May 23, 2024

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Interview with Phil Madeira: Most of my music is lyric oriented: Videos

Jazz interview with jazz pianist Phil Madeira. An interview by email in writing. 

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

Phil Madeira: – I grew up near Providence, Rhode Island.  My mother played a lot of Mahalia Jackson records and that was the spark.  I started out on drums, and later picked up piano and guitar, both of which I still play.  My new record is completely oriented towards piano.

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

PM: – There was a piano in the house because my mother was a church pianist and organist.  I’m afraid I’m not much of a virtuoso; I hated lessons and never intended to be a piano player or even a guitarist.  The expression of songwriting was what really steered me to piano and guitar, and here I am…

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

PM: – I don’t think of myself as having that evolved of a sound; it’s pretty blues based music with some “clown chords” thrown in to make it a bit more interesting.  The composers that I love are writers like Monk, Gershwin, Miles Davis, Blind Willie Johnson, Bob Dylan, Nina Simone … it’s a broad palette.

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

PM: – I don’t think of what I do offstage as practice.  I love playing, and I love learning, although I am not formally trained.  I’m not a great note reader, but I will, for example, sit down with the sheet music for a song like “Monk’s Dream” and plod my way through it until I can come up with my own take on it.  Having started as a drummer, rhythm is something that I love working on, but I can’t specifically point to a routine of practice.  I just play as much as possible.

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

PM: – I wish I were trained enough to give you an educated answer. One thing I love about playing in a trio is that, as the piano player, I hold most of the harmonic cards. WIth Chris Donohue holding down the bass, I can venture close to and even over the edge of what’s harmonically possible. I am mainly concerned with the communication between myself, Chris, and drummer Bryan Owings, and then hoping to connect with listeners.  But as far as defining any music theory patterns for you, I’m woefully inadequate in that department.

JBN.S: – What do you love most about your new album 2018: <Providence>, how it was formed and what you are working on today.

PM: – “Providence” is the first record that I have based around the piano since 1986.  It’s the first record that I’ve written without co-writers since 1997.  So, it’s a very personal expression, completely autobiographical.  Ironically, I thought this might put listeners off, but it seems to have had the opposite effect.

I love the fact that it has been embraced by so many people, and by jazz radio in particular, because I’m frankly humbled and surprised!  I’m so pleased that John Scofield makes an appearance on “Crescent Park”; he’s such a great friend, and yet it was a surprise that he wanted to play on a song.

Lastly, what I love about “Providence” is that I’ve left something of my story to my daughters.

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

PM: – I hardly think I’m qualified to judge, even for myself, but here you are:

Thelonius Monk: Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960

Bill Frisell & Thomas Morgan: Small Town

John Scofield, Larry Grenadier, John Medeski, Jack DeJohnette: Hudson

Brian Blade & The Fellowship Band: Body and Shadow.

JBN.S: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

PM: – Good question.  Most of my music is lyric oriented, even if the music comes first.  So, for me, there is a certain craft that begins as a songwriter, tying in the meaning of whatever emotion caused me to write in the first place.  Ultimately, it’s all about soul in the end, but the intellectual part of the equation divines what your soul is trying to dictate.  Once the song is essentially formed, then it’s up to the soul to carry it into the wind.

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

PM: – Well, working with John Scofield on 3 of my projects has been a thrill.  He’s such a beautiful, soulful and gracious person.  Certainly, getting to play Hammond for Mavis Staples a number of years back was a thrill.  Being a part of the Grammy winning “TajMo” record with Keb’ Mo’ and Taj Mahal felt like being a kid again; I was such a fan of Taj back when I started getting serious about music.  And I have to say, bringing this back to Sco- being asked to write the liner notes for his “Country For Old Men” record was a real thrill, as exciting as playing an instrument on anything I’ve worked on.

