May 20, 2024

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Interview with Andy Jaffe: The soul informs your intellectual decisions: Video

Jazz interview with jazz pianist and composer Andy Jaffe. An interview by email in writing. – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?

Andy Jaffe: – I was born in Washington, D.C. and moved to metro New York at age 6 and then to Amherst, Mass., where I went to high school.

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

AJ: – My sound evolved on the basis of who I listened to.  I found my own sound much earlier as a composer than as a pianist.  As a pianist, at first I just tried to play well enough to lead my own bands on gigs and recordings, and matured, as everyone does, by listening to more people, both live and on recordings.

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

AJ: – The only way to do this really is by playing with people, because there’s rhythmic elasticity in a jazz rhythm section which cannot be accounted for just by playing with a metronome.  I play along with recordings too.

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

AJ: – I’m not sure I understand the question.  We all WANT disparate influences to color our playing.  Our language develops from the combination of these influences and listening habits.

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

AJ: – I stay in shape physically, by running 3-4 times a week and doing yoga-based exercises the days in between.  I’ve been running since ’64.

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?

AJ: – I am not sure what you mean by “ism”; can you please clarify? I am fortunate to always have the enthusiastic support of the players on my CD, including Jimmy Greene, the late Wallace Roney, Kris Allen, Bruce Williamson, Freddie Bryant, and my son Marty on bass.

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

AJ: – Can’t have one without the other.  They’re not mutually exclusive.  Your “soul” informs your intellectual decisions by means of your musical intuition.

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

AJ: – Well there isn’t now! I see and have participated in several online concerts, but it’s not the same.  At a live gig, the audience is another participant of the ensemble.  I play my own compositions, and if that’s what the audience wants we’re all happy.

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

AJ: – When my wife and I went to Hermeto Pascoal’s house, we sat in with the band and I got to watch Hermeto in action.  Later he came to the US, where I arranged a midnight concert for him.  My piano duo with the late Tom McClung transcribed and performed “Slave’s Mass” (Missa dos Escravos) for four hands to open the concert.  Hermeto toasted us backstage with a bottle of wine he’d brought from my house, and played our teakettle with a tuba mouthpiece.  Surreal!

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

AJ: – We have to write and perform our own too!!!!! (And so should they! – but not without listening to the masters)

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

AJ: – I agree with Trane.

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

AJ: – Medium guaranteed income for all creative artists, so we won’t have to do dumb commercial gigs any more (clubdates).

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

AJ: – Egberto Gismonti, Duke, Trane, Bartok, Mario Adnet, Monk, Hermeto, Bird, Billy Childs (it’s a long list beyond that)

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

AJ: – That we own must have our OWN identity and rebel against orthodoxy and genericism, which is rampant in jazz education unfortunately. That we are all equals.  That all kinds of musics should be played by all kinds of people.  That everyone’s cultural heritage is important, not just European or American.

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

AJ: – I want to go back to the Lascaux Caves and hear them play that 30,000 year old pentatonic flute they found there.

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

AJ: – What is genius?

Thelonious Monk said a genius is “the person who is the most like himself”. Duke Ellington wrote all his parts for particular people, not for just an instrument.  The part doesn’t have the instrument name only, but usually also the player’s name.  To me the most important thing in Jazz is individuality of voice, so you have to refine who you are as an individual and try not to resist the temptation to imitate. You also have to surround yourself with players who understand and support your music.

JBN: – My question is if you have a question for me 🙂

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

AJ: – I’m going to write more tunes and keep documenting them.  Because nobody else will do that for you!

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

AJ website photo w higher res.jpg

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