CEREBRAL ROCK WITH BOBBY PREVITE

By Robyn Rubinstein

Throughout recorded time, and probably since the end of the Neolithic Age, there have been three kinds of people in the world, the High, the Middle, and the Low. They have been subdivided in many ways, they have borne countless different names, and their relative numbers, as well as their attitude towards one another, have varied from age to age: but the essential structure of society has never altered. Even after enormous upheavals and seemingly irrevocable changes, the same pattern has always reasserted itself, just as a gyroscope will always return to equilibrium, however far it is pushed one way or the other. The aims of these three groups are entirely irreconcilable. The aim of the High is to remain where they are. The aim of the Middle is to change places with the High. The aim of the Low, when they have an aim - for it is an abiding characteristic of the Low that they are too much crushed by drudgery to be more than intermittently conscious of anything outside their daily lives - is to abolish all distinctions and create a society in which all men shall be equal. Thus throughout history a struggle which is the same in its main outlines recurs over and over again. For long periods the High seem to be securely in power, but sooner or later there always comes a moment when they lose either their belief in themselves or their capacity to govern efficiently, or both. They are then overthrown by the Middle, who enlist the Low on their side by pretending to them that they are fighting for liberty and justice. As soon as they have reached their objective, the Middle thrust the Low back into their old position of servitude, and themselves become the High. Presently a new Middle group splits off from one of the other groups, or from both of them, and the struggle begins over again. Of the three groups, only the Low are never even temporarily successful in achieving their aims. It would be an exaggeration to say that throughout history there has been no progress of a material kind. Even today, in a period of decline, the average human being is physically better off than he was a few centuries ago. But no advance in wealth, no softening of manners, no reform or revolution has ever brought human equality a millimeter nearer. From the point of view of the Low, no historic change has ever meant much more than a change in the name of their masters.

-From 1984 by George Orwell
(This quote is found inside the Coalition of the Willing disc.)


Bobby Previte by Michael DiDonna
It's not easy to have a conversation with genius. I don't mean a specific genius but the unadulterated essence of genius. How do you talk to someone whose whole being exudes genuine creativity and art? As with several things, drinks help. You need to loosen up just a touch, to stop feeling overwhelmed and to start taking it all in. Even after a few Bloody Marys with Bobby Previte, I was still blown away. He's been described as "a serious composer with the heart of a roadhouse rocker" (Village Voice), but the depth of his personality goes far beyond that. Like his music, he is hard, cool, indefinable, self-effacing, wryly sarcastic, and flat-out brilliant. His musical gamut is as varied as the topics upon which he can pontificate: Mark Rothko, politics, the futility and necessity of revolution, where the Renaissance and the Middle Ages overlap, the Minutemen, how real crap is far superior to fake crap, Joan Miro, and the sacred nature of heavy metal in conjunction with medieval choirs. Bobby Previte may be the genuine article of complete originality. He's undeniably the most talented and the coolest drummer who you've perhaps never heard of.

 
Music is about the human soul, and when you're playing it right, it's scary. You're totally exposed. But once I put it out there, I can't tell you what to do with it. The great artists don't ask you what your world-view is; they tell you what their world view is and if you don't like it, you go to somebody else.

-Bobby Previte

 
Bobby Previte by Robert Chapman

Previte is largely associated with the New York "Downtown" jazz scene, but in truth, he is inexplicable. And that's how he likes it - no labels, no preconceived notions, just your naked ear, open mind, and rapt attention. His latest project, Coalition of the Willing, has been drawing more attention in jam circles for his band members, instead of for the leader, composer, and brain trust behind the project. Comprised of Charlie Hunter on six-string guitar (that's right, I said "six"), Skerik on sax, and Marco Benevento on keys, this group was raising eyebrows without most people having a clue as to who Previte was. He had some nominal notoriety from Groundtruthers, his duo project with Hunter, and from Ponga, a 100% improvised band comprised of Previte, Skerik, Wayne Horvitz, and Dave Palmer. Those two projects aside, Coalition is his real debut to the jam scene. The first thing I wanted to know was how this band came together.


