May 18, 2024

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Interview with Kendall Carter: The soul should always come through the most: Video

Jazz interview with jazz organist Kendall Carter. An interview by email in writing. – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?

Kendall Carter: – I grew up in Louisville, KY, and honestly, I’ve just had an interest in music all my life. I started formal piano lessons around the age of 4 or 5, and the rest is history from there.

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

KC: – Three things influence my sound: (1) gospel music, (2) blues, and (3) jazz. Naturally all of those go together, so it’s no real big surprise. The number one thing that helped develop my sound was getting to play regularly; and primarily that has been by playing in church every week since I was about 10 or 11. Added to that, is being surrounded by so many great church musicians.

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

KC: – One routine I used to do a lot (but very rarely anymore) was that I’d practice playing the rhythms out of the Louis Bellson book “Modern Reading Text in 4/4.” Now a days I just spend time practicing with a metronome and records.

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

KC: – Well, the main thing is stay true to yourself. Early on I really battled with trying to let everything that I was listening to influence my playing, but I eventually settled to stay true to my roots. It was here that I realized I sounded my best and felt the most comfortable when playing.

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

KC: – I try to play as little as possible, and I actually like to go listen to this Jimmy Smith record “All The Way,” which features Eddie Harris. It’s my favorite record to listen to before a performance.

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

KC: – Dave Stryker (who produced the record), brought all of us together. Dave and I met roughly six years earlier in Louisville on a gig, while he was in town to teach at the Jamey Aebersold Summer Jazz Workshops. We’d been playing a couple times a year since then, so it was a no brainer. Kenny came on board per Dave’s recommendation. But Kenny and I had played together a few times prior to this record date.

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

KC: – The soul should always come through the most, especially as it pertains to performing. Save the intellect for the practice room. You’ll need it there to figure out how to navigate the changes, build lines, etc. But when you’re on the bandstand, speak the truth from your heart and play with all you’ve got.

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

KC: – Absolutely! We don’t create music for the sake of ourselves. We do it for the listener. It’s honestly apart of the organ tradition to play a lot of the crowd-pleasing material (such as popular R&B, soul, or pop hits of the day).

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

KC: – I always like telling the story of being on a session with Jamey Aebersold. Let me preface this by saying, growing up playing in church I’ve always had this propensity to fill up all of the musical space with my chord voicings. Especially if I was playing a service where it was just organ and drums, you learn to play as full as possible.

In this instance, I was playing piano, and so we jump off into a tune. Jamey stops the band, looks over at me and asks, “how many notes are you using in your voicing?” As I always say, I was playing with a handful of keys. So he responds by telling me to play using either four-note or five-note voicings. So we start back into the tune, and since I love filling up the space, I chose the five-note voicing option. Immediately he stops the band again and says, “just use four notes!”

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

KC: – My initial reaction here is to play more contemporary tunes that the younger audience will recognize. Then, we spoon-feed them the classic literature. At the end of the day, there has to be a balance of old and new.

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

KC: – Well I’ll just say that within this music, the musicians have always held a very deep religious connection; and I’m no different. Growing up in church, and being a minister, I believe in playing with the Spirit so that others can feel what I feel. Furthermore, I believe that the Spirit mobilizes a person to continue moving through this life.

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

KC: – I would change the rate in which our musical genius heroes have left us. So many of the greats died too soon.

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

KC: – I’ve been listening to so many of the cats and everyone is producing some beautiful music right now. I guess if I had to name a few I’d say Emmet Cohen, Dan Wilson, & Dr. Lonnie Smith. But I listen to Hampton Hawes & Shirley Scott almost ritualistically.

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

KC: – Music is healing for all areas of our life (spiritually, emotionally, & physically). So in the words of Kool & The Gang, let the music take your mind!

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

Kendall Carter | Jazz at Wolfson Presents | Miami Dade College

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