May 28, 2024

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Interview with Jean Fineberg։ I want listeners to experience joy: Video, Photos, new CD cover

Jazz interview with jazz tenor saxophonist, flutist, and the Brits prefer floutist Jean Fineberg. An interview by email in writing. 

JazzBluesNews.com: – First, let’s start out with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music. How exactly did your adventure take off? When did you realize that this was a passion you could make a living out of?

Jean Fineberg: – I grew up in New York City.  My mother, a professional dancer, played a bit of piano, and she enrolled me in piano lessons when I was six. I continued with private music lessons all my life, played in all my school bands and orchestras, and attended summer music camp on flute for 13 years. I also experimented with guitar and drums.  When I learned that the saxophone’s fingering was similar to that of the flute, I borrowed a tenor sax, and found my true voice.

My college degrees from the Pennsylvania State University (B.A., B.S. and M.Ed. )were in science, but despite my father’s wish that I become a doctor, I knew that I wanted to exclusively pursue music. I never thought about whether or not I could make a living from music!  I just played whenever and wherever I could.

JBN: – How has your sound evolved over time? What have you been doing to find and develop your own sound?

JF: – My sound first evolved when I studied with the great lateJ oe Allard, teacher to many iconic sax players. He taught me to open my mouth cavity and let the air do the work. I think every player naturally has his/her own sound.  The journey is to listen and play until the sound from your horn matches the sound in your head.

JBN: – What routine practices or exercises have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical proficiency, in terms of both rhythm and harmony?

JF: – I start my practice with Joe Allard’s harmonics exercises. Then I run scales and chords in every key in various combinations. Then I run bebop heads as fast as possible and practice altered scales and ii-V patterns in all keys.  I listen to many arrangers for ideas. I don’t do anything in particular for rhythm – that seems to come naturally.

JBN: – Have you changed through the years? Any charges or overall evolution? And if so why?

JF: – My playing has evolved tremendously through the years, primarily due to the process of trying to overcome imposter syndrome (which, in my experience, is much more prevalent among women jazz players).  I finally learned to accept my style of Jazz-R&B-Latin-blues as legitimate, and let go of the assumption that to be accepted, I would have to try to be a bebop specialist.  I also credit my experience in working with bands in eclectic styles, including standards, salsa, funk, reggae

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

JF: – To maintain musical (technical) stamina, I make sure to practice daily long before a performance or recording. To maintain spiritual stamina, I just try to relax and let the music take over.

JBN: – What do you love most about your new album 2022: Jean Fineberg & Jazzphoria – Jean Fineberg & Jazzphoria, how it was formed and what you are working on today.

JF: – What I love most about the new album (Jean Fineberg & JAZZphoria, 2022) is that it’s the first of many albums I have recorded, which is solely in my own name, and with all my original compositions which I have arranged for octet. These days, I’m working on mew compositions for a second album with this octet.

Buy from here

Jean Fineberg & JAZZphoria | Jean Fineberg

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

JF: – I have played with all these musicians in various bands for years.  I wanted top level players who would contribute to a “family” atmosphere in the band – no grandstanding or personality issued. I also needed  multi-instrumentalists for my arrangements. Given a choice between women and men of equal qualifications, I usually chose women, because they have been so underrepresented in their well-earned visibility.

JBN: – In your opinion, what’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

JF: – Intellect is usually necessary for developing technique and arrangement skills. Soul  is just natural, and I always choose musicians with soul.  I value soul without intellect over intellect without soul, but of course one needs both technique and soul to communicate musically.

JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; are you okay with delivering people the emotion they long for?

JF: – The two-way relationship between audience and artist is paramount for me, which is why I much prefer live performance over recording.  My job is to deliver emotional content.  If it’s the content which audiences long for, that’s a total success!

JBN: – Can you share any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions over the years?

JF: – Oh my gosh, there are so many!

The New York City studio session for David Bowie’s Young Americans album where I played flute, but it was cut in the mix (I do have the original track with my playing.) John Lennon was there too. We spent all night listening to tracks in David’s brownstone. I am credited for vocals on the album (I am not a singer, but I did sing in a group on the iconic track, “Fame”).

The Carnegie Hall concert featuring women musicians, where I was invited to play with Dizzy Gillespie and Clark Terry, a photo of which appeared in the NY Times.

The world tours with Chic and the studio sessions with the Brecker Brothers for the “C’est Chic” (Good Times, Le Freak) album and the Sister sledge “We Are family” album.

The international tour with Melba Liston, when we played in (on the same roster as the Brecker Brothers!) Nice and I was able to exercise my French language speaking, such as it is!

The studio sessions for the Isis (unfortunate name, after the Greek Goddess) albums produced by Allen Toussaint in his New Orleans studio, which included some of my compositions.

The national tours and Live album (Season of Lighta) with Laura Nyro

Recording the album “Larry Harlow Presents Latin Fever” for Fania Records.

Working with 7-time Grammy winning studio engineer Leslie Ann Jones.

I think that’s enough for now!

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

JF: – Play new relevent compositions, such as those in the upcoming Berklee College of Music’s fake book “New Standards,” which includes one of my tunes.  And start including more women instrumentalists onstage and on the air – that will attract the other 50% of young listeners (ie the girls!) who  will be able to see role models and believe that jazz belongs to them too.

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

JF: – I don’t purport to know anything about the general meaning of life. To me, the meaning of each life is what each person infuses into it.  The meaning of my life is to bring joy, comfort and hope to as many people as possible, which I attempt to do in my daily life, and via music.

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

JF: – That women instrumentalists in all forms of music receive as much respect and visibility as men artists.

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

JF: – Michael Brecker always, Tower of Power (for the arrangements), James Brown (for the groove),  Janis Joplin (for the phrasing), The Count Basie Band (for the arrangements).

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

JF: – I want listeners to experience joy, to allow their bodies to move with the groove, to appreciate the structure and complexity of the solos and arrangements.

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

JF: – As far into the future as possible, given that the human race is still here, because I’m bummed that I will die and not know what happens!

JBN: – So far, it’s been me asking you questions, now may I have a question from yourself…

JF: – Why is bebop valued over other forms of jazz (R&B, Latin, etc.)? Why is intellect often valued over soul?   Why are male players afforded more visibility than female players?

JBN: – Because jazz was the first to change from dance music to a bibop, which was the most difficult to give and confirm. It is impossible for many people to like intellectual music without a soul. I just think the problem is that men move more easily and perform in different squares, women, sorry, but they are a bit capricious.

JBN: – At the bottom line, what are your expectations from our interview?

JF: – Simon, I really really appreciate your website and your granting me this interview.  Rather than expectations, My hopeis that folks listen to my music and respect the compositions and arrangements, that they bring people joy, that people come to value soul equally with intellect in music, and that someday I will be afforded the gift of playing in France, for which I promise I would ramp up my French language skills!

Thank you Simon, so very much, for this opportunity. Sincerely, Jean.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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