RON KORB
World Café
(Humble Dragon Entertainment)

 

The release of World Café by Canadian flutist / composer Ron Korb sets a new level of excellence in 21st century Contemporary Instrumental fusion music. As he’s proven on his past music releases, Ron Korb creates his albums as sonic travel-logs filled with picturesque and often harmonic, scenic views of music. Ron’s wonderfully packaged CD release from 2015, Asia Beauty was filled with Chinese and Japanese music. After hearing his 2018 album, one can clearly say that the difference between the two albums is that World Café has a very Latin and South American musical feel and mood. There’s also a track here called “New Orleans” that features a vibe of Afro-Cuban and Caribbean culture and on the other hand, Ron offers a salute to the picturesque Mediterranean countries in his flute-based instrumental music featured on the track “Sans Regret”. The World Café CD is also wonderfully packaged in another hard-bound book case and is filled with amazing artwork with full track credits. With the scenic destinations changing track-to-track, Ron also takes you far and wide to the Caribbean and South Pacific to Argentina and Spain. The end results as heard on World Café makes for a brilliant sound journey from the musical imagination of Ron Korb. The studio sound on the CD is excellent and the supporting musicians all stand out while serving to support Ron and his flute-based music. One player who does stand out is accordion player Joseph Macerollo on the aforementioned “Sans Regret” and its reprise track later on in the album. A master of mixing jazzy World Music grooves with upbeat New Age vibes, Ron Korb takes listeners of contemporary instrumental music on a first class trip around the globe on World Café. www.facebook.com / www.ronkorb.com




mwe3.com presents a new interview with

RON KORB


mwe3
: Because your 2015 album Asia Beauty was so successful, not to mention the Grammy nomination, I was almost expecting second volume of Chinese and Japanese style instrumental music. So what made you want to go in a completely different direction on World Café, with its accent on South American and Latin musical vibes? Is that music yet another side of your musical nature?

Ron Korb: Many people shared your expectation and thought this album would be similar to Asia Beauty. World Café has gotten an amazing reception so far and like you everyone has been astonished by the completely different direction of the music. This reminds me of when I had a major success with Japanese Mysteries in 1993 and everyone thought I would release an album in the same Asian style. My follow up was Flute traveller with unaccompanied flutes from around the world and then Behind The Mask, which was a composite of styles. It had some Japanese influence but also songs with Indonesian, Celtic, Chinese and Spanish flavor. When an artist has a success in instrumental music, it is a tendency to put out a series of sequels often with the same name like Tubular Bells 2, Tubular Bells 3, and then the Millennium Bell etc. Initially you will definitely sell more, but often you get stuck in that framework which can inhibit your musical freedom later. With Behind The Mask demonstrating that I embraced many styles, I was able to release album in any direction I felt like such as Celtic Heartland, Taming the Dragon, Europa and even Asia Beauty and World Café.

mwe3: You have 250 flutes in your collection. Compared to Asia Beauty does World Café feature as many flutes in the recording of the music? What flutes did you play mostly on World Café and are other wind instruments featured on certain tracks? Was there a go-to flute you used on most of the tracks?

Ron Korb: On World Café the main instrument is my concert flute but I also used some Asian bamboo flutes and the ocarina on some tracks. On this album I was able to experiment with the Ellis-Korb flute mouthpieces that I have been developing with California flute maker Geoffrey Ellis. With the different cuts and various hardwoods we used, I could tailor the sound for each piece. On the front cover of the album you can see the dark wooden head joint underlining the title World Café. It had been a long 6 year project creating the holy grail of embouchure designs and now we are very excited about what we have achieved together.

mwe3: “Bailar Conmigo” is a superb introduction to the World Café album and features your flute backed by strings, percussion and guitars. What made you want to start the album off with this track? Tell us something about the band you put together for World Café and how it differs say from Asia Beauty. Is the unique mix of instrumentation a key aspect of your sound and do you look for, not only great players to support your music but also for unique and unexpected combinations of instruments?

