The Desert And The City
(MR Records)


One of the best and brightest of the new generation of instrumental jazz-fusion guitarists, Mike Rood comes up with a winner on the 2011 CD release of The Desert And The City. Featuring liner notes by modern jazz hero John Patitucci, the eight cut CD was expertly produced by Rood and features the guitarist in the studio supported by a stellar group including Alex Spradling (bass), Goh Izawa (drums) and Mike Bjella (sax). Mike's early guitar influences—including Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan—yielded to classical studies while guitar studies with John Patitucci gave a big boost to Rood’s jazz inclinations. Further studies with notable jazz guitar heroes including Bruce Dunlap, Vic Juris and John Abercrombie—along with early recordings made with the son of producer legend, the late, great Bob Thiele, Bob Thiele Jr. in L.A.—also helped shape much of the musical greatness in play on The Desert And The City. In the spirit of jazz guitar icons such as John Abercrombie and Pat Metheny, Mike Rood is a master at conjuring spacey, hypnotic guitar grooves that takes the listener on a stimulating sonic journey. Rood's guitar-centric instrumental fusion sound may evoke images of the ECM sound of the heyday of the mid ‘70s but on The Desert And The City, Rood uniquely merges the mysterious sound of the desert and its barren beauty, with the dense, ravelled soundscapes of the city. www.MikeRood.com

mwe3.com presents
an interview with MIKE ROOD

mwe3: How do your musical influences and background combine and come into play on your album The Desert and The City? How do your classical piano and guitar influences come into play on what is clearly a solid jazz-based guitar instrumental album?

MIKE ROOD: Well, the jazz-based element comes from my training in school. I’ve listened intently to tons of jazz, much of which I love, but there is so much music out there that has influenced me just as much, or even more so. A huge part of the guitar idiom (especially electric guitar) is based in rock music, and progressive heavy metal has been a very big influence, but ironically not nearly as much on my playing as on my composing. I’ve been surrounded by classical music since before I was born, and I’d say that this is the most prominent aspect of my musical style. I strive to approach the guitar more like a classical pianist or violinist approaches their instrument, and I think that combining this with my jazz improvisation/theory training, and my being a huge fan of rock music, has resulted in this album.

mwe3: What were some of the circumstances involved with recording and releasing the Desert and The City CD?

MR: I had been composing for and performing with my group, The Mike Rood Communion, for a couple of years, and when the time came to finally document the music as an album, a whole new process started, which I’d never experienced before. Early planning involved long phone calls with bassist John Patitucci, a dear friend and mentor of mine, getting ideas about studios, engineers, potential costs, etc. We recorded at the beautiful Avatar Studios in NYC for two days in February 2011. John Patitucci recommended two names for the post-production: Doug Epstein to mix and Allan Tucker to master. Doug and I spent about two and a half weeks mixing the record in February, and I spent a day mastering with Tuck in March. My good friend Ben Morejon did all the artwork and designing for the CD, and when John Patitucci wrote the liner notes, we were ready to have the CDs printed and released.

mwe3: What was the musical chemistry between you and the musicians you worked with on the Desert and The Cityalbum?

MR: The musicians on the record are some of my closest friends – Mike Bjella, Alex Spradling and Goh Izawa. We had gone on tour together, been roommates and gotten broken into in Brooklyn, had tons of barbecues, spent hours rehearsing, and played dozens of gigs in NY by the time we went into the studio. We all met at New School a few years ago and really hit it off personally and musically. Several other awesome musicians have played in the band, but these guys are the core group right now.

mwe3: How about producers? What do you look for in a music producer?

MR: I was acting a producer on the album, as I had a very clear concept of what I wanted. As the leader and composer of the project, I had rehearsed the music with the band intensely and specifically, making the recording and editing processes much smoother. From a performing and producing perspective, I am pretty strict about intonation, dynamics, and rhythmic accuracy, and I think a good producer knows how to encourage a strong musical performance and also be able to direct and comment on things like the band being together or in tune. Doug Epstein, who mixed the album, acted in some ways as a producer in the post-production, as he had so much control over the sound of the record from a technical point of view, and he presented lots of great ideas and solutions from a different perspective.

mwe3: What was it like working early in your career with Bob Thiele who was one of the great American pop and jazz producers?

