June 13, 2024


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Interview with Andrew Finn Magil: No more just playing for tips … Video

Jazz interview with jazz violinist Andrew Finn Magil. An interview by email in writing. 

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

Andrew Finn Magil: – I grew up in Asheville, North Carolina. Both of my parents were musicians and like a lot of kids my age, I wanted to be just like my parents. My Dad created a series of music workshops called The Swannanoa Gathering outside Asheville, North Carolina and one of the flagship programs was “Celtic Week” specializing in Irish & Scottish music. It was Irish music which first caught my ear and convinced me to pick up the fiddle

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

AFM: – Until I was a teenager I played exclusively traditional Irish music.

One fateful day a family friend lended me a tape of jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt. From that day forward I was hooked. I was so mesmerized by Grappelli I started learning his solos knowing absolutely nothing about chord theory or how to improvise.

That however was a pivotal point in my understanding and would later lead me to learn more about jazz, Brazilian music, and other styles.

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

AFM: – My daily practice routine is always changing but over the last few years it has historically been: 30 min of the Bach partitas & sonatas, 30 min of scales or positions, 30 min of repertoire review, and the rest is ear training. If I’m playing scales, I’m usually playing to a metronome and if I’m working on ear training, I’m usually playing along to the source recording or backing tracks like the Jamey Aebersold recordings.

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

AFM: – I only study music which I really like and even if I do study something I’m not really into (say for a one-off gig or recording session), that usually doesn’t creep into my playing. I have to imagine what gets absorbed into my playing, is what musically inspires me, so I don’t consciously try and tune out disparate influences. I just trust what sticks is what I want to stick.

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

AFM: – I try and maintain a daily practice routine even when on the road. I kind of think of an ideal practice session as a trinity of fundamentals, ear training, and repertoire. If I can squeeze all three into a practice session, I’ll probably feel prepared for the gig that day. I’m the kind of player who really needs to play every day otherwise I don’t feel psychologically ready. Sometimes it’s impractical to practice when you’re on tour, so I also make a point to listen to inspiring musicians and tune out negative distractions like the news. I will ocen go running in the woods or meditate to help keep my spirits up since my mood greatly affects the way I perform.

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

AFM: – For this, I always come back to that Charlie Parker quote: “First you learn the instrument, then you learn the music, then you forget all that s**t and just play.”

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

AFM: – I feel like I do a good job of giving my audiences what they want but part of the idea for the quartet is to reach new audiences that historically, I haven’t reached. I’ve never had a gigging quartet and the sheer volume of sound and possibility for interplay on stage is lesser known territory for me. I feel like this could be a format that could reach new audiences I haven’t been able to reach up until now with duos or trios.

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

AFM: – I sat in at a jazz jam in the West Village when I first moved to NYC in 2012. I deliberately played a major seven on the last chord of a swing tune because I thought it was “hip,” and the piano player glared at me and yelled out “it’s a 6 chord!” I never played a major seven over a 6 chord on a swing tune again…

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

AFM: – I feel like you have to tap into youth culture. If young people don’t want to listen to jazz, figure out what makes them tick and try and integrate that into what you do. Robert Glasper is probably the best example I can think of as someone who has taken modern day youth culture and found a bridge between it and jazz. He can switch effortlessly between jazz and hip hop and no doubt he has won many converts to the jazz side because of his blending of these two styles. We’re not all going to copy Glasper, but the takeaway for me is that he proves that jazz can still be relevant.

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

AFM: – Man, I don’t think I understand any of it at all! I’m on a journey like the rest of us and the more I learn the more ignorant I feel. That said, I do think there is something magical about music and music has always been the easiest way to tap into that spiritual side. I wouldn’t say I understand what I’m tapping into, but I know it feels good and I know that it brings me closer to some spiritual truth, even if for only a fleeting moment.

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

AFM: – Value musicians more. Streaming services should pay artists fair royalties and there should be a “minimum fee” for hiring musicians. No more just playing for tips or playing three hours for $100. These are examples to make a point: music and musicians are undervalued (both financially and socially) and we need to change that.

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

AFM: – Bela Fleck, Mark O’Connor, Brooklyn Rider, Anthony da Costa, Aoife O’Donovan, Theo Katzman, Clifford Brown, Antwaun Stanley, Cory Wong, Grant Gordy, Alex Hargreaves.

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

AFM: – Music is a way of understanding the world. It is a bridge to any person and any culture.

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

AFM: – That’s easy. I’d go straight to Harlem in the 1940s for the birth of bebop. I can’t think of anything more exciting than witnessing the birth of bebop and hearing all of those jazz legends playing in the same room on the same night.

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

AFM: – Who are some of your favorite up and coming artists?

JBN: – Definitely not you and those who do not represent anything like you.

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

AFM: – At the end of the day, I just want to play good music and connect with people with whom I have mutual musical respect. If I can continue to do that while making a living, I think that’s the best scenario a musician can imagine.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

N.C. native Andrew Finn Magill finds common ground with Ireland native Dave Curley | Entertainment | greensboro.com

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