Jazz Guitarist Andre Bush
Andre Bush

(August, 2004) -  Andre Bush, an intriguing personality -- a composer, musician, and educator that demonstrates a wealth of knowledge through a deep appreciation for music history.  Bush is involved with numerous recordings and music projects, including a jazz instruction course for Mel Bay Publications.   Andre Bush teaches theory, history, and improvisation classes at The Jazzschool in Berkeley, California.

       - Mark D McKinley     [Mark's Online Music Source]

The Interview  Define jazz -- what it means to you.

Andre Bush:  Define jazz ... long pause ... no easy first question, eh?  Objectively, I guess I'd rather hear someone take their time to address this question with some serious thought, because if you have a one sentence answer for this one, I probably wouldn't agree.  To be as concise as possible;  I feel that today's contemporary jazz musician should have a grasp on the entire history of the music, rather than operating, for instance, exclusively from the musical zeitgeist of 1964.  Jazz musicians today need to respect, honor and address the totality of the history of the music, improvisational AND compositionally, and work toward incorporating contemporary culture (i.e., music, technology, etc.) into their purview.  This is the model that has always produced the greatest work in jazz, and when I hear my contemporaries do it now, this is how I define jazz.  So I suppose my definition is more of a description of objective criteria and process, but it's how I hear the music, and what I'm trying to achieve.  What would your focus be if asked to give a lecture [limited to 10 minutes] on jazz improvisation?

Andre Bush:  Well, it largely depends on if it were a lay audience or student musicians.  With either, to one degree or another I would focus on quickly establishing the path of how we got from, say early Louis Armstrong, through swing, bop, the '60s, etc., to today's cutting edge artists, such as Pat Metheny, Dave Holland, Herbie Hancock, or Dave Douglas.  I would do this using a combination of listening to recordings and lecturing on history.  By the way, I could never do this in ten minutes! (laughing...)  What nonmusical item can you imagine incorporating into a composition to add an unusual texture supportive of guitar improvisations?  Describe the resonance you'd be wanting.

Andre Bush:  The things I can think of that I may use in the future is found percussion, such as sticks or trash can lids for different sounds.  Remember that great Red Hot Chili Peppers song "Breaking the Girl"?  I think that was the title-from Blood Sugar Sex Magic-they used trash can lids in the rhythm track and it sounded SO good!  Also, simply using current technology, be it new guitar gear or studio devices to better express myself-by whatever means necessary my man!  John McLaughlin has been cited as one of your influences -- what element of McLaughlin's style proves inspiration to you as a composer?

Andre Bush:  One word: Rhythm.  He is such a master of odd and asymmetrical rhythmic forms.  Beyond that, he draws from such a broad and deep understanding of many styles of music.  And he may be the most stunning virtuoso in jazz guitar history.  One of your ongoing professional collaborations is with jazz vocalist Jenna Mammina -- how did that come about?

Andre Bush:  Jenna!  Yes, we've been playing together for over twelve years now.  I'm on most of her albums and have been with her on almost all her tours.  It's been a very fruitful relationship, musically and career-wise, just in terms of the opportunity to play some big festivals and meet so many of my heros!  I think she has a new album coming out soon called "Inner Smile" with Ray Obiedo.  What's the most important thing you've learned in the role of a music director?

Andre Bush:  Developing the ability to get a musical point across quickly and efficiently without bruising a (usually very high level) musicians ego.  Also, flexibility and the willingness to let go of my own preconceptions when someone else has a better idea.  By the way, I'm not referring to any one project or musician in particular, these are just general things I've learned and found helpful.  It's an ever-changing music market -- what are the unique obstacles facing musicians today?

Andre Bush:  The record retail business is in worse shape and disseminating less varied and creative forms of music than at any other point in our lifetimes.  Well, at least MY lifetime. (smiles)  The landscape for high caliber jazz musicians playing outside the easily definable/marketable boxes of either a) smooth jazz or b) neo-conservative straight ahead jazz is bleak.  So most of us have to go it alone or with a small label.  We spend our own money on our projects, spend our own time promoting projects and setting up what little touring there is, which takes away from time spent on music.  That is a very real and direct threat to the forward motion of creative art in general.  It's the same across all disciplines, and largely a sign of the times and culture we live in.  We don't want to address politics here, right?  (grinning)  You're absolutely right -- we'll refrain from addressing the bigger picture, and limit our conversation to the politics of music!  (grin)  Share a positive side of today's music business.

Andre Bush:  The Internet.  The opposite end of the bleak picture I just drew for you is that it is now possible for a creative artist in any field to reach whatever small audience today's culture cultivates for him or her, via technology.  This would not have been possible 20 years ago.  Tell me about your new CD, Start From Silence -- what a great title!

Andre Bush:  It features one of my greatest heros, Art Lande, on piano, who I've been playing with for a couple of years now, as well as Bruce Williamson on saxes and bass clarinet, Peter Barshay on bass and Alan Hall on drums.  I'm very proud of the project, and it felt to me like I hit a new level of development in both my playing and composing, and in integrating the two.  At this point it's available through my website  How did you team up with producer Cookie Marenco?

Andre Bush:  I've worked on many projects with Cookie over the years, including all three of my albums and many projects as a sideman.  My respect for her as a musical force is beyond words.  Suffice to say, she is a complete master of the process of making an album, creating a vibe that produces a musician's best performances, and her ears are golden.  Almost any musical decision I make on any given day is influenced by her in one way or the other.  What music genre do you enjoy in addition to jazz?

Andre Bush:  All of them.  Seriously, I love a few of the new groups that are coming out ... I LOVE The White Stripes, really dig The Hives -- and I'll always love my old faves, Van Halen, AC/DC, Ozzy, etc.  I love classical music deeply, especially Bartok, Stravinsky, Alban Berg, Webern, and certain periods of Beethoven, Debussy, Mozart, Bach.  I think it's time for someone to write a full-bodied jazz arrangement of Mason William's masterpiece, Classical Gas.  How would you approach such a project?

Andre Bush:  I don't know, in all honesty.  I've never really arranged anyone's music but my own.  I'd probably reharmonize it completely and set it in 15/8, knowing me! (laughs)  There's no way I can cover every aspect of your music -- what would you like for readers to take from this interview?

Andre Bush:  Possibly just an introduction to someone new to them that is serious about music, art, culture and life.  There is such a dearth of those elements in contemporary cultural discourse.  But mostly, go to my website and buy my album Start from Silence.  I also have a book/CD package coming out later this year called "Modern Jazz Guitar Styles" (Mel Bay Publications) which covers a lot of the developments in jazz guitar form the mid-sixties on, both musically and historically.  Check it out. (big smile)

(C) 2004 Mark's Online Music Source


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