Some weeks ago I received Rattle Records latest release. It was Mark Lockett’s ‘Sneaking Out After Midnight’.
It is a while since Mark left Wellington and he has obviously achieved much since then. He is an educator, an innovator and a drummer with great chops. When you look at who he has played with in the last decade and who his own teachers have been, the narrative falls into place. This is an album that could not have been made by a lessor musician.
Mark is joined by two fine New York musicians; Joel Frahm (sax) and Orlando le Fleming (bass). Joel Frahm has been around for a while and his album with Bill Charlap is one that immediately comes to mind. He has been very much in demand around New York. Orlando le Fleming (who was born in the UK) is equally impressive having also played with Bill Charlap and an impossibly long list of jazz notables. These three were never going to be anything less than great when they joined forces.
It’s a nicely presented album with great artwork and even though cover art shouldn’t matter – actually it does. Rattle always tries to present a complete package.
Good albums strive to break free of formulaic constraints and when a musical story is told in a fresh way this is achieved. This is an album with an open, joyful and honest sound. It is also Mark’s fourth album, which has allowed him to push harder at the musical boundaries. His writing skills and his vision have made this a worthwhile journey.
Q. Apart from the obvious subdivisions of genre do you have a view on what if anything makes NZ drummers so diverse in sound?
A. One of the many great things about being a musician in NZ is that you have to find your own voice and because there’s less competition musicians don’t have to perform to a certain technical level as to the all the other guys working on the same street as a musician in Melbourne or NY for that matter. Musicians in NZ have an opportunity like almost nowhere else in the world to find their own voice without being inhibited and from this a beautiful raw energy often emerges.
Q. Many drummers are writing now and in fact some of the most innovative compositions around are coming from the likes of John Hollenbeck, Matt Wilson, Eric Harland and Marilyn Mazur,who took the baton from Paul Motian and Jack DeJohnette. Why do you think this is as a drummer/composer?
A. I don’t often like compositions written by drummers and I think this is because they lack harmonic direction having said that I believe that more drummers are having lead their own bands these days to remain busy and employed and I don’t think this is a bad thing. Playing standards is great and I love doing it but when you play and tour a lot you can’t help but start looking for other musical vehicles from which to improvise.
Q. I have known about Joel Frahm for some time as he brought out an album with Bill Charlap (they are old friends). Orlando Le Fleming is an exciting bass player who has often worked with the amazing Lage Lund and Will Vincent among others. How did the collaboration come about?
A. A good friend of mine Aaron Choulai (piano player) got a chance to record with Tim Ries (sax player at the time with the rolling stones) in NYC some years back I first met Joel through that connection down at smalls jazz club. We bumped into each other several times over the years and I’ve always dug his playing. Another friend of mine happened to have Joel’s number so I called him up and he was really into it. Orlando was recommended to me by another great friend of mine and my current drum teacher Ari Hoenig.
Q. How was it working with these New Yorker’s.
A. Working with Joel and Orlando was the most amazing experience and one I’ll never forget. These cats are true professionals in every sense of the word and two of the nicest, normal and most down to earth people one could wish for.
Q. How are things going in Australia for you?
A. I live in Melbourne and things are going great I’m very busy at present playing in several Peoples projects and planning my tour to NZ to promote the new cd dates are 3 July Wgtn Havana, 4th July Auck CJC and 5th July ChCh NMC at the conservatorium.
Q. Working without a chordal instrument brings different challenges and rewards. What are your feelings about working and recording with a sax, drum & bass trio.
A. I love this combination because it allows for a lot of musical freedom. It’s hard to find guitarists and piano players who are really skilled in comping.
Q. Is there anything that you would like to add about the album?
A. This album is my fourth release and I’m so excited about it, I think because it was a lot of fun to make and I grew up listening to these master musicians recorded with my hero’s eg Bill Stewart, Brian Blade etc I mean I use to sit in my flat in Wgtn in the 90’s and dream of playing with these cats and now a dream come true.
Thanks man we look forward to seeing you on your tour of NZ.
Aucklander’s note; Mark will appear at the CJC 5th July