react when you shift into Paul Desmond gear?

MO: I'm flattered to be mentioned in the same sentence as Warne and Dewey, they are two of my favorite players. I enjoy players who move me both emotionally and intellectually. I think Wayne Shorter is quite good at doing that.

When I listen to those plugged nickel recordings I hear him playing with lots of emotion and lots of interesting rhythmic, harmonic and melodic material. I strive play in a way that allows me to express the whole gambit of emotions I'm feeling although sometimes I become stifled or self-conscious. If I get frustrated by my playing or by busy comping I usually allow myself to respond honestly to that. I think music is an emotional art and at this point in history. It's ok to express your happiness, sadness or anger when improvising. All of that has become the tradition of the music and makes it more liberating and cathartic to improvise.

Adam Beach: I was taught that working on long tones strain and tighten your embouchure making you play sharp and your playing more strenuous, your sound more stuffy, etc. -- that you need to strive for the most relaxed and natural embouchure as you can (if that isn't a double bind!!) and long tones take you in the opposite direction. You obviously don't agree, and you have a phenomenal tenor sound, in my opinion. What's your philosophy on long tones?

MO: I actually do agree that long tones can potentially tighten your embouchure and restrict the vibration of the reed and your sound, and that a "loose as possible" embouchure is ideal for a full, rich, vibrant sound. I believe that you can do long tones in a way that can help open and loosen the embouchure. Kind of like yoga, you can use yoga to both strengthen and loosen the muscles. I like to use a method I adapted from George Garzone; you hold a note, say middle B and lip is down as flat as possible. You hold the note like that, maybe a minor third or so below the actual fingered note. After a few hours of this, go back to playing regularly, the results are amazing even after only a few hours. Another variation I use is while playing over a drone, I push the mouthpiece in as far as I can, and I lip the note down by ear, until it's in tune with the drone. This is good for very slow scales, at the gig, you put the mouthpiece back where it was and just play. I really like this practice for sound production.

Adam Beach: "I've always considered improvisation to be a type of art, not so much a form of entertainment. I feel the artist should (to whatever extent he or she can financially afford) peruse the art, not with the intent of entertaining the general public, but rather contributing to the cultural advance of music." -- could you elaborate on this?

MO: I recognize that quote from our last interview. I still agree with what I said there. What I was trying to get at, although I was perhaps a bit vague, was the idea of studying the great musicians of the past, all of the ones that inspire you and than trying to build further on their work in your own humble way, in hopes of flushing out and accentuating the specific aspects of musical culture that you value and believe in. If for instance you find the music Alban Berg, and Messiaen compelling and captivating, you may begin to study their music and allow their influence to take hold of you. If you enjoy the music of Phil Ochs or Woody Guthrie, you can inculcate a bit of their music or message into your musical message. So I believe that music is an art and a language and that the conversation is between the artist and the history itself, not so much the individuals within it, and not so much for purpose of entertainment, although some will be entertained along the way.

Adam Beach: You said you read Alan Watts. Are you aware of his "life as music" metaphysic? Does this weigh in on what your saying?

MO: I've read a lot of Alan Watts and have listed to his lectures or "stand up", having such a great sense of humor, as it were. I've always enjoyed Alan Watts, for on thing, he presents his ideas, or his knowledge about "emptiness" and eastern thought in general, without making grandiose claims or conclusions from them. In this way he stays close to eastern concepts like those found in Zen Buddhism, which is supposed to be beyond thought and description and therefore beyond or before conclusions and judgments.

Simply put, I think mediation helps in balancing and centering the individual that has become unbalanced due to living within an unbalanced competitive class based society. I believe that if class society could be overthrown, and a society that is based on true material equality could take it's place, mental states like those cultivated through meditation would be common place, not due to personal discipline but rather through the more harmonious structure of society. It seems that the greatest influence on the individual is not the individual him/herself but rather the social/political structure he/she finds himself within. It's like a fish swimming in polluted water, you can give him antibiotics and medicines to keep him alive, but changing the water produces the best results.

