Between Two Worlds : an espresso with Jeff Denson

Image Credits: Jeff Denson © Jeff Denson

April 08, 2020

Floating between two worlds

We interviewed the double bass player Jeff Denson who together with the guitarist Romain Pillon and the drummer Brian Blade have recently released the new album “Between Two Worlds”.

> Ivano Rossato

How was the album “Between Two Worlds” born and what aspect are you most satisfied with?

Back in 2017 I was called to sub in Joel Harrison’s Spirit House band with my good friend, bassoonist extraordinaire, Paul Hanson, former Pat Metheny Group trumpeter, Cuong Vu, Joel on guitar and Brian Blade on drums. Literally within a few seconds of our first tune in soundcheck, on our first night, Brian and I connected rhythmically/musically – it was thrilling! Every night on that tour felt like a great adventure where Joel, Paul and Cuong would be up front and Brian and I would be raising hell behind them! It was a complete and total blast! After reconnecting with my old friend, Romain Pilon, we both thought it’d be a great idea to do a recording together and I knew the perfect combination would be this trio with Romain and Brian. They both are very deep musicians with a very contemplative aspect to their playing, and both are very genuinely sweet human beings. The three of us are extremely open individuals that all deeply respect one another and while playing, we are all focused on one another and this enables us to take ideas from one another, build on the or add to them and throw them back and forth. And that is what I’m most satisfied with…in fact, thrilled is a better word to describe it! There is an undeniable chemistry with this trio, and it’s immediately evident to anyone that hears us play. You can hear it in the recording, and the thing about that is that the recording is a document of the trio’s beginning. Aside from one rehearsal, the night before we went into the studio, that was really the first time we played together as a trio. Since that time, we’ve done many concerts together and the trio has continued to develop.

As musicians we float between two worlds: one, a physical plane and the other a powerful reality that can only be found with the most open of ears, hearts and minds.

In the record the credits of the songs are divided equally between you and Romain Pilon; how did the composition and registration process proceed?
Romain and I both are avid composers, so we knew that we would both want to compose for the album. Though I put the project together, we decided that by equally dividing up the composing 50/50, it would show that we were both equal partners in the creation of the project. We even went as far as to have all my titles in English and Romain’s in French! In the recording session we decided that each of us would have the final say with our own tunes on which takes to use and how to proceed. As it turned out almost all of the tunes are first takes. The three of us really crafted the recording and the direction of the music together. Even though Brian didn’t compose any of the music per se, he had a great deal of creative input in the performances. He really deeply thought about how to approach each of the tunes, and I believe that’s clear when you listen to the music.
What are the differences and affinities between the “two worlds”?
The title is poetic – it really refers to something that is deeply part of my experience with music and art, and I’ve referred to it in a number of my other album and composition titles. Since I was a child I experimented with many different art forms without knowing why I was doing it. Ultimately it became clear to me that my calling was with music because it helped me to get to the place that I was always searching for. I believe some people find this space through meditation or prayer, but for me, music has always been the answer. I wrote this in the liner notes: “As musicians we float between two worlds: one, a physical plane and the other a powerful reality that can only be found with the most open of ears, hearts and minds”.

You have known Romain Pilon since the days of Berklee College; in which aspect of your music is this long friendship most reflected?
I believe the way our friendship shows itself in our music is in the space that we give each other to express ourselves in each tune, and the care that we gave each other in the writing process. Romain and I spoke together many times about the music leading up the recording. We wanted to make sure that we were creating a shared esthetic and would put together a good program of music that would showcase our wide esthetic base, yet at the same time sound cohesive. It was very important to us that we create an album that was a cohesive whole as opposed to a collection of random music. I feel we achieved our goal.
Are you planning to compose and record more music with this trio in the future?
Yes, absolutely! We are booking more tours at the moment, and the plan is to start bringing in new tunes to play in the concerts and then record after we get a chance to try them all out. I can’t wait to go back to the studio with these guys!
Between Two Worlds : an espresso with Jeff Denson copyright Jazzespresso 2020.
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