David Torn has done work in so many capacities in such a variety of musical projects that it's somewhat daunting to try to state just what exactly he is.
Certainly Torn's a guitarist of humbling technique--but he's always been more interested in texture and sound than the kind of electric shredding beloved in guitar-hero-worshiping circles. It was during his tenure as guitarist with the New York-based Everyman Band--a group originally formed to support rock artist Lou Reed--that Torn's unusual, processed electric textures and highly original approach began to get noticed--and this attention only grew with the releases of two ECM recordings under his own name, Best Laid Plans (1985) and Cloud About Mercury (1987).
Torn parted ways with ECM, but has continued to release excellent records, while other activities have come to fill his time. He's worked as a session musician for countless artists; he's played on many film soundtracks as well. Currently a large part of his time is spent actually composing for motion pictures, which he calls his true love and ambition.
One can't fail to mention Torn's simultaneous career as a recording producer, mixer and writer. His fascinating, rich mixing has deeply enhanced such modern jazz classics as Drew Gress's 2005 CD 7 Black Butterflies and Dave Douglas' Keystone (also from 2005). He has done invaluable post-recording work for his great friend and collaborator altoist/composer Tim Berne. Oh, and he's written a big hit for Madonna.
But it was at Berne's insistence that Torn returned to live performance. His new CD on ECM, Prezens, is an amazing recording that sounds like nothing else out there and stands up to dozens of listenings. AAJ Contributing Editor Paul Olson telephoned Torn at his Pasadena home to speak about his diverse career.
Check out David Torn: A Lifetime of Improvisation in Non-Improvisational Settings at AAJ today!
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