Nordine, who hails from Salt Spring and teaches at VIU in Nanaimo, recently moved to Victoria, providing an opportunity for Island Jazz to sit down and ask a few questions about Departure and its musical direction.
IJ: How did Departure get started?
MN: Departure started out as a writing project when I first showed up in Nanaimo. I still have the first recording I made with James McRae and Phill Albert. We each wrote a few tunes and jammed them at James’ place, then recorded with Rick Salt in Nanaimo. Each of us had unique offerings, and from the original sessions my tune “Instep” remains and also Phill’s tune “Sireusly Mean”. “Instep” later morphed into a different kind of tune when Sherry Clayton (drummer) and I used it as a vehicle for improv. She was working out a funk feel in 3/4 and I brought my melody to her feel – just thought it might work, and it did!
IJ: Why did you call yourselves Departure?
MN: We needed a name. Phill suggested Departure after Departure Bay. James and I liked it… Afterward I realized it had other connotations, and liked that too.
IJ: Tell us more about those connotations.
Point of departure. Departure physically from one location to another. Departure from the norm. hmm…… there are a few. I think this band is definitely a spring board for me and that’s how I’d like to make it work. As a point of musical departure.
IJ: What’s the group about musically?
MN: When Brent joined me in this endeavor it became a different kind of band. Partly because of his personality and set of skills, and also because with a chordal instrument things are just different. Brent and I had talked about doing a project together in past years, and base it on original material. So that’s what it became about at that point. It was my suggestion to bring in the Fender Rhodes and I knew that he was into the sound of that instrument… and in fact owns 2 Rhodes keyboards: one for gigs which stays “in the box” and the other set up in his studio. With the Rhodes there is the “throwback” to other bands, specifically Chick Corea. Curiously, we don’t cover any Chick. We’ve been covering Keith Jarrett a bit maybe because of my influence… its hard to say. Brent wrote a chart for “Questar” and I brought in a few others that we’ve not recorded yet. So we’re an original jazz quartet with a fusion influence is the easiest way to describe it.
IJ: What do Ken Lister and Buff Allen bring to the group?
They each bring their own thing to it. Buff is the nicest drummer to work with musically that I could dream of. He’s just an amazing accompanist, very intuitive and easy to communicate with. He really has a gift. And as far as the sound of the drums, it’s like a beautiful palette. Ken is new to the group, so with Ken, there’s this wonderful solidness to the time. With his fluidity it’s just so easy to play with him – I don’t have to work at all on time – its all taken care of. Ken is the ultimate sideman. I’m hoping that over time we’ll hear more of him in the sound of the band.
IJ You say you are fusion influenced. For some traditionalists “fusion” is a bit of a dirty word. Care to comment?
MN: Fusion is what jazz is. Jazz originates from the fusion of European and African music. It couldn’t have happened any other way. So if fusion is a dirty word then jazz is dirty stuff, because as I said the origins are a fusion of styles, and ever since it began it’s just drawn from everything around it because its an improvised art form. It even brought classical influences in with the arrangers such as Gil Evans to bring it full circle and rock and roll came from jazz and blues in the first place so why not use it in jazz?
You can learn more about Departure, sample some of their music and buy their album here. Better yet, catch them live on Sunday night (Hermann’s, 8pm, $15). Highly recommended.