July 25, 2024


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Interview with Mariel Bildsten: As I see it today, we have intellect to express soul: Video

Jazz interview with jazz trombonist and arranger Mariel Bildsten. An interview by email in writing. 

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

Mariel Bildsten: – I grew up in Santa Barbara, California. I always loved singing and dancing, and played piano for a few years as a child. My parents had a love of music, and played a lot of rock and jazz in the house. I picked up the trombone when I was 10, and have been playing ever since.

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

MB: – My “sound” has evolved through a deeper understanding of the instrument and how it can be the ultimate middle-man between me and what I’d like to say or play. That has come from practice, transcriptions of the masters, and a lot of listening.

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

MB: – Playing with different bands has been the best rhythmic training anyone can ask for. Learning Chico O’Farrill and Machito’s music in Arturo O’Farrill’s band, Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie’s compositions in Evan Sherman’s band. And at home, long tones and transcriptions and practicing with a metronome.

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

MB: – We are all products of our influences, and “you are what you eat” applies musically. I listen to a lot of different types of music, there is just too much amazing music out there to ignore it.

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

MB: – The spiritual aspect comes from us making music together, so that’s maintained by everyone showing up and listening and giving and being on the same page. Our individual practice and experience allows us to come together.

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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?

MB: – Absolutely. We’re all constantly evolving, learning and understanding new things, and being influenced by the music around us. This album is just a snapshot in time of my musical development. My bandmates are dear friends and incredible musicians. Sean Mason (pianist) is an uplifter in every sense. His originality, brilliance and soulfulness make every musical situation brighter. Evan Sherman (drummer, co-producer) is absolutely uncompromising in his approach to excellence and playing music. His daring spirit, sensitivity, and attention to detail are inspiring. Stacy Dillard (tenor/soprano saxophonist) is an incredible musician and person. His playful energy and creative genius lights up any room. It’s the best feeling to play next to him, we get to fly! Ben Wolfe (bassist) is one of my very favorite bass players. I love his commitment to quarter-notes and time, and his dry sense of humor. His inventive lines and bounce bring every song to life. The album has a very “live” quality, and the band’s interactions are my favorite part.

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

MB: – As I see it today, we have intellect to express soul.

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

MB: – All we can do is play music that is genuine and beautiful to us, and hope that the audience enjoys it. Their response encourages us to continue.

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

MB: – I have really fond memories of getting to hear Roy Hargrove play at 3 am at Smalls Jazz Club. If the club was full of people talking, he’d shut them up really quickly by playing just a few beautiful notes.

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

MB: – Jazz is dance music, it’s meant to be moved to. Understanding this has helped me in the music, and I think the more it’s presented in that way, the more young people will be interested.

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

MB: – A willingness to be honest with and invest in each other within the community.

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

MB: – Charlie Parker, Mary Lou Williams, Lee Morgan, MF Doom, early Miles Davis, Billy Eckstine, Gabriel Garzon-Montano, Kenny Dorham…

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

MB: – I want and hope to present beautiful songs that make time stop so people can enjoy the present moment.

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

MB: – I’d love to go to New York in the 40’s-50’s, to hear all my heroes play. Or New Orleans in 1910.

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

MB: – From talking with a lot of jazz musicians, what is your sense of an overarching theme or desire that musicians express?

JBN: – The desire of these days is the end of the limitations of Covid 19, and in general, many are paralyzed from the intellect and are not really jazz musicians.

MB: – Hope you’re well, thank you! Let me know if you need anything else. Warm wishes, Mariel.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

Mariel Bildsten Delivers Sturdy 'Backbone'