On May 4, 2015, Butler Director of Jazz Studies and saxophonist Matt Pivec, bassist Jesse Wittman, and drummer Kenny Phelps walked into The Lodge recording studio in Indianapolis. Eight hours later, they left with all seven songs recorded for their new CD, Time and Direction.
“It was definitely an exhausting day,” Pivec said. “We spent a lot of time listening in the studio. So we would record one take, go back into the sound booth and listen to it. If we needed to make corrections or changes, we did that on the fly. So it was a good, active, collective process where everybody was involved in the listening. It kept fatigue at a minimum because there were a lot of breaks, but it also kept us engaged in the music.”
Pivec said he, Wittman, and Phelps rehearsed for a few weeks before going into the studio to play live. They performed each song through twice and chose the better of the two takes. They did almost no editing and overdubbing because they wanted to retain the spontaneity and flow of their playing.
The biggest challenge, Pivec said, was the saxophone-bass-drums configuration.
In working without guitar and piano, “everybody has to pull their weight a little bit more,” Pivec said. “There’s a balance you have to strike. You can’t overcompensate, or it starts to get weird. You just have to accept the fact that this music breathes a little bit more and that overall there’s a different sound to it. Once you embrace that sound, then you’re OK to move forward.”
He said the result in Time and Direction is that Wittman’s sound is “warm and big, and you can really hear that on the recording. And Kenny is very creative. He incorporates a lot of different sounds. With a little more space, you can hear his creative approach come through.”
Funding for the CD came from a Butler Faculty Research Grant. The research, Pivec said, took him into the history of sax-bass-drums recordings throughout history—people like Sonny Rollins and Joe Henderson and modern players such as Kenny Garrett and Chris Potter who have recorded with that configuration.
Pivec also received a Butler assist from Assistant Professor of Art Steve Nyktas, whose photograph of a stopwatch graces the cover. Nyktas noticed that a number of the songs had titles that loosely related to the theme of time and direction.
“He had some photos that corresponded with that, and that’s where the album title came from,” Pivec said.