release of World Café by Canadian flutist / composer
Ron Korb sets a new level of excellence in 21st century Contemporary
Instrumental fusion music. As hes 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. Rons 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. Theres 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
mwe3.com presents a new interview with
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
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.
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 its 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.
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 didnt 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
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 didnt 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 didnt use it. Still it was a amazing
how that one element could have such an effect.
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 its 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 dont 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.
Patagonia is an interesting song in that I never knew
the place existed. Its not a country, but its a region
right and its 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?
Whats 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. Im 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 didnt 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.
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 didnt 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.
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 didnt 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. Its
hard to put a price on the wonderful experiences our parents give
us and its great you are able to dedicate World Café
to your father.
Ron Korb: My father wasnt 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 didnt encourage my musical interests
but they didnt 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
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, youve 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 cant 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.