Within the jazz world, Ted Poor is known for collaborating with musicians — Cuong Vu, Ben Monder, Bill Frisell, Kurt Rosenwinkel and others — whose work conjures immersive and identifiable sound worlds. In other realms the Seattle-based drummer creates richly textured foundations for a wide range of artists including singer-songwriter Andrew Bird and Chris Thile’s band for the radio variety show Live From Here. So it should come as little surprise that his leader debut, You Already Know (New Deal/Impulse!), focuses more on atmosphere than virtuosity. The album is centered on a series of duets between Poor and saxophonist Andrew D’Angelo, with judicious post-production additions conceived with in-demand producer Blake Mills. —Shaun BradyWhy did you decide to go the duo route for your first album?
Three years ago, Andrew D’Angelo and I played an impromptu set of improvised music here in Seattle as he was passing through town. It was a really memorable night; even though we were improvising, it felt like we were playing well-rehearsed songs. Afterwards I felt like I had to keep this going. It felt special, like music that I had never made before.
How did the duo approach affect your approach to the drums?
It’s a celebration of the resonance of the drums. For me, it was primarily about sound, not feeling like I have to find some flashy new licks to contribute to the continuum. I tuned the drums in particular ways for each song and let them provide the bass fundamentals and harmonies. When they’re not competing with a whole band the drums can carry that load.
You worked with Blake Mills to add touches of strings, harmonium, guitar, etc. How did post-production transform the material?
Blake and I listened through all the tracks one day and let our imaginations run wild. The idea was to subtly introduce textures and instruments as the record unfolded. One beautiful bit of imagery that we kept close at hand was this idea of being on stage with all these musicians waiting in the wings; a few of them would step forward and support us, then recede shortly thereafter.
What have you taken from working in contexts outside of jazz?
Going from supporting a singer to a more exploratory or improvisatory jazz situation, I bring back a love of simplicity. Complexity doesn’t mean more notes. Complexity and depth can just mean a deeper intention, a deeper control of texture, sound and feeling.
The album fits comfortably within your work in the jazz world but definitely seems to take inspiration from your other experiences.
Some people say it transcends genre, and some people say it’s definitely a minimalist jazz record. I’m good with all of it. My favorite jazz musicians don’t think in terms of genre, they think in terms of playing their life story. And that takes a lot of courage.
Featured photo by Oliver Schrage.