Adam Beach: I read your "Red Liner Notes" and noticed your link to "World Socialist Web Site" which indicates to me your politics (which I more-or-less share). What do you believe is a musician's, or an artist's, social role in changing the world for the better? How do you see music and art contributing to change?

MO: I think we all have a responsibility to fight for social change, whether musicians, artists or in another walk of life. I think the world must be won over by regular working people on the planet and run in a planned, organized and fiercely egalitarian way that puts everyone materialistically in the same class. Far from thinking this is idealistic, I think its only way a social system can work in the long run, for both the human race and the planet. The different forms of class-based society have always failed the majority of humans as well as trashing the environment. I believe what's idealistic today, is to believe that 5 to 10% of the humans on the planet can own all of the productive forces globally and own 90% of the wealth and that somehow this can lead to global peace... that's idealistic. I think It's more rational to believe that material equality (for all people) is a necessary precondition for peace both global/social and personal. I think there will be no real peace until we all can live equally; equality is the basis of peace. I believe that only then, will we begin to see, the true potential of human culture, music, art and the like.


Marx - Engles internet archive, many books written by Marx, Engles, Lenin, Trotsky...free.World

Socialist Web Site, covering current events.Red Theory Collective, present day marxists fighting for

social transformation.

Links to recent sound clips of CDs that Matt Otto has recorded recently:

Pastorian Fantasie from Brian Swartz Gnu Sextet Album

Lennie's Pennies from Josh Welchez Album Lost and Found
Family Matter from 3ish Album Baobab
Enigma from Matt Otto album La Commune


Garzone sings 'The Chooch'

This is the funniest thing I've seen in a long time......



Scribd- World's largest document sharing network

I just ran across a web site that blew my mind called Scribd. It's the world's largest document sharing network and it's free to register. You can search and download millions of PDF documents that other people have uploaded. There are documents on every topic you can imagine and I found a ton of interesting music docs.

This is what the Internet was really supposed to be about- the world's libraries at your fingertips. Scribd is simply incredible, I wish I had known about this before now.



Further conversations with Matt Otto

DCV: You seem to have had a wide range influences over the years, some that I hear are Ornette, Trane, Garzone, Getz, Warne Marsh, and Sonny Rollins. How have you thought about the effect these players have had on your playing? I mean have you consciously tried to integrate their styles into your own music, or do you strive not to sound too much like them? Do you see what I'm getting at?

In my own case I've gone through phases of trying to sound like a particular player and phases when I've fought against sounding like a particularly strong influence of mine. Some teachers tell their students to absorb everything they can about a great player and then focus on a different one. I feel a bit mixed about this way of learning. How do balance that with striving to be original?

MO: I'm really into all the players you mentioned and have transcribed and played solos and lines from all of them. When I was younger I transcribed Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry, Trane, Dexter, Rollins, Stitt, Ammons, Bird, Desmond, Lester, Chet, Clifford Brown and others. Usually I would only transcribe the parts of the solos that I really connected with, or found myself humming along too... just a few phrases or lines. I did learn a few entire solos from Bird, Dexter, Hank Mobley and Paul Desmond but again, mostly just lines and phrases.

Sometimes when you spend a lot of time with friends or musicians that have a certain way of talking or diction you may find that you begin to talk a bit like them, maybe only subtly. This is similar to how I view influences in Jazz. For example, you may listen to Lester Young a lot and as a result start playing and phrasing a bit like him. Some times you may start deliberately using one of his ideas that you've taken the liberty to transcribe, sometimes you may start hearing and using his vibrato or a rhythm he plays a lot.

Depending on your practice approach, and how you learn in general, the way you are influenced by a given player will be different. I believe transcribing and memorizing material yields a slightly different result from singing along with solos or just listening intently. The differences may be subtle or profound depending on how well you can hear the material and than play what you hear.

Most of my playing in my early years was pretty unstructured and unfocused. I don't consider myself a gifted musician, and my ears developed really late, and I am still developing them now. Like many of us, I would learn the first part of a solo and be really inspired and than just improvise after that for a few hours.

