May 25, 2024

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Interview with Adam Shulman: I believe that the music will survive: Video

Jazz interview with jazz pianist Adam Shulman. An interview by email in writing. 

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

Adam Shulman: – I grew up in San Francisco. My parents, though not musicians by profession, were both very musical. I grew up with music always playing in the house. Mostly classical and jazz.

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

As is the case with many children, the decision to play the piano was made by my parents when I was 7 years old. I had the great fortune of having a wonderful teacher. She taught me all the basic skills but also, very importantly, she fostered a love for music. She was very nurturing and that early experience was instrumental in my life-long relationship to music.

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

I think there are two elements to one’s sound. The first is always there. It’s tied into who you are as a person. It’s unique to you and you simply have to allow it to express itself. The other part is formed externally by what music you’re drawn to and what you work on practicing. This part of my sound has changed over time. I started off with the blues and funk when I was in college, then really got into post-bop and then got heavy into bebop. More recently I’ve been attracted to pre-bop piano. I guess I’m kind of going back in time with where my interests are drawing me. In terms of finding and developing my sound, I’ve just always followed my ears.  Whatever I’m drawn to is what I try to sound like. Sometimes it’s about sounding like someone else and sometimes it’s about just sounding like me.

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

There is no substitute for playing with other people in order to work on rhythm and groove. Working with a metronome is good but feeling the energy of the pulse of the music is something you need a real live person for. Other musicians have taught me so much about rhythm through the years. I just have to keep my ears and my mind open. I can’t always play with other people when I want to practice so sometimes I work on developing an inner sense of time.  Everyone should take responsibly for the time and groove in the band.

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

I love harmony in general which makes sense since I’m a piano player, but what I’m most interested in now is the harmonic language of bebop which comes from the tunes of the Great American Songbook. I also love the harmonic palette of the impressionist composers and the late Romantic composers of the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century.

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?

I would say to keep reminding yourself of why you chose to be a musician in the first place. It should be because you love the music.  Other things can and will creep in there like ego, self-judgment, judgement of others, despair over the state of the music business etc. Just keep the love of music in the forefront and work hard from a place of joy as much as you can.

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

Jazz is a business right now and it will continue to be a business.  The whole music industry is changing as is the live music scene but I believe that the music will survive.

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

Some of the people that have taught me the most about music and/or provided the richest musical opportunities are:

John Wiitala, one of the best bass players and best all-around musicians I’ve met. John has an encyclopedic understanding of the history of jazz, intellectually, spiritually and as expressed through his instrument

Marcus Shelby, with whom I played many many gigs in my 20s and early 30s. He provided so many opportunities and really shaped who I am musically

Anton Schwartz, the tenor saxophonist. Anton’s understanding of the structure of music is incredibly deep and I learned a great deal from the way that he composes and plays. We’ve played countless gigs together.

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

I think at this point we have to concede that jazz is never going to make a resurgence as a popular music form. I think that it will always survive with a small but very dedicated audience. There is plenty of jazz out there that has nothing to do with standards but I think that even jazz that is standards-based can appeal to younger people too. People respond to the feeling of good music no matter what. We might be losing the connection to the people for whom standards were the music that they grew up with, but that doesn’t mean that it will lose all its appeal. My simple answer to the question of how do you get young people to interested in jazz is this: Play well and engage the audience.

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

Wow, that’s a heavy question! I’m trying to figure that one out, I’ll have to get back to you on that one.

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

I try not to have any expectations for the future. I have a little nagging anxiety about money and the lack of it (being a jazz musician is not the most lucrative or stable profession) but I try to count my blessings and live in the moment to the best of my ability.

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

I am interested in writing for larger ensembles. Maybe big band or dectet, something like that. I would also like to focus on piano trio.  Maybe come up with a more personal concept to the format.

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

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

Tommy Flanagan, Hank Jones, Herb Geller, Freddie Hubbard, Red Garland, Benny Carter, Paul Desmond, Jim Hall, Bill Evans and that was just today. I’m always listening to records.

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

I’d definitely want to check out the dinosaurs. Also, ancient Rome would be pretty cool. Maybe 19th century Paris. NYC in 1958.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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