Kermit Driscoll’s Wake-Up Call

DEEP IN DISCOURSE AND DISCOVERY, with a strong dose of “downtown,” Kermit Driscoll’s Reveille is one of the year’s standup- and-take notice jazz sides.
By Chris Jisi ,

DEEP IN DISCOURSE AND DISCOVERY, with a strong dose of “downtown,” Kermit Driscoll’s Reveille is one of the year’s standup- and-take notice jazz sides. The key for Kermit, who has spent the past 30 years as a top New York doubler, is his selection of guitar and drum deities Bill Frisell and Vinnie Colaiuta as running mates. The three met and made music at Berklee in the mid ’70s, playing in a lounge band before Driscoll joined Frisell in his landmark early-’90s trio (with drummer Joey Baron). On Reveille, the three slow-cook their way through eight Driscoll originals and two covers, with equally attuned pianist Kris Davis joining on half the tracks.

What led you to finally record your solo debut?

I’ve wanted to record my music for a long time, and I finally woke up to the importance of doing so—thus the album title. The genesis was a serious battle I had with Lyme disease in 2006, during which Vinnie was very supportive, telling me we were going to play together again. I took him up on his offer, although it was a few more years until we could find one day when both Vinnie and Bill were available. I had amassed enough material over the course of my career, but I encouraged Bill, Vinnie, and Kris to bring whatever they wanted to the music. There were written parts in some tunes, however the central and most important elements were improvisation and interaction.

What role does your bass play?

I’m most at home in a support role, whether in the traditional sense or not. I’ve come to realize as bassists we have the opportunity to orchestrate the direction of the music, too. Simply by playing a whole-note, the other players react and use more space, as well. If I shift to the upper register, it might inspire Kris to use the lower register of the piano, as happened on “Thank You.” Mostly, I wanted what I played to be dependent on the direction of the band and the music. A good example is Bill’s solo on “Reveille,” which ended up being very interactive.

What was it like reuniting with Bill and Vinnie?

Bill is probably my main musical influence. The vamp in the second part of “Hekete”— I’m pretty sure that’s stolen from him! Like everyone, I listen to all the masters, but I’m most influenced by the people I’ve played with, and Bill would be number one. With Vinnie, I was a little worried I wouldn’t be able to hang with his polyrhythmic concept, but it just felt so comfortable and good. No matter what he plays, the groove is always there, and he really plays to the music. It turned out to be one of the most fun sessions I’ve ever done.

GEAR

Basses Circa-1850 Tyrolean upright bass with Fishman Full Circle pickup; MTD Kingston 5-string; ’62 Fender Precision

Rig Acoustic Image Focus 2R with Epifani 210UL cabinet

Bow Sue Lipkins French-style

Strings Pirastro Evah Pirazzi (upright), Ken Smith roundwounds (on MTD), old flatwounds (on P-Bass)

HEAR HIM ON

Kermit Driscoll, Reveille [2011, 19/8 Records]; John Hollenbeck, Eternal Interlude [2009, Sunnyside]; Dan Willis, The Satie Project [2009, Daywood Drive]; Bill Frisell, Live [1991, Gramavision]