Sound It Out: “20 Questions” #24 — Gordon Grdina

Another installment of the recurring “Sound It Out: 20 Questions” feature on, with an artist answering a survey inspired by the famous Proust Questionnaire…

(Gordon Grdina by Peter Gannushkin.)

Guitarist and oud player Gordon Grdina is an artist who crosses borders, whose music blends progressive jazz improvisation with Arabic and other traditions. He has a flair for reconciling his far-flung enthusiasms, from Ornette Coleman to Bartók, Tim Berne to Soundgarden. Gordon, born in Vancouver in 1977 (with Slovenian, Italian and French-Canadian heritage), worked closely with mentor Gary Peacock, and he made his 2006 debut album, Think Like the Waves, with the great bassist and drum icon Paul Motian. He has also worked with the likes of Jim Black, Benoît Delbecq and Mats Gustafsson. Increasingly connected to the New York scene, Gordon has two new albums: the intensely poetic Inroads, with the eponymous quartet featuring several Sound It Out favorites: reed player Oscar Noriega, pianist Russ Lossing and drummer Satoshi Takeishi; and Ejdeha, which features his group The Marrow, with cellist Hank Roberts, bassist Mark Helias and percussionist Hamin Honari. Gordon makes his Sound It Out series debut on June 16, 2018, fronting his Inroads Quartet on a double-bill with Noriega’s Crooked Trio.

About his quartet and its music, Gordon says: “Oscar, Russ and Satoshi are all amazingly well-rounded, multi-faceted musicians. This isn’t easy music to grasp right off while you’re playing it, as it is highly contrapuntal – with each instrument focused on its own part. But these guys are master improvisers, and band solidified on the road, where everyone’s unique voice began to shine and the compositions started to click.

“Over the past few years, I’ve really started to connect some disparate directions musically,” Gordon adds. “For me, the oud and the guitar are interchangeable now in a way. How I’m approaching each instrument is becoming more and more similar. I’m moving further away from the original Arabic sound of the oud and starting to push my own voice through its history. But I hear so many connections to so many genres in this music and from these musicians. More and more, it feels like jazz is looking outwards, toward Indian music, Persian music, Arabic music. They’re all giving jazz another viewpoint on improvising.” — BB

  1. What was the first jazz album you fell in love with and stayed in love with?

My Funny Valentine by Miles Davis.

  1. What do you think is one of the most overrated jazz albums ever?

I think as a whole jazz records are underrated

  1. What’s one of your all-time favorite non-jazz albums?

Exile on Main Street by The Rolling Stones.

  1. What’s the last album you listened to from beginning to end – and did you like it?

The London Sessions by Howlin’ Wolf – love that album. Charlie Watts is killing on there…

  1. What’s your favorite film score?

It’s a tie: There Will Be Blood by Jonny Greenwood and Dead Man by Neil Young.

  1. What was the most recent concert – of any genre – that made you fall in love with music all over again?

Two: Tim Berne’s Snakeoil at Ibeam in Brooklyn and the Josh Zubot String Quintet at Western Front in Vancouver.

  1. Which are your very favorite and least favorite venues for live music?

My favorite: China Cloud, Vancouver – it’s warm, loose, has that certain mojo… My least favorite: I don’t know if I have one of those…

  1. What’s your favorite quote about music?

“You can’t always write a chord ugly enough to say what you want to say, so sometimes you have to rely on a giraffe filled with whipped cream.” — Frank Zappa

  1. If you could have a drink with any late visual artist of the past, who would it be?

Hieronymus Bosch – not sure how that would go, but it would be interesting…

  1. What are the top three tools of your trade?

Voice recorder, Anderson archtop guitar, Mohammed Fadal oud.

  1. What’s your most indispensable piece of technology that isn’t music-oriented?

Running shoes.

  1. What are your top media sources of writing/opinion/news about music?

John Zorn’s Arcana series…

  1. What non-musical/non-technological quality is most important to being an enduringly creative musician?

Curiosity, fortitude and fearlessness (or intense fear of humiliation – I’m not sure which).

  1. What living person do you most admire – and what’s one quality he or she has that you most admire?

Malala Yousafzai, for her stoic fearlessness.

  1. What living person do you most despise – and what’s one quality he or she has that you most despise?

Trump, obviously – for his self-righteousness.

  1. What’s your favorite place in the world?

My backyard patio – a chill, well-lighted, welcoming place.

  1. If you could live in another time period, when would that be?

Th mid- to late 1960s – that seems like a time when there was so much optimism about changing the world for the better…

  1. What book would you most like to read again?

Too Loud a Solitude by Bohumil Hrabal.

  1. What film haven’t you seen that you feel like you should?

Indian Horse – it’s a film dealing with residential schools in Canada, and a good friend of mine, Jesse Zubot, did the soundtrack.

  1. What would you like your last meal to consist of?

Papaya salad, beef panang and a pumpkin curry at Yum Yum Thai in London, England.