AN INTERVIEW WITH JOSEPH DALEY:
THE 22 MAGAZINE: You are a self proclaimed "sideman" who has played with some amazing bands, but in 2011 you released your first solo (composed) album?
JOSEPH DALEY: Yes, this is the initial documentation of my work as a composer. My experience as a sideman was very instrumental to the success of my debut CD project. The knowledge that I gained working with such great musicians as Sam Rivers, Charlie Haden, Muhal Richard Abrams and others provided an ideal blueprint for me to use as a model.
THE 22: Your first album was quite incredible. When did you decide to start composing this work?
JD: I have been composing music since I was very young and try to write a bit every day. It may be a short sketch, extensive development of a musical idea that I have been contemplating or an orchestration of a project in development. I am constantly reworking my compositions as I develop musically. I am very meticulous with the development of my craft.
Unfortunately, the opportunity to record a project kept eluding me. Finally, I made the decision to save the money and produce the project myself. I wanted to use a large ensemble of musicians that I have worked with over the years, so the logistics took a while to put in place.
THE 22: The title of "The Seven Deadly Sins" is kind of a self-explanatory title but tell us a little about the back story of why you chose this as your material?
JD: The material was chosen as I became familiar with the paintings of my good friend Wade Schuman whom I met while performing with Hazmat Modine. Wade created a series of paintings based on the concept of the seven deadly sins that I thought was quite an intriguing outline for a suite of music. I also researched the historic evolution of the seven deadly sins in relationship to works created by other artists and musicians who were inspired by the concept.
THE 22: You grew up in Harlem correct? How did this effect or even create your music sensibilities as a kid? Did you grow up with music?
JD: I was born in Harlem and spent my early years there but actually grew up on the lower East Side of Manhattan in the La Guardia Housing projects, a real melting pot of global culture. My parents loved music so it was a part of our daily existence. We also attended church on a regular basis which enhanced my early love for music.
THE 22: In high school you were more involved with the Latin music scene, do you feel this has influenced your work? What kind of places were you playing in high school?
JD: I attended Music and Art High School which was located on Convent Ave in Harlem. There I met many musicians with very diversified backgrounds. But my initial introduction to Latin music came through my interaction with musicians on the lower east side of Manhattan which was a hot bed for Latin music with the opening of many social clubs that featured dancing and live music. I eventually was asked to join the Monquito Santamaria Orchestra, Monquito who is the son of Mongo Santamaria was playing venues in such historic places as the Corso Ballroom, Red Garter, Hunts Point Place, Saint George Hotel plus an occasional trip to Puerto Rico. Unfortunately we never had the opportunity to go to Cuba because of the political climate of the times. A historical document of the times is the CD Live at the Red Garter, which featured many of the musicians that were on the scene such as Ray Barretto, Joe Batan, Willie Colon, Larry Harlow, Jonny Pacheco, Mongo and Moquito Santamaria and many others. The Red Garter is also where Symphony Syd would broadcast live on Monday evening during the latter part of his career. The impact of this music still has a strong influence on me.
THE 22: Do you feel there were drawbacks or advantages you had being in NY as a young adult?
JD: Growing up in New York provided many opportunities for creative growth and expression. One is surrounded by musicians playing and creating music on a very high caliber that has influenced musical trends globally. One example is the loft-jazz movement, where such artists as Sam Rivers had an international influence on new developments in jazz during the 1970s.
THE 22: You were at the MacDowell Colony; tell us a little about your time there.
JD: My time at the MacDowell Colony was a life changing experience for me. The opportunity to work on a creative project without any distractions allowed me to focus on composing The Seven Deadly Sins with unlimited attention to each detail. The creative process is similar across all disciplines. The MacDowell fellows were encouraged to discuss their projects during dinner; those conversations had a major impact on the way I worked during my time at the colony. I was able to draw creative inspiration from fellows working in the fields of architecture, literature, history, art, and creative writing. The cross pollination of disciplines had a positive influence on my work.
THE 22: What instruments do you play and what is unique or appeals to you about each of them?
JD: The tuba, euphonium and trombone are the main instruments I play. I love the sound of brass instruments in those ranges; I believe they have a spiritual quality similar to the human voice. I have had my greatest opportunities to make history while playing the tuba. Unique groundbreaking projects with Sam Rivers, Taj Mahal, Howard Johnson, Gil Evans, Jason Hwang, Charlie Haden and Bill Cole provided a platform for the tuba that I loved and embraced. The tuba was given a prestigious solo and ensemble role that I found inspiring and challenging.
THE 22: You've also done a good amount of teaching?
JD: I taught music in the New York and New Jersey public schools for over 30 years. Teaching others is the best way to learn, as you explain concepts to others they become more crystallized in you mind.
THE 22: You now play with Wade Schumann in Hazmat Modine. Tell us a little about that musical expirence.
JD: Hazmat Modine develops its repertoire from a world music platform. We utilize the sounds and rhythms of the world in the arrangement of our music. Modern technology has given us the ability to study and interact with musicians globally which is producing a new age of musical hybridism. The most successful ensembles incorporate musical ideas that they find interesting regardless of the source. Hazmat Modine has had great success with this approach. We have collaborated with the Tuvan throat singers of Huun Huur Tu, Gangbe Brass band from Benin Africa, Kronos String Quartet, Natalie Merchant and others in pursuit of an all-embracing sound.
THE 22: One of the songs on "The Seven Deadly Sins" was specifically written for your brother who was a victimized of a botched health care system. Can you talk a little about this piece?
JD: I wrote a suite for my brother Winston that is a musical narrative of his life in America. "The Ballade of the Fallen African Warrior" was written to honor his memory and to celebrate his achievements. I believe that under a more compassionate health care system he would still be alive. I come from a very loving family and his loss at such an early age was devastating.
THE 22: The album you are working on now focuses on virtues and I hear it's string based. Can you tell us a little about the project?
JD: After completing "The Seven Deadly Sin"s project I sought to do a contrasting project to showcase my skills as a composer. I chose to work with a contrasting subject matter and instrumentation. I used the instrumentation as a color palette similar to a visual artist. String ensemble writing in the jazz idiom can be a difficult pursuit; my success on this project is due to the wonderful and creative musicians who I was blessed to have on this date led by violinist concertmaster Curtis Stewart.
THE 22: With albums like "The Seven Deadly Sins" and on about virtues, the question does arise, is morality an important part of your music or who you are?
JD: It is important to have guidelines on how to fruitfully live your life. The seven deadly sins have historically provided an excellent guideline of behavioral traits that should be avoided. The virtues proposed assets that should be embraced. I come from a deeply religious family where living a virtuous life was encouraged. I must say that it is an important part of everything I do.
THE 22: Where are you working on now?
JD: I am in the research and development stages of my next project as a composer. I have written compositions for brass, percussion, woodwinds and strings; the logical next step is combining them all in a composition for symphony orchestra. The orchestra has been a major color palette for composers for generations. It presents many challenges that I am preparing myself to undertake. I have been working with the Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute in developing my skills for this project. I have had to pleasure of coaching and feedback sessions with mentor composers George Lewis, Alvin Singleton, Nicole Mitchell, Anthony Davis, Anne LeBaron, James Newton, Paul Chihara and Derek Bermel during a one week intensive at The Herb Alpert School of Music on the U.L.C.A. campus in mid-August of 2012. It was an enlightening experience which provided me with new insights and skills to employ on the symphony orchestra project.