It was a piece of advice from one of his jazz bass mentors that set Greg Cordez on a truly ambitious course for his second album. The Bath-based musician and composer was in New York checking out the scene and playing here and there when he met up with Chris Lightcap, a big figure among the city’s left field contemporary jazzers, and Greg shared a few ideas about his new compositions with him.
“His advice really struck home: to do whatever I could do to make it the best I was capable of doing so I wouldn’t look back and think ‘what if?’.”
It was an inspirational challenge that gave him the courage to go straight to another hero, US guitarist Steve Cardenas whose abstract sketching style features on some great Charlie Haden recordings. To Greg’s delight he liked the idea of playing on the album and, with Chris’s name in the project, the emboldened Greg was able to start picking his ideal New York band, assembling a fine quintet line-up with surprising ease.
Quality comes at a price, of course, and though Greg says that the players ‘were kind about their fees’ he knew he had to run a tight ship.
“We did it all in a day and a half, from first rehearsal to recording, so there was no time to mess around. We got all eight tracks with two takes for each one, no editing required. I can live with an occasional bum note in the context of something great! I’m really proud of how it’s turned out: we were strangers, after all!”
He has every right to be proud as the album is a splendid step forward from his critically acclaimed debut Paper Crane, reflecting a conscious shift in his writing style. The album tracks have a song-like concision – only the title number Last Things Last runs over the 5 minute mark – and the considerable improvisatory skills of the musicians often flow through the numbers rather than offering overlong set-piece solo passages. Each of the eight pieces has a distinctive mood and style, whether the insistent New Wave pulse of Cherry V Des Moines, the anthemic crescendo of Figlock with its soaring guitar part or the loosely woven duet of Kirk Knufke’s cornet with Cardenas’s guitar on the elegant Junebug.
If there’s a ruefulness to Last Things Last it come from Greg’s life at the time:
“As the title suggests, it’s a break-up song. Life was disentangling for me and the album reflects that, but I’m proud that I’ve documented that time as a creative thing.”
But, as ever with jazz music, the recording is only the beginning and now he needs to get the music played. Naturally he can’t fetch the original quintet across the pond but that doesn’t seem to have faded him as he prepares for a Bristol unveiling of the new material at The Fringe.
“I’m excited to bring it to some of Bristol’s best musicians – people like (Get The Blessing’s) Pete (Judge) and Jake (McMurchie) – I love giving those guys my melodies. We don’t have to duplicate the album but it sets the aesthetic agenda. This will be the first time I’ve played the material out, after all. And I love The Fringe – it’s my favourite venue in Bristol.”
And it seems that he hasn’t got the wanderlust out of his system, either: “It doesn’t matter where I go to record – next time I might try Sweden, that European scene, who knows? But Bristol’s great, you know. so I’ll always have the luxury of coming back to Bristol and the good guys are there, too!”
The Greg Cordez Quintet will be playing music from Last Things Last at The Fringe on Wednesday 23
You can hear Last Things Last on Greg’s Soundcloud page.