Jazz interview with jazz pianist, keyboardist Emmanuel Waldron. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?
Emmanuel Waldron: – I grew up in London in an area called Hackney…
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?
EW: – I wasn’t interested in learning the piano. My father wanted me to learn and had a friend, Mr Richards who was a piano teacher and taught classically. I started learning from the age of six and hated it.. I studied under Mr Richards for 8 years and my father wouldn’t allow me to quit.. Turned out to be the best decision ever!
JBN.S: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?
EW: – I grew up in the community of a typical black pentecostal church where the music was vibrant, full of different rhythms and joyous energy. I used to perform classical recitals, solo and duo (with my sister on the violin) during the services and when I was 14 years old I got the opportunity to play for the services. I had to learn how to play with the rest of the band (bass, drums, guitar). Of course, it was a very different approach to how I was used to playing as a solo pianist. Over time I learnt that I had perfect pitch, and had opportunities to work with & learn from older and more experienced musicians. During this time I learnt about all genres of music and became really interested in jazz.
JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?
EW: – Growing up in church helped me to develop having ‘feel’ and I learnt to listen, hear & play different types of (rhythmic) music. Now, I continue to listen to all types of music, not only jazz, and also I constantly try push my level higher & higher.
JBN.S: – Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now?
EW: – I don’t have a preference for any particular harmonic patterns.. I try to create music that connects with people emotionally as well as aurally.
JBN.S: – What do you love most about your new album 2018: <Chaordicism>, how it was formed and what you are working on today.
EW: – The thing I love most about ‘Chaordicism’ is seeing/ feeling what album has become when I listen to it in comparison to the original ideas I was inspired by when I first heard/thought of them.. The process and journey from thought conception to the completed, tangible and audible project. It had been a frustrating love/hate affair which lasted over 2 years!
JBN.S: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
EW: – It’s not straightforward to define music and the balance between intellect & soul. Of course, from person to person we are all different. One thing that is true is the varying emotional ties we all have to music, the way it influences our moods, the way it lights up and brings back certain memories, the way it can hold our attention and speak to our inner senses.. It is the universal language of the world.
JBN.S: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
EW: – I have many memories of concerts, stage sharing, studio sessions from around the world. One memory I have was the opportunity to jam with one of my musical heroes, the late ‘George Duke’ when he was at the Jazz Cafe in London about 15 years ago! Also, I have great memories of my first ever concert as a jazz artist at the 606 Jazz Club again in London some years ago.. Two special moments among many!
JBN.S: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?
EW: – One way to get young people into jazz is get them to understand who/what was there before them and to allow them to embrace their own authenticity & creativity and to help enable them to become relevant in their own interpretations.. Of course, to understand who previous pioneers were, the era of time they lived in, the relevance of their music & message during those times goes a long way to understanding jazz on a deeper level.
JBN.S: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?
EW: – Wherever I’m always ‘hearing’.. Whether it’s the tiny subtle rhythms from a moving train or being in ‘a city’, from birds and animals, or being out in a very quiet open space, or at home. I’m always hearing.. For me, the gift of music comes with complexities and frustrations as well as an overwhelming sense of freedom and joy at being able to express myself without the need necessarily for words. This gift of God is not always something that is describable. Music gives me life, and that is a spiritual thing. I can’t imagine life, my life without music!
JBN.S: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
EW: – I would like to understand music in its entirety.. But if I did understand everything there would be no challenge, nothing to aim or reach for.. So, I would just leave everything as it is.
JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?
EW: – I listen to everything now.. From trad jazz to folk, neo-soul to classical. I have no particular favourite… I just appreciate good, authentic music.
JBN.S: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?
EW: – I would like to go back to the 70’s.. The decade I born.. I’d love to see first-hand what life was like then.
JBN.S: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself…
EW: – Why do you like jazz music and what does it do for you?
JBN.S: – Thank you for answers. Jazz is a life !!!
Interview by Simon Sargsyan