Mike Mainieri Cyber Interview

Mike Mainieri did club tour in Japan in December of '96 with his special band. Mike has been a leader of New York fusion and cotemporary jazz scene since 70s and he is still playing actively as a vibraphone player, a producer and a president of NYC record. He participated in our Cyber Interview in Tokyo.

WO.(Wahei Ohnuki) Will you introduce members of your band for this Japanese tour? And will you explain concept of this band and difference from Steps Ahead?

MM.(Mike Mainieri)The members of this particular band are Omar Haim on drums, Anothony Jackson on a bass, Warren Bernhardt playing accoustic piano, no sythesizers and Bob Mintzer playing tenor sax. And I am playing viberaphone. It's a sort of difficult to discribe the difference between this band and .... Which Steps band do you mean? Because there have been so many different ones. There must have been 50 people that have played in the band through the years.

WO. How about difference between recent Steps Ahead with Bendik.

MM. I've been in a recent band since I reformed the band in 1986. The first band I had included Norwegian saxphonist by the name of Bendik, Rachel Z. plays keyboards, Jim Tunnel playing guitar, Jeff Andrews playing bass, Steve Smith playing drums. That was a litte more I would discribe it as more accessible band. Not to say was more commercial although we sold more records with that band than with any band I've ever had. There was something. It was sounds to that record. NYC record that was very attractive to the audience. And they loved the record. Both record was played on a radio quite a bit, which was somthing the earlier band never enjoyed that kind of popularity.

WO. How about this band and one with Bendik?

MM. Its music is what's different basically. Bendik is not a jazz player, althouht he can improvize. But he is not a be-bop player. whereas Bob can play some of traditional music, tradiotional jazz. So this band if you notice you were at the club the other night we played some swing, played be-bop tunes. With the band with Bendik we were playing music from that NYC record that had a lot of world music elements in it. Some of the compositions I wrote and some of the compositions Bendik wrote. So I would say that this particular group could play that music, perhaps that band would not had been as suited for music we are playing right now. It's a complicated question. It relies more on its tenor saxphone because Rachel can play anything. Same thing with Steve Smith and Jeff Andrews. The thing about this rythem section here was Anthony and Omar is very powerfull.Very strong rythmic sense.

WO. Do you have a plan to make a new record with this new band?

MM. I did not have any plans only because, you know, we had done one album in 1980 "7th Avenue South". I had not written any music specifically for this show. I'm playing some of music from "Wonderlust", playing some Steps tunes,and playing some music from "American Diary" which is more recent. It's a sort of mixture of songs. I would say it's an experiment. Hisao (of Video Arts Music Japan) and I talked about making a record, He had mentioned to me one time. We talked about making a record. I was saying "Well, I don't Know.". I've probably recorded all these tunes already. I had to write all new music. I didn't know how good the band was gonna sound, because Blue Note (Tokyo) asked me to bring Warren, Omar. Bob Mintzer and Anthony. Over. Actually at first they asked for a different bass player. They asked for a few different people as a matter of fact.Then at the last minute we decided on this band just as an experiment. I did not know it was gonna be this good. I mean it feels pretty good. So we were coming back in a bus the other night and we were talking maybe we should make a record.

WO. What do you think to do reunion Steps Ahead with this band?

MM.It's a good idea, It could work. Blue Note(Tokyo) people asked me to come back next year. I don't know when. I guess they had a pretty good week. I don't know what good week is there. But I would imagine that was pretty good. So we can put together some kind of tour in Asia and go to Europe with this band. it makes sense that we can make a record and then at least we'll be able to sell some records with tour. If we don't tour,its just difficult.

WO. How do you think about calling this band as Steps or New Steps?

MM. I don't mind because Bob already played in Steps. He played with me at Blue Note in New York with Steps Ahead. And when we played back in 80s with the 7th Avenue South band we were playing some Steps songs that I wrote with Bob. Warren has been in Steps Ahead. And Omar, for years when he was younger off cource , has played a lot of music, we played Tee Bag, a lot of songs, Pools from Steps Ahead band. So Anthony is the only one that hasn't really done the music. But he did play at New York Allstars with me. He did a few of my songs. I don't know. I have to ask them. Bob is with Yellow Jacket.So it might be weird for him all of sudden Bob Mitzer to show up with Mike Mainieri's Steps Ahead. He is the only one I think that could be a problem. Anthony I think is fine. He is not with any band that I know. Omar is just happened to be incredibly busy drummer playing with big rock bands who make very good money. But I think he is having good time. I know that.

WO. You seem to be aiming for more accoustic jazz than fusion now. What do you think about fusion music?

MM. There are 2 or 3 projects that really interest me right now. One is American Diary project. I have done 2 albums. First one with Joe Lavano, Peter Erkine, Eddie Gomez and myself. Now we've just completed the 2nd one with George Galzzone, Marc Johnson on a bass, Peter and various guests. The music is a sort of, I don't like categorize, but it's more like the 3rd stream, more like very explanatory. This particular album is songs and compositons based on various folkloric myth. So I liked with quartet sounds. I just played a faburous concert in Nashville Tennessee in front of 2,000 people. They were in crazy for this quartet. They were very free, very avant garde. Then in terms of fusion audience, one of the things I was hoping to do because I am not touring with Steps this year, I am taking a year off from Steps, I was hoping to do reunion with Michael Brecker and myself,and Eddie Gomez, either Steve Gadd or Erskine whoever can make it, maybe Mike Stern, or Eliane, or Warren, I am not sure yet, and make a record and going world tour. That may not happen. But along came this band, this band sounds very good this week. This is somewhere like in between. I've been stay away from a lot of electric since a lot of loud synthsizers,my vibe is not Midied ,no screaming guitars, try to keep it more accoustic to put a lot of energy with this band and it feels great. It's hard for me to put myself in a category, not gonna ever do this, ever do that. I just do what I feel is ritht for me to do at the particular time.

WO. Will you give any message to your fans?

MM. The only message I have is to do, if you can, what I've done in my own life. I think it's a matter of believing in the artist and the artist believing in himself or herself which is the most important thing. Then music comes across regardless it's a straight ahead or fusion or just beautifull avant garde painting.

WO. Thank you very much.

Special thanks to Mr.Hisao Ebine of Video Arts Music
Interviewd by Wahei Ohnuki
Photography by Terukazu Ashida
Transcripted by Masato Hashi
Copyright 1997 by CyberFusion