March 1, 2024

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Interview with Anthony Strong: Life is for living, lets have some fun! Video

Jazz interview with jazz vocalist Anthony Strong. An interview by email in writing.

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

Anthony Strong: – I grew up in Surrey, just South of London and was crazy about music from a very young age. My Mother found me at about 2 years old playing a make-shift drum kit out of pots and pans in her kitchen. It was clear that I was going to do music in some way, but it took me until the age of 16 to realise it was jazz I wanted to do. I was offered second study lessons (I went to music school as a clarinettist) in jazz piano, and those lessons just blew my mind!

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

AS: – Well I’ve always been into the more ‘straight-ahead’ style of jazz, so for me it wasn’t necessarily my sound that has evolved, more the palette of choices I have at my disposal. Only now at the age of 34 – and four albums in(!) – do I really feel that I know how to make a great jazz record. It’s been two decades of practice, listening, writing and performing!

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

AS: – I’ve become a bit slack recently actually! Although it’s very unusual for me not to sit at the piano at least once a day. I tend to ramp up my practice when I have shows about to do, like an athlete getting ‘track ready’. In my earlier years I would practice for at least two hours a day, but life gets in the way now I’m a bit older!

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?

AS: – Yes, it’s very much a conscious decision. There are jazz musicians who believe that ‘what they put out’ should be uncensored and unfiltered. A kind of “this is my art, take it or leave it” approach. For me, music is FOR the audience. And so I’ve always had a more ‘radio-friendly’ approach to making jazz in comparison to my peers. Also, I think, as a singer, it’s much more normal to favour a more diatonic, less dissonant approach. Those old standards are just written that way.

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

AS: – I don’t really, I’m super happy to be influenced by anything. I think one’s process filters out the ‘bad ideas’, and so that’s not something I really think about. If it’s not what I want to do, then it doesn’t go in! Generally, I think about what I like, what I’d want to hear, and what my audience wants to hear.

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

AS: – Good question. I think it should be about 20% intellect and 80% soul. But this definitely is a sliding scale, depending on the song or album I’m writing. Music in my opinion is made to move people’s emotions in one way or another, so without a large injection of ‘soul’ – or maybe ‘heart’ – it doesn’t do it for me.

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

AS: – Absolutely! It’s for them! Sure, it’s unhealthy for an artist to go against his own beliefs or principles, but so long as you’re in the right ball-park, the public really have the final say.

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

AS: – I did a spot at The Playboy Jazz Festival in Los Angeles at The Hollywood Bowl and Jamie Foxx (star of “Ray”) was the compere. Our encore just happened to be a Ray Charles song and so after I came off stage, I was beckoned to Jamie’s dressing room where we just hung out and chatted for a while. Just casually chatting with one of the worlds biggest stars! A very odd but enjoyable experience!

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

AS: – Just by sharing it with them. There’s nothing that says ‘the older music is, the less enjoyable it becomes’ – in fact – I think the opposite is probably true! Will people be dancing to Stevie Wonder in 50 years? I really think so. Well, I will be anyway…!

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

AS: – Oh, I’m still figuring that out… Although I do believe that if we had a little more empathy, happiness would be more abundant in all our lives. I’m 34 so it took two decades to work out music, life takes a little longer! I’ll get back to you in 20 years..!

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

AS: – We live in a crazily complex and technological world, I just wished some of that technology was around during my youth! Things I didn’t think would ever be possible in the studio, were just ten years away, it’s astounding. But it’s such good news for the upcoming generation – all this at their fingertips, it’s so exciting.

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

AS: – I take a lot of reccomendations from friends who aren’t musicians actually. Some of my friends are so ecclectic in their tastes – I’m like “How the hell did you hear about this album?!” Spotify also is great for hearing new gems. The music on my phone is mostly jazz greats, Chet Baker, Nat King Cole, some Miles Davis… but then there’s also some instrumental hip hop I love, some great EDM, loads of different things. When I cook I listen to classical radio. Very relaxing and my food always tastes better!

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

AS: – Life is for living, lets have some fun!

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

AS: – I made some questionable life decisions when I was younger… I’d love to go back to the late 90’s and make a few little changes – but wouldn’t we all?! Music-wise, I would have loved to see a young Frank Sinatra with the Basie Orchestra, that must have been incredible.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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