May 28, 2024

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Interview with one of the Grammy award nominee Randy Porter: Optimist in me says good music will continue to have a smaller, but still existent chance: Video

Jazz interview with one of the Grammy award nominee: Best Jazz Vocal Album, jazz pianist, teacher Randy Porter. An interview by email in writing.

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

Randy Porter: – San Diego. Hearing music on the radio got me interested. Got a toy keyboard at age 9 which I picked up quickly and got my aunt’s upright piano at age 10 where I started Bach’s Two-part Inventions and Mozart Sonatas. Learned from my brother, a classical guitarist. Started piano lessons in high school.

JBN.S: – What got you interested in picking up the piano?

RP: – Having the piano in the house and getting hooked on the ability to improvise, and play piano music without to many rules.

JBN.S: – What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today?

RP: – My brother Bob, Butch Lacey in high school, Dr. Frank Marks at Humboldt State University, Fred Hersch and Jaki Baird at New England Conservatory. Almost every gig I’ve played has been significant in educating my musical growth, but especially working with Charles McPherson for the last 30 years has helped my playing.

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

RP: – I was taught to listen carefully to the sound of the piano by Butch Lacey, Frank Marks, and Fred Hersch. Listening to great players from Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett, Herbie Hancock and Tommy Flannagan and others inspired me to work on my own sound and awakened me to the power of a good sound.

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

RP: – Counterintuitively, not playing in rhythm, but listening to the sound and playing exactly what I honestly hear. I also work on the flow of the line, the flow of the rhythm, rhythmic flexibility and variety.

JBN.S: – Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now?

RP: – Hmm. It feels like that’s like posing the question to a writer, “What’s your favorite sentence structure?” If it’s from a classical master, I’d probably like it. If it’s from the Great American Songbook, I’d probably like it. If it’s from a jazz great, I’d probably like it.

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JBN.S: – What do you love most about your new album: <Porter Plays Porter (feat. Nancy King)>, how it was formed and what you are working on today. Next year your fans like we can wait for a new album?

RP: – I like swinging musicality and spontaneity of the four of us. We recorded it In one day at my studio, but it took a long time to finish the mixing, mastering and art, since I’m often busy with other things. I am planning a record to be recorded in 2018, probably out in 2019.

JBN.S: – You were presented at the Grammy Awards: Best Jazz Vocal Album, how do you assess your potential?

RP: – I honestly don’t know, but with only 5 people in the running, I guess the odds aren’t that bad. Nancy has a cult following among straight ahead jazz singers.

JBN.S: – We wish you every success and will follow you, however do you think that Grammys are purely musical or political overtones?

RP: – The Grammy’s are about many things. Certainly entertainment is a big one. The degree to which music is the focus varies depending on a lot of factors. Politics will always be a part of the human experience, but objective quality does get noticed, and the optimist in me says good music will continue to have a smaller, but still existent chance. The flip side is music competitions are tainted by popularity, and popularity contests are rarely a good model for fairness in assessing objective quality in art.

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?

RP: – Practice your instrument. Get good at what you do. Make a lot of friends.

JBN.S: – And furthermore, can jazz be a business today or someday?

RP: – It is a business. It may be small, but we’re trying.

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

RP: – Well, exposure helps, especially live. If they hear others doing it well, including their peers, they’ll probably be interested. Hopefully the current music they’re familiar with will have enough musical content so they can play it on their instruments. Old standards have a lot of great musical qualities. Much of today’s popular music is lacking in quality musical elements, so it’s not as fun to play on instruments and improvise on. Yet, some, like Bruno mars seems to draw well from r&b, soul and other sources to make his records sound musical, yet current. There may be a bit of cutting and pasting going on, but still, creative music can happen.

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

RP: – I do believe we have a spirit and Coltrane was able to share his spirit/music as one gift to the world. I try do the same thing in music or away from music because I do see more to this world than flesh and bone, and 1s and 0s.

JBN.S: – What are your expectations of the future? What brings you fear or anxiety?

RP: – I don’t really have expectations, but look forward to whatever comes. Calendars, emails and itineraries make me nervous.

JBN.S: – What’s the next musical frontier for you?

RP: – I have too many and have to decide. Likely a few different settings and I’ll see what sticks. I’m always interested in straight ahead swinging jazz, latin, funk, classical, vocal, instrumental, and small and larger settings. But a common theme is a high degree of improvisation.

JBN.S: – Are there any similarities between jazz and world music, including folk music?

RP: – Of course. Louis Armstrong famously said, “All music is folk music. I ain’t never heard a horse sing a song”.

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

RP: – Grammy nominations right now. I am enjoying Bill Charlap’s
Uptown Downtown.

JBN.S: – What’s your current setup?

RP: – Steinway concert grand in my own recording studio.

JBN.S: – And if you want, you can congratulate jazz and blues listeners on Christmas and Happy New Year.

RP: – Merry Christmas and Happy New Year Jazz and blues listeners out there.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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