Jazz interview with jazz bassist Jodi Proznick. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?
Jodi Proznick: – I grew up in South Surrey, B.C. and became interested in music because my father was a high school music teacher. Music, dance and art making was a valued part of my household as a child.
JBN.S: – What got you interested in picking up the contrabass?
JP: – I saw the late, great Ray Brown perform with his trio at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival in Idaho when I was 13 years old. His performance was inspiring and full of joy. Watching him play live was the beginning of my interest in the upright bass.
JBN.S: – What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today? What made you choose the contrabass?
JP: – I had many fabulous bass teachers at McGill University – Michel Donato, Alec Walkington and Eric Legace. My favourite bassists on record are also my teachers – Paul Chambers, Oscar Pettiford, Ray Brown, Sam Jones, Scott Lafaro, Jimmy Blanton, Dave Holland and Ron Carter to name a few.
JBN.S: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?
JP: – My sound evolved as I gained experience on the bandstand, listened to and transcribed the great bassists and worked on finding the right bass, pickup and amp.
JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?
JP: – I was given a wonderful exercise by one of my bass instructors Michel Donato. He encouraged me to always use the metronome while practicing. He also suggested that I practice tunes at a favourite tempo, then move the metronome faster and then slower to expand tempos from a comfortable place. It was a great way to stretch into uncomfortably fast and slow tempos gradually.
JBN.S: – Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now?
JP: – I teach jazz theory and love exploring the relationship between melody, bass motion and harmony. I just love it all.
JBN.S: – What do you love most about your new album: Sun Songs, how it was formed andwhat you are working on today.
JP: – This project is a new venture for me as a composer, bassist, producer, and songwriter, who soon after her album Foundations was nominated for a Juno Award, I was faced with two sets of emotionally charged news: first, the immense joy of discovering I was expecting a baby and would enter the brave new world of motherhood, and second the intense sorrow of learning that my mother was diagnosed with early onset dementia.
The title for Sun Songs is a play on words. First, it’s a dedication to my son, and second, the metaphor of life as sunrise and sunset. As if I was standing on the horizon watching two suns simultaneously rise and fall, both lighting up the sky in different ways. These are the polarities explored through each song: birth, death, the learning and unlearning of life, and the emotions that arise in its quieter moments.
I found myself documenting words, images, and melodies to help process the titanic emotions transpiring through me as the story unfolded. A collection of songs emerged, eight originals and one cover, in a narrative documenting the process of containing these dramatic dualities and emerging more resilient and in tune with the pendulum of life.
In the land where jazz and pop meet, two genres that have always been intrinsically woven together, Sun Songs becomes the template for a new weave. Every track is an tapestry of modern harmonies and rhythms, layered with melodies and potent lyrics. Featuring my prodigious quartet of Tilden Webb (piano), Jesse Cahill (drums), and Steve Kaldestad (tenor saxophone), an even brighter light shines on this album with the addition of singer LailaBiali, whose luminous vocals lift the songs to unparalleled heights.
I am also working on a two woman show with poet and dancer Dr. Celeste Snowber called “Perfect Imperfections: The Art of a Messy Life”. We will be premiering the piece at the Vancouver East Cultural Center in June 2018.
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?
JP: – Remember that a career in music is a long game. Spend time on the craft but also do the inner work – that is where the raw material for creativity and inspiration lives.
JBN.S: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?
JP: – This is a huge question that I don’t really have an answer to. All I know is that watching the greats play early on and getting a chance to play this great music with a community of others in my formative years was what hooked me. Giving young people access to as many live music experiences and opportunities to play with others would be two great first steps.
JBN.S: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?
JP: – John Coltrane said: “I know that there are bad forces. I know that there are forces out there that bring suffering to others, and misery to the world. But, I want to be the opposite force. I want to be a force which is truly for good.”
I couldn’t agree more. John Coltrane was all about love.
JBN.S: – What are your expectations of the future? What brings you fear or anxiety?
JP: – My expectations are to keep making great art with fantastic people! No fear or anxiety around that goal.
JBN.S: – What’s the next musical frontier for you?
JP: – I would like to play the Sun Songs suite live for as many people as possible– share my story and hopefully lift people up through music.
JBN.S: – Are there any similarities between jazz and world music, including folk music?
JP: – Jazz music is folk music. Jazz music is a world music. Genre distinctions are a messy business.
JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?
JP: – I just finished watching the documentary “Chasing Trane” and I have been revisiting “A Love Supreme” lately. It is such a powerful work of art.
JBN.S: – What’s your current setup?
JP: – I have a 1950 Wilfer Bass, Fishman Full Circle Pickup, PiastroObligato strings and a GK Combo Amp.
JBN.S: – And if you want, you can congratulate jazz and blues listeners on Christmas and Happy New Year.
JP: – Wishing all of the jazz and blues listeners a fabulous holiday and an inspired 2018! Best regards!!! Jodi Proznick.
Interview by Simon Sargsyan