Q & A with Jack Rose
Since his days as part of the Virginia outfit, Pelt, Jack Rose has expanded the boundaries of rock, noise, and folk with his far-flung songwriting and mesmerizing guitar playing. Since Pelt, he's gone on to become one of the preeminent lights of instrumental folk, taking the lead of pioneers like John Fahey and reinterpreting it for a new generation. In advance of his show at the Wexner Center November 30 (a double bill with psych-folk legend Peter Walker), we took the opportunity to ask Jack a few questions via e-mail:
1. Q: This double bill with Peter Walker has to be a thrill for you. Tell us about the process of getting Peter to record (and play live) again? How integral (or not) were you to that process?
A: Yep, I'm very excited to be touring with peter as he is an influence on my playing. Josh Rosenthall (Tompkins Square) was the one who contacted him and put together the compilation. I mentioned to josh that I was planning doing some touring in fall and he suggested that I hook up with Peter. I Met him at his home in Woodstock this summer and the deal was sealed.
2. Q: How have Peter's two albums (1967's Rainy Day Raga and 1969's Second Poem to Karmela or, Gypsies Are Important) influenced your playing or approach (directly or not)?
A: He was a direct influence on my playing and I pilfered heavily from "Rainy day Raga", especially the flamenco flourishes and strums. Although when I finally made the switch to fingerpicks, I could no longer use those figures I borrowed from him.
3. Q: On your latest record, Kensington Blues, you effortlessly bridge the gap between rags (traditional/roots/mountain music) and raga (Indian/drone) than ever before. Who knew that the hills of Virginia and the watershed of the Ganges were so intertwined?
A: I don't make distinctions between what's experimental or traditional and I'm not a purist. Music has always evolved from cultures clashing, country music couldn't have happened without an african influence and blues certainly borrowed heavily from the anglo/celt tradition. Supposedly the story of the slide guitar was that it began in India (via vina playing, etc), then was picked up by hawaiians and finally that style made it's way into country and blues. Country, raga and blues rely heavily on subtle tone and pitch shadings that give it meaning. Also all three are polyrhythmic.
(Director of Performing Arts Chuck Helm responds to this particular answer of Jack's: Jack, that's close but not quite accurate: slide guitar traditions--which often sonically mirror vocal music lines--are thought to have originated in Hawaii alongside the open tuning style that the Hawaiians call slack key guitar (the Hawaiians picked up the guitar from visiting Portuguese sailors). Hawaiian music was one of the first global world music phenomena that circulated worldwide by the new 20th century innovation--records. The famous musical Tau Moe Family from Hawaii played and taught in India on their world tours and there Indian musicians adapted guitars and slide techniques to perform traditional ragas, hearing sitar-like qualities in the slide guitar's drone and articulation. Earlier this season we presented Debashish Bhattacharya who is recognized as the reigning master of Hindustani slide guitar and who is a direct recipient of the legacy of the Tau Moe Family's impact on the Indian slide guitar tradition. Check out Debashish's website for more details on this amazing music and its history.)
4. Q: There seems to be a strong appreciation for more expansive forms of current day instrumental folk around the northeast (Brattleboro, Boston, Philadelphia). When you venture outside of that area, how has the reception been?
A: I've been touring quite bit in the last few years and every year has gotten better. So most of the places I've been I've gotten great responses, especially this last year.
5. Q: Anything else folks might expect for the show here in Columbus on Nov. 30?
A: Well the return of Peter Walker is pretty exciting and he's still amazing. Prepare to to be floored by Mr Walker.