Ron Korb: It is always challenging to decide which track should start an album. As you know I always like to tell a story with my music and I found “Bailar Conmigo (Dance with Me)” was a good invitation into the journey of World Café. My core band of Bill Evans on piano, Larry Crowe on drums and Steve Lucas on acoustic bass is consistent with my last three records. However, I did invite specialists like pianist Hilario Duran, guitarist Johannes Linstead accordionist Joseph Marcerollo and percussionist Jorge “Papiosco” Torres to add flavor to the feast of sound. As far as unique instrumentation it is whatever will serve the song the best. In Asia Beauty the yangqin, guzheng, pipa and the Chinese flutes perfectly suited the songs and the kind of imagery I was trying to create.

mwe3: Track 2 “Sans Regret” is classic. How did you meet up with the brilliant accordionist Joseph Macerollo and how did the Mediterranean sound impact the album? It seems to work brilliantly but my only complaint is that it’s too short. Is that why you reprised the melody on the “Sans Regret Reprise” track? I was kind of surprised that the flute was left off the first version and then featured in the second reprise version. How did you come up with the title? It translates to “no regrets” right? It seems the title perfectly fits the mood and melody.

Ron Korb: Yes, “Sans Regret” does mean “no regrets” and it was the working title when I wrote the song and I never felt a need to change it. It was conceived as an Italian or French Mediterranean café song. I met Joseph Macerollo via the wonderful guitarist Bill Bridges who also plays on the album. Bill played with Peggy Lee and Lena Horne and he has known Joe for years. As I mentioned in the liner notes I had intended to play the lead melody on flute but his playing was so expressive I thought it would be nice just to keep it as an accordion feature. This is not the first time that this happened. When British cellist Caroline Lavelle played “Sligo Song” on Celtic Heartland I decided to keep it as a cello solo. “Sans Regret” is a theme tying the album together.

mwe3: “Cordoba” lightens the mood with its Southern Spain vibe. Johannes Linstead offers a fine performance on the track, which is also enhanced by some traditional Spanish percussion. Is music from Spain among your big musical influences and how would you compare the musical influence of music from Spain with influences from other predominantly Spanish speaking countries such as Cuba and also the South American countries? Also, tell us about the picture superimposed on the “Cordoba” page in the booklet with the columns or pillars.

Ron Korb: When I traveled through Andalusia I did stay in Córdoba and even attended mass in the Mezquita Mosque-Cathedral, which is the photo in the liner notes with the columns and colored arches you mentioned. In Seville, I was fortunate to attend a flamenco convention and heard a lot of authentic music and was particularly impressed by the vocal performances. It is easy to fall in love with Spanish music and certainly historically it was a huge influence on the music in South America and the Caribbean. However, in the new world it mixed with African music and indigenous music and developed its own unique rhythms and styles of playing. On this album we showcased dance rhythms from different parts of the Spanish-speaking world like rumba, samba, cascara, bolero, and tresillo.

mwe3: I guess part of the answer to the “Cordoba” question can be heard on “Hilario”. That track features some tasty conga playing by Jorge and of course the Cuban jazz sound of pianist Hilario Duran. I didn’t realize Hilario played with Dizzy Gillespie and other players you mention in the booklet. Tell us about the Cuban music influence in your music. It seems many Canadian recording artists are quite fond of Cuban music and especially Cuban born pianists. Do you have some other influences and how about the Afro-Cuban music influence on your music?

Ron Korb: There are many excellent Cuban musicians living in Toronto and across Canada. “Hilario” was such a fun piece to record. When I wrote the tune I never expected him to play it so it was such a real thrill when we recorded it with his favorite Cuban conga player and bassist. Afro-Cuban music is another genre that is pretty hard not to like. It is very complex but also so danceable and accessible. The flute actually figures quite prominently into a lot of Afro-Cuban music, which I suppose makes it quite attractive to me. There is a long tradition of amazing Cuban flutists like Richard Egues but also many other Latin flutists like Nestor Torres and Dave Valentin. Actually the first jazz flute album I bought that had a Latin flavor was by American flutist by Herbie Mann. The album featured Chick Corea on piano and an Afro-Cuban rhythm section where they even played a cover of “Manteca” by Dizzy Gillespie, who you mentioned.

mwe3: “Island Life” is quite colorful sounding and to underscore that style you combine bass flute with 12-hole ocarina. Again this track features Larry Crowe on a range of percussion and two acoustic guitars. I didn’t realize the ocarina is a Japanese instrument. How did recording the song with two guitars sound affect the sound and what does the bass flute bring to the track? Can you contrast the differences between the Caribbean music with the South Pacific musical sound? Yet the “Island Life” sounds of both parts of the world are sometimes connected right?

