Jazz interview with jazz pianist Leslie Pintchik. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?
Leslie Pintchik: – I was born in Brooklyn, grew up on Long Island, and have been living in Manhattan for most of my adult life.
A jazz lover, my father played tenor sax for pleasure, and always wanted someone in the family to become a musician. I think he probably wanted to replace his “Music Minus One” play- along records with a living, breathing partner.
When I went away to college (as an English literature major), I began, very casually, to start playing the piano. With little background or knowledge of jazz, I asked the local record store owner for help with recommendations. It was my lucky day, since I left with Monk and Bill Evans. They both hit a chord with me right away, along with Miles’ Kind of Blue, which came next. At that point, I had no idea what made these musicians so special, but their music both intrigued and moved me, in equal measure. It was years later, in graduate school at Columbia University, where I was a doctoral candidate in 17th Century English literature, that I finally changed course and set out to become a musician.
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?
Again, Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk were two of my earliest inspirations; perhaps because both their voices were so singular and unique to themselves, hearing them gave me the courage to try to find my own way as a musician and pianist.
Teachers that were very helpful to me early on were classical pianist Lucy Greene, and jazz pianists Bruce Barth and Joanne Brackeen.
I suspect one of the main reasons that I chose piano over other instruments, was that, at that time, women musicians who weren’t pianists (or vocalists) were fairly rare, so piano seemed a natural choice. If I had to do it over, I might choose the bass!
JBN.S: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
One of my first gigs was on the road with a commercial Polynesian revue, complete with two Hawaiian dancers, and a young college student moonlighting as “Chief Tahuna,” sporting only a skimpy loincloth, and carrying a torch. I was asked to wear a grass skirt, for a more “authentic” look. I didn’t. And it goes without saying that our version of Dean Martin’s pop hit “Tiny Bubbles” was a far cry—understatement!—from the Miles and Monk that had initially inspired me to play music.
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?
My best advice would probably be to find fellow musicians/soulmates with whom to play and develop one’s voice. It has given me great joy to play over many years with the superb musicians and friends who are part of my musical family.
JBN.S: – Which collaboration have been the most important experiences for you?
My closest collaborator has been my husband and “house” bass player Scott Hardy. I often introduce him onstage by saying “my bass player Scott Hardy is so good, I had no choice but to marry him.” In fundamental ways, we share the same tastes in music. We are good at bouncing ideas off each other, and can speak to each other in a musical shorthand. It’s been a great gift to have such a simpatico partner.
JBN.S: – What’s the next musical frontier for you?
Hard to say, but I do hope to continue to write new material for my band, and to deepen and grow in the process.
JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?
Lately I’ve gotten so much pleasure and joy from listening to Brazilian singers/composers/musicians. Amongst them: Ivan Lins, Leila Pinheiro, Rosa Passos, Joyce Moreno, Cesar Camargo Mariano, Joao Bosco.
Interview by Simon Sargsyan