Coalition of the Willing :: 05.20 :: San Francisco by Dave Vann
"The idea of a quartet was very interesting to me because I had never had one before. Someone had told me a while back, 'Hey, you should play with Charlie Hunter,' so I called him up and said, 'Charlie Hunter, I'm Bobby Previte, let's play.' We were coming from completely different places, but I thought there was something really great there. I knew Skerik from Ponga, and we had kept in touch over the years. Then I met Marco during the Ropeadope New Music Seminar last year and really liked what he was doing. I thought he would fit well with what I had in mind for this band."

My next natural question was if he had considered the exposure he would gain from assembling what many consider to be a "super group."


Bobby Previte by Cees van de Ven
"I'm not naïve. I knew full well when I was putting this band together it was a powerful group, musically and commercially, but there is NO WAY that I would play with anyone who couldn't deal. If they can't hang, they bring the whole thing down. You know, I have to say, if you had told me fifteen years ago that this kind of scene would exist, I would have told you that you were completely fucking nuts. The intensity of these fans is astounding to me, and we're not a jamband, at all, according to the largely accepted definition of what a jamband is. I think we give people enough of what they think they're familiar with to get their attention, to get them listening. It's amazing to me that so many people are listening because this band is not at all what they're used to. We're not trying to recreate anything. Great improvisers always ask more questions than they answer. Human nature wants questions answered and loose ends wrapped up, but I'm not supposed to answer your questions. No one can tell you what the essentials are; you have to figure it out for yourself. You can only express the universal through the personal. Music is about the human soul, and when you're playing it right, it's scary. You're totally exposed. But once I put it out there, I can't tell you what to do with it. The great artists don't ask you what your world-view is; they tell you what their world view is and if you don't like it, you go to somebody else. You don't buy [a record] because it goes with your couch. That's why the iPod revolution is very interesting, because instead of you putting a disc on and saying, 'OK, I'm going into this artist's world view,' it's like, 'I'm sad, I want to hear sad music' or whatever. It's a confirmation of your existing mood instead of taking you somewhere. It's very, very different, and truthfully, I feel like something very essential gets lost."

 
Of course there's homo-erotic energy! That's exactly what's going on. How can you really play well with a band if you aren't totally tuned into who they are and what they're doing?

-Bobby Previte

 
Bobby Previte by Ziga Koritnick

Previte's world-view is hard to ascertain. He asserted several times over the course of our conversation that I could get just as compelling an interview by talking to Random Record Buyer or Coincidental Concert Goer. I wasn't buying it. I still wanted to know what it all meant to him - the name of the band, the record, our entire existence on this planet - because after all, it had to mean something.


"The Coalition of the Willing" recording band
Bernstein, Saft, Hunter, Previte, Moore, Skerik
By Michael DiDonna
"Does it?" he asked with a baited smile.

"Well it seems like it'd be a whole lot of wasted time, energy, and effort if it didn't mean anything," I replied. His smile broke into laughter as he said, "OK, I'm just playing a little bit, but meaning is an interesting word. What does it mean?"

"I'll rephrase – what does it evoke in you?"

"Well, the cover of the album is all Russian constructivist, quasi-socialist art, rise up, blah blah. The titles are from Orwell, police state, mind control, you can draw your obvious conclusions there, it's not rocket science. Then I include a quote from 1984, one of Orwell's most obscure quotes, which is saying, if you really read it, that it's all hopeless. This is all bullshit. No revolution ever accomplishes anything other than a changing of the masters. The people in the lowest class will always be in the lowest class, and society is arranged so that they never have the ability to surmount their position. I believe that. I believe a lot of things. I also believe that people have allowed other people to tell them what to think, to control them, the whole thing. I mean, it's CRAZY what's going on in our world today. I also wanted to co-opt the term "coalition of the willing," so that when you Googled it, you wouldn't get Colin Powell. Instead, you'd get Bobby Previte or Skerik. So here are these two opposite concepts – rise up and fight but really it's never going to get you anywhere. What happens when you put these seemingly incongruous two things next to each other? It's like Mark Rothko paintings. He paints these huge blocks of color and puts them next to each other on one canvas. When you look at it close up, it's just orange and blue, but when you take a step back, they start to vibrate. You can see how the two affect each other. I like putting things like that together and seeing what comes up for different people."

