Interview with Jim Robitaille: Music played from the heart: Video

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Jazz interview with jazz guitarist Jim Robitaille. An interview by email in writing. 

JazzBluesNews.com: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?

Jim Robitaille: – I grew up in New Bedford, Massachusetts in the US. My inception into music was from first hearing and playing to albums and 45’s that were around the house along with listening and playing along to the radio.

JBN: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?

JR: – My sound really started to develop through listening to, and playing improvised music, and listening, learning, and grafting from other instrumentalists, particularly saxophonists. Also, I feel the awareness and development of touch on the instrument that came from studying classical guitar contributed a lot, and continues to evolve.

JBN: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?

JR: – Rhythm has always been a very natural and intuitive thing for me in the styles of music I have played. I have broken it down a lot for students in my teaching over the years in regards to having an understanding and freedom with all rhythmic target points, phraseology, and comping approaches. I sometimes work on odd number note groupings, and delve a bit into the South Indian Konnakol at times to deepen my rhythmic awareness.

Part of my practice is conceptual in nature and is for maintaining and furthering techniques that support many various directional angularities with intervals that help lead towards developing personal lines and melodies. When practicing this, it is only specific to the technique and execution, and its application in how it gets absorbed and eventually appears in my vocabulary is very intuitive and natural, like language and speaking. no licks.

JBN: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?

JR: – I feel in the end, we can’t avoid what we are attracted to. We will always be drawn to that, and it is a great ally for developing your creativity and a personal sound. The players, music, art, everything really in life, will be absorbed and funneled through each persons brains, limbs, touch, and spirit, into and honest sound. Studying concepts is also good for this as you can use a concept with your own material, and not deal with specific lines or information from another player, but of course that can be beneficial too.

JBN: – How do you prepare before your performances to help you maintain both spiritual and musical stamina?

JR: – First and foremost is to be prepared and relaxed with the music your performing. Its important to be relaxed, so breathing, diet, exercise, and also communing with the musicians before going on helps you to drop into the moment when you start.

JBN: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

JR: – I feel great art does not separate these two things in a dualistic way.. When your hearing, seeing, reading, and feeling great art, the intellect etc, alone, disappears, and you are in the experience of the beauty of the work, and how that envelopes you. I think a balance of those two things is important and necessary for the creation of any art depending on each individual work. Different works will require different elements to express the truth in thew work.

JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay giving the people what they want?

JR: – Depends on what they want, ha ha.

I realized years ago that in the end, people want to hear the music that the artist loves and connects with. What is authentic to the performer, as opposed to something they do not feel connected to, that they do not love, and therefore has no heart in. If I cannot love what I am doing then I cannot expect the opposite to be expressed to an audience, or be the best that I can possibly be, or be true to myself or them. if the artist does not express what is true for themselves, then we both get cheated out of the best possible reality that never ended happening by second guessing it. All music is original by someone.

JBN: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

JR: – All my album sessions have been a great learning and growth experience. Documenting my compositions and having them captured as I hear them, in sessions that have only taken from four to nine hours to record, keeps it in the spirit of jazz in balance with the compositions. Many gigs with some great jazz and pop artists over the years in many wonderful venues like the Smithsonian Institute, the Deerhead Inn, the West Indies, Boston, shows in New York with and many many of my friends and colleagues that I share the stage with on a weekly basis.

JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?

JR: – There are no shortage of young instrumentalists learning this music that play on a high level globally. They see some of their peers doing it so that can be an influence on them. If the music is in the culture, and in the educational systems, and the home, it will get bred to future generations as oppose to only the commercialism we see more and more in music and beyond here in America. For example, people go out in Europe and the arts are supported in an entirely different way. Jazz, orchestral, and chamber music is still very strongly supported in cultures that have been around for hundreds of years compared to the short amount of time we have been here in America, where it is in many ways already sadly under supported. This music is a process and not about a particular style, so the standards of yesteryear are great songs that have stood the test of time, but the jazz art form has, is, and will continue to evolve with new hybrids and concepts by newer artists all connected to the past greats. I don’t see a disconnect, one time period evolves into the next, so younger musicians use many modern rhythmic dialects in their music as well as staying connected to the history. The important thing is to play music in the spirit of the now because you simply cannot play in the past. All that is there for younger musicians to embrace if we make it easily available to them.

JBN: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?

JR: – Music played from the heart with integrity and purity like John Coltrane’s music is very spirited, and will always get across to the listener on all levels intellectually, emotionally and spiritually.

As far as understanding the meaning of life. Outside of breeding compassion towards each other, I don’t. Ha ha.

JBN: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

JR: – To have a universal awareness for all musicians and listeners to not be led by conformity. For them to make up there own mind in what they want to play and listen to, and not have that be undermined by mass commercial entities that limit their exposure to all the choices and misalign the channels so composers can be justly compensated for their output. For all to remain open minded to music, non judgmental, free of the powers of greed.

JBN: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?

JR: – I listen to some orchestral composers that I have not listened to much in the past to fill in the gaps of music I have missed. Like Mahler etc I love Chopin preludes, anything by him really, and many new artists coming out of Europe. Other than that I really don’t listen a lot as my time is consumed with composing my own music which is always in my head, composing away from the instrument, and also learning the music in the various groups with my friends that I am a part of.

JBN: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?

JR: – I feel my music has in it a wide scope of emotional elements that are expressed in the compositions and arrangements. This runs through the listeners, bringing them into another world that can hopefully elevate them, inspire them, bring them joy, and be brought back into their world.

JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?

JR: – Oh man, I could say to go back and see the John Coltrane Quartet or Wes Montgomery, or Bach, but even that, as great as it is, might be a bit selfish or limiting on my part and way too easy, ha ha.

Your question sparks in me something more universal, maybe something that I could in a very small way contribute that could help us all in the time we are in now regarding our eco systems on the planet.

We have to evolve as people, but I think I would want to go back to live, and maybe have some kind of influence on eliminating the ways the industrial revolution evolved step by step in polluting this planet. There was pollution from other cultures on the planet dating back as early as the 1500’s, but I would want to focus on just the time period and the hemisphere I am from, where the real damage is started, and maybe get with people to start movements to show cleaner ways to accomplish the same things to the powers that be, so future generations don’t pay the price that we are paying now in the name of greed. At first I thought that this is way too great a game, too idealistic, but then history could have taken many different paths, I would just be compelling others and future generations to carry and change conscious thought on having a balance of industrial and technological progress that is in accord with everything in nature, that includes us too of course.. Things could have evolved so many other ways over the years, it just happen to end up like this because despite a very few important and outspoken naturalists like Henry David Thoreau, we allowed it to, and did not foresee the outcome that would transpire.

JBN: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself…

JR: – How do you come up with these wonderfully great and thought provoking questions for a jazz interview?

JBN: – … by time and because I live with jazz!!!

JBN: – So putting that all together, how are you able to harness that now?

JR: – As an improvisor now for sometime, I can now drop in more easily and readily to the Zen like space we exist in when we are in the moment improvising. Its a state of non thinking that involves the entire capacity of a composer, player, and all the existing elements and devices known in music to be used in an intuitive state in an instance of time. Its the most intellectual thing I can surmise, but used in the least intellectual way, because the thinking state is too slow, these areas of the brain are too slow for improvisation to exist in alone, they are good for learning, but not the deep expression that pulls it all together in a single moment of time.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

Jim Robitaille | FCTV

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