MR: I actually worked with his son, Bob Thiele Jr., and that was great. It was my first time in the studio, and witnessing what is possible when recording music just blew my mind. The times I worked with Bob were with an awesome New York group called The Bailen Brothers Band – their second CD is coming out very soon.

mwe3: What was it like studying jazz with some of the famous guitar teachers you’ve studied with?

MR: It really depends on the musician. Sometimes it is really informative, and since they are so busy they don’t really do follow-up lessons, so you cover like 20 years worth of lessons in one lesson. This way you can really get a quick, but valuable, glimpse into a musician you really admire. I think many younger players, especially if they don’t live in NYC, have this notion that if they take a lesson with a very famous and successful person, they will learn some secret key to greatness that only the ‘masters’ have, but the teacher at the local university might be the best teacher for them. Some of the best learning experiences I’ve had have been with John Patitucci. He is a very well-known and admired musician, but he approaches teaching in a very down-to-earth and realistic way that warrants long-term investment and practice. Also, in just a few lessons with Adam Rogers, we spent hours playing along with records and doing very difficult metronome exercises that I will be working on for decades to come.

mwe3: Can you say something about your guitar techniques on electric guitar including the use of playing with finger picks on your right hand?

MR: This is a tough one, as the guitarist I learned this peculiar technique from doesn’t like to be mentioned, but I can say that the technique is entirely different from classical technique or banjo technique. The way I play was completely pioneered by this one genius that I studied with extensively for several years, and as far as I know, I am the only other guitarist in the world that it utilizing this specific technique...it is very far out!

mwe3: What guitars do you feature on The Desert and The City CD? Do you play acoustic and classical guitar too? How about strings and other gear you're currently interested in?

MR: I used one guitar on the album – an Eastman-Otto D’Ambrosio El Rey hollow body with no F-holes. The design allows for a very natural and responsive acoustic sound that also has a ton of sustain and doesn’t feedback. I had some customizations done on it by luthier Keith Vizcarra. I also play a lot of nylon-string classical guitar and solid-body electric guitar, both of which I’d like to incorporate more into the music I play with my group. As far as strings, I just use a basic D’Addario set with a wound G-string, but I am interested in trying out some gold-plated high strings, as the ones I use rust pretty quickly. I used to be really into high-end small-production gear, but now that I have such great equipment and I am really happy with my sound, I like to concentrate more on refining my guitar playing with my current rig.

mwe3: Can you remember your first guitar and can you say something about it?

MR: My first guitar was a Kent acoustic that my parents bought at a flea market in Maine when I was about 8. I remember teaching myself a bunch of Beatles and Roy Orbison songs pretty quickly. My next guitar was a big upgrade: a Rickenbacker John Lennon model!

mwe3: Who were some of your biggest musical influences, both compositionally and guitar wise? Also what period in music history holds the most fascination for you?

MR: I guess I should divide this up by genre. Classical: Strauss, Ravel, Debussy, Mozart, Stravinsky, Mahler, Brahms, Prokofiev, and Chopin are huge. Jazz: Egberto Gismonti, Pat Metheny, Herbie Hancock, John Patitucci, Bill Evans, John Abercrombie, Jan Garberek, Charlie Haden, Chris Cheek, Stan Getz, and some friends my age that I really admire: Julian Lage, Ben van Gelder, and Tigran Hamasyan. Rock: The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Rage Against the Machine, Dream Theater, Opeth and Pain of Salvation. Joni Mitchell is an enormous influence. The musical time period that is most fascinating to me would have to be the current – right now, as it is what pertains the most to what I am trying to do musically, and it is the closest we can get to the future, which is really what fascinates me the most.

mwe3: Where are you living now and how does it effect your musical experiences?

MR: I am living just outside NYC in southern Westchester, so it is very easy to get into the city but still be a little separated. That separation has been very healthy musically, but it is also a little harder, as the music ‘hang’ isn’t as prominent once you leave the city.

mwe3: What are your current plans for 2011 and beyond?

MR: I’ve been writing more music for the group, and we’re playing several shows in the southwest this summer. We’ll do some CD release shows in NYC in the fall, as well. I’m going to be an adjunct professor at NYU starting in the fall while completing my Master’s degree in music, and will continue promoting this record while getting ready for the next one!

mwe3: Thank you Mike best of luck to you and your music!

MR: Thank you – you’ll be the first to hear the next record!

Thanks to Mike Rood @ www.MikeRood.com


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