In 1973, at the age of 22, singer-songwriter Gary Marks self-produced his first album, 'Gathering.' It is now considered a classic - a totally unique amalgam of folk-rock-jazz that seems to get richer and more powerful through the years.
It came out on the prestigious but tiny "JCOA" label, run by Carla Bley. Original copies go for $400-500 on e-bay nowadays, since it has never been reissued. Kindred Spirits found a copy in Jazzanova's collection and contacted Gary Marks, who is still very much active as a mucisian/writer, to license to album.
What makes the album extra special is the fact that the band included guitar legend John Scofield, the renowned jazz pianist Michael Cochrane, and one of the top vibraphonists in the world, David Samuels. At the time, none of them were known to the general public. In fact, 'Gathering' was the recording debut for each of them.
Gary played guitar and sang live with the band on these tracks. No overdubs were used, and all nine tracks were first takes.
GARY MARKS – GATHERING Q&A SESSION
Description of the session/s. What were the highlights? how long did it take. Where was the recording done and were there any other sessions going on at the same time in that studio with now legendary artists?
We recorded "Gathering" in Ultra Sonic Studios in NY. I was living in Boston at the time but was playing once a month in New York. A recording engineer from the studio came to the gig, liked my songs, and asked if I wanted to make a record. I said, "Sure!" I was 21 years old and ready to take that step. He said, "Do you have a band?" Until that point I had only performed solo and didn't like "jamming." Honestly, I couldn't find too many players that could play the very long-formed, odd-styled songs I was writing. And I didn't like sitting around playing other people's music. But I said, "Sure, I have a band," because I definitely didn't want to just do a solo record.
So I went back to Boston and began looking for musicians to be in my first band. I began to walk around the music rooms of all the universities until I heard Michael Cochrane playing piano. He was great even as a kid, and I was pretty blown away. So I knocked on his door and asked him if he wanted to join a my band, which of course was an odd thing to do under the circumstances. Odder still was that I proceeded to sit down on the floor of the little practice cubical with my guitar in my lap and started playing him my songs while he was still sitting there at the piano, kind of shell shocked at my invasion of his practice space. Then we started jamming on songs. After that Michael said if we were going to record we just had to get his buddies John Scofield and David Samuels to join the band. We rehearsed for a few months at Michael's house. I had to scream/sing over the band because I didn't have a good amp for my voice. It was pretty crazy. When we got into the studio none of us had ever recorded before. We had no idea about overdubs so we gathered around in a big circle facing each other and just went for it. Almost every song was a first take. We had a very good day.
I believe that this was John Scofield's first ever time in a studio ? What was that like for him? As well as for Michael Cochrane and David Samuels?
John was always very low key, and very funny. He was relaxed in the studio setting, as was David. Michael and I were a bit more on edge. John and I always enjoyed each other's sense of humor. David Samuels was also a very brilliant witty guy, so we had a lot of fun rehearsing and recording. Michael was more serious. He became a mentor of mine. I became his piano student shortly after "Gathering" was completed, instead of going to tour all the "Gathering" songs in Europe. I had only played guitar until then. But I knew piano was another great instrument for song writing, and I wanted to take the opportunity to explore it since Michael's teaching skills were extraordinary. I think he got a kick out of teaching me because he'd teach me pages and pages of jazz theory every time I took a lesson and then I'd go home and practice 12 hours a day to not embarrass myself at the next lesson. So then he'd give me another massive amount of work thinking I could handle it. I'd leave there dazed and reeling again, and practice for another 12 hours a day.
So I learned jazz and blues from Michael and then got more deeply involved in the NY, and eventually the San Francisco/Berkeley, jazz scenes in the mid-1970's. I immersed myself in that world until I decided to go back to my rock n roll roots in the 1980's. Then I would still have my Keith Jarrett tape in the car, but at I'd be listening to The Beatles, Ray Charles, Steve Winwood, The Police, Bruce Hornsby, and Peter Gabriel.
Did this group play together on your next album/s?
John and David played on my third album, "Thoughts of Why," as well as on "Gathering." Paul McCandless also played on "Thoughts of Why." The second album, "Upon Oanda's Wing," I recorded on the West coast with jazz great, Art Lande, and his band, including Mark Isham and Bill Douglass. My second album was recorded in 1976, and my third in 1978.
Any recollections of the time-period and what was going on socially and politically that may have inspired or influenced GATHERING?
The political landscape in 1973 / 1974 deeply affected our daily lives. We were all embarrassed that Nixon was President (I'm still embarrassed that he ever WAS President), and I was deeply involved in protesting the war ... Some things never change.
Brief description about the writing of the songs and if there is any song/s that may have a particular story
Back then I guess I mostly wrote songs about my girlfriends and ex-girlfriends. Every one of those relationships has a story, but that's a novel, not an interview. What I'm saying is that love was the definitely the motivation, finding it, keeping it, growing from it. Finding more of it! I wrote a lot of political songs back then as well but "Gathering" took on a softer more complex tone as the band and the songs merged into a cohesive thing. It took on more of a spiritual resonance than a political one & my focus was more inward during that period as well.
What was the response to the album on it's release
I was happy at the very strong response, and a bit overwhelmed actually. Carla Bley distributed the record through her Jazz Composers Organization of America (JCOA) label. Then about the whole thing. But really, then, like now, I was a lot more interested in writing new songs and recording them than performing the same songs over and over again. "Gathering" received a lot of great reviews and had a lot of support in various circles. But again, every time a record deal or a manager would come into the picture the thought of touring endlessly kind of torpedoed the momentum, in their opinion at least.
Did the band from the album go on tour for the album and if so where and what were the highlights?
No, for reasons I just mentioned. I didn't want to travel around and play the same songs over and over again for endless strangers.
Are there any artist/s that has/have been heavily influenced by GATHERING and can we get a quote or story from them ?
I was honored to have Art Lande as a Gathering fan. I met him in Berkeley and he would play the record for Eberhardt Weber and other great players ho would come into the area to play. Maya Weber drew/painted two of my album jackets, as she did for so many ECM artists back then. So I had a great opportunity on the next record to have Art Lande and his band, Mark Isham, Bill Douglass, and Kurt Wortman want to play with me. Basically the entire
band of "Rubisa Patrol," (ECM records). They played on that second record, "Upon Oanda's Wing." A year or so later, I introduced Paul McCandless to Art Lande at the Berkeley Square one night. Then I brought both coasts of musical friends together on my third album: Paul McCandless, John Scofield, David Samuels, and Marks Isham all played on "Thoughts of Why."