Doug Yates had a big influence on me, and used to tell me to improvise within one harmony for a long time. I used to play one altered scale over a pedal or drone for hours, and slowly work that through the keys. I guess I was mostly playing harmonically, and not melodically at that point. It wasn't till much later that I really started hearing specific melodic ideas within a given harmony, and that process is still continuing today.

When I got a little older, in my 20's, I started to cycle ideas through keys in a more mainstream sort of way. This began the long journey of creating and refining a sort of musical vocabulary which is part of what I still practice now, 20 years later. Today, I really get a lot out of taking a small idea and singing it over a drone than moving it slowly through all the keys while I think of the fingerings. Originally I began this type of practice to stay of my hands, due to carpal tunnel syndrome, now I think it's become the best way to develop my ear and musicality.

DCV: Tell me about the LA Jazz collective. How did it start and what's your involvement been in it?

MO: I started the collective with Gary Fukushima, a great piano player and friend whom I met at Cal Arts while doing my masters. We loosely modeled our collective after the Brooklyn Jazz Underground and just changed the structure a bit to try and suit the LA area. We have 13 band leaders/composers as core members (who take on the most of the financial and bureaucratic responsibilities) and an open general membership that anyone can apply for.

We're hoping to contribute to the LA jazz scene in a positive way, one way or another, supporting musicians who write original material and bringing new music to the community.

As of now, we have about 25 members that have joined. We've put out a compilation CD and have had two small jazz festivals and started a Record Label (Jazz Collective Records). We are organizing our next 3-day Jazz Festival in November as well as having just sponsored the Angel City Festival on September 1st, which was a great success. For more information visit: Lajazzcollective.com

DCV: What do you tell your students when they ask about going into music as a career? Say you had a kid that wanted to be a Jazz musician, what you tell him?

MO: I always tell my students to keep there overhead low if they want to be an artist. I think by lessening economic compulsion (which is always there), you can go along way towards freeing up the mental and emotional space needed to stay with your craft for the long haul. I encourage students to take the plunge, because I don't know of any "career" that is as gratifying as playing music. I also enjoy teaching, so without that, I have to move to Berlin. Recently I've been fortunate enough to teach a 25-piece saxophone choir for the Arts Center of Los Angeles.

I've written some simple music for them and have been rehearsing for a performance at the Grand Avenue Festival. I recorded the pieces so the ensemble could hear them. Here are two of the pieces in truncated form:

Cellar Door
Risks on Gravity

It's this sort of teaching as well as teaching privately that I find inspiring and challenging. I enjoy it nearly as much as playing.

DCV: Do you have suggestions for ways to focus and calm the mind when preparing to play?

MO: I think that preparation promotes calmness. When I'm on my way to a gig where I'll be calling all the tunes, playing old standards that I've know for a while, I'm usually able to remain fairly calm because I know that at this moment I'm as prepared as I can be. It seems the less prepared I am, the less familiar with the material, the more nervous I can potentially become. Paul Bley, whom I heard isn't a big fan of rehearsals, might disagree, but it seems the more I've practiced the material, the better I'm able to focus on things that matter to me like listening and staying relaxed emotionally and physically. Generally speaking, meditation is good for focus and calm. Although I'm not of the belief that it can change the world or right social wrongs, it's definitely a good way to calm and focus your mind and body in spite of the chaos and competition in the world.

I've been sitting Zazen nearly every day since I was about 18 years old, my father got me started when he was fighting cancer, he's fine now, and I still enjoy sitting every day.

DCV: I hear that you recently sold your SBA and switched to a Yamaha, you also stopped playing a vintage Link right? Why the big change in your setup?

MO: Economic compulsion lead me to sell my SBA which I wasn't playing at all and couldn't justify keeping around on a shoe string budget. I still have my Mark VI, which is a great playing horn. I got the Yamaha an inexpensive back up to the Mark VI and I've really enjoyed playing on it. It's taken me about four months to get a workable sound out of it, but I'm really starting to like it. I had to switch up everything to get my sound out of it; from Rico's to Vandorens, Selmer S80 H to Jazz Cafe Espresso mouthpiece (which is a copy of a Selmer soloist), and Mark VI to Yamaha Custom Z with G3 neck. I've never been a gear guy, but I'm glad I've found something that isn't as expensive, as my Mark VI.

