June 13, 2024

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Interview with Roberta Piket: Instinct is the most important thing in art, but that instinct is informed by knowledge and experience: Video

Jazz interview with jazz pianist Roberta Piket. An interview by email in writing. 

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

Roberta Piket: – I am from Queens, NY. My father, the composer Frederick Piket, gave me my first piano lessons when I was seven years old.

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?

RP: – When I was in my early teens my older brother played a Walter Bishop Jr. piano trio record for me and I flipped. I just fell in love with the sound of the jazz piano trio. The CD was called Speak Low, and I found the original sheet music for that tune in my mother’s collection. I learned all the songs on that record, which, in addition to the title tune, included Alone Together, Milestones and On Green Dolphin Street.

When I was fifteen I studied jazz piano briefly with Walter Bishop, Jr and classical piano for a few years with Vera Wels. After graduating from Hunter College High School, I entered the joint double-degree program at Tufts University and the New England Conservatory of Music, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science from the former and a Bachelor’s Degree in Jazz Studies from the latter. During this time I studied privately with Fred Hersch, Stanley Cowell, and Bob Moses. After graduation I worked for a year as a software engineer before giving up my job and returning to New York City to pursue music full-time. In New York, I studied for six years with Richie Beirach and also studied briefly with Sofia Rosoff.

Studying with Richie Beirach was very formative for me, because he has a very advanced and very personal harmonic concept. I studied classical piano only briefly with Sofia, but she helped me get over my “fear” of classical piano so I could enjoy making music and stop being intimidated by the notes on the page.

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

RP: – As a pianist I am still working on my sound. It’s about clarity, dynamics, tone. I don’t think about having a “sound” in the way that we talk about a saxophone or trumpet player having a sound. But every jazz musician is seeking her own voice. One way I have developed my own voice is by focusing on composition. The slows down the process of creating so that you can figure out what you want to do. For me this mostly applies harmonically, although it can also be applied rhythmically and melodically.

I’m not sure my “sound” has really developed over time. I would say I have become much more mature as a player overtime. Both my technique and my instincts have improved a lot.

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

RP: – The main thing I have been practicing lately is improving my mental focus. It’s very important when playing not to get distracted, even for a split second, especially as a rhythm section player. Maintaining that flow can be challenging. It’s easy to let your mind, your worries, insecurities, etc.  get in the way.

Beyond that I’ve been working on some classical pieces. As a pianist there is so much music that predates jazz. In order to be a complete pianist and musician it’s important to explore that tradition.

Specifically, with regard to rhythm there are a few exercises that I give some of my students to help them improve their time and swing feel. At this point I don’t do those exercises much anymore, but I do record my gigs and practice sessions so I can “check” myself and see if there are times when I’m not as precise as I could be and what’s triggering those instances. Just being aware of it is the first step to breaking whatever habit is causing those issues.

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

RP: – Unfortunately I’ve been too busy to pay much attention. I hope to get to them soon!

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

RP: – I think instinct is the most important thing in art, but that instinct is informed by knowledge and experience. So I think that both intellect and soul are very important to create something coherent and cohesive that can be communicated to the listener.

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: – The only advice I can give is not to let the music business take you away from the music. The music must always be the number one focus; otherwise you might as well do something much easier and more lucrative. You should only do this if it’s the only thing you can possibly imagine yourself wanting to do. Other than that, being successful in the arts is all about building positive relationships with your peers, so try to do that. Think about it in the long term: who do I want to play with? Whose music am I really excited about?

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

RP: – For the most part not for the artists; only for the people the artists pay: the record companies, the promoters, the advertising media. It’s all backwards now. Everyone is making money except the artists. We’re continually told me must “invest” in our careers.

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

RP: – Playing with my husband, drummer Billy Mintz has been an inspiring, amazing experience. We often play together with either me as leader or with him as leader, or even just jam at home. His level of excellence and power of concentration is remarkable.

Lately I’ve been playing a lot with saxophonist Virginia Mayhew which has also been very rewarding. We’ve played together for many years and have both grown a lot musically over the years.  In addition to playing in Virginia’s larger ensembles, we have a really fun duo project. Virginia also played clarinet and tenor on my 2016 CD, One for Marian: Celebrating Marian McPartland.

Billy and I also play in a couple of free trios, one with Louie Belogenis, a great tenor and soprano player here in New York, and one with Roland Heinz, a gifted Austrian guitarist. Both of those relationships have been very rewarding musically and I hope we document them soon.

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

RP: – Get them early, get more music, and arts in general, in the public schools, the way it was fifty years ago. Of course that assumes there is a political interest in doing that. That won’t happen until progressives start voting in large numbers for viable candidates and stop waiting for the “perfect” candidate.

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

RP: – The rise of American fascism (Trumpism) and global warming bring me anxiety. The complete lack of reality so many Americans are living in and the ability of internal and external forces to manipulate that profound ignorance, is terrifying. Global warming is depressing because we’ve just about run out of time, but we could have fixed it if we’d started 40 years ago when scientists first started talking about it.

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

RP: – Educate the general population to have more sophisticated taste and the attention span to appreciate more abstract musical forms such as jazz and classical music.

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

RP: – My husband has been on me to do a vocal recording, as I’ve been singing on some of my trio gigs. I also recently recorded solo piano versions of ten of his compositions as a birthday gift to him, and I will probably release that at some point. I’d also like to spend more time composing and study that more seriously.

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

RP: – Jazz has roots in African-American folk music of course. I find that music compelling because of its deep spirituality, and it’s also interesting historically. I personally am not interested in world music. I find it harmonically bland and not that interesting rhythmically either most of the time.

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

RP: – I just got a new turntable and have been listening to LPs from my father’s classical collection – Richter, Horowitz… all the great pianists playing Debussy, Liszt, and others. I’ve also been transcribing some McCoy Tyner. Trasncribing is something I haven’t done in years. It’s a lot easier now with the apps to slow down the music. We didn’t have that when I was a student!

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

RP: – I think I might go back to the 1950s or the 1940s and hear all the great instrumentalists and singers of that era live, and experience the vibe of what New York was like during that time musically and, more generally, culturally.

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

RP: – What are some of your favorites of your previous recordings?

JBN.S: – Thank you for answers. I will only recall a few CDs from 2017 only so that and you also know about it:

Cécile McLorin Salvant, ‘Dreams And Daggers’

Charles Lloyd Quartet, ‘Passin’ Thru’

Miguel Zenón, Típico

Bill Frisell & Thomas Morgan, Small Town

Wadada Leo Smith, Najwa … and others.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

Картинки по запросу Roberta Piket

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