Jazz Interview with jazz drummer Jon Krosnick. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.com: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?
Jon Krosnick: – I was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and grew up half-way between Philadelphia and New York City. I started playing piano and age 6. Beginning when I was 9 years old, I began to spend 8 weeks every summer at the National Music Camp at Interlochen, Michigan, where I trained as a classical percussionist and jazz drummer. One summer there, I heard a concert by the Stan Kenton Orchestra, featuring young drummer Peter Erskine making his debut with the band. I was so electrified by the experience that I was hooked on jazz drumming right then and there.
JBN: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?
JK: – Since the beginning of my drumming, Erskine has always been a touchpoint, since his playing in so many different sorts of jazz settings is so thoughtful and sensitive and swinging and funky and powerful and effective in helping every band sound its best. Other powerful influenced from early on were Steve Gadd and later Dave Weckl. I’ve heard the three of them live numerous times, and my eyes were always glued to their hands, watching what they did and how they did it. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that the first jazz record my dad bought for me was Buddy Rich’s album, “Rich in London”. Amazingly inspiring, too.
JBN: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?
JK: – When we play a concert, our goal is to take audiences on a musical journal through many different territories. We don’t want to play a concert that is tune, tune, tune, tune, the end. Instead, we program as much contrast as we can from one tune to the next, and in that way try to create the experience of living a vital and passionate and invigorating day-to-day life in an hour and a half of music. By the time we explode playing the final tune, we hope that see that we’ve done our homework for them – we put together a performance unlike others they’ve heard, that took coordination and forethought and dedication to the craft as well as to our listeners.
JBN: – How do you prepare before your performances to help you maintain both spiritual and musical stamina?
JK: – For me, the secret to being fresh on the gig is constantly really listening to new music and playing live as much as I can. My ears are always focused on the drumming I’m hearing, and I’m listening to how the drummer’s playing fits into and supports what everyone else is doing. After I get a dose of inspiration that way, there’s nothing more exciting than sitting down at the kit to put those new ideas into action. I’m also always working on steadying my inner timeclock, and I listen to recordings of myself partly to spot the moments when time shifts, so I can be on alert the next time thru that tune in that spot. Lastly, I’m always listening while I’m playing, mostly to the guys I work with, hearing how they shape lines and express their ideas. The best moments playing for me happen when all of us in the band smile at the same time because someone did something fun and different that anticipated what someone else would do and complemented it, creating a sudden feeling of freshness, which is the essence of improvisation. COVID has changed our dynamics on the bandstand, because at some indoor gigs, we wear masks. So the smiles aren’t as apparent, especially to our audiences. But we can still see the smiles in each other’s eyes.
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JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?
JK: – The whole point of performing is to make our listeners happy. We have no doubt about that. The greatest ending to any concert is the standing ovation, where our audience tells us that we connected with their minds and with their hearts. That’s always our goal.
JBN: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
JK: – Maybe among my favorites are of the final rehearsal before we take a new repertoire onto the stage. After struggling and nitpicking and working and working, we can’t help but smile about what we hope listeners will enjoy.
JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?
JK: – Indeed, the core of the jazz canon is repertoire written decades ago. And that’s one of the many wonderful features of jazz – that we all know the same armful of compositions and can come together to play those pieces spontaneously and have it sound tight and interesting. And audiences love to hear familiar repertoire played freshly.
BUT … No genre of music can sustain itself by playing only a fixed repertoire, and wonderfully, jazz is constantly expanding and constantly exploring. Listeners crave hearing something new, and it’s against that backdrop that Mike Brecker composed throughout his career. When we play his music, we are combining the best of both: celebrating world-class compositions written by a master, played freshly with new interpretations.
JBN: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
JK: – Many countries outside the U.S. cherish the arts and artists (including musicians) much more than happens in the U.S. these days. In those countries, audiences and governments provide tremendous support and security for musicians, often identifying and nurturing talented and dedicated players were very early in their lives. The U.S. stands in sharp contrast, because so many super-talented musicians struggle to put food on their tables while trying to find ways to keep their art alive. Yet the performing arts are vital for everyone’s happiness. No society could exist without music, and the privilege of hearing an amazing musical performance can inspire everyone to go home and do what they do better than they have ever done it before. And when delivered in the right way, music helps us all to feel powerful emotions and stay in touch with the cores of our beings. So if I could, I’d encourage American society to do more to cherish and nurture musicians and other artists, allowing them to do their work while feeling appreciated and without having to struggle to pay the rent.
JBN: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?
Does your music have a message?
JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?
JK: – I live my life always excited about what comes next and optimistically looking forward to the next step. For me, every today is preparation for tomorrow, hoping to set the stage for a fun and fulfilling experience for the people who I interact with. Happily, I don’t need a time machine – I just need enough patience to go to sleep tonight and see how things unfold the next day!
Interview by Simon Sargsyan