DCV: I was talking to Doug Yates last week and we started talking about reeds. He was saying that sometimes it's almost not even worth it to play a low paying gig because of all the bad reeds you have to go through just to find a reeds that plays. I'm having a terrible time with cane lately. On top of that the reeds that I play just went up in price by 30%!

How about you, what are you playing on? Do you work on them? How many do you go through?

MO: It's good to hear that even great players like you and Doug are having reed problems; it keeps me from becoming to self-deprecating.

I've been playing on Vandoren Blue Box 3's. I buy about 4-5 boxes per month and keep them in water and hydrogen peroxide or isopropyl alcohol. I think Dave Liebman said, "Sound dictates ideas", or something to that effect. I tend to agree with that basic idea. When I'm happy with the tone I'm getting I enjoy playing, and when I'm enjoying playing, I seem to have more emotional freedom and an easier time listening, the ideas seem to come back to back.

A bad reed makes it really hard for me to get a good sound and to keep my mind quiet and focused on listening. I'm not sure how it is for other people, but it's hard for me to stay in an active listening state continually while playing, but it's a lot easier when my sound is pleasing and draws my attention and focus in.

I have a few tricks I may have mentioned before. One is, I practice on Vandoren 2.5s and perform on 3s. This seems to keep my embouchure loose and give me a little extra resistance on the gig. Overall, I seem to get a better sound and can use more of the reeds this way. I tend to be happier with my sound in general by doing this, sometimes the thin soft reed sound I live with in the practice room makes me enjoy almost any #3 sound that I get on the gig.

The second thing I do is to keep cotton balls in my sax case. If I have a bad reed and have to play in public, I put a little cotton in my ears, just a little, and it really helps me deal with the sound being "less than" I'd like it to be, it's like having an EQ where I can roll off the highs. There seems to be some psychological element to sound or tone. The less I play my horn the more I miss it and enjoy any kind of sound I get from it. The more I play it, the more fussy and neurotic I get about it.

One way to look at it is that there are basically two aspects to tone, one is the actual sound and one is your relationship to the sound. If you’re really inspired, playing with friends and feeling comfortable and confident, then sometimes a bad reed won't be an issue. I used to go through more reeds, but since my daily routine involves more singing and visualizing then playing, I'm generally more accepting of my sound fluctuations, because I'm just happy to be playing and hearing the horn instead of my admittedly average voice.

DCV:Do you sometimes abandon your stance as a high artist in order to keep the crowd happy and the drinks flowing? Does being a minstrel ever win out over being an artist?

MO: I'm don't think I'm much of an entertainer, and although I'm working on my artistry. I doubt I'll realistically contribute enough in my life to qualify for the high artist category. I mostly feel uncomfortable and awkward while on the bandstand especially when I'm not playing.

I really enjoy improvising, writing music, and playing with people, I'm just not comfortable entertaining. When I was younger, I played in an "Acid Jazz" group and did a lot of gigs in Japan at dance clubs, and at that point I was more extroverted and would dance a bit on stage; the thought of doing that now makes me tense.

DCV:How do you deal with playing music for an unresponsive and unappreciative audience? Does it change how you approach your music?

MA: It's always a shock when you're playing and you realize few people are listening, or that a sudden applause was for something unrelated to the music. For me, it's both difficult and humbling. On one hand it's a testament to how low the musical training is in the general public. On the other, it shows just how addicted we are to being admired, respected and listened to.

DCV: You studied with Garzone for quite a long time. What attracted you to his playing? What sorts of things did he stress in your lessons? What about his whole triadic concept, how did that change your playing?

MA: George is in my opinion, one of the greatest living improvisers. He always stressed improvising and exploring your own musical language. He never once had me working on anything structured or We always played free and traded or played together during the lesson. Very rarely we'd improvise over a tune or form. In the 80's, when I studied with George at Berklee, I wrote down some of the lesson material. George used to say, "play in a circle" or "play a tree", or "play red". It was as if he was activator trying to keep me in conceptual and creative state of mind for as long as possible, knowing that eventually, I would integrate my intellect with my ear. Later he would tell me, "slow down just a little.", or "try a half size softer reed".

