May 23, 2024

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Interview with Michael Zilber։ Jazz is the perfect balance, at best, between mind and heart: Video

Jazz interview with jazz saxophonist Michael Zilber. An interview by email in writing. 

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

Michael Zilber: – I grew up in Vancouver, Canada, son of 2 ex-New Yorkers, a writer and a ballet dancer/math teacher.  I always liked music, but got first intrigued when my parents suggested trying the saxophone when I was 10-years-old.  Within 2 weeks, when I did the first band rehearsal, they thought I’d been playing for 2 years, so guess I was a natural.

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

MZ: – My sound continues to evolve as what appeals to me changes. But the big influences on my sound have been Coltrane, Wayne Shorter and Mike Brecker, plus some Sonny Rollins and Joe Henderson and Dave Liebman, with a lot of the other usual suspects. Also, the genius saxophone guru Joe Allard, who taught Brecker, Liebman, Dolphy and Harry Carney among others,  gave me invaluable guidance as to sound production, etc when I studied with him at NEC.  My sound has always been a calling card, a unique blend of the above-mentioned folks and others, plus my own imagination. Most folks seem to dig it a lot.

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

MZ: – A lot of different things over the years, but nowadays it is mainly learning.memorizing new tunes/changes and improvising with an external rhythm source.

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

MZ: – I don’t know what that means, disparate influences. We are ALL influenced by everything we hear, good and bad, and to deny that is misguided, I think.  What is important is not to simply imitate and replicate what you have heard, but to absorb and let it come out naturally filtered and transformed through who you are and have become…

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

MZ: – Well, music is going on in my head every waking moment, and then there is the individual practice as well as composing, and all music has a spiritual component. All the years of practice and gigging come into play, and also the reminder to not pre-conceive, make sure to act and react and interact with your fellow musicians.  Stamina? Well, there is practice ready and gig ready, and there has been a dearth of gigs during Covid. just started doing gigs again in the last month or so, and so am getting back into gig shape, stamina-wise.

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

MZ: – Jazz is the perfect balance, at best, between mind and heart.

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

MZ: – I think what I owe the audience is to play my very best and be as honest and truthful as I can in playing the music we are presenting. Neither to cater to nor to alienate the audience.  But also to treat them with respect and warmth, esp when we are talking to them.

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

MZ: – Too many to recount, since there are great moments on most gigs and recordings…although the first gig I ever did with my friend and mentor Dave Liebman in New York City back in 1988 was epic…

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

MZ: – I think incorporating more current grooves and approaches as well following up ala Herbie Hancock and “jazzifying” more recent pop tunes will help.  As well, writing new music that reflects who YOU are rather than rehashing the sound of others is a good move.

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

MZ: – Well that is a wide and large question.  But, while I do not subscribe to any of the religious myths, I do believe that we tap into a larger and ineffable community and humanity of spirit when we play music, something that can approach the universal.

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

MZ: – I would love to see a more strong connection between the great music and musicians that are living all around the world – there are SO many – and the recognition that is given by the media, etc. Right now, it is much more about self-promo on social media and elsewhere, and that is a shame.

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

MZ: – The list is too long to put down here, but every day I hear something new that I think is pretty remarkable, much of it from musical friends and colleagues.  I do really love the music of my friends John Stowell, Dave Kikoski, Rachel Z and Doug Beavers among MANY others…

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

MZ: – A message?  Just be truthful, authentic and excellent and spread beauty as much as you can. Honor the music and you honor yourself

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

MZ: – Right here and now. It is all we have so best to be in and experience that moment.

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

MZ: – For myself?  Hmmm … Mike, do you think you will be able to do the various projects you have in mind with the time you have left, while still seeing more of the world with your wife and becoming a first-time grandfather soon?

JBN: – Our questions seemed to you a little. You should have asked me your question, not told me about your personal life.

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

MZ: – If that is meant as an answer to the question for myself? Doing a pretty good job, all things considered, and we shall see 😉

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

Michael Zilber Quartet - YouTube

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