"The thing I like about jazz is risk. I love how it can go so much in your favor when you find a place in music that hasn't occurred before. It doesn't matter if you are eighty years old or twenty for a moment in time you can experience that wonderful feeling again, (the reason) why you first learned music," says jazz producer and artist Charlie Peacock from his home in Nashville.
When you speak to Peacock, the word that immediately comes to mind is cerebral. In his music and the worlds of intelligence, message and meaning collide with improvisation, spontaneity and fun. When you are listening to music such as "When Diana Dances" and "Longing For Louis" from the Love Press Ex-Curio CD, there is nothing contrived, formulated or that fits nicely into a neat little commercial window. If the music did contain those elements, it wouldn't reflect the personality of the man behind the music. By his own description, Peacock says, "Love Press is the combination of loose improvisation being married with structure and programming. It is a combination of chaos and order I guess. That's ultimately what I really want to come out of that music."
As a producer for other artists, Peacock is known to take the same approach. Describing his work with one artist he says, "We would (also) give everyone an assignment and tell them you have to turn it upside down and play it again from a completely different approach."
Peacock makes a distinction between the types of jazz that he prefers and smooth jazz. "For the kind of jazz that I am interested in, which is people like Dave Douglas, those aren't even considerations. You are trying to make something that moves you, not surround you," he says. He adds, "I think smooth jazz probably has the same kind of commercial restrictions that any sort of pop music does."
Peacock sees a bright future for the music industry as the world grows smaller and multiculturalism becomes more prominent. He says, "That means there is going to be this cross pollinating. The artists will get there long before the public gets there. There will be all kinds of exciting experimental collaborations. (They may) be just gigs that aren't recorded or Indie recordings that are Internet-based only. People who are real savvy and searchers for new music will find that music long before (labels such as) Verve or Blue Note puts it out."
Peacock cites one artist in whom he already sees that embodied. "There is a drummer named Dan Weiss who lives in New York. (If you) say that he is a jazz drummer, it sort of misses it. He is one of the most interesting drummers in the world today. He has a combination of Indian drumming jazz and rock. It is a highly original combination. He is one of the most interesting musicians that I have heard play in a long time," he says.
Peacock continues to answer my question concerning the future of the industry; "People who play improvisational music and are interested in all sorts of composition are going to be leading the way in the next five years. All of that stuff has a trickle down effect into hip hop, pop (and other genres of music). It may be an experiment that somebody ran and later you may hear it on a record."
While distortion and scratching are commonly found on dance and trance CDs, Peacock has incorporated those sounds into "When Diana Dances" from Love Press Ex-Curio. Peacock says, "It is a way of getting some grit on the track. Especially with Electronica, there is all sorts of distortion going on and you can't tell (if it) was a mistake. Did they really mean to do that? It sounds like my speaker is blowing up."
Distortions are used to great advantage on the number two track ‘Super Jet Service.’ "It starts out with a vibes motif that runs through the song. The vibes are a great example of distortion. What I was hoping to do was make something that was reminiscent (of the music) I listened to when I was a kid. (I took) music by Eddie Hearst, Les McCann and maybe a little bit of Horace Silver. I wanted to mix that with up-to-date flavors that are used on pop records."
Oddly enough, he gives credit to the unblemished sound of digital recordings for giving such widespread acceptance to the use of allowing the tones to break up (distortion) on jazz CDs. "I think one of the reasons why that has found so much resonance in our time is because of digital music. It is almost a way to create the same ambient texture that happened with analog music," he says. "I think it is to reach some sort of emotional place that has been absent since we went to the digital format. People have been trying to figure out a way to make the sound warmer," Peacock theorizes.
Our discussion led us into another aspect of music: songwriting. He says, "I think great songwriters are insightful. I think they speak back to us what we can't articulate ourselves. You are not a good songwriter or a great songwriter unless you are doing that. A good songwriter is a good storyteller." Peacock believes, "In a postmodern sense it is someone who has good images. (He/She) creates good epiphany type images that lead you to know more and better, and more completely than before you heard the song."
Peacock sees producers such as Brian Eno and his disciple Daniel Lanois as being bright lights on today's music scene. Mike Elizondo is also on his list of top producers/songwriters/instrumentalists. Elizondo has contributed songs to Mary J. Blige, Nelly Furtado and Warren G. among others.
Peacock confesses to being a fan of the ethereal vocals from British songstress Imogen Heap of Frou Frou fame. The guy, however, that still bends his ear (and mine) is Al Green. "I am still amazed by Al Green. I listen to him and I say, ‘Man, who sings with that kind of soul?’"
With more than twenty-five years of music under his belt, Charlie Peacock has remained fresh and innovative. He has produced some of the industry's most talented artists; Al Green, Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Amy Grant. You only have to mention Peacock's name to people he has produced and you immediately sense the respect they have for him, both as a person and a producer.