May 23, 2024

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Interview with Nery Kim։ Music composed of high intellect: Video

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

Nery Kim: – I was born and raised in South Korea. Ever since I was young, I naturally picked up playing the piano, as my father loved singing and playing the guitar. However, I never got into jazz music until I was in high school because jazz was not all that popular in Korea at the time. I remember it was as if I stepped foot into a whole new world, the first time I listened to jazz music – I had immediately fallen in love.

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

NK: – Since the beginning of my undergraduate studies, I’ve spent a good deal of time trying to figure out how I’d go about adding a touch of uniqueness to my sound. Through studying and analyzing different aspects of music such as characteristics, voicings, phrasings, or touches of various famous musicians, I think I’ve found my answers in the harmony. It’s a continuous endeavor – I try to define my play style through intervals and intensified harmonies.

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

NK: – It’s a given that I warm up with arpeggios, scales, and what not prior to deep-diving into a practice. One exercise I particularly enjoy is emphasizing every 3rd note on four beat repeats composed of eighth notes, achieving a ¾ style vibe. Moreover, when playing standard, I practice crossovers between measures in comping rhythms by sticking to a single type of rhythm such as dotted-quarters, or triplets. Also, I practice rhythms like 4:3 and 2:3 by letting my right and left hands play independently of each other.

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

NK: – I don’t think it’s a one-and-done sort of deal, where you can eliminate them altogether. It’s a persistent thing that always lingers out there, and can get to you in many unexpected ways. Simply accepting this as a fact helps keep a healthy attitude for me. Surely there are many challenges that I find overwhelming, or results that I even find disappointing, but they somehow act like a catalyst that molds what I have to be even stronger and more unique. Also, it helps a lot that the people closest to me are very supportive of my music.

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

NK: – Personally, I feel like I’m better off when I care less. I guess that’s why I try to avoid draining energy by thinking too hard, especially more so for larger performances. I psych myself as if I’m walking into a jam session with my friends, and I tend to be able to play at my best. Kenney Werner talks about something similar in his book, the Effortless Mastery, and it’s definitely a technique I can relate to.

JBN: – What do you love most about your new album 2021: Purple Reflection, how it was formed and what you are working on today.

NK: – It’s a humble compilation of eight pieces that I’ve worked on throughout my music career. I think the dim, yet beautifully dreamy vibes are portrayed quite well, and it’s  what I was going for. It’s also a great satisfaction that I got to make awesome music with a dream team of my choice.

JBN: – And how did you select the musicians who play on the album?

NK: – John Petitucci was one of the musicians I told myself that I would like to work with one day. I was studying with Russell Farrante from Yellow Jacket and that’s when I got to meet John. Alex Sipiagin and Dayna Stephens are two that just naturally came to my mind when I began to think of musicians who ought to be compatible with my music. Same goes for Alan Ferber. Jonathan Pinson, the drummer, is a colleague of mine from Berklee. I asked him to be part of this project, as his play style was one I admired ever since we were students.

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

NK: – Both are equally important, in my opinion. Music composed of high intellect might as well be dead music without the soul. Similarly, it seems as though the soul can’t be portrayed or delivered through music without the intellect.

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

NK: – I agree it’s two-way, but I think there’s a lot more to the relationship than a give-and-take. I guess I’m trying to say that it has more to do with communication, and I do believe that the constant communication with the audience is an integral part of music. In that sense, I wish I can become an artist who is not only good at speaking, but also listening to the music with the audience.

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

NK: – I’d have to choose the time when I went to the Java Jazz Festival in Jakarta. I can’t erase the memory of seeing the horde of people wearing hijabs rushing in to fill up the seats the moment those doors opened. I also want to mention the performances I had with the bassist Sekou Bunch, where I had played 3 separate keyboards, including the Keytar, at once. It was definitely one of those hectic concerts, but I also remember having a lot of fun.

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

NK: – I believe this to be a life-long homework for all the Jazz musicians out there. I believe Jazz has its unique characteristic in that it evolves not independently, but together with other genres of music. We can observe the younger generations of Jazz musicians dabbing at new interpretations when it comes to standard, and they are already playing with a new style of music, unbounded by the traditional swing and bebop. Majority of the musicians play originals in the realm of modern Jazz. I believe these originals could eventually become the new standard, enticing a new wave of interest to the newer generations.

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

NK: – That’s extremely deep. Many people seem to understand the body and the spirit to be one and inseparable. If John Coltrane said that music was his spirit – that he and music are one and alike, and are inseparable entities that can’t be separated – then I agree. It also wouldn’t make sense for me to part ways with music, and everything I associate myself with music defines who I am.

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

NK: – I would love to bring Bill Evans back to life and listen to him play live.

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

NK: – Although I don’t listen to a ton of music these days, the most recent attraction for me has been Domi & JD Beck. They already seem to have established a unique musical color of their own, but they are only so young. I’m also listening to James Francies’ new album released on Blue Note.

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

NK: – To be honest, there isn’t a special message per se. If anything, I hope the audience is left with a long-lasting aftertaste of the different kinds of emotions I tried to portray in my music, such as beauty, sadness, or dreaminess – sort of like when you watch a really good movie.

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

NK: – I don’t mean to sound naïve, but to be honest, I would choose not to go back in time, as I have many things to be thankful for in the present.

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

NK: – As an editor in chief of Jazz Blues News website, what’s your goal/purpose? What would you like to achieve?

JBN: – Of course, to spread and advertise jazz. Distinguish between jazz musicians, who are garbage, who are really musicians.

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

NK: – Part of my musical strengths come from all of the gigs I have performed, all of the teachers I have studied with, all of the conversations I’ve had and all of the experiences I’ve had traveling. Looking back at these experiences allows me to draw from them and harness them in my music and compositions. In addition as a performing musician I draw strength from the musicians on the bandstand and the interaction with the audience.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

Nery Kim Quartet: #6 - YouTube

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