Jazz interview with jazz organist, trumpeter Paul Moran. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?
Paul Moran: – I grew up in South Shields, County Durham and was brought up on a love of music. My father Tommy, a professional jazz musician himself filled my home and life with his own music and had us listening to the giants of jazz and big band greats for as long as I can remember. As a boy I would often accompany him to the clubs where he would perform.
JBN.S: – What got you interested in picking up the organ, trumpet?
PM: – Obviously my father encouraged his kids to learn music. It was never a thought process to become interested in picking up an instrument. The opportunity was just there to try and enjoy. My first instrument was the piano.
JBN.S: – What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today? What made you choose the organ, trumpet?
PM: – I studied classical piano from the age of 10 tutored by Mrs Liddle, who herself was the principal organist at the LRAM & Royal Operatic Society. I also studied in the Society of Young Musicians ran by Mrs Liddle and her husband Lance.
I later went on to study a Trinity College Licentiate Diploma at South Shields Technical College taught by Adrian Officer..
At the age of 11 I was given an old cornet to practice on by the local educational authority in South Shields. I never looked back and will always be grateful for that.
JBN.S: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?
PM: – My grounding was classical music however through the influence and encouragement of my father, jazz was never far away from my practice time. Once all serious classical practice was done, I would veer towards jazz, looking at jazz riffs, runs, and pieces, some learnt by ear, and some through bought transcriptions.
After I began the cornet I joined brass bands. When I joined the local senior band as part of the 1st cornet section I was again given a cornet. This time it was a brand new Boosey & Hawkes imperial cornet for band play – quite a horn to be given free in the those days! At 13 I joined the stage band and my parents bought me a second hand full size B flat trumpet. I soon found my heart was there playing the big band arrangements by Count Basie, Woody Herman, Glenn Miller, Ted Heath, Stan Kenton. It was here that I was given the chance to improvise solos influenced by these big band greats and where I began to find my sound.
JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?
PM: – Practice Practice Practice!
It really is one ‘bang on’ saying, and works every time…..the more ‘wood shedding’ you do, the better you get. With regards to ‘chops’, I practice scales, arpeggios and J.S. Bach Inventions, Preludes & Fugues. I don’t really practice jazz…. it has always kind of come naturally to me, with a combination of harmonic structure knowledge and using my ears to take me where I need to go. I think it’s important to develop an ear just as much as practicing scales out of a book!
JBN.S: – Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now?
PM: – I am a very blues, be bop type player. I play around the chord structures, obviously using licks and runs I have practiced over many years, related scales etc., including diminished and whole tone…..but when I play ‘outside’, it is very much an ‘ear’ thing for me……I don’t get bogged down with ’which mode am I in now’.
JBN.S: – What do you love most about your new album: <Smokin B3 Volume 2>, how it was formed and what you are working on today. Next year your fans like we can wait for a new album?
PM: – I have wanted to do a follow up album to Smokin B3 for years as it’s where my heart lies – pure jazz Hammond organ. I finally had the chance to go into the studio with some of my favourite musicians including Jim Mullen on jazz guitar to create Smokin B3 Volume 2 which I love.
On Volume 2 I have embraced my Jimmy Smith influences to produce a jazz Hammond organ in the more traditional “bop” style of the early 60’s. I also called upon my influences of the late great Jimmy McGriff and Richard “Groove” Holmes for the more soulful side of the album on tracks such as “Have you Seen Her?” and “Working in a Coal Mine” The track “ Where or When” the Rogers and Hart classic was recorded by Holmes years ago and I tip my hat to him on this one… a flat out straight ahead grooving swing track. The album is in fact more about a “straight ahead swing” but soulful tracks are in there too
JBN.S: – Many aspiring musicians are always looking for advice when navigating thru the music business. Is there any piece of advice you can offer to aspiring students or even your peers that you believe will help them succeed and stay positive in this business?
PM: – The business has several different fields such as the recording process, the promotion, production and management of material and artists and copyright and commercial recordings and live music. Some areas will be more stable than others to focus on career wise. However all musicians are likely to hit hard times with huge personal sacrifices and knocks backs. My father told me that you don’t choose music it chooses you and if you are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to make it a viable career then embrace the tough road from the outset and go for it. Believe in yourself. You will get to do what you love and love what you do. How many professions can say that?
JBN.S: – Аnd furthermore, can jazz be a business today or someday?
PM: – Jazz, like all of the Art Forms, is a tough area of music to make a comfortable living, and I think it always will be. However, if you are prepared to play commercial jazz….i.e.: Smooth Jazz, Funk, Dub House, Chill Out tracks for clubs, etc, then you will find you can make a good living. If you want to play Avant Garde or ‘Free’ Jazz every night, and are not prepared to ‘sell out’, you’re going to be poor … simple as that! ‘Hard’ jazz has such a limited audience numbers wise.
JBN.S: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?
PM: – Jazz is not limited to the aged giants of 50 odd years ago. It is continually evolving and invades modern music in a variety of contemporary situations. Awareness through social media and popular music to hi-light the jazz influences and musicians would help.
More and more mainstream music have increased trumpet jazz solos and Hammond organ check out Rudimental – Feel the Love or look at the jazz skills of Kasbian’s drummer Ian Matthew or Goldfrapps Will Gregory. I love to hear the jazz in main stream music but feel that they can go unnoticed. I doubt young people generally are made aware of for example Adele’s albums and parts of Emeli Sande’s being built on piano parts by 2007 BBC Jazz award-winner Neil Cowley. Or in the US, Wilco being transformed by guitarist Nels Cline’s improvisation skills. It would be great raise the profile of some of these great modern artists’ musical backgrounds and jazz ability and skill.
JBN.S: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?
PM: – Music is my life blood…….it encompasses who I am….in fact, I would go as far as to say you see the ‘real me’ when you watch me performing…yes, John hit the nail on the head……it is my spirit, my love and my passion.
JBN.S: – What are your expectations of the future? What brings you fear or anxiety?
PM: – I would love to able to continue to enjoy working with talented musicians and writing music. My fear is that one day the music will be in my head but I am unable to physically play.
JBN.S: – What’s the next musical frontier for you?
PM: – I love what I do now. But for a new challenge possibly film score writing, as I have written a lot of music for media over the years. My compositions and recordings with Warner Chappell and So Ho Music get used regularly on TV programs and Movies to this day, so writing a dedicated score from ‘scratch’ would be something that would interest me in the future.
JBN.S: – Are there any similarities between jazz and world music, including folk music?
PM: – Yes. Anything that involves ‘improvisation’ is effectively ‘jazz’.
JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?
PM: – I try to keep up with the times, and listen to what is happening now both commercially and in the jazz world. All music can cross over in to jazz, and you may just get an idea to re-work a Sam Smith song, or a Led Zeppelin song, changing the feel, tempo and sometimes chord structure, and coming up with something ‘brand new’ and innovative.
JBN.S: – What’s your current setup?
PM: – I am currently MD to Van Morrison playing Piano, Hammond organ and Trumpet both live in concert and in the studio.
I play a Hammond B3 organ with two 760 Leslies.
I play a Roland V-Piano on stage, Bosendorfer or Steinway in the studio.
I play a Roland RD800 weighted synth
I compose on a Roland Fantom X8 88 note weighted Piano/ workstation with Pro Tools
I play a Taylor Chicago Custom B flat Trumpet and a Courtois Reference AC159 Flugel Horn.
Interview by Simon Sargsyan