Jake: Was the music written first, and then the players would be decided upon after that, or was it the reverse?
Anthony: I gave him composer’s prerogative. He knew the people that he would like to work with. This all kind of started because I’m not a composer. I do not have serious compositional gifts. I am an interpretive performer, and I realize that it’s much easier for me to have other people do the writing for me, and then I would let the composer make the decisions on who to use. This was not the case for the trio I was trying to put together, where I would have chosen the people involved. With the players I would have decided to use, I would have then more or less had a consultation with them to decide who else I would possibly be using on particular pieces. For this project, with Yiorgos taking the sole hand as composer, I decided to let him make those decisions. And of course the people that he wanted to use, such as Weckl, are very long time friends and close colleagues, and I knew we would have no conflicts about who to call. Yiorgos and I think very much alike, so that was never an issue.
Jake: Could I ask, out of curiosity, what keyboard player you were thinking of using when you were putting together that trio?
Anthony: No, out of respect to how he would feel. It would have been a ‘triple A’ first class ensemble. I ‘can’ say that there were a very small number of people I would have considered. There are many keyboard players that have had the training to be able to write, but many times their ideas were not that inspiring to me. I strive to be associated with players and writers who knock my socks off, 100% of the time, every time I sit down to play or listen, and there are very few people like that.
Jake: Directly related to your new CD, I wonder what your thoughts are as far as releasing this project under a record label, or do you think at this point in time it might be wiser to release it yourself as an independent, which more and more artists seem to be gravitating to?
Anthony: I need consultation to make that decision. I haven’t the slightest idea on how I’d pursue that, nor do I have any interest at all in that area. I don’t care how it gets distributed; I’m strictly concerned about what’s on it. I’ll leave those other things to people that know more than I do. If I get involved in that, I’d probably do something very idealistic, that would be admired, but might not go anywhere. The rules of record distribution have changed. It continues to evolve. I listen to what I hear, but I don’t know how to apply the things I hear to this project. First of all, it’s a shared project. It’s also based far outside of the U.S. There probably aren’t any people here who know how it would be handled in the U.S. There are too many unknowns and too many things that I don’t think I can supply the answers to as far as this is concerned. This is a job for a specialist in this area, and me not being one means I’m going to keep my hands out of it. I’m sure there will be people interested in arranging for distribution, but I’m not that person.
Jake: One of your distinct strengths is your ability to re-harmonize a chord structure within your playing. Is this more or less instinctual for you at this point, or do you take the time to study a progression with that in mind?
Anthony: It’s never fully instinctual because there’s always going to be a situation in which you are challenged for your decisions to do something with somebody else’s music. I make certain that I’m sure about what I’m doing, and in that sense it’s not instinctual. There is a measured intelligence behind what I’m doing that’s out of respect for the composer. If I were a composer, I might not take it to well when somebody comes along and starts messing with what I’ve written, and on the other hand I might be really fueled by it, but I certainly would want an explanation. Why did you decide to do this—what is it that made you decide to do that? And if you did make some changes, you’d want to be able to tell people what you’re doing, and would that kind of self knowledge armed with that kind of analytical knowledge make it possible to make decisions very quickly and very decisively about how to re-interpret something? So it’s not instinctual in the sense that I’m not thinking about it, and just throwing things out there until something sticks to the wall. There’s always some kind of let’s say virtual roadmap. Nothing that becomes a formula such as, OK, we’re doing this kind of tune like a jazz-blues thing, and this is what I do for that kind of tune, and then, ah-hah, we find it’s more like a funk thing or a little fusion thing, and now “this” is how I’ll interpret that. That’s not how it works. It’s not formulaic, although I certainly do repeat myself, its impossible not to. At times you can recognize somebody for “how” they have modified something, like that’s something only Anthony Jackson would do, or that’s something only Steve Gadd would do—-you’re going to have some of that. Basically, it’s an informed re-harmonization or shall I say re-composing. It does involve a sensibility, although it is improvisation.