Interview with Jack Breslin: Music is the way I express my spirit, especially in live performance: Video

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Jazz Interview with jazz bassist Jack Breslin. An interview by email in writing. 

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

Jack Breslin: – I grew up right outside of Boston, Massachusetts. I started playing cello through my elementary school’s program at age 8. I picked up electric bass at 12, and started playing upright bass towards the end of high school. I had amazing teachers and directors through school and privately who got me into many different kinds of music, especially jazz. Sabatino D’Agostino was one of the first teachers I studied with who really got me into the art of bass. I played in several bands outside of school, including a jazz fusion that played lots of gigs. I received my undergraduate degree in music from Drew University in Madison, New Jersey. I then moved to Jersey City, NJ, to attend the graduate performance program at New Jersey City University and study with Andy Eulau. I still live and work in Jersey City, where I run a small production studio, NLK Studio, with my partner CourTney Collins. I play with bands of all different genres.

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

JB: – Even when I was only playing electric bass, I wanted to emulate the sound of the upright bass. I played a fretless bass, trying to sound like the players that inspired me. The players that influence my sound are Paul Chambers, Charles Mingus, Oscar Pettiford, Ray Brown, and Jymie Merritt Once I started playing upright bass, I was trying to get a good tone from pizzicato and from the bow. I studied classically to start, so tone production was very important. As I started to play more jazz, I tried to play acoustically, without an amp, as much as possible. A large, full tone directly from the bass is very important to my sound.

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

JB: – I use a scale exercise I learned in school almost every day. When played with the bow, it is a duple scale exercise, two notes per bow, two octaves of every major and minor scale, working through the circle of fifths. For rhythmic exercises, I always practice with a metronome, often switching where I place the beat. I’ve also been gigging regularly without a drummer, focusing on maintaining tempos.

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

JB: – I try to keep all negative influences out of my music, maintaining a positive approach whenever I step top the instrument. Playing music always has a positive effect on me.

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

JB: – I make sure I play at least my scale warm up every day, and I always do my best to make sure my chops are warmed up before long gigs to prevent injuries. I’m also a big proponent of yoga, which helps me keep my body in shape to play such a large, physically demanding instrument.

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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?

JB: – This sound has evolved greatly over the past 6-7 years. It is so fulfilling to have a group to play with consistently where you can grow together. We’ve had multiple residencies at different bars and restaurants in the area, allowing us to play our music once a week, plus playing many weddings and corporate events.

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

JB: – There has to be a balance between intellect and soul in music. If a player is too into one or the other, the music doesn’t work. One should practice the intellectual, or technical, aspects of music so that they can accurately translate the musical ideas from their heart and soul.

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

JB: – There’s a time and place for everything. If you are getting paid to play a certain kind of music, say for a wedding or a holiday party, then it’s fine give the people what they paid for. If patrons at a bar make a request, or start dancing to a particular kind of tune, then by all means, play tunes they will enjoy. But it’s also important that the players on stage accurately showcase themselves. If people are paying to see a band, they want to hear what that band wants to play.

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

JB: – One memory from a gig actually led to one of the tunes on this album. We were playing a gig as part of a residency at Eataly WTC in NYC, when the fire alarm started to go off. It was a calm, steady alarm that pulsed an Eb in 4/4 time. We stopped the tune we were playing, and were then told that everything was fine and we could play if we wanted to. We improvised an Eb blues to the beat of the alarm, and several service workers and patrons picked up on it and enjoyed the collaboration. Brian Princing, our guitarist, took that idea home and composed “False Alarm.”

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

JB: – There are ways to get young people interested in jazz. I appreciate what Postmodern Jukebox has been doing, taking modern pop tunes and recording them in all different kinds of older styles.

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

JB: – Music is the way I express my spirit, especially in live performance. I always feel the most myself when I’m on stage performing with friends and talented musicians. At the time of this record release, live performance is all but gone, which is a very difficult reality to cope with. Hopefully we will be able to get back to live performance in the NJ/NYC area soon.

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

JB: – I know too many amazing musicians who should be known to the world, but are unknown, while many musicians of lesser talent are household names. I wish that talent was actually a bigger driving factor of success than social media presence.

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

JB: – I’m always listening to Charles Mingus, Hank Mobley, Art Blakey, and Ron Carter. I also really enjoy Robert Glasper and Esperanza Spaulding in terms of modern players. Recently, I’ve been listening to more funk and soul, including Lee Fields and The Expressions, Sister Sparrow and The Dirty Birds, and St. Paul and The Broken Bones.

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

JB: – I want people to know that music is the universal language and sometimes the best way for us to communicate the intent of our hearts.

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

JB: – I would go back to Paris in the 30’s and 40’s to hang out with all the ex-pat American musicians hanging out in cafes.

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

JB: – What brought you to the world of jazz and blues? What artists made you want to bring all these modern artists to the world?

JBN: – Jazz is my life !!! More …

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

Jack Breslin, Composing/Arranging, Musician, New Jersey

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