Ron Korb: The ocarina is found in many parts of the world. The Japanese ocarina I play on “Island Life” is from Nagoya made famous by a player named Sojiro. In fact, in Japan this instrument is popular for hobbyists who have groups and ocarina clubs. The bass flute just added a deep sonority that complimented the ocarina and helped clarify the arrangement. The two guitars playing at once added a nice live energy. Funny you mention the connection between Caribbean music with the South Pacific. At one point, I experimented with adding Angklung and it sounded completely like Hawaiian music. It threw the album out of balance so I didn’t use it. Still it was a amazing how that one element could have such an effect.

mwe3: I had forgotten Buenos Aries is the capital of “Argentina”, another track on World Café. This track has a strong Tango vibe thanks to another World Café performance by Joseph Macerollo. How influential is the tango style in your own music? The strings are there but somewhat subdued in a way. Do you have a favorite Tango music composer?

Ron Korb: Astor Piazzolla certainly is the name that comes to mind when thinking of Argentinian music. So many artists have covered his songs and they are indeed timeless classics. It was amazing to see tango dancers with a live band in Buenos Aries but my treatment is more impressionistic strictly speaking. This song is more inspired by the elegant and sultry atmosphere of the city and warm feeling from the people. I used some tango elements in the piano part but the rhythm is a cha cha and we use a drum kit, which I have never heard in the tango ensembles. Also in true tango they play a bandoneon whereas we used an Italian accordion. It is not my intent to be authentic but rather paint a picture, tell a story and have the arrangement serve the song.

mwe3: “Take My Hand” takes the listener to Brazil and it’s interesting that you wrote words for the track but I was surprised there was not singer or vocalist on that track. So the words you feature in the booklet is more like a poem describing the track? Do you sometimes think in terms of phrasing your melodies with a song lyric, only with the instrumental melody filling in for the words and lyrics? Also what can you tell us about the flute you use on the track, which is called a Cuica flute?

Ron Korb: The poem in the liner notes of “Take My Hand” are actual lyrics that are written for the song. I hope one day the lyrics will be translated into Spanish or Portuguese and be recorded by a singer. I don’t normally think of lyrics when I am phrasing but rather I imagine the breath being like a paint brush in Asian calligraphy. The breath is painting the notes in other words. The cuica is a Brazilian friction membranophone heard in songs like “Soul Bossa Nova” by Quincy Jones. I have a little cut off flute that I can get a similar effect so I named it the cuica flute.

mwe3: “Patagonia” is an interesting song in that I never knew the place existed. It’s not a country, but it’s a region right and it’s shared between two countries, Argentina and Chile. Interesting that you spent some time there. How would you contrast the desert life of Patagonia with the more urban centers of the region? What’s the most amazing historical aspect of Patagonia?

Ron Korb: Patagonia is a vast area of scenic beauty whereas the urban centers like Buenos Aries are bustling and crowded with people. As far as historical aspects Patagonia, it was one of the places visited by the young Charles Darwin and it is also a place of great interest to paleontologists. The fossilized bones of the largest dinosaur ever to walk the Earth were found in Patagonia. My song “Patagonia” was meant to convey the feeling of barreling down a dusty highway through this long expanse of wide-open country.

mwe3: With its accent on foreign destinations, I was kind of surprised to see a World Café track called “New Orleans”. I’m thinking you wanted to highlight the New Orleans sound, which blends Afro-Cuban music with Creole and European styles. The World Café page with the “New Orleans” pictures is great. Where did you find the picture and is there a kind of voodoo influence in the track? Did you tell pianist Bill Evans to play in a kind of funky and bluesy style and is that the essence of the track? You also mention in the booklet that Bill and Steve Lucas (bass) and Larry Crowe (drums) are your key collaborators so would you say your band chemistry comes alive on that track?

