T Lavitz is best known for playing the keys for the legendary Dixie Dregs, who mixed a little southern rock and roll with its electric jazz grooves. But over the years Lavitz has excelled on many more fronts. In addition to his solo work, he has made lasting music with the likes of Jimmy Herring, Billy Cobham and the Grateful Dead jazz tribute band, Jazz is Dead. Abstract Logix recently caught up with this in-demand player.
AL: How did you find your way into progressive music?
TL: I first grew up listening to rock. My last two years of high school, I got turned on to Chick Corea, ELP and Herbie Hancock. By college there was a full blown love of progressive music.
AL: How did your CD “Gossip” come about?
TL: Well, like most all of my other CD’s, I would have some music ready to be recorded before the plans to actually record were set. I used some different rhythm sections on that one, so the variety of the sound was natural. Arrangements seem to flow, depending on who is playing with me. On “Gossip”, I had some jazz guys, as well as some blues type players.
AL: You seem to be playing the B-3 a lot these days.
TL: I have loved the B-3 since I first played one. It just came natural. Luckily, I had a (piano) teacher who emphasized the importance of using your fingers for sustain, as well as the pedal. Since organ doesn’t have a sustain pedal, it’s all in your hands. As far as the sound, I think that B-3 is one of the purist sounds for keyboards. It’s very powerful!
AL: How did the (Dixie) Dregs reunion tour go?
TL: It went really well. That is one of very few bands that never gets boring. The music is so good that it’s always exciting to play! Also, I’ve known those guys for such a long time, they are like brothers to me.
AL: How is it different for you to perform with Jimmy Herring or the Dregs?
TL: Jimmy can play whatever style he chooses. In most of our endeavors, improvisation was a big part of the music. In the Dregs, most of the music is orchestrated.
AL: How do you approach playing jazz music in the interpretations of The Grateful Dead’s music?
TL: Well, the original idea, as I saw it, was to learn their melodies, chords, etc., and then think Miles Davis.
AL: What can we look forward to?
TL: I am writing a book for Hal Leonard, a company that publishes a lot of music books. This one will be for intermediate to advanced piano / keyboard players. I would also like to begin another CD of my own music, as it’s been a while.