Jazz interview with jazz trumpeter Kenny Warren. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.com: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?
Kenny Warren: – I grew up in Denver, Colorado. I’ve loved music for as long as I can remember. One of my earliest memories is of a teacher asking everyone in the class what they wanted to be when they grew up. I announced that I wanted to be a magician, but what I meant was that I wanted to be a musician. I’m lucky in that way. I knew I wanted to be a musician since before I knew the word for it. My Dad is a decent amature trombone player, and my mom taught elementary school music for about 4o years. They were very supportive despite their realistic concerns about the economic situation in the US for musicians and other artists.
JBN: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?
KW: – When I was a teenager, Denver was a great place to be an aspiring musician. I had lots of mentors and friends around me who stressed the importance of finding your own sound. I’ve always been curious about all kinds of music, but yeah, I had phases of imitating my trumpet heros. At this point I hope that all those influences have synthesised into something new. I used to sometimes get in my head when I was improvising because I would play something and then think, Oh I stole that for KD, or that from Ron or this from Coung Vu, or Wadada or Shane or Ralph. I don’t trip about that anymore. My sound has developed as I’ve grown up. And of course, moving to NY made a big imprint on me. Denver has a sound. New York sounds different. Also, certain things on the trumpet were never easy for me, so to some extent technical limitations had to be met with creative solutions. In some ways you have always been yourself, in other ways you are always becoming yourself.
JBN: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?
KW: – Maintaining trumpet playing takes me about an hour a day. I’m not as methodical about it as I wish I was, but I’ve been trying to get into a routine lately. For the past decade or so I’ve been working pretty consistently, and having gigs has kept me in shape, but with everything on hold for covid, I’m finding I need a routine to stay in shape. Rhythm is one of my favorite things to practice. Lately I’ve been doing that mostly on the piano.
JBN: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?
KW: – I don’t try to prevent that. Music is music. I have a lot of things that have collected in the well over the years. When it’s time to pull up a bucket a water, it’s all mixed up, and it’s all good. Of course certain musical situations call for different things. Sometimes I worry I spread myself too thin by playing different styles and with different concepts, but I think that is the way that most modern musicians exist these days. Especially in New York where everything is happening all at once. I trust that even in different settings my sound and some kind of essence remain consistent.
JBN: – How do you prepare before your performances to help you maintain both spiritual and musical stamina?
KW: – That is a great question. I don’t know that answer.
JBN: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
KW: – The intellect is for the practice room. When I am making my best music, I am gone. Leaning on my intuition, instincts, in a flow. The soul is a part of everything.
JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?
KW: – That depends what they want to hear.
JBN: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
No memories for young man.
JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?
KW: – Playing standards is fun, and it’s a great way to start playing with other people. Some common language is helpful for opening the doors of communication. Having said that, if a musician isn’t interested in playing standards, I don’t think that means they can’t play jazz. Improvising has come from a lot of places and it has gone a lot of places, and there is no rule that says you have to know All The Things You Are to be an improviser. I always tell young musicians to work on what they want. Whatever inspires them. If it’s tunes great. If it’s something else, something I’ve never thought of, even better.
JBN: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?
KW: – Coltrane was truly a saint, and his music remains an endless source of inspiration. I don’t claim to know what the spirit is exactly, or what the meaning of life is, but I’m trying know, and when I listen to Coltrane, it makes me want to keep trying.
JBN: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
KW: – One specific thing? I would make Spotify and similar platforms start paying musicians some damn royalties. As a consumer, the streaming model is amazing. But what they are paying artist is criminal. Criminal.
JBN: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?
KW: – I’ve been on a Wayne Shorter kick this week. Last week I was playing the new Deerhoof and the new Dirty Projectors on repeat. What else, Terry Allen, Art Ensemble of Chicago, El Mal Querer by Rosalia, and record where Bartok plays his own pieces on piano called Bartok the Pianist.
JBN: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?
KW: – I just try to bring the moment, and let the music speak for itself.
JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?
KW: – 2040 to see if we managed to save the planet.
JBN: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself…
KW: – I don’t read much in the way of jazz magazines or blogs or anything like that, but I appreciate the interest and support. Do you enjoy your work? What, in your mind, is the state of creative jazz writing and criticism?
JBN: – This is very bad for you, a good musician needs to be promoted and read a lot. Therefore, you did not rate the advertisement and review on our website. But we also аll fine, but also like every competition, and we have some problems…
Interview by Simon Sargsyan