Interview with Garth and Maud Hudson,
the soft genius of the Band, he creates.
July 4, 2007
By SYLVAIN CORMIER
photo: ©04 JUL 2007, Pedro Ruiz
The soft genius of the band is happy he believes. Sometimes in the middle of a sentence, Garth Hudson closes his eyes, 5-10 seconds. It is long when measured during an interview, more dense than regular sentences. I would swear that during those moments there is music playing in his head. It is crazy, that at these moments he resembles the Garth Hudson that so fascinated me in the 70's when I discovered him in the Martin Scorsese film, The Last Waltz, the famous document witnessing the final concert of the famous group "The Band". The Band, the most important grass roots band in the history of rock; the best musicians to have accompanied Dylan. Garth Hudson was a keyboardist of The Band and house genius.
There before me in the lobby of the Hyatt, 30 feet from the press room, of the Montreal Jazz Festival it is the same Garth the same mad scientist beard, now white, the same absolute concentration, when he closes his eyes. The same Garth, or at least next to the same, in the film, his hands so incredibly free flowing, playing, magical notes, on many keyboards at once, a Hammond organ, a synthesizer. Eyes closed today like yesterday, I am certain that he escapes to the reality he creates. To this man the creation is a priority, was always and will always be. He just has to re-listen to the fabulous intro that he improvised for the song "Chest Fever" in 1968 or "Every Time I See The Sun," the extraordinary piece of piano solo that opens the recent LIVE at the WOLF, the jazz album that Garth presents with his companion, the soulful Maud Hudson.
Maud and Garth have been married for 27 years. She is wheelchair bound, the result of a car accident. They are not any less happy, he at nearly seventy and she in her mid fifties. She laughs out loud and Garth cracks when I ask them why in the world they were held up at the border on Monday, while they were being expected to participate in the Cowboy Junkies show. Maud is content to say that the custom guards were so sympathetic that they wanted to keep us close a little too long.
Maud, who is also Garth Hudson's publicist and manager, considers herself his accompanist even if she occupies a place centre stage, "It is him, the centre, the creative force. In all the time that I have been with him he has never stopped creating, Garth shrugs: it is not true that I am always creating, I chop wood, I fish, I hunt, he says while smiling a good smile." The creative process mainly takes place at the Hudson home, in their splendid log cabin in the Catskills, not far from the pink house where The Band recorded Music from Big Pink. The jazz piano period of his life that he is starting, according to Maud, he has been preparing for many years. Garth gives her an affectionate smile. Jazz is in other words a second life for me he says. Without wanting to be perceived as pretentious, I consider that my left handed playing has improved considerably since I started playing jazz. I feel like I did when I was 19 or 20 years old, when we had that feeling that all the information was seeping in at the same time. It is a revelation, rebirth for me, everything seems possible to me. Maud wants to emphasize that there are still songs from the Band in the
show; The Band will always be a part of him. The song, "It Makes No Difference" is dedicated to Richard Manuel and Rick Danko, the two departed members of The Band. I miss them, says Garth, who suddenly seems lost in his thoughts.
Maud brings him back to the present and to the interview. Maud is Garth's anchor. When he launches into complex explanations about the learning process, she translates. He speaks the way he plays, in a wide ranging way. His elocutions are understand to only him or other musicians. Maud mentions that they are in the process of creating the Garth Hudson Institute, a place where musicians of all ages and all backgrounds would be able to benefit from all different types of learning techniques that Garth has developed.
They will see Bob Dylan after their concert, it is perfect, we will be finishing at the same time as his intermission, adds Maud. Will they go say Hi to Van Morrison, this reporter asks, on stage, after this interview. Van is in Montreal asks Garth and Maud; Ah yes, this reporter replies. It is nearly a reunion of the oldies from The Last Waltz at the Jazz Festival. We have not seen each other in a while, sighs Garth. I feel the same way. The magic of the music would have sealed the deal.
Garth and Maud Hudson, in concert at the Savoy of Métropolis, this
evening at 7pm.
(Translated by Alex Lifson and Marlene Brown)