March 1, 2024

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Interview with Roger Kellaway: In my heart, I basically want Music to “feel” good! Video

Jazz interview with jazz pianist, composer Roger Kellaway. An interview by email in writing. 

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

Roger Kellaway: – I grew up in Waban Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston. I was interested in the piano and began studying Classical music at age 7. (In this lifetime)

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?

RK: – My Father played, “The Bells of St. Mary” on the piano. I copied him. So, he asked me if I wanted lessons? I said, ”Yes”. Our local teacher was, Agnus D. Brown who was the Mother of Classical Pianist, Cynthia Fornier.

However, when I went to Jr. High School to audition for the orchestra, there were 8 pianists. So, The conductor (Vincent Maratto) pointed to the one double bass and said, “How would you like to play one of those?” I sad,” I’d love to”

From studying piano I could already read bass clef, so, I watched my partner’s hands (Tenny Peck) and taught myself how to play the bass! In four years I played 4th Bass with the Mass All State Orchestra and would go on to play Jazz (mostly Dixieland-in Copley Square, Boston, but also with our High School Sextet led by Dick Sudhalter on Cornet-a fan of BixBeiderbeck)

Our High School was No. 3 in America at the time. So, we had:

Orchestra – with cond. Donald March we played Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven Symphonies plus all of the Bach Brandenburg Concerti

Marching Band ( I played Glockenspiel) Cond. Dante Ippolitto (from Glenn Miller’s Band)

Jazz Band (18 players-I played Bass) Cond. “Red” Doren (from Tommy Dorsey’s Band) One day,Red played the 2nd Brandenburg Concerto (on “F” trumpet) twice!

Also we had Henry Lasker who taught our Junior and Senior year music theory classes at a “conservatory” level. Our graduation exercise was to write a piece for Orchestra!

Along with all of these studies I had picked up an interest in Jazz on piano at age 11. My heroes were George Shearing, Dr. Billy Taylor, Oscar Peterson (the 1950’s trio with Herb Ellis and Ray Brown)and Fats Waller.

Although I still listened to the standard Classical repertoire, I developed a love for Big-Bands; Medieval Music (especially Perotin-12th century and Machaut-14th century; and 20th Century composers (Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Messiaen, Berio, Feldman, and John Cage to name a few) These composers would teach me concepts of sound, color, and space which I would come to interject abstractly in my solos. I continued these habits as I entered The New England Conservatory to study Piano, Double Bass, Composition, and Chorus – I received my Honorary Doctorate in 2010 along side Quincy Jones who was receiving his 39th Doctorate!

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

RK: – Classical Music taught me how to play the Piano. My listening habits would spark my curiosity about sound and eventually lead me in 1962 to play with Bob Brookmeyer, who taught me a lot about the “shape” of a solo. So first, how to get different sounds and dynamics from the Piano…then experimenting with lines, colours and spaces, inspired by my listening habits.

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

RK: – First of all, I’ve always had a strong sense of rhythm. But, since I am 78 now, my practice routine centers primarily around strengthening my muscles and getting my body ready to perform. I improvise some-preparing my mind-and I play along with a 1958 recording of, “I Want to be Happy” by Stan Getz and the Oscar Peterson Trio (with Herb & Ray) When I can swing for that 7 minutes and have my lines flow freely-That’s the beginning. Now I go through the concert repertoire.

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

RK: – This is a difficult question to answer, as conventional and abstract concepts are both part of my thinking. Having said this, the patterns and forms that I most enjoy are the ones that have the most space-that leave the most room for my creativity

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

RK: – If you’re asking about MY album, “Duke At The Roadhouse” with one of my duo partners, Eddie Daniels is my pick (we won, “Record of the Year” from the French Jazz Academy in Paris=the French Grammy) This CD also includes James Holland on Cello (my arrangements-all compositions by Duke Ellington)

But, If you’re asking me to pick albums by other artists? I would pick something by Maria Schneider or Brookmeyer. Writers are my preference – I’m always studying.

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

RK: – Over the years I’ve played a lot of different kinds of concepts. In my heart, I basically want Music to “feel” good!

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

RK: – 3 Studio Sessions from the 60’s, 2 from the 70’s, 1 from the 80’s:

“Alfie” with Sonny Rollins (arranger Oliver Nelson) note that on track 4, “Little Malcolm Loves His Dad”, there are 2 Piano solos. Sonny just stopped playing; the recording continued; so, I took a 2nd solo).

