Jazz interview with jazz contrabassist and composer Sal La Rocca. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?
Sal La Rocca: – I grew up in Liège (Belgium) and there was always a guitar in my family, it was my older brother who played and listened to a lot of soul and rock music.
JBN.S: – What got you interested in picking up the contrabass? What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today? What made you choose the contrabass?
SLR: – I had a period on the electric guitar I started on the electric bass, and there was only one step to go to the contrabass. After the advice of a friend saxophonist, I went to take private bass lessons for 2 years in private with a classic Polish bass player, a monster of the technique.
JBN.S: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?
SLR: – It takes a lot of time, over the concerts you adjust the settings to improve the sound. for example, find the right pickups and also the amp, not to mention the choice of the right strings.
JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?
SLR: – I still practice with a metronome, and still consult the method of Ray Brown or Rufus Reid. Currently I focus on the augmented scales in 7/4 … interesting!
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?
SLR: – I like the harmonic minor and also the dominant or major Phrygian mode, it gives a more melodic opening in the right context. I’m pretty instinctive and I sometimes trust the random product.
JBN.S: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?
SLR: – I try not to copy the solos of other big bassists too much, but I listen to them very carefully to better integrate them in my own way.
JBN.S: – What do you love most about your new album 2018: <#104>, how it was formed and what you are working on today.
SLR: – I like freedom of expression in my new album, that’s why there are not many arrangements in my music. The members of my quartet are good old friends and very good musicians, I know them very well and our goal is to make music in a very instinctive and natural way.
JBN.S: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
SLR: – It goes a little bit to the previous question, it is easier to develop the mind on not too complicated songs, but it all depends on your musical quality and your openness, for example, GIANT STEP of Coltrane, is (for the time) a grid of chords quite complicated and the result is very impressant, it remains spiritual.
JBN.S: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?
SLR: – The relationship with the public is very important to me, I sometimes dream of a music that everyone likes, a kind of elixir that would make everyone agree. Utopia of course! When I compose a piece, I try to put myself in the auditor’s place as much as possible. What is not always easy with I Modern Jazz, it requires a lot of attention and humility.
JBN.S: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
SLR: – I remember a tour in Corsica in 1994 with Lee Konitz, a very charming gentleman. On the first day of the tour, in a car behind him, he asked me to give him the seat belt that was within his reach, and I said, “Lee, you can take the belt by yourself ?” He laughed a lot…and treated me like his son throughout the tour.
JBN.S: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?
SLR: – For me, Charlie Parker has done most of the work, he has modified, simplified or reharmonized the harmonic cadences of the songs of the musical early 1900 to suck more improvisations and freedom. Young people in general love Charlie Parker for his revolutionary and adventurous side that gives a different and more current emotion.
JBN.S: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?
SLR: – I fully agree with that. The music is constantly linked to your soul. When I’m playing I think it might be the last time, the result is sometimes edifying, especially if you adhere to any religion, spirituality will be more effect.
JBN.S: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
SLR: – I would be very happy when the world of music in general is not specifically related to the world of finance. I find that it does not always give positive things.
JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?
SLR: – Roy Hargrove, Ravi Coltrane, Joshua Redman ….
JBN.S: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?
SLR: – The 50’s after the Second World War in New York at Vanguard Village 😉
JBN.S: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself…
SLR: – Not especially, but if you need one? How do you feel about interviewing hundreds of jazz musicians, of different horizons and styles?
JBN.S: – Thank you for answers!!! Fine, of course …
JBN.S: – So putting that all together, how are you able to harness that now?
SLR: – I will share as much as possible this interview to also better know your essential and nice works to promote Jazz and Blues.
Interview by Simon Sargsyan