Interview with Walter Gaeta: Perhaps we should start from these ideas: Video

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Jazz interview with jazz pianist Walter Gaeta. An interview by email in writing. 

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

Walter Gaeta: – I was born in Lanciano, a small town in a region called Abruzzo (central Italy) located 10 km away from the sea and 50 km away from the mountains. Music has been part of my life since childhood, as everyone in my family (including grandparents) loved music, singing and dancing. My father played the guitar as an amateur.

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

WG: – I started playing various instruments until I focused on the piano when I was about 15. I realized that I wanted to be a musician and especially a Jazz musician after listening two LPs that changed my life: “Mr. Hands” and “Man-Child” by Herbie Hancock. Since then I have never stopped looking for my synthesis of sound and expressiveness.

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

WG: – Listening is essential before playing. It is often thought that the musician must be good at playing, but the difference is knowing how to listen. The pianist has a rhythmic independence between the fingers, but the study of the rudiments of drums (paradiddle etc.) are very helpful to me. I think the constant use of the metronome in a strategic way is an infinite asset in order to improve rhythmically.

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

WG: – This is a growing problem in our age, because we have a thousand possibilities to be affected both negatively and positively. Perhaps the solution could lie in distinguishing the moment of listening (reception) from the creative moment (production). Indeed, when I compose I am estranged from any listening and I let the sound or the ideas that have remained entangled in my soul take their own path and live independently. I always try to give my own identity to the composition, without mimicking features that do not really belong to me.

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

WG: – I think it is very important to choose good travel companions, musicians among which there is mutual respect and you feel comfortable with. From the great musicians that I happened to accompany I learned not to talk about music before going on stage. There is a time for study, one for rehearsals (if there is one) and one to express all the best, as if it were your last concert, but without overdoing it and keeping in mind the final message you want to convey to the public.

There could be talk or advertising about your CD

JBN: – Ism is culled from a variety of lives dates with various performers over the course of a few years. Did your sound evolve during that time? And how did you select the musicians who play on the album?

WG: – The musicians who play on the record are all old friends of mine, there is a strong esteem and affection between us and they are all astonishingly great musicians. Instead, with the great and extraordinary Alex Sipiagin there was an unforeseen opportunity. We met in Italy at the Rocca San Giovanni Jazz International Festival. I asked him if he wanted to do a solo on the fourth track before leaving and he accepted with great pleasure (the tune is Rondo ‘for Max).

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

WG: – Great question. I used to think that it was all about the soul. But today I can tell you that there must be a compromise between these two elements, even though it can sometimes be hard to spot, when you find the right balance everyone in the audience can feel the magic.

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

WG: – It has been an open question for centuries and even Mozart and Beethoven struggled with this dilemma. We could talk for hours and maybe never come up with a satisfying solution but I will give it a shot with a famous aphorism by Buddha:

If you don’t bend the bow enough

it will not be able to shoot the arrow,

but if you bend it too much, the bow will break

and it will be unusable.

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

WG: – We had a great time recording the album and I think there was a nice creative energy among everyone. For track n.6 Dante played a riff on the piano in front of me and we suddenly wrote a crazy tune out of it. The 7/8 time signature gives it a wild feel and a unique feature compared to the other tracks.

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

WG: – The great McCoy Tyner used to say that standards are like babies, you have to make them grow up, feed them. Musicians have a great responsibility in this field. A great book by Wynton Marsalis, “Moving to Higher Ground: How Jazz Can Change Your Life”, explains how it is no longer time to be “enigmatic” (“play what you hear”, “if you have to ask questions, you will never learn”, etc) this is one of the reasons why the aesthetics of jazz remain a mystery for so many people. Wynton is the first to urge us musicians and all the insiders to correct the way of listening to jazz, demonstrating that the concerts that underlie this music can change your life. In addition, art means engaging in the world, not just what surrounds us. Perhaps we should start from these ideas.

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

WG: – The spirit is that immortal part of each one of us. That timeless energy that makes life possible where Two are One and One splits in two. The Persian mystic poet Rumi said that there is a place where there is no division between the absolutely good and the absolutely bad, everything is part of the same energy, here perhaps is gathered the spirit. I like to see life as a transition between different dimensions, like the phases of the life cycle of a butterfly.

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

WG: – Music cannot be forced, it’s a spontaneous stream of feelings expressed through a specific order of sounds. As long as we respect this process there will be no meaningless songs or tunes and as long as music keeps making people joyful I don’t feel like changing anything.

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

WG: – Max Ionata, Clarence Penn, Reuben Rogers – Kind of Trio

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

WG: – The beauty of life in all its facets. I like to explore territories that sound new to me, in order to find a way to express something that would be impossible to describe through words.

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

WG: – I would go to New York in the late 1960s and see the official recording session for various jazz masterpieces among which “Kind of Blue” by Miles Davis, “Jazz Party” by Duke Ellington, “Mingus Ah Um” by Charles Mingus, “Jazz Advance”, “The Cecil Taylor Quartet at Newport” and “Time Out” by Dave Brubeck. I would never miss Thelonious Monk playing at Town Hall and Ornette Coleman at Five Spot.

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

WG: – Based on your privileged position as a critic and listener, what would you recommend to those who have never listened to jazz to make them fall in love with this music?

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

WG: – We are all looking forward to perform our album live and we have many surprises to share with our audience. I think we will never feel like we’ve said everything and we will always be looking for that “untold” sensation.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

Walter Gaeta | Opera, Amor Mio

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