Jazz Professional               


Acoustic awareness

Return To Forever
Spanish Leprechaun
Acoustic awareness
Chick and Gary
Talking to Les Tomkins in 1978

The most interesting aspect to me of your recent concerts with Herbie Hancock was that, I gather, you both stuck strictly to the acoustic piano.

Yeah— we both decided that we'd return to real basics in this particular tour. For both of us it's our primary instrument— and it's the one I feel we both improvise the best on. So we said : "Well, why complicate the matter? Let's just have two pianos on the stage." And in most of the halls that we played, we used either no or very little amplification at all— which was a very nice change. We played Carnegie Hall and Symphony Hall in New York and Boston, also the hall that we played here in London, with no amplification at all. It was wonderful.

It was really like a duo piano recital. I just wish I'd heard it— but I hear there are some records coming out.

That's right. We recorded four of the concerts, and we've already chosen tracks— and it's in the process of being put together. There will be one album for my label with my name first, and one for his label with his name first; it's a reciprocal deal.

I reviewed in the magazine a reissue album of yours, "Tones For Joan's Bones"; I think that was about your first album under your own name. In the review, I said that in my opinion it was refreshing to hear you on acoustic piano, after hearing a great deal of your electric piano, and said that I thought it would be very welcome if an album were to come out on which you plated a great deal of acoustic piano again. And right after that the "Spanish Heart" album came out, as if in answer to my request.

And also there's a recording I did after the "Mad Hatter" record— a quartet record, with Eddie Gomez on bass, Steve Gadd on drums and Joe Farrell on tenor, which will be released either some time late this year or at the beginning of next year.

It has a lot of acoustic piano playing on it; it’s very much a jazz record. You keep your eyes out for it— I think it'll be called "Friends".

I've seen a reference in your publicity handout to an album called "Music Magic", which I don't think I've seen around. Is that something not issued over here yet?

It should have been released. That was actually the last recording done with Return To Forever, which came from last year's Spring tour.

I don't believe we've had anything since "Romantic Warrior".

There's "Music Magic", and there's also, much more recently— yet to be released, actually— a four- album set of a live performance, beginning to end, of Return To Forever, and it'll be called "RTF Live." That should be released some time this Summer, I think.

But in the latter stages, did you return to acoustic to some degree with Return To Forever as well?

Yeah— in the live concert there's quite a bit of acoustic piano playing. As a matter of fact, one side of the record is an acoustic piano solo. And there's various spots in the music where I'm back on acoustic piano.

Certainly, I think, the acoustic really gets out the maximum personality from a player.

If that's his basic instrument, which, like me, it is, I would agree with that.

I wanted to mention something this time that we haven't discussed before, which you acknowledge on things like album sleeves— your indebtedness to Scientology. What has this meant to you? Has your interest in and your study of Scientology been a direct motivation to your music?

It's actually been just a refreshing breath of fresh air in my life in general. L. Ron Hubbard's an American philosopher, and a very beautiful and very brilliant man. He has written quite a bit of philosophy, and also has studied and researched all sorts of aspects of life— human relations, the workings of the mind, all kinds of things. And I find that studying Scientology has helped me clarify for myself my own philosophy; it has helped me differentiate between what is me and my own feelings and viewpoints about life and what isn't what has stuck to me through education, through social upbringing, through the agreements of society, and the "must do's" of this faction the "can't do's" of that faction. It's helped me become more myself, and it's really taught me a basic ability that I think we all innately have— which is a willingness and desire to communicate with one another. That, I think, has been the major thing that has helped and been like a relief in my life. And that kind of change and renewed awareness has been the one that's most directly affected my music, in that now my desires are really to take my art form and, in addition to forming it and playing with it and having fun with it in my own head, to do something with it in the world, and actually reach people, communicate to them, and have good experiences. So it's been nothing but positive learning for me.

Its teaching relates to dormant areas of the mind, doesn't it? Have you found that the knowledge of these has expanded your mental concepts?

What it teaches is that there are dormant areas of the mind actually that are hindrances— those areas that tend to hit us and make us react, not out of our own choice. We're taught, through inspecting the phenomena, to differentiate what parts of the mind are just knocking us on the back of the head and the parts of the mind that we can actually causatively use towards creating something better. It's a great relief to be able to do that.

Well, if its object is to help people make the most of themselves, there are two musical examples— yourself and Lee Konitz— that greater success can be achieved.

I think the main thing has been through an understanding of communicating, and of releasing the strictures and barriers that a person may set up around himself to keep him from opening up to another individual, you know. It's a much nicer feeling to be extroverted, and have my attention on what's around me, than to be introverted, and have my attention stuck on what’s going around in my head. So, in order to get out of that, I have to understand what's in my head, so I can take my attention off of it and talk to you, or play to an audience.


Copyright ©1978, Les Tomkins. All Rights Reserved.

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