May 21, 2024

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Interview with Rod Harris Jr.: I feel that much of today’s jazz is unfortunately more intellect and less soul: Video

Jazz interview with jazz guitarist Rod Harris Jr. An interview by email in writing. 

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

Rod Harris Jr.: – I grew up in Jacksonville, Florida USA, then moved to Atlanta GA. My father was a singer/songwriter and I often hung out in recording studios with him at a very young age.

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

RHJ: – On my 17th Birthday my father gave me $150 dollars and something inside me told me to take the money and purchase a guitar. So that is exactly what I did. I became obsessed with the guitar and it didn’t take long to get the basic of the instrument. I started taking lessons at a neighborhood music store, but I really learned mostly everything through transcribing the performances of jazz masters like Wes, George Benson, Charlie Parker, Grant Green, etc.

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

RHJ: – Initially, I felt like I connected with Grant’s (Green) playing the most. Grant’s solos were great and easy to transcribe so I think my early sound was very much reminiscent of Grant Green. As my “ear” began to grow, and my proficiency on guitar improved, I was able to digest and interpret what Wes and George Benson were “saying” on the instrument. My sound remains more on the “soul and blues” side of jazz because of these iconic influences.

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

RHJ: – I honestly try to practice between 4 – 6 hours everyday. Focusing mostly on technique and transcriptions. I have a YouTube Channel primarily dedicated to solo transcription tutorials. I have found that transcribing solos is the best way to learn the jazz language. Transcriptions also keep practice fun and rewarding. Transcriptions give you insight on so many things like different ways to approach soloing through progressions, solo articulation, phrasing, everything. It’s all in the recordings, and all the masters learned by imitating what they first heard, so I choose to follow their example.

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

RHJ: – Don’t really have favorite harmonies or harmonic patterns. If they add nice tension and release to a solo, then they (the patterns) are all great…!

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

RHJ: – I am really pleased with the “Exits & Options” EP, because it encompasses many of my musical influences. I enjoy many different genres of music. As a youth, I grew up

listening to Hip-Hop and Soul Music. It wasn’t until later in my teen years that I started listening, understanding and appreciating Blues and Jazz. “Exits & Options” has all the musical elements that I have grown to love from my youth to my adulthood.

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

RHJ: – I feel that much of today’s jazz is unfortunately more intellect and less soul. In my humble opinion, I feel like “cats” are more concerned about “wow-ing” audiences with technical “gibberish” than just “saying” something that makes an audience feel good. Don’t get me wrong, I am a firm believer in attaining ultimate technical prowess on your instrument, but I also believe that music particularly “jazz” and “blues” should take the listener on a “journey”. As I tell students, “its ok to play the blues every now and then, if that’s what the situation calls for …! ”Just needs“ more feeling, less flash.” What the audience remembers most is the feeling! Other musicians may remember your technical or harmonic complexities, but the general listener wants to be taken on a “soul-stirring journey”… and that feeling only comes from the soul!

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

RHJ: – My most recent enjoyable show/gig memory was performing at Dizzy’s Club in New York City with saxophonist Sharel Cassity and her new group Elektra. Also, performing in last year’s “Joy of Jazz” Festival in Johannesburg South Africa and meeting and conversing with jazz legends like Christian McBride, Gregory Hutchinson, Branford Marsalis, etc.

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

RHJ: – I believe young people, particularly youths in urban communities, will become interested in jazz the more they are exposed to the music. Also, I feel like it is important for youths to experiment with the music. Just as Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, etc. experimented with jazz and came up with some beautiful and timeless musical contributions. We just can’t only focus on (jazz) music from the 1940’s, 50’s, 60s. In order for the music to live through the youth, we have to expose them to the greatness of the past, but help and encourage them to provide the greatness of the future. This is the only way the music (Jazz) can live on.

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

RHJ: – Music is the bridge to your soul. Music helps you understand who you are as an individual. Jazz music is the greatest connection because of the harmonic intricacies. We as human beings are made up of mostly water. This is a scientific fact. Jazz Music generates so many various frequencies and wavelengths that allow our bodies to “ripple like water” in many different ways and directions evoking all sorts of feelings and moods. Music is one of the most powerful things in the Universe (the universal language) and because of jazz music’s key element of improvisation and spontaneity; it is the highest musical art form for both performer and audience.

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

RHJ: – If I could change one thing in the music world it would be the business of music. The music business is out of control now. I feel like Record Labels and Public Relations People have an agenda of perpetuating ignorance and mask it as being “cool” and “acceptable”. It is destroying the sanctity of the music and musicianship. It is very much similar to American Politics.

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

RHJ: – I still listen to all artists old and new. I really dig a lot of the other emerging artists like Braxton Cook, Christopher McBride, Jonathan Barber, etc. But I still “shed” and listen to GB (George Benson), Mike Stern, George Coleman, Bobby Broom,etc. Not to mention I play and listen to gospel music, R&B, Soul, Blues, Hip-Hop, etc. What I think some people fail to realize is that as a “jazz musician” you must “keep your ear to the streets” constantly to stay relevant and provide a modern perspective on the music.

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

RHJ: – If I had a time machine … I would go … well, I will refrain from answering that question. Lol

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

RHJ: – When can I come to Armenia and perform? Lol.

JBN.S: – Thank you for answers. 🙂 If this opportunity will I let you know. But I do not do concerts in Armenia. I am the organizer of jazz festivals in several countries in Europe.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

Картинки по запросу Rod Harris Jr.

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