Quin Kirchner’s debut as a band leader landed last week. The Chicago scene veteran has produced a monster disc that has to be heard. Best new jazz album of 2018 so far.
Kirchner answered a couple of questions for a post I put up on All About Jazz. Here’s a full transcript.
How has the work you’ve done with other artists informed this recording?
When I was young and starting out in New Orleans, I was just trying to make some semblance of a living as a musician. You want to do creative things and develop your artistic voice but you also need to get gigs that pay, which means being flexible and versatile. I’ve always set out to be well-versed in all styles and it has really influenced my voice and informed how I play. I think you get a sense of the wide spectrum of my musical personality on the record.
There are also a few obvious references to my other projects on the album. The “Drums & Tines” cuts come out of my time playing music with Elliot Bergman in NOMO, Wild Belle and Metal Tongues. The electric kalimba I play on those tracks is one from our kalimba building sessions in 2009. We sold them at the merch table on the Invisible Cities tour. Those tracks are sort of an homage to that part of my style which developed a lot on the road with those bands.
Playing music in Chicago with some of the greatest improvisers in the world will also shape you. I’ve been lucky to have opportunities to work with musicians I grew up listening to on recordings or seeing live for years. It’s not just inspiring but also motivating, you really want to bring your best. Jeb Bishop is a big influence, working with him in Lucky 7s and a double quartet he led. It opened my eyes to what you can do with long-form compositions and even just leading a band and running a rehearsal.
It takes some confidence to cover a Sun Ra track.
I feel like anyone playing adventurous improvisational music owes a lot to Sun Ra. His influence and worldview (or universe-view) continue to open up new possibilities in the music. I always liked the “Brainville” arrangement that opens the album “Sun Song,” and it leant naturally to the unique instrumentation of my band. There is obviously a lot of free improvisation and exploration on this record, but I think the fact that the most swinging tune on the album is the Sun Ra cover is pretty hilarious. It wasn’t planned that way but that’s how it turned out.
This isn’t a small band you’ve put together. What are the pros and cons of stretching out beyond the trio or quartet format?
Outside of my band, I play in various duos, trios, quartets and even solo. Some are long-running collaborations and some happen once and never again. All of these situations really just depend on the environment, the material and the individual voices.
Most of the music I bring to my group allows for a lot of interpretation and I rely on the ability of each band member to listen and be sensitive to the group sound while bringing their own voice. I just like to surround myself with great, creative musicians because it helps me draw more from within. It’s energizing and exciting. For the release show, I invited four more of my friends to join us for the second set. We played some of my tunes as a nine-piece band, featuring six horns, and it brought a whole new dimension to these songs.
I’m just really happy to finally be releasing this album. The project began as an intention to do more under my own name, which led to getting the band more active, which led to recording and finally now an album. Some of the material I wrote 10 years ago, some of it is really new, so it’s nice to come full circle with this debut. I hope to perform more with the group this year, both in Chicago and elsewhere.
I have another group that I am really excited about doing more with this year too. It’s a trio with keyboardist Danny Van Duerm and bassist Matt Lux which we’ve been calling Kirch/Van/Lux. The music is completely improvised but we tend to inhabit the groove/beats/outerspace funk territory. It was described by one listener as far-out hip hop instrumentals. We’re hoping to make a record this year.