“More Blues and the Abstract Truth” with Oliver Nelson (this album was scheduled for 3 days of recording. However, the title tune took about 5 takes and everything else was in 1 take. On the 3rd day we had nothing to record so we laughed and enjoyed each other’s company while listening to playbacks.

“Bumpin” with Wes Montgomery (because Wes didn’t read music, the quartet rehearsed for several days then we went into the studio for the recording).The strings and harp were added later by Don Sebesky. A few days later there was a gig at “The Half Note”. At his request, I subbed for Wynton Kelly and payed with Wes, Paul Chambers, and Jimmy Smith (Drummer). During a Ballad medley, I whispered to Paul my choice,”I Can’t Get Started” with the original changes. He whispered back,”What are they?”

1970 A & M Records My first “Cello Quartet” Album (Edgar Lustgarten- Cello, Chuck Domanico- Bass, Emil Richards- Marimba

1977 Warner Brothers scoring, “A Star Is Born” for Barbara Streisand-60 piece orchestra. I had just finished the “EST” training. Her constant changing her mind never bothered me. I received an Academy Award nomination for my score.

1988 “Memos From Paradise” was composed and arranged for Eddie Daniels – I received a Grammy.

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

RK: – Since I’ve played with so many great musicians, I’ll mention some great duo partners:

Michael Moore, Jay Leonhart, Eddie Daniels, BorislavStrulev, Yue Deng (my Violin protagé from China), Bruce Forman, Bill Charlap, and my favorite piano duo partner, Dick Hyman.

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

RK: – The problem with newer songs (with the possible exception of Paul McCartney, Johnny Mandel, Carl Saunders, and a handful of others) is that you can’t make them into “Jazz” tunes. The majority of songwriters today don’t know how to write a coherent melodic line or anything harmonically interesting. So, what do we base our improvisation on? If you have no vehicle, then you end up with the current state of instrumental music.Mostly boring!(I’m talking songwriting now) In the study of the “Old Standards”you will find the secrets to good song writing and good lyric writing. The young people of today need to take the time to investigate the writing and playing of these gems. Can you play a melody? I don’t mean take a stab at it. I mean play it with your heart and soul. This is a lifetime process!

In 1985 I was with Dizzy in Israel. We were talking about improvising. He said to me,”It’s more fun to abstract an old standard than a Be-Bop tune” Obviously, I’ve never forgotten his comment. I also find this to be true!

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

RK: – After meditating for more than 50 years, I have come to an understanding that life’s goal, if there even is such a thing, is to reach a state of total enlightenment. ie: a state of nothingness. John Cage walked on stage to give one of his lectures. He said, “This is a lecture on nothing”. He waited a short while, took a bow, and walked off the stage. Was this a joke? Or, had he, in fact, given the audience a profound lesson?

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

RK: – As long as the current “resident” remains in the Whitehouse…that brings plenty of fear and anxiety regarding any future!!!!!

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

RK: – That the “business’ of Music could once again support Jazz and Chamber music, and that good songwriting craft could re-appear with just royalties!

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

RK: – There is no “next” frontier. It’s always the same-to be the best human being and musician that I can possibly be.

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

RK: – You could have a “World Music” track with a Jazz improv on top. Regarding folk music, I shine the light on ‘The Jimmy Guiffre Three’ (with Jim Hall & Ralph Pena). Look how Guiffre re-shaped Jazz and folk music forms.

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

RK: – Hilary Hahn playing Shostakovich’s 1st Violin Concerto (Oslo Philharmonic Orch-MarekJanowski, conductor) and Miles Davis’ 1958 Milestones with Cannonball, Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers, and Philly Joe Jones.

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

RK: – First to the 1920’s Paris to hang out and study with Gershwin, Ravel, Milhaud, Honegger, Satie, Debussy- the beginnings of great songwriting and the interplay of Jazz and symphonic forms. Then back to New Orleans for the beginnings of great Jazz!

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

RK: – How do I see myself? Since my curiosity ranges from Traditional Jazz to Avant-Garde concepts, I find it difficult to think of myself simply as a “Jazz” Pianist. A clearer perception: I am an improviser who uses “Jazz” as a basis.

JBN.S: – Thank you for answers.

RK: – Into The Light, Roger.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

Картинки по запросу Roger Kellaway

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