June 18, 2024


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Interview with Jon Schapiro: If intellect is thoroughly internalized … Video

Jazz Interview with jazz composer and conductor Jon Schapiro. An interview by email in writing. 

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

Jon Schapiro: – I’m a native New Yorker.  Aside from four undergrad years and one year teaching in the middle of rural Pennsylvania, New York has always been home.  I don’t have one of those ah-ha moments about being drawn to music.  I just was.  My parents aren’t musicians, but there was always music playing in the house.  My interest led to piano lessons when I was 6.

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

JS: – Two different processes had to happen, the way I think they do for any musician.  You develop technique and you develop your taste.  Taste is the process of knowing – or maybe deciding – how you want your music to sound.  Technique is the means of getting at that sound.

For me, I hope it evolved by listening to whatever I thought was good, or exciting, or interesting, over and over.  That especially influenced my taste.  Techniques developed out of trial and error (it still does, I hope), as well as helpful comments from people who were writing music before me.  Insightful musical minds like David Berger, Jim McNeely, and Dinu Ghezzo were all extremely helpful.  They understood the artistic goals I was dealing with; they explained, through their own works as well as through the works of other writers they respected, how certain ideas work.  They also knew what I should be listening to!

Ultimately it comes down to trying new ideas out at the piano.  Then, with the band.

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

JS: – Even when I’m just sketching out some basic ideas, I always have the metronome nearby.  Sometimes I’ll let it keep time so I can focus inside of each beat.  The metronome is vital, even to someone like me, even though I almost never play out.  Certain rhythmic ideas sound much better at specific tempos.  So when I’m not sure of a rhythmic idea, how it sounds at a specific tempo will tip the scales.

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

JS: – The disparate influences are already there!  If they color what I’m doing, that sounds like a good thing!

JBN: – How do you prepare before your performances to help you maintain both spiritual and musical stamina?

JS: – I hope there’s a time when we are performing so much that my stamina is put to the test.  Maybe I’m not the best person to answer this question, but I’d think that my spiritual stamina would be nourished by an increase in performances.  I imagine that hearing the band getting stronger and stronger each night and to be in that trajectory with them as the comfort level continues to grow would be a source of strength and inspiration.  It would be fun to test that theory out.

JBN: – Ism is culled from a variety of lives dates with various performers over the course of a few years. Did your sound evolve during that time? And how did you select the musicians who play on the album?

JS: – For our first rehearsal, I just emailed musicians until I had 17 chairs filled.  Some of them I knew this project really had to have, but along the way we found a blend of musical and extra-musical personalities that complement each other.  I was lucky that many players who came in as subs provided a new glimpse of how this band could sound.  It was a few years before we had the lineup that appears on New Shoes.

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

JS: – Wow.  I never thought of it as a balance.  I think you just want to express what’s inside you to anyone willing to listen.  You need some level of intellect to do that.  If intellect is thoroughly internalized it won’t be in the way when you’re putting your feelings about the world out there.

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

JS: – I try not to think about that when I’m working on a chart.  I hope the band will like it enough to play it well.  If that happens, then I just hope there’s an audience who will appreciate the joy of collaboration and that band camaraderie.  And not talk during the quiet parts.

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

JS: – It was toward the end of our third public performance.  We’d been rehearsing a challenging book for a few years at this point.  In the middle of one tune, I realized that material we had worked very hard on was now happening very naturally and easily with the band.  Instead of shoulders all tensed up, this was a relaxed band playing with a comfortable intensity.  It was surely a gradual development, but once I was aware of it, a satisfying one.

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

JS: – I don’t know.  I’d be thrilled if a few more middle-aged people were interested!

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

JS: – It can’t be put any more eloquently than how Trane is quoted here.  I am grateful to wake up every morning with a purpose.  To be able to find ways to indulge that drive and share the ideas, communicate that gratitude is a blessing.  So, in a word, gratitude.

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

JS: – Here in New York, even in the best of times I see extraordinarily talented men and women have to make extraordinary sacrifices – just to get through the week as working musicians.  Maybe it’s not for me to say, but I would guess that our culture does not place the same value on their dedication and talent that those of us within our small community do.  So if there were one thing I could change, this would be it: New York’s hard-working musicians, many of whom are friends who have performed or rehearsed with Schapiro17, would enjoy so much respect and esteem from the culture at large that they would never be driven or tempted to question their decisions to spend their lives making music.

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

JS: – Every day is different.  But in the last seven days it’s been Monk, Roberta Piket’s new solo piano recording, Bach, Duke, Dave Douglas, Haydn, Arturo O’Farrill’s big band, Art Blakey, the Berg Violin Concerto, and Oliver Nelson’s writing in a number of contexts.

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

JS: – I’ve never thought too much about that.  If I had a specific message in mind, someone getting anything else out of it would make the whole thing a failure.  I really just hope people will put on the recording or come hear us live and be glad they did.

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

JS: – That’s easy.  I’d like to move ahead six months or so, to a time when I can call another rehearsal and see my 17 favorite musicians in person again.

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

JS: – Sure!  What is it that moves you about your favorite music?  What happens in music that you end up glad to have spent an hour with it?

JBN: – For me, Jazz rep – the bad! Of course, jazz, classic, blues, soul, rock musics …

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

JS: – I don’t have a plan.  Tonight I’ll look at the score I’m working on and think about how it might sound better.  Tomorrow morning I’ll look over the whole thing and ask myself if it’s ready to pass out to the band at a rehearsal.  It’s not complicated.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

На изображении может находиться: 17 человек, в том числе Jon Schapiro, Nick Grinder и Roberta Piket, люди улыбаются, люди сидят и в помещении

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