Photo courtesy of the artist.
Guitarist and lifelong New Yorker Adam Rogers returns to The Jazz Gallery this week with DICE, his band featuring Fima Ephron on bass and Nate Smith on drums. If you’re not familiar with Rogers’ guitar playing, you’ve surely heard him alongside artists such as Michael Brecker, Norah Jones, Paul Simon, Regina Carter, John Zorn, Marcus Miller, The Mingus Orchestra, Chris Potter, and Ravi Coltrane, among others.
Known as a guitar virtuoso of eclectic taste and unimpeachable technique, Rogers cultivates a sound on DICE that at once elicits comparisons to guitarists Jimi Hendrix, Allan Holdsworth, Mississippi Fred McDowell, and Roy Buchanan. Released last summer, DICE has both raw and immersive, spacious qualities, with tracks contrasting blistering trio jams with dense, swirling sonic layers. Rogers himself plays a wide range of instruments on the album, including clarinets, synthesizers, organs, and different loops and samples. We spoke at length with Rogers about the recording process, the role of compositional limitations, and the importance of mic’ing the room.
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The Jazz Gallery: Thanks for sharing the DICE record in anticipation of the show. I really enjoyed listening to it, and it sounded like it was a fun record to make.
Adam Rogers: The actual recording part was fun, yeah. When you’re making a record, there’s a certain part of your brain that doesn’t allow for as much fun as you’d like to be having. It was very rewarding, but it was a lot of work.
TJG: Is there a part of the process that necessitates the ‘fun’ being shut off?
AR: That’s hard to articulate. For this record, we recorded for a couple days, then I worked on it for a long time before releasing it. Recording was as fun as could be. And I’ve played with Fima and Nate for a long time, so as far as their parts are concerned, there’s not much I had to worry about. But when you’re only in the studio for a couple of days, there are a lot of concerns on your mind. When self-producing, there are a lot of ‘i’s and ‘t’s that need to be dotted and crossed, in terms of getting the takes you need, the sound you want, being in the music while also taking care of things. Doing that while also having fun can be a tricky combination.
TJG: Was it helpful that your sound was ‘limited’ in a way? In your Guitar Player Magazine interview, you talked a bit about a limited gear setup, which gave you some boundaries.
AR: Not really. That’s my setup. If I had twenty years to make the record I’d use the same setup. I don’t really use pedals. I use three guitars on the record, mostly the Strat, the Telecaster, the Les Paul, plus the amps. That’s my desert island setup. There’s no overarching principle that says I shouldn’t play with pedals, but I like the idea of having one sound or one thing that doesn’t give you 25,000 choices at the click of a mouse. Working within sonic and compositional limitations forces you to explore, to go deeper.
TJG: Regarding musical limitations, you’ve said that “With DICE, I wanted to explore mostly one sound. That limits things, but through limitations you can discover things.” Could you talk a bit about those discoveries?
AR: With DICE, when I conceptualized the band, I was thinking about the sound of an electric bass, specifically Fender Precision, drums, and a Fender Stratocaster. With this instrumentation, there are things I don’t hear where I might hear them with a “jazz trio.” As broad a swath of musics as I’m interested in, I like to explore one concept, even if it’s very broad, when working with one specific band. I like to create a framework that, without explicitly limiting me, informs what the music can be, and provides compositional ideas. So as a composer, you can choose to break out of those limitations, or explore within those limits.