Anyone who has studied with him knows that he writes out these long intervallic sequences off the top of his head that are just note heads with no stems or rhythms. He gives you very little information about the lines. He just tells you to check them out. So you play through them in all the ways you can, and it's like they're little glimpses into the Garzone creative mind...they lead you towards improvising and inventing or discovering your own material.

Garzone’s triadic approach was, I believe, a way for George to help students get to free playing in a structured way. Some players/students need a more defined structure to learn to play free, and I think the triadic approach was Garzone's answer to that dilemma. The basic concept of the triadic approach is simple, you link triads of any quality together while ascending or descending in half steps, or any other root motion. The resulting lines are interesting to the ear and being based on triads, they have quite a bit of melodic and structural integrity.

After working with the triads for a while George has students add chromatic passing tones and eventually the whole structure falls away, leaving just and atonal cloud of sorts, which is the beginnings of some original shapes and vocabulary. In my opinion, Garzone is one of the great forward thinking and progressive improvisers and teachers.

DCV: Do you spend
a lot of time each day hustling gigs or do you wait for the phone to ring? Any suggestions?

MA: I go through phases, since we formed the LA Jazz Collective; I've spent a lot of time working with those guys to set up opportunities to play, which is easier to do with a collective as it turns out. I do a lot of writing and playing and probably 2 or 3 sessions a week with friends and mostly let the phone ring, not that I'd ever recommend that as a career approach. Old habits die hard, and I really like the saxophone and music, but really dislike business, the free market, and competition.

I think the best way to work as an artist is to hang out and really listen to people play. It seems that there is a correlation between hanging out and working, the more you support the scene the more it supports you, assuming you can play a bit.

DCV: Did you know that Berklee costs about as much as Harvard? How can anyone justify that kind of expensive education for such a low paying career?

MO: I think going to school for jazz is becoming a questionable choice. Hal Galper once said to me, "save the tuition and use the money to study privately with your heroes for 50 years!"... He's right in a way, the cost of school and the job market that awaits the graduate are at odds. It might be wise to move overseas to become educated.

DCV: Do you think your post grad music education has been worth the trouble?

MO: Well, I only have a master's degree, which is the new BA. It seems that unless you have name recognition, you really need a Doctorate to compete for jobs at the University level. If you're well known you may not need even a masters. A good friend of mine just got a University position teaching jazz with a BA in economics, but he's fairly well known an plays and writes at a high level.

DCV: Tell me about your new CD project. Do you produce it yourself? Did you find a record label or are you releasing it yourself?

MO: The CD project I've done with Andy Ehling is really something I'm happy with. Andy and I have played together since the early 1980's and this is our first album. I had offered to write some material for the recording and he sent me a list of standard changes he liked to play on. So I wrote 4 contrafacts for the album plus a few simple originals. Andy also brought in a few ideas that we loosely played over Out of Nowhere and Old Milestones.

We spent a lot of time before the recording talking about and working on the material, I even worked out some ideas for parts of my solos, which I like to do if and when I have the time. The album is pretty simple, easy tunes, lots of blowing. I think of the music as a type of jazz folk music, it's pretty lyrical and simple.

Andy is a great improviser, he studied with Garzone too, he has a very melodic approach and an interesting sound. He rarely uses any vibrato. He plays a few amazing atonal lines on the album, which I believe came from his studies with Garzone. We lived together at Berklee in the late 80's and in the early 90's both lived in a Zen Dojo in Chiba, Japan. I think Andy is one of those rare quiet type players that isn't really up for the fierce competition that has become common is jazz today. In the future I hope he'll be considered innovative.

Returning CD sampler
Matt Otto's MySpace page

The second half of this interview is coming soon!


BopLand- automated BeBop licks!

An automated online Be-Bop lick search engine?

What is this world coming to?!

Is this some sort of Be-Bop Star Trek lucid dream that I'm having?

Have I finally flipped my wig?!?!

Hell no, this is the only true cool reality and the Bop future is happening right Fu&%$#g now! Kick A$$!!

Bop Land.org