June 22, 2024


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Interview with Willie Oteri: Music is defiantly, what makes me whole: Video

Jazz interview with jazz saxophonist, fluteist and composer Willie Oteri. An interview by email in writing. 

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

Willie Oteri: – I was born in Southern California in the US and lived in many parts of California as my parents moved many times. My best memories are living on a farm in Hollister California and in the Salinas Valley near Monterey. I was always very musical, my mother was a professional violinist but gave up that career to be a full time parent by the time I was born. I remember adults asking me at a very young age what I wanted to be when I grew up and I would always answer a Jazz Singer.  I was captivated by singers like Dean Martin. I thought they were super cool.

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

WO: – Like many kids interested in music I dabbled around with various instruments, ukulele, piano, guitar, etc. My parents did not really have the resources to pay for private lessons. At the age of 12 I wanted to play sax with my school band, but the school had only one sax and it was given to another student. Later my parents got me a cheap guitar, however it was not good enough quality to really learn on.  Years later I taught myself to play my sister’s flute. In my teens I played bass in various rock bands and later moved on to play guitar. I was always interested in Jazz and Blues, listening to all styles of music, but I spent a lot of time working in rock bands. When I moved to Austin Texas in 1998 my drive was to focus on Jazz. That is when I put out the album Jazz Gunn – Concepts of Matematoot where I play guitar. I finally got my wish, to be a sax player when I purchased a tenor sax a couple of years ago. I now have a second release coming out that involves my sax work.

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

WO: – I try to practice a few hours every day focusing on sax and it’s fundamentals. I know  about music  theory and such from many years of playing guitar and the sax fingerings are very similar to  playing flute so the switch has been mainly to develop a good embrasure on sax.  I don’t often use a metronome since I’ve always had a pretty good sense of time. I do practice to recorded music, which helps develop rhythm.

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

WO: – I think a sense of melody comes naturally to me having always wanted to be a singer. I love melody but dissonance has it’s place. Dissonance can spark an alternative mood that comes perhaps from many life experiences and what is going on it the world. I don’t know that I have a particular preference to harmonic patterns. It’s just flowing out. While performing I’m listening to others as much or more than what I am playing.

JBN.S: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?

WO: – I’m not sure I want to prevent it. I’m not really sure if I mind being influenced or if I’m even aware of it when I perform. I can here things in my recordings that have come from others. Is there really a way around it?

JBN.S: – What do you love most about your new album 2018: <Willie Oteri and Dark Matter Horns: Dark Matter Horns with  Dark O’clock – Live at Kenny Dorham’s Backyard>, how it was formed and what you are working on today.

WO: – The spontaneity. Trumpet man Dave Lazkco and myself had a date to perform as a duo to which I had invited keyboardist and electronic percussionist LCM – Ricardo Acevedo to sit in with us. I don’t usually, but just happened to record the show. It is recorded on a simple hand held field recorder placed in front of the stage. When I heard the recordings I decided we should put some of  it out.

For the next adventure there are plans for do a more formal studio recording with Ricardo Acevedo as O’clock. Hopefully we can do that in November.

Картинки по запросу Willie Oteri and Dark Matter Horns: Dark Matter Horns with  Dark O'clock - Live at Kenny Dorham's Backyard

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

WO: – Musically they need to work together like good harmony. Thinking too much while performing is never good. I tend to be too stiff in my performance if I am too aware of it. While watching others perform soulful playing always wins me over.

JBN.S: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?

WO: – I do keep in mind what a particular audience might be expecting. Since what I do is mostly improvisation the audiences I perform to are expecting a spontaneous performance. Sometimes that may be more acoustic and more ambient and at other times a more driving rhythm and electric performance is expected. If I’m performing with say a Rhythm and Blues artist my job then is to perform that material as written, but there is always room for some improvisation.

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

WO: – I have so many great memories from this journey. I am very fortunate to be able to focus on music as my life. My favorite memories are about meeting new musicians for the first time and then being able to record or perform with them. I enjoy travel, meeting people and being able to record or perform music with them is a wonderful experience. There really is no one experience I value over the others. It’s been a great journey.

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

WO: – This is an area where I think improvisation plays a key role. Teaching students to create music the same way the masters who wrote those standards did. It often starts with just jamming. We’ve been holding a monthly performance and jam session here in Austin at Kenny Dorham’s Backyard for 7 years and that has helped many young players find a path and alternative not provided by the local jams that focus on simply performing standards. In the US and in Italy I am noticing a greater interest in jazz from young players. The biggest hurdle at this time is finding venues and schools that are willing to respect the need for a new approach in the creation of jazz and let the kids run with it.

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

WO: – Music is defiantly what makes me whole. I’ve always been driven by it as many are. Our spirit, for lack of a better term is that driving force that is in us. I am not sure if we are born to it or it develops later on but it’s powerful. Very powerful.

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

WO: – For lay people to have a much better understanding of how music is developed, promoted and marketed. I think some of the best music in the world is being overlooked simply because there is not sufficient marketing behind it, and the opposite is true. Of course a big part of this is that many simply can’t hear the difference, but if people understood the process better it may help them discover some great music which might be just down the street from where they live.

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

WO: – Lately I’ve been listing to very early Weather Report, and any free jazz or experimental music I can get my hands on.

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

WO: – I’m adventurous, so maybe very far into the future to see if we have survived all the turmoil of the present and if so, what has been learned and of course what would the music and art of that time be like.

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

WO: – Where do you see jazz and music and art in general heading in the next few years?

JBN.S: – Thank you for answers. I see them in globalization, unfortunately …

JBN.S: – So putting that all together, how are you able to harness that now?

WO: – I’m into exploring any and all possibilities to create in an improvised environment.  I hope to work with as many artists and musicians as I can in the coming years. For the immediate future, LCM – Richard Ricardo Acevedo and I plan on recording later this year and touring Europe next year.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

Картинки по запросу Willie Oteri saxophonist flutist

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