June 14, 2024


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Interview with Pat Bianchi: The intellect portion of music should mainly stay in the practice room or rehearsals: Video

Jazz interview with a bad musician, idiot and as if organist Pat Bianchi. An interview by email in writing. 

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

Pat Bianchi: – I grew up in Rochester NY.. Music is something that runs in my family. Both of my grandfathers and my father were semi professional musicians. My father would make recordings of the band he worked with. It was a quartet, they played a lot of the music popular in the big band era. But I would listen to those recordings he made and just became fascinated with them. So I began to figure out a lot of those songs by ear with a toy keyboard. As time when on (I think I was 7) for a Christmas gift I was given a “combo organ” a Farfisa by one of my grandfathers, the other gave me an amplifier to go with it. So that began my time of learning more songs, figuring out how to play bass lines and eventually having family jam sessions which included my father (who was a drummer) as well as my grandfathers (one was a saxophonist and the other played trumpet) .. I think by the time I was 12, I began playing gigs.

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

PB: – Well I think its difficult to give a precise path of how it developed.. Of course I was influenced by so much music I heard on recordings, people I wanted to emulate as well as those who took part in my mentorship. There were of course some key musicians I had transcribed and learned their solos.. ie Wynton Kelly, Sonny Rollins, Joey DeFrancesco. But I think the evolution of my approach and playing has grown rapidly the last few years because I have made an effort to NOT sound unique. It sounds like a dichotomy, but the thing is the more you force something.. the less authentic and to a degree honest it can sound. So I’ve embraced my influences more so, tried to be open to exploring more musical ideas not for the sake of being different, but out of curiosity as an example. In the end, as a result of a more “hands off” approach in the area.. a lot of more creative and unique things have appeared in my playing..

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

PB: – I have gone in the opposite direction in that instead of practicing to play faster, I try to play slower. In slower I mean literally tempo. Certain tempos are very natural and easy to play.. yet trying to execute something at very, very slow tempos with the same comfort and ease as faster tempos is MUCH more difficult. So having that goal of playing as complete, relaxed and musical at a very slow tempo as a medium tempo or fast tempo is what I work towards.. If you can be clear and relaxed on a ballad tempo, then you will be just as clear on the medium or very, very fast tempos. In the end being exposed playing so slow will show you a lot about your playing and 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?

PB: – Well I will always be a disciple of bebop. With all the different schools of playing today, bebop is still the biggest challenge and where so much of the vocabulary comes from. So of course I love that, I have always loved “melodic” players .. ie Keith Jarrett, Jim Hall, Ben Webster, etc.. Melody while still conveying the harmony is where its at to me .. not “licks” or a lot of meandering in a specific tonal center without direction. But in terms of the use of dissonance, I do use it. It depends on the context I am playing in and of course I look for the balance. Like tension and release.. but you need to have control of its use. Thats what makes it more interesting to listen to… If you only play one with out the other, its not always very interesting to listen too or to my ears can sound very contrived…

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

PB: – If I am understanding the question right, I would have to wonder why you would prevent disparate influences for affecting you. Don’t our experiences make up who we are, therefore influence our music and creativity? I think it can make for a more interesting story

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

PB: – To me the intellect portion of music should mainly stay in the practice room or rehearsals. Don’t get me wrong, we all draw on that intellect when we perform, making split second decisions and also in our reaction. But it should almost take a back seat to the soul or the subconscious mind when we play. I’ve had my fair share of working with cats who look at music like math or approach from a very strong intellectual place. It’s boring to play with and actually sounds contrived and like someone is doing something for the sake of it.. not because it makes sense for what is happening in that moment.

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

PB: – Of course … I recently took a trio on tour and we opened up for Steely Dan in the midwest, there were a couple nights you could play whatever and do no wrong, but a few times I had to search so to speak to find something that would pull the audience in and I was successful … So it worked and I think its part of the reason I will probably be doing more opening dates with Steely Dan. But if you can at least meet an audience half way, you will be appreciated (and asked back) more often that not.

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

PB: – In 2001 while living in Denver, CO, I organized and promoted a 2 B3 concert with my mentors, Joey DeFrancesco and Byron Landham. They have been musical heroes since I was in my late teens. Joey of course has been a huge influence on my playing, so to get to share the stage with those guys for one night in a tiny packed little club in Denver was something I’ll never forget. Actually as I look back on it, I can’t believe I had the balls to play with those guys then. I also remember my first gigs at The Village Vanguard with Lou Donaldson. Not only to be in disbelief that I was actually playing at such a famous club, but having to help move a B3 and Leslie up and down those stairs.. my back will never forget that one!

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

PB: – The tunes are a vehicle, so the age doesn’t matter. To me it more important to introduce the music at a young age. Bring it back to the schools and at the same time educate people about this music (which is black american music) it’s history, the culture and ways of life behind it as well as discuss where it has been taken to by all people. But it has to be experienced in person .. there is nothing like experiencing music, even if it is not jazz, in person and living in that moment.

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

PB: – In terms of the music … I just see it as honesty in communication. Plain and simple. Your intent will come across in your music (or playing) and you can’t hide it or from it. In terms of the meaning of life, it’s a similar thing except you will have to deal with karma too..

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

PB: – Promotion … too much emphasis is put on music that to me lacks substance. Compare just the lyrics to that of standards, music of the 60’s and 70 to whats out there now. So much feels dumbed down. So if the powers that be would spend just a fraction of their time promoting quality vs the fads, I think so much would be better across the spectrum.

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

PB: – Honestly … it changes so much with where I am at (or even what kinds of gigs I am playing) So much is in the realm of jazz of course. So many different things to choose from.

JBN.S: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?

PB: – I feel like its a combination of intensity and joy. As I get older I find myself being less serious on the stage in the sense I’ll laugh more (at myself too), take more chances, but still have a lot of focus and intensity. I am told so much of the above draws people in even more because by witnessing and experiencing those things, they feel a part of everything.

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

PB: – Well I will partially answer that question in that, I would still be here in NYC but go back about 2.5 yrs ago and at this time I won’t say why, but I would make a few different choices. But at the same time, I also feel like I wouldn’t necessarily feel the need to go back.. everything has developed and come together in so many great ways.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan


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