Gerald Gradwohl

Gerald Gradwohl talks about Big Land

A strong Rock’N Roll attitude mixed with Jazz harmony to fierce discharging jazz rock storms. This is how Gerald Gradwohl describes the music style of his band. On his new album Big Land his core band is made of Kirk Covington on drum of Tribal Tech fame, Harald Weinkum on bass, Thomas Kugi on tenor sax, and of course Gerald Gradwohl on guitar. Big Land demonstrates powerful and inspiring Impro Funk. We were able to talk to Gradwohl about his album and what went into making it.

Gerald Gradwohl

Gerald Gradwohl

Abstract Logix: Big Land is your seventh CD, and your first studio album since your 2009 release Sally Beth Roe. What have you been up to in that time?

Gerald Gradwohl:  Well regular life happened… which means local gigs with my Trio to promote the CD, other local jobs with singers, etc… and of course my teaching job at the Conservatory Eisenstadt. In 2011 I released ABQ Live & Raw which has the same line up as Big Land  and is a very rough recording of a club gig in Vienna in 2004. By the way listening to this rec. made me think about a new GG Group album.

and not to forget my real life as a family man with my wife and 3 kids 🙂
Ablx: In 2012 The GG Group got back together and toured, ultimately creating your new album, Big Land. Did the group reform with the intention to create an album, or did the chemistry on the road inspire going into the studio?

Gerald Gradwohl: My first goal was to record a new album and while thinking about how to realize that I came up with the idea that it would be the best and most economic way to play some concerts before going into the studio. So I booked a one week tour and immediately after these gigs we did the recording. In most cases it is first Studio – then release with a tour. There is no chance for the music to develop and this is why I prefer the other way round – worked perfectly for me. We had a short rehearsal before the tour, came up with some new ideas at the gigs and were well prepared to record!

Ablx: You have recorded several times with Kirk Covington of Tribal Tech. How did you meet and begin working with Kirk? Is Tribal Tech a big influence on your music?

Gerald Gradwohl: I started to work with Kirk in 2002 during the ABQ recordings in Santa Fe. I wanted to make a record with my favourite musicians and Kirk and Willis where my number 1 rhythm section. Kirk and I stayed in contact since then and whenever possible I try to use him. To me he is still underrated in the scene – but what an outstanding drummer and musician he is!

YES – Tribal Tech where a big influence and in my opinion they are the number 1 fusion band on earth… 🙂 Everyone of them is an outstanding musician and they are functioning as a band too! Good to hear that they are back on the road.
Ablx: Big Land features Thomas Kugi on sax, but this is not your first record featuring the saxophone. What about the instrument interests you, opposed To accompaniment from say a keyboardist?
Gerald Gradwohl: There are a few things: I played a lot in Trio – guit, bs, dr. and the easiest way to add an instrument is to use a horn player. As the guitar is a chordal instrument it makes more sense to me to have someone in the band who could play the melodies and who is not interfering with my comping… :)… thats a joke – but also true… I like the sound of guitar and tenor. It is not that dense as with a key player and easier to handle. But that does not mean that  I dont play with keys – it just happened that the combination with Bob Berg or Thomas Kugi turned out great!
Ablx: Your quoted on your web site saying, “As much composition as necessary and as much improvisation as possible”. What was the balance between the two? Did you attempt to keep the composition to a minimum in order to capture the raw energy between the musicians?

Gerald Gradwohl: This quote  was written by a journalist and I liked that!  So I use it in my press package… I like to have compositions that have a certain form or melody or both…but it is also important to have some freedom within the music although it is composed. We often open up the forms to create some kind of new vibes or even parts. That keeps everything fresh and interesting. To me a good mixture is the right way, but there was not too much concept behind that – it just happened. For example tunes like I remember Berg are pretty strict in form and chords whereas for instance Yes Or No  is very open with 2 main parts and the rest can vary every night!  Sometimes we totally went into another direction like a rap or so… great fun!!

Ablx: What can listeners expect to hear from this record?

Gerald Gradwohl: I hope that eveyone can feel the good vibe and energy we had during the recording. It is very much like a great sounding live concert. Almost no overdubs! Just a few additions like a rhythm guitar or sax harmony part – 99% live. To me this is a kind of music that I am looking for and want to hear myself!…cool tunes with rock attitude and jazz harmony with a lot of interplay, blowing and great sound! Hopefully there are some more people out there searching for this!

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