Interview with jazz pianist Todd Hunter. 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?
Todd Hunter: – I grew up in San Diego. Our house was a jazz house. Musicians would come by and there was always music playing either live or from the stereo. Sometimes we would host jam sessions that would go late into the night. Many nights I would fall asleep under the piano, thrilled and exhausted from being around all that great music. I know that being raised in that environment is the main reason why I’m a musician today.
JBN: – How has your sound evolved over time? What have you been doing to find and develop your own sound?
TH: – I believe that it’s important to have a story and be able to tell it musically. No one else has your story or can tell it better than you. My goal is to tell the story clearly and with purpose.
JBN: – What routine practices or exercises have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical proficiency, in terms of both rhythm and harmony?
TH: – I like to play scales and patterns to warm up. Sometimes I set a metronome to click on 2 and 4 while I’m practicing my phrasing. One of my favorite harmonic exercises is to create a song with unusual chord progressions and find the best way for it to be musical.
JBN: – Have you changed through the years? Any charges or overall evolution? And if so why?
TH: – Of course. I’m always open to learning new ways to express my music. As I grow musically, my ears are able to hear more and it all comes out.
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JBN: – In your opinion, what’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
TH: – It’s important to have an understanding of the building blocks of making music. They are the tools that you need to then express yourself with love. It all goes together equally.
JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; are you okay with delivering people the emotion they long for?
TH: – What I do as an artist is tell a story that reminds each listener of feelings that they already know. That’s how we connect and it’s a different and personal story for everyone who listens.
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JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of standard tunes are half a century old?
TH: – Jazz is a interesting and beautiful art form. In it’s heyday, it offered a freedom from the common but constricted ways of expressing music. Younger jazz musicians know about this and dig into the harmonic and rhythmic freedom that the style encourages. I think the trick is to find a way to communicate the spirit of jazz. Freedom is a compelling message and resonates with most people.
JBN: – John Coltrane once said that music was his spirit. How do you perceive the spirit and the meaning of life?
TH: – That’s deep. I don’t know the meaning of life. I do know that human connection is important. The way I am able to effectively do that is through the gift of music….to myself and everyone else.
JBN: – If you could change one single thing in the musical world and that would become reality, what would that be?
TH: – Make it less about business and more about love.
JBN: – Whom do you find yourself listening to these days?
TH: – Ahmad Jamal, Beatles – that documentary “Get Back” is awesome! Bill Evans, Earth, Wind and Fire.
JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine: where and why would you really want to go?
TH: – I’d like to visit NYC in the mid 1940’s. It would be amazing to witness bebop take hold of the jazz scene.
JBN: – You seem to have few followers, few video views, and you don’t work with media properly. Most of the musicians do not have a good opinion about you, unfortunately. I wonder why? It is possible to be a good musician by drinking champagne and refusing to cooperate with the media?
Interview by Simon Sargsyan