For me, Coalition of the Willing on disc and the Coalition in concert were as disparate as vegan bacon, though we all know such a thing exists. The album is by far the best studio recording I've heard in years. The sound is huge, polished, and subversive all at once. It laughs in the face of the quote on its inside panel, suggesting that revolution is tangible, attainable, and the only logical choice to make. Previte pointed out that the real unsung hero of the album is Jamie Saft, who plays organ and bass on the record. The more I listen to it, I wonder why he chose Benevento as his touring keyboardist, not because I doubt Benevento's skill, but because Saft is unbelievably effective. The disc evoked images of early Police, but harder and smarter. The album had a clear arc and delivered a lucent, powerfully moving message that spoke to me on a deeply personal level. Because of that, I really wanted to love the Coalition at The Independent on May 20th, but I didn't. It was an enjoyable evening and there were moments that I liked, but I didn't love it. There were some highlights. Charlie Hunter on a six-string guitar is a rare treat. He abandoned all trappings of jazz for unconditional and unrepentant thrash guitar, mixing metal and rock with adroit skill.


Hunter - COTW :: 05.20
By Vann
I've known Charlie for a few years now, and he is always extremely friendly and easy-going. That night, I could not stop thinking that he looked just like Satan. I could easily see him with horns and a tail, wielding a guitar instead of a pitchfork. It was also obvious that this band was extraordinarily in tune with each other, improvisationally and musically. There was a real, homo-erotic energy on stage, so much so that I wouldn't have been surprised if Skerik and Benevento had started making out between songs. I very cautiously mentioned that observation to Previte, and he replied, "Of course there's homo-erotic energy! That's exactly what's going on. How can you really play well with a band if you aren't totally tuned into who they are and what they're doing?"


Bobby Previte - COTW :: 05.20 :: SF by Dave Vann
I also felt that individually Skerik and Benevento were playing far better than I had heard either one play before. While the group's improvisational sense with each other was innate, the end result was far more dissonant and cacophonous than melodic. This is not to say that everything has to have a melody to be good, but in most songs there wasn't even a sliver of something to which I could relate. Once I would grasp a riff and begin to feel it, the pace or tone would change, giving the music a somewhat frenetic feel. They were obviously bringing out the most adventurous and daring sides of each other improvisationally. I often just couldn't relate, no matter how much I wanted to.

However, this is just my view. And if you ask Bobby Previte, my opinion is meaningless because I can never hear anything with your ears, and your ears are the only ones that matter. In spite of the fact that I didn't love the show, I would still emphatically recommend purchasing the album and seeing the band perform live. It's aggressive sonic art at its finest. At least that's what my ears think.

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Comments

Michael_Kaiz starstarstarstarstar Fri 8/4/2006 12:07AM
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Michael_Kaiz

Great interview. Bobby comes across as a real deep thinker. I may have only heard of Privite once before, but judging by his company he must be great. I can't wait to see Charlie play something not so Jazzy, but I'm really looking forward to hearing Privite's sound and discovering what draws Charlie, Marco, and Skerik to play with him.

PurpleTurd starstarstarstarstar Fri 8/4/2006 09:20AM
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This is the best interview and article I have seen on this website. I tend to find most of the written material a little sappy and overtly optimistic which is not the way reviews should be made, especially if they want credibility.

This was well written and good stuff.....

