February 25, 2024

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Interview with Jeff Baker: Phrases is the first real record … Video

Jazz Interview with a bad musician, as if vocalist Jeff Baker. An interview by email in writing. 

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

Jeff Baker: – I was around music a lot as a young child. Yamaha Piano classes, choirs, music theatre etc. I remember going to see my grandfather in the nursing home, and going room to room, singing to the people there.

JBN.S: – What got you interested in picking up the jazz vocal? What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today? What made you choose the jazz vocal?

JB: – In the early 90’s, everyone was getting into grunge rock, bands like Nirvana, STP, and Pearl Jam. I got a copy of Dizzy Gillespie Live at the Vanguard, and that really started my love of jazz ! It wasn’t for a year or so after that, that I went to hear a local HS and realized you could SING this music as well. After that, I was fortunate to have amazing teachers and mentors who introduced me to different artists, and most significantly, gave me a ton of opportunities to perform, learn, tour etc. without individuals like Ted Totorica, Wallace Long, and others, I would have never found this music.

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

JB: – I think a musicians sound is a product of what they listen too. Early on, it was Chet Baker, Mark Murphy, Joe Williams, and Johnny Hartman. Then, as I grew up rock and pop artists like Sting, Peter Gabriel, James Taylor and John Popper found their way into my concept.

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

JB: – I really love rhythm, and the manipulation of time in Phrasing. I like to ignore the bar lines, and think of Long, linear sense of the pulse. I use harmony to mark time, not bar lines. I like to practice going as far out as I can phrasing wise, until it falls apart. Then I go back and see what moment it was where I went to far, and work backwards from there. I think my sense of rhythm and phrasing is one thing I do really well as a vocalist.

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

JB: – I mostly like to use scale exercises on different modes, breaking it up into different interactions, intervals, rhythms etc.

JBN.S: – Which are the best jazz albums for you this 2017 year?

JB: – Clark Sommers & John McLean w/Joe Locke ‘Parts Unknown’, Craig Taborn ‘Daylight Ghosts’, Becca Stevens ‘Regina’, Laura Mvula ‘The Dreaming Room’, Marquis Hill ‘Meditation’, Ambrose Akinmusire ‘A Rift in the Decorum’, The Fellowship Band ‘Body & Shadow’

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

JB: – Singing with the late Gene Harris, singing with the legendary Elvin Jones, spending a weekend with Ray Brown, opening for John Patitucci, and turning around on stage to see Brian Blade playing drums on one of my songs. Those are the five best memories of my musical life.

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?

JB: – Play the music you love with the people you love. That’s everything.

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

JB: – It’s a constant struggle and hustle. But I still think you have to just focus on the music, and surround yourself with people who are looking for the same things you’re looking for in the music. The other stuff takes care of itself to a large extent.

JBN.S: – Which collaboration have been the most important experiences for you?

JB: – My friendships with three great pianists: Darrell Grant, Justin Nielsen, and Bill Anschell have been truly life changing for me. And my close friendships with John Bishop, Clark Sommers and Geof Bradfield have also taught me so much about the music and about myself.

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

JB: – Jazz is a living, breathing organism. There’s SO MUCH out there, I guarantee people can find music they like inside this genre. Don’t be lazy! Explore the sounds, explore emerging artists. I promise you, if you let it, this music will crawl inside you and change the way you look at everything.

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

JB: – Every time I make music, open my mouth, I believe it’s a form of worship. An acknowledgment that I’ve been given an amazing gift to be able to make music. So every time, it’s me saying thank you. Thank you to my creator, or the universe, or whatever you’d like. Thank you to my mentors. Thank you to everyone who’s come before me and given their gift for us to hear.

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

JB: – I mostly just hope to have opportunities to perform this album live with the guys who recorded it. It was such a special session and project. I can’t wait to do it again. I’m telling you, it’s magic.

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

JB: – I’d love to see a return to the times where labels, artists, studios, promoters, and power brokers worked in concert again. I’d love to see true A&R in the music, developing new artists, and seeing a return to the notion that quality and authenticity matter more than just marketing, money and politics.

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

JB: – I’d love to continue to write, and eventually do a project with an orchestra like Joni Mitchell did a few years back. There are also some producers and engineers I’d love to collaborate with like Troy Miller, Jon Cowherd, and Kevin Killen.

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

JB: – Absolutely! To quote one of my hero’s, ‘Jazz is 50% Folk Art, and 50% progressive art.’ We should draw on our influences that are authentic to ourselves. That to me, is more important than staying inside some box of what ‘jazz’ is supposed to be.

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

JB: – Right now it’s Becca Stevens, Laura Mvula, The Fellowship Band, Ambrose Akinmusire, Emily King and of course friends and collaborators who are releasing new music.

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

JB: – Probably forward in time about ten years. Mostly to see if we all made it through this crazy time! It would also be fun to travel back and hear legends in their prime.

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

JB: – What’s the first thing you notice about music you like? And also, about music you don’t like? Are they the same or different?

JBN.S: – I notice about music when be swing, rhythm, harmony. It is jazz rep and etc.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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