Jazz interview with jazz keyboardist Scott Kinsey. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?
Scott Kinsey: – Well I’m from Owosso Michigan which is a relatively small town between Flint and Lansing. A few people made an effort but unfortunately there was not a lot of culture or music happening there. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing since it then becomes up to you and also, and this is a key point, I’m not carrying around any cultural baggage!
Luckily my family is very musical. My mom taught 1st grade but was a music minor in college and my dad played piano and keyboards in a dance band and is not only responsible for my interest in music but also in music technology. He had a very extensive music room in the house. I learned about muli-track recording from using SOS (sound on sound) on one of his two track reel to real recorders.
JBN.S: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?
SK: – Well I feel like I’m continually developing my sound.. For me it’s directly related to just living and experiencing life.. and a constant evolution based on what you like and what you don’t like… and learning to edit yourself in real time.. I guess I’m more subtractive than additive!
JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?
SK: – To me rhythm is the most important element in the music. It determines how all the rest is going to come off. If the drums aren’t happening, nothing is! I’m lucky to only play with the best drummers in the world and the new ARC TRIO CD is a good case in point. We have the undisputed champ since I was in short pants; Vinnie Colaiuta! Playing complex ideas over a montuno in 9/8 (like on Viera) is just a breath of fresh air on a walk in the park for him. Then we have one of the most versatile and mature geniuses in the history of drumming, Gary Novak. He has all the chops in the world but listen to his restraint on Palo Alto (not one extra note than exactly the ones needed) and Goan Wanderer! His pocket is DEEP! On the other hand we have the newest drum innovator and someone I feel has what it takes to make some revolutionary future music, Gergo Borlai. They’re each mind blowing in their own way and just being around these guys up’s your rhythmic game right away. They literally feed you rhythmic material to interact with and play off of in real time.
JBN.S: – You’re playing is very sensitive, deft, it’s smooth, and I’d say you drift more toward harmony than dissonance. There is some dissonance there, but you use it judiciously. Is that a conscious decision or again, is it just an output of what goes in?
SK: – Well I’m a firm believe in the “garbage in, garbage out” philosophy. So I try not to hear things I hate. (Shopping at Ralphs comes to mind..) I use a lot of dissonance but sometimes I like to hide it and make it sound a little more sweet than it really is. That’s some of the fun in playing music. Playing with the notes and having fun with the meaning is something I love to do. Harmony wise, it’s not so conscious, I just like to dream it up and it can get a little surreal at times. I’m happy people can pick up on it.
JBN.S: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?
SK: – To be honest I output a lot more than I input these days. I feel more inspired than ever to be productive and make some artistic statements while I’m still really young. Wait, how old am I again? Oh ok relatively young… So that is to say I’m not really listening much to what a lot of other people are doing. When I do hear things a lot of times its disappointing to me because I just see people trying to do what we did w Tribal 30 years ago. And it hit’s me as a little boring or ordinary. But there are exceptions. Just listen to my friends Louis Cole and Genevieve Artadi and their band Knower. Best young group I know of. If I listen to anything else it’s probably Miles or Ahmad Jamal. That’s what I really like.
JBN.S: – What do you love most about your new album 2018: <Jimmy Haslip, Scott Kinsey & Gergö Borlai – ARC Trio>, how it was formed and what you are working on today.
SK: – It was Jimmy’s idea. We were working a lot on other projects together and having such a good time. One day he asked me what I would think about doing a record together and of course I said a million times yes! It was fun to experiment with his musical sound & direction together with my sound and see how they could come together into something new and interesting. I love the record because it’s an honest expression of how we both feel and think about music. And also a nice reflection of my friendship with him and all of the wonderful people/musicians that are a part of it too. Some of these songs, Ceders for instance, have a deep meaning for Jimmy and I was honored to get to try and help him express musically what he was feeling and going through.
JBN.S: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
SK: – That’s an interesting question. I certainly feel we must have both. The music needs to feed us intellectually or we’ll be bored. But if it’s too intellectual it will leave us empty and feeling nothing too. I’m always looking for that balance and I really think it becomes a feel thing. You just carve away at something and re-evaluate until it feels right to you. I can’t even begin to know what anyone else is going to feel so I just have to count on my own judgement for that. It’s very personal and subjective.
JBN.S: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist;you’re okay with giving the people what they want?
SK: – Not really. I give them what I want. I learned that a long time ago. You can’t second guess what anyone want’s or hopes to hear from you. My thought is that if they trust me as an artist they’ll give me a chance to take them on my little journey. Hopefully I can make it worth their while and give them a good experience. If I can accomplish that I’m happy!
JBN.S: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?
SK: – Well it’s hard for me to say that young people aren’t interested in jazz now. I would have said that a few years ago but I’m finding that now in the YouTube generation kids are checking out everything and they’re starting young. I have to tell you from my experience at Csun and USC the current young jazz players are playing shockingly well. From what I’ve seen the new generation of jazz musicians is looking very strong.
JBN.S: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?
SK: – I wish I knew. I’m certainly not as dark, serious or spiritual as Coltrane was. I guess the meaning of life for me is just to try to share with the world what YOU have that’s special and try to make the people lives you care about just a little better for being around and having known you. I’m not sure what else there is. I choose to try to express this through music.
JBN.S: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
SK: – I feel like the music itself is doing ok. But it shouldn’t be the labor of love that it’s turning out to be. I think the music business needs a lot of help. So I guess I would wish for a much healthier situation business wise for all of us. All creative musicians should be fairly paid for their work and it should be more than sufficient to live and live well! On that note I want to thank each and every person that has purchased the Arc Trio cd (and any of my other work) from my website, Amazon, Apple or where ever they found it. It makes ALL the difference.
JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?
SK: – People might find it funny that I’m just not a fusion head what-so-ever. I almost never listen to much of the genre and I never have. Basically I like singers and instrumentalists that phrase like singers. So if I’m listening to anything it’s probably Miles Davis (any period), Wayne Shorter, Nina Simone, Sinatra, Joe Zawinul (from Cannonball on), Ahmad Jamal (late 50s), Ray Charles, Oumou Sangare, Karim Ziad, Salif Keita, Laura Mvula, Mbongwana Star, Lalah Hathaway, Buika, Marvin Gaye, Die Antwoord (a little), Knower, John Scofield, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Hamid El Kasri.. These are my people, even if they don’t know it!
JBN.S: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?
SK: – Well ok … As for the the time machine I’m just gonna have to ask Stewie Griffin to take me back to the late 40’s/50’s in New York city and experience Be-bop first hand. I need to see Charlie Parker, Dizzy, Art Tatum, Cannonball, Basie, Bud Powell, Wynton Kelly, Jazz Messengers, Dinah Washington, Miles Davis etc…
Then I’m also going to need to make one more stop in 1980 to see Weather Report play with Jaco, Erskine and Bobby Thomas Jr. That’s a must!!! When are we leaving? Other than that I won’t need Stewie’s time machine.. An A380 will suffice.. I still have yet to visit Bali, Thailand and Mali to soak up the culture, food and music. But there’s still time!
JBN.S: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself…
SK: – Even if its not in “print” are you going to put me on the “cover” of your Magazine?!? 🙂
JBN.S: – Thank you for answers. We do not have a magazine but a website …
JBN.S: – So putting that all together, how are you able to harness that now?
SK: – I’m sorry. I’m not sure what you mean! If you mean the Arc Trio record.. well now really comes the fun part. Seeing how people respond to the record.. beyond that the next part of the dream is to actually go out and play this music for people live in person. That’s really the ultimate.
Interview by Simon Sargsyan