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

PM: – Working alongside of Emmylou Harris for the better part of a decade has informed me both as a musician and composer and as a human being.  Being gracious, trying to sow good into this broken down world; these are facets of her life that are inspiring and moving to me.  Certainly playing in her Red Dirt Boys has been fundamentally important to everything I’m currently doing.  In fact, the bass and drums on “Providence” are Chris Donohue and Bryan Owings, respectively, from her Red Dirt Boys.  Will Kimbrough, our guitarist, joins in on track 9, “Native Son”, as well.  And this brings me back to your question about soul.  I love playing with people with whom I have a genuine bond.  These guys are closer to me than a brother might be.

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

PM: – I think all one can do is be vocal and visible about whatever it is one loves.  Long before John Scofield and I became friends, I was playing his CDs in the car as my daughters rode down the road with me.  His music is now a part of the fabric of their intellectual, musical, spiritual, and even subconscious lives.

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

PM: – I’m not sure that’s answerable in a paragraph!  I love Coltrane’s exploration of the spirit, and I can think of no more spiritual expression among musicians than to improvise and see what happens.  I am very much a person who believes that the human desire to create is connected to our creator.

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

PM: – I am positive about what’s coming.  I am not anxious about the future, having seen so many dreams come true, and having lived through decades of good and bad leaders, wars, etc, yet I think most of humanity is striving to make a positive impact on the world.  Personal expectations for me- I’ll keep loving my daughters and those who are close to me.  I’ll keep creating and writing and performing for as long as I’m able.  For the moment, I’m trying to balance the interest in “Providence” with my next record, which I’m currently composing.

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

PM: – What power that would be!  First of all, what is now called “Country Music” would revert back to its more palatable form of the 50s and 60s; steel guitar would reign and there would be no more songs about trucks and beer.

In all seriousness, if I could change something, I would make sure that the educational system of my country (US) funded the arts as was once the case.  I would take money from the military and pour it into education, purchase of instruments and hiring great teachers for budding musicians.

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

PM: – I am just trying to be a well-rounded musician, and writing great songs will always be my primary goal.  The next record has a title which I won’t divulge, but it’s darker than “Providence”, which is a love letter to my home state.  The next record is emotionally brave from a lyric standpoint, and basically looks at the damage we humans can do to each other.

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

PM: – My understanding is limited, but it seems to me that Ornette Coleman was trying to break down barriers of genre, and in a way, I think it’s all one thing.  Artists who cover popular music and break a song down into its bare essence prove the point.  The difference might be the language preference of a particular genre, and certainly jazz seems to have one of the most demanding languages of all musics.  But the language of folk music requires listening with a kind of second ear, getting the nuances of a culture that might be someone else’s.   And that goes across the board, doesn’t it?  When I wrote and recorded “Providence”, I didn’t set out to make a jazz record, per se.  It was all about the songs, many of which swing.  A few don’t swing at all, and at least one has country elements that nearly kept it off the record.  But I’m just trying to communicate story, spirit, and soul, and that’s when the genre typing can get in the way.

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

PM: – I listen to a lot of Monk; I feel like he’s the gateway to pushing the boundaries, even though his music is older than I am.  When you compose in what I would call a fairly traditional mode- 2 verses and a chorus and maybe a bridge- someone like Monk is inspiring in a way that helps me to take what I’ve composed and let it skate off the edge.

Beyond that, I listen to a lot of music- Ralph Stanley, Aretha, The Bulgarian Women,  Scofield, Buddy Miller, Bob Dylan, and of course, Miles.

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

PM: – Well, I hope there would be a few tickets for a few trips, but right now I would settle for going to Gothenburg, Sweden in about 1890, where my grandparents were.  My grandmother used to say that all they had was music, and I would have liked to have heard my ancestral voices in the days before the world shrank and cultures so beautifully overlapped.  I’d like to hear the pure music of my people.  But it might have been really disappointing!  (smiles)

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

PM: – Thanks, Simon, I guess I might ask how you heard about me and my record “Providence”, but really, I’m so thankful that anyone has reached out to me, and I wish you all the best.

JBN.S: – Thanks very much for answers. I learned about you and your recording “Conducting” when it was received as a gift and I was draining everything.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

Картинки по запросу Phil Madeira pianist

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