February 28, 2024

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Interview with Craig Sharmat: I have to prepare with intellect: Video

Jazz Interview with jazz composer and guitarist Craig Sharmat. An interview by email in writing.

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

Craig Sharmat: – Both my parents played music, my dad violin, my mom piano. Around our house I grew up with classical music, lots of Brahms, Copland, Debussy etc from my dad, my mom was pretty much standards. I really did not listen to pop music till about age 11.

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

CSH: – It is always a work in progress. My last album “Bleu Horizons” I kind of have my sound down for that album, then I took off for 6 yrs to learn to play Gypsy Jazz and that is now a large part of what I do.

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

CSH: – I work a lot with backing tracks whether I make them myself or use others. I then try to apply interesting harmonic ideas over what ever changes I am playing over. I record those to see what is most effective and then attempt to get those new ideas second nature.

JBN: – 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?

CSH: – I use both a lot, hopefully it flows and the lines conclude in an interesting fashion or at least a good conclusion. Again I experiment with lots of harmonic ideas, it is hard to keep track of them all and some when talking about it just seem wrong but can be so right…playing a minor triad over a major chord can work if you know how to phrase it or a major chord a half step down from a major chord …. etc … it’s never ending.

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

CSH: – I don’t prevent it, I borrow from many but still have a large repotiore of my own ideas. Of course when things are free flowing I don’t know what is going to come out. In the heat of the moment if things are flowing there is not time for concious decisions.

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

CSH: – For me it’s a bit of a struggle, I have always been an emotional player but to make things different I have to prepare with intellect, some days are better than others.

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

CSH: – I trust since they are coming to see me that they are good with what I am going to do, if they want me to cook them dinner it is not going to happen.

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

CSH: – My favorite thing is to be on stage and just have the ideas flowing. I remember one time playing with Ronnie Laws at Humphries in San Diego one evening, looking over the bay with the boats and their lights on, perfect temperatures and the band grooving and thinking it does not get better than this. I remember playing a gig with Randy Crawford in Manilla in a 17,000 seat arena and no one can afford the floor seats so everyone is sitting a long ways away from us. When it was encore time and everyone lit their lights it looked like a giant lit doughnut.

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

CSH: – Have them experience live music. Seeing something happening I have found leaves the largest impression.

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

CSH: – I’m not a particularly spiritual person. I do believe I reach meditative states for lack of a better word when ideas are flowing and it is the closest I get to experiencing what some might call Nirvana, but I’m not convinced it comes from a higher power. Then as they say there are no non believers in fox holes.

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

CSH: – Whose world,? The entire musical world is such a vast place I wouldn’t consider it. For my own world I try to go about improving each day.

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

CSH: – I always listen to classical, a lot of Gypsy Jazz guitarists, Django, Adrian Moignard, Stocholo Rosenberg, more standard guitarists Pat Metheny, Chuck Loeb, etc

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

CSH: – Just trying to do my thing, I can’t say I have a deep philosophical message.

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

CSH: – Probably the early 60’s and see how what I know now would go over back then.

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

CSH: – Who have been some of your most interesting interviews?

JBN: – Thanks for answers. Bob Mintzer, Joey DeFrancesco, Paolo Fresu, Randy Brecker, Tigran Hamasyan, Pat Martino, and mote others …

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

CSH: – Harness what? not sure of the question.

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