Bobby Previte is great, although you cannot and should not judge his music by these musicians....He has so many crazy projects and the stuff he does with Charlie Hunter is awesome but I don't think most people can stomach some of the experimental tones they explore...He is an amazing muscian and far from anything describably in terms of being part of some scene, especially a jam scene or indie or whatever

phreak1976 starstarstarstarstar Fri 8/4/2006 01:50PM
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I saw Bobby open the RAD NMS as a solo act and he totally blew me away. I'll go see him any time he comes through town no matter what the line up. He'll definitely take you out of your comfort zone...helps to open the mind.

I agree with Purple Turd...one of the best interviews/articles I've seen here.

POOP8 starstarstarstar Fri 8/4/2006 03:23PM
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I'm looking forward to checking out Bobby's 4-night run in New York with Brian Haas, Peter Apfelbaum and Marco Benevento!
That's gonna be some sweet crazy music.

The Glick starstarstarstarstar Fri 8/4/2006 04:05PM
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The Glick

Buy this CD today! TCotW is fantastic live.

KK2006 starstarstarstarstar Sun 8/6/2006 09:40AM
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I enjoyed the interview because it gave a glimpse of Previte’s deep and vibrant intellect as well as his musical genius. It won’t be news for any of you, but one of the best ways of listening to good music all the time is by spending ridiculous amounts of time finding a musician who is just out of this world (and majority of these people are hard to find!), and then following his steps from one project to another. Previte is such a musician for me; I learn from him day in and day out, and I try to grow and understand his music as he explores new ways to express his “world view.” With Previte, if you get it – you are lucky. And you have to work to get there.

I thought the article was well done, but somewhat “jambase.” This was more of a jamband reaction to Previte’s work, which is crazy by definition. You are setting yourself up for disappointment if you try to squeeze Previte into the jamband world, or jazz world, or whatever world that can be described with one word. I agree, you may not relate – but it’s worth trying, you may just find a musician whose work you will follow forever.

lovemusicfood starstarstarstar Mon 8/7/2006 08:19AM
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Also agree it was a great article. Saw Groundtruther and was amazed at his playing and synth pad use while playing drums. Skerik is awsome. Haven't heard the album yet but look forward to it.

mbienkahn starstarstarstarstar Mon 8/7/2006 12:16PM
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great interview. and I gotta say, Charlie Hunter ROCKS the telecaster. here's to PSYCHO-SURF-JAZZ

YodaG starstarstarstarstar Fri 8/11/2006 07:37AM
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YodaG

This guy is the REAL DEAL. Great mind and great chops, he stole the show of the COTW show I saw and he was surrounded by the best of the best.

winecorker starstarstarstar Mon 8/14/2006 12:35PM
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winecorker

Saw Coalition of the Willing at Mystic Theatre in Petaluma, CA. Was blown away. I'd seen Charlie with his Quartet before and was aware of the Duo's music but had never heard of Bobby Previte or Skerik. The music was like nothing I'd heard before and I was aware that it didn't fit into the "jamband" mold (whatever that is) in that it seemed tightly composed.
The interview was good too!

Tiny Dancer Fri 9/1/2006 12:20PM
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Tiny Dancer

hi all
I wrote this. Thanks so much for reaing it and for your comments. I love it when anyone takes the time to comment on what I wrote. I was just re-reading this piece and I wanted to make one thing clear- when I said that Charlie Hunter looked like Satan, I meant it as GOOD thing. He was so on fire and so intense he Lucified himself, so to speak. That's all. Thanks again

dcpruyn starstarstarstarstar Thu 9/14/2006 02:12PM
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dcpruyn

Those Previte / Vidacovich / Moore trio percussion jams @ dba in New Orleans a few years back were unreal ! Whoever has DAT Recordings of those performances has a piece of gold with them. I'll be surfing Archive.Org for those very special nites that went down in my Hometown....the music Lives

Adam4man starstarstarstarstar Mon 11/6/2006 11:01PM
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excellent article.