May 24, 2024

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Interview with Megumi Yonezawa: I can naturally find a balance between intellect and soul: Video, new CD cover

Jazz interview with jazz pianist Megumi Yonezawa. 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?

Megumi Yonezawa: – I grew up in Hokkaido, a northern island of Japan. Music was always in my household because my family were music lovers and I could listen to music all the time when I was a child. I started taking classical piano lessons at the age of 7 and studied with a few different classical teachers before starting my studies at Berklee College of Music.

My studies helped me to prepare for a life as a professional musician.

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

MY: – I was influenced by my piano teacher, Ray Santisi when I attended Berklee College of Music. He never once asked me how he wanted me to play, but always asked how I wanted to play and what I am interested in. He encouraged me to develop my own sound.

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

MY: – What I am working on is very basic. I am playing scales and exercises with a metronome, searching for voicings, listening to music and trying out new ideas. I work on my own music, jazz standards and I also play a lot of Bach pieces and other classical material.

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

MY: – I used to be more structured in my approach, but lately I have been using my feelings and creativity more when searching for new ideas both in my improvisations and compositions.

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

MY: – I want to feel freedom and think about anything on stage, so I maintain myself toward the freedom as my goal. Being well prepared and learning the material I am about to perform or record, as well as possible is important.

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

MY: – My compositional style relies on the blending of jazz and contemporary classical music elements. For me, the freedom of expression within the music provides some of the most important and pleasing moments. My music finds a balance of form in freedom and freedom within form that allows for a special expressiveness.

New CD – 2022 – Buy from here

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

MY: – I met the members of her long running trio on a recording session for Norwegian guitarist Jostein Gulbrandsen in 2016. Bassist Mike McGuirk and drummer Mark Ferber were perfect foils for me, as they were responsive and flexible to my musical demands and they have been members of my trio ever since.

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

MY: – I think I can naturally find a balance between intellect and soul if I do not forget to feel music and neither of them should be denied.

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

MY: – Both the performer and the audience are part of music at that moment, and I have never thought of us separately. I get inspiration from the audience, too and I believe that music, especially live music, is a co-creation between the audience and the performers.

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

MY: – I have done so many different gigs and tours over the years, each gig has something meaningful and something new. Every experience becomes a part of myself and helps me to grow as a musician and human being.

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

MY: – There are many music college students who are still learning jazz standards as their jazz idioms and we are still playing after graduation from school and also play them on gigs,. Many people are mixing jazz and modern/contemporary music (hip-hop, DJ, 20th century music etc). I think it is to study the traditional and learn jazz standard, but it is equally important to put your own personal touch when playing them and sometimes make up your own arrangements of the standards. It is also really important to write your own music.

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

MY: – It is very polysemic, abstract and certain, on the other hand, spirit is the person itself. I will probably find out the meaning of life when I get older as I find out. I am still in the middle of the way.

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

MY: – I wouldn’t change People have the freedom to play and enjoy any music they like.

This is just a personal wish but I hope that older, experienced musicians and the younger musicians will be able to communicate more. Using social media is one of the ways, but I would like to see more face-to-face communication as well. The knowledge they have is enormous and priceless.

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

MY: – That often changes, but lately I have been listening to Mozart every morning. I have also been listening to Prince.

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

MY: – Listeners have freedom in what they feel when they listen to music, so I would like to not mention it here.

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

MY: – If possible, I would like to meet my favorite composers and pianists, such as Bach, Brahms, Chopin, Ravel, Debussy, Berg, Gershwin, Ellington and many more.

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

MY: – Who is the most impressive musician you have ever interviewed with and what is the answer from the person?

JBN: – We compiled our questionnaire for the last time with Barry Harris, Dave Holland and other wonderful and good jazz musicians.

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

MY: – I hope I can connect with people who are interested in my music and want to listen to it either on recordings or live. I also would be happy if my thoughts and experiences I share in this interview would be helpful for someone in some ways.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

Megumi Yonezawa(ピアニスト・作曲家・ミュージシャン) - 旭川美都

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