Ron Korb: “New Orleans” is more related to the rest of the album than one would think as the groove is based on an Afro-Cuban rhythm. I would say our chemistry comes alive on that track. Those guys didn’t need to be told anything about funk or blues. They are dialed in to play like this and often while we are warming up Mr. Evans will play some New Orleans stride piano. Larry has for the past few years been interested in second line drum patterns and Steve can play anything. So I thought it would be great to write a piece that used some of that funky voodoo. The photo was taken by Jade in the French Quarter when we were in New Orleans for the ZMR Awards.

mwe3: What would a World Café musical concept be without a “Carnival”? Interesting to note that Carnival is both popular in New Orleans and Brazil. I didn’t know “Carnevale” meant ‘farewell to meat’. Your albums are not only musically brilliant but educational too! Also, this track features three different flutes, so what are the differences between the bamboo flute, the shinobue and your regular flute? The congas and timbales of Jorge really enhances this track.

Ron Korb: In “Carnival” I wanted to create a very festive energy where the percussion can let loose. I am glad you think the albums are educational. It is not my goal per se but I do like to bring different ideas and experiences to my audience. I am not a linguist but to answer you question I assume it is the other way around and ‘carne‘ came first. Carnival as the Christian feast before lent are held all over the world. It is a time when people can lose their inhibitions and when even the social classes can intermingle on a equal playing field. Each flute has a different characteristic. As far as the difference between the flute, the concert flute can play with a full tone over three octaves whereas the bamboo flute can produce interesting slides and effects.

mwe3: I had forgotten you actually have three different versions of “Sans Regret” on World Café. The “Sans Regret Finale” track really captures the essence of the melody. Without the accordion, the song takes on a neoclassical style. Tell us about your experiences in old Montreal, which you mention inspired the track. How would you contrast life in Montreal with Toronto?

Ron Korb: In the last version of “Sans Regret” which is the finale, I played the bass flute to give it darker richer mood and a completely different sound from the accordion recording. I had the cellist Margaret Maria play four parts to give an lush orchestral texture. Toronto is a very diversified city with many different cultures but is essentially English speaking. In Montreal, the majority of the population speaks French making it the second biggest French city in the world. Montreal has a lot of old world European charm and has a strong arts culture.

mwe3: A couple years back, you were nominated for a Grammy award for New Age album of the year for Asia Beauty. I realize your fans were disappointed the album didn’t win however I think that the instrumental music Grammy should have a variety of genres as your music is not only New Age but also a new kind of 21st century instrumental music category that transcends genres.

Ron Korb: That is very kind of you to say that. In the first place, being nominated for a Grammy is already an incredible honor, and for that I will always be grateful. The genres can be broken down further to things like Traditional World, World Fusion, Crossover, Ambient or as you suggest 21st Century instrumental. However, I have been thinking lately about the whole issue of genres in general. In some ways as soon as you identify a genre it is the beginning of its decline. Musicians start to think in terms of adhering to the attributes of the form and self restrict themselves. I think for an artist the best thing is not to think about how your album will fit in but just make the best music you can.

mwe3: You dedicate World Café to your father Lothar Korb. In the Asia Beauty interview you did for mwe3.com a few years back, you spoke about your Mom, who passed away in 2011. Tell us about your Dad and his fondness for Latin style music. It’s hard to put a price on the wonderful experiences our parents give us and it’s great you are able to dedicate World Café to your father.

Ron Korb: My father wasn’t a musician but he had a lot of musical potential. He had an amazing ear and was a very sophisticated listener. Among his favorite songs of mine were the Latin influenced songs like "Dark Eyes,” “Casco Viejo” and “La Sirena.” My musical upbringing was very unique and unlike what most people assume. My parents didn’t encourage my musical interests but they didn’t discourage them either. In college I realized many of my fellow students had stage parents that were fully involved since childhood. My parents really let me find my own path and let me discover things on my own. My father was brilliantly inventive person and he instilled in me the importance of always trying to create something new.

mwe3: I describe your music as being like “trip-tik” journeys into the realms of contemporary instrumental World Beat music. You put in so much effort and talents into each of your releases. Is that a good way to describe your music? So, you’ve now released World Café and it perfectly compliments Asia Beauty, so what musical destinations do you have your eyes set on next?

Ron Korb: Thank you for describing my music that way. I often feel these albums are like making a film. We put a lot of effort into the stories, the visuals of the booklet as well as the music. World Café has just been born so I can’t even think of the next project. These new songs need to find their footing in the world before it is time to chart a course to the next destination.





 

 
   
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