February 26, 2024

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Interview with John Colianni: “Modern” Jazz is not as modern – it goes back 80 years: Video

Jazz interview with jazz pianist John Colianni. An interview by email in writing. 

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

John Colianni: – Seeing Duke Ellington live in concert when I was a child.

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

JC: – My hometown teacher, Les Karr, showed me how to most effectively use keyboard touch to acheive a crisp, elegant sound and attack.

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

JC: – A regemin of scales and the Matthay exercises, the sytem of technique I was taught by that same teacher just mentioned. Rhythm is natural from inception – rhythmic aptitude can’t be taught, fr the most part.

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

JC: – For the most part, I don’t engage in transcription the way other players do. I like to refine and strengthen my own identity more than pay tribute to others.

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

JC: – A good method for me is to keep gigs frequent, and absent live gigs, to rehearse with my players.

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

JC: – It’s impossible to parse the two in words. The brain and emotions interact in many ways when creating and performing music that I can’t fully articulate in words. It’s fascinating to think about, though.

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

JC: – No, I play what I like. I feel that the material and style will hold an appeal, but one can never fully guage audience reaction.

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

JC: – After seeing Ellington’s orchestra when I was a little boy, I met him backstage, in a long line of visitors. He treated me like a peer – made me feel so good and so importane. And it was just a few words from him that were said. Seeing the band and hearing his piano and then meeting him was the all time thrill of my musical existence.

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

JC: – Young people are not oriented toward the contemporary with music. Previous generations always wanted something new, but today the most pleyed music is Pop Rock from 40-70 years ago. Standards overlap with these songs, era-wise. And “modern” Jazz is not as modern as some think – it goes back 80 years. The reason for all this is, a s a musical culture, the Western World has never surpassed – or even fully comprehended – the music that existed before 1950 or so. And we are sliding ever further backwards. Pop Rock and Hip Hop become more primitive with each passing day. So, for young peolle, Standards of the classic era will sound brand new, adventurous, sophisticated. And there are new generations embracing standards constantly.

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

JC: – Music is a manifestation of the human spirit in its expression. I think that says it all.

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

JC: – To restore physical product, and perhaps shut down internet access to free music.

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

JC: – Similar combinations as I ever had. Jazz, Classical, Pop, Country/Bluegrass, Musical Theater….

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

JC: – Simply to entertain and hopefully inspire others through my playing and writing.

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

JC: – The early 20th Century. A dangerous and brutal time, but in so many ways a BETTER time.

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

JC: – Can you promote some of the more deserving musicians a bit more? The people talked about tend to be selected for their”stardom” more by virtue of their friendships with Jazz Educators than by their abilities. And there is litte or no audience for a lot of the music heard in clubs and festivals. The fans are there for a “Jazz Event” and are faking their reactions. Can you promote more interesting players and singers?

JBN: – We do it, you just don’t exist because you don’t have the intelligence to cooperate with the media – me.

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

JC: – I don’t understand that question in the context of the others, but I will say that a musician should play as musc as possible, and keep alert and active and productive – and I shall strive to do the same.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

Jazz Pianist, Composer and Aranger - John Colianni

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