Jazz interview with jazz bassist Eric Hochberg. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.com: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?
Eric Hochberg: – I grew up in Evanston, IL, also the home of great bassists Bob Cranshaw and Stafford James, and I remember being interested in music from a very early age. I would pretend that the back of our sofa was a piano keyboard and mimic playing on it. I started piano lessons in first grade.
JBN: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?
EH: – Well, cumulative experience is key to developing knowledge and the sound that results. Playing a number of instruments does also. My piano, guitar and trumpet experience definitely influence my bass playing and composing.
JBN: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?
EH: – Up until the pandemic I had been playing five to seven gigs a week for fourteen years with my group, The Eric Hochberg Trio, so that was pretty good routine for maintaining things. I still play scales and technical exercises with a metronome and have even been playing along with records to try and get back into shape as work is coming back.
JBN: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?
EH: – On the contrary, Whatever I hear influences me in some way, whether I choose to use it or not in my own music. I’m open to being influenced!
JBN: – How do you prepare before your performances to help you maintain both spiritual and musical stamina?
EH: – As I mentioned, playing as often as I was kept my stamina at a high level. The big question now, coming out of the pandemic, is how to regain the stamina? Spiritually, I just love playing and am always excited to play with good musicians.
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JBN: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
EH: – Well, the intellect is what helps you get through unfamiliar music quickly on a session, and gives you the tools you need to “fill in the blanks” of what could be. Soul is what gives meaning to the content. You need a certain amount of both for a successful performance.
JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?
EH: – Ideally, people like what we choose to give them! Reaching out to an audience with integrity of purpose is the main thing, I think.
JBN: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
EH: – There have been so many, but, in general, my experiences touring outside of the United States were a revelation in terms of the respect and high regard jazz is given overseas. Wonderful fans that are really into what we do and some lovely performance spaces giving great attention to detail.
JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?
EH: – Right, I totally get that. I still think it is important that budding jazz musicians spend time with music from different eras. We didn’t get to where the music is today, which is an extremely rich and varied place, in a vacuum. The young musicians I’ve had the pleasure of playing with, say in the last ten years, have all been extremely versatile and capable in moving from older standards and jazz tunes into their own newly composed music, which many are self releasing. It’s very heartening!
JBN: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?
EH: – I always felt that music is my religion in that it offers so much positive influence in my life. That and trying to follow the Golden Rule have worked out pretty well for me.
JBN: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
EH: – These days, it seems that the business model for musicians needs a facelift. We need to figure out a new way to really monetize our efforts in the digital realm.
JBN: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?
EH: – Since I’ve had so much time at home the past fourteen months I’ve been going through lots of music (LPs and CDs) I’ve had since the 60’s when I started collecting as a teenager. I hadn’t heard much of it for years, and I’m really digging it again! The masters, Miles, Coltrane, McCoy, Freddie, Gary Bartz, Charles Tolliver’s Music, Inc., Muhal Richard Abrams, Lee Morgan, Paul Butterfield, have all taken a spin lately.
JBN: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?
EH: – Beauty and Love and Freedom come to mind.
JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?
EH: – How about Minton’s Playhouse with Monk, Mingus, Roy Haynes, Dizzy and Bird?
JBN: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself…
EH: – Sorry don’t understand…
Interview by Simon Sargsyan