May 28, 2024

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Interview with Chris Allard: I can’t listen to recordings of myself … Video

Interview with jazz guitarist Chris Allard. An interview by email in writing. – First, let’s start out with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music.  How exactly did your adventure take off? 

Chris Allard։ – Hello there! Well how very nice this is and thank you. I grew up in England near London, and I was surrounded by music as a child – both sides of my family play classical music and they had a small Baroque group. None of them played music professionally however, though they did concerts, except for my late great uncle, Joe Allard who was a quite legendary saxophonist/clarinettist – he played in the NBC symphony, various big bands and session bands, and taught at many of the best best places in NYC including the Juilliard, and at the New England Conservatory (I’m half American).

I met him when I was too young to appreciate it, but I’ve been surrounded by stories about him my whole life. My parents also introduced me to the Beatles when I was very young. I played piano as a child and got into guitar at 13 on listening to Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Led Zep – then found myself more and more drawn to jazz around 17 mostly on account of Pat Metheny… and I’ve been obsessing about it ever since… it’s a bit of a rabbit hole obviously… I eventually went to study jazz at the Guildhall School of Music in London in 2000.

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I was never organised or sensible enough to think about making a living until I finished college and was broke, but somehow I’ve been managing to do so out of music for almost 20 years now. Even during the pandemic – mostly on account of teaching – I’ve been teaching at Guildhall quite a lot since 2017, and it was a total godsend at that time.

JBN: – How has your sound evolved over time?

CHA: – Yes: I can’t listen to recordings of myself, especially playing jazz, from more than a few years ago – mercifully it has evolved favorably in that time and no longer sounds as derivative as it did. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to develop my own sound – which is a notoriously elusive pursuit for most… What have you been doing to find and develop your own sound? Well last year I started doing a PhD specifically to address this! It’s rather a long story.

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

CHA: – It’s difficult of course to find enough time – and I have two small children! – but I’ve been thinking about this a lot for some years and have various exercises I try and do little and often, generally involving a metronome, and I’m quite into the harmonic major, diminished and augmented harmony… The jazz students at Guildhall are just getting better and better and teaching make me address this a lot.

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

CHA: – In my view it’s delicate – it’s easy to get off-balance there, especially with music that is inherently complex/intellectual, and the soul element can easily be lost/neglected…

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

CHA: – Absolutely – and that’s a nice way of looking at it.

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

CHA: – Given the level of musicianship and the vibe amongst jazz students right now, and how many of them there are, I don’t think that’s an issue. Making a living out of it is not getting any easier though…

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

CHA: – Rather a big question… That’s great – I feel that too. I feel it in nature, and in music. Though far from an expert I enjoy reading about idealist philosophy such as that of Bernardo Kastrup – which (as I see it) says essentially everything is in consciousness – which I find intuitively very appealing.

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

CHA: – Being paid properly for streaming – that has just become brutally unfair.

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

CHA: – Quite a lot of classical music…

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

CHA: – Far future – see what happens to humanity – we seem to be living in a period of the greatest risk, yet with the biggest possibility of reward should humanity be able to grow up in time…I still think there’s a chance…

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

CHA: – Not many interviewers ask such interesting and deep questions – how and when did you develop this interview method – and what are your feelings on question 12?

JBN: – Our questionnaires, and there are several of them, were compiled during the decade, and after expressing their positive opinion on the wonderful questionnaire, they suggested adding jazz legends, many of whom are no longer with us today. In particular, the 12th, that is, John Coltrane, the soul and the life of the musician who wrote the specific interview, was objected to us by Pharoah Sanders, our senior friend, a wonderful and legendary saxophonist.

By the way, thank you for your question, this is also an answer for the illiterate, self-professed musicians who express an opinion that our questionnaire is not about a specific musician.

Interview by Simon Sarg

Note: You can express your consent and join our association, which will give you the opportunity to perform at our Jazz and Blues festivals, naturally receiving an appropriate royalty. We cover all expenses. The objectives of the interview are: How to introduce yourself, your activities, thoughts and intellect, and make new discoveries for our US/EU Jazz & Blues Association, which organizes festivals, concerts and meetings in Boston and various European countries, why not for you too!! You can read more about the association here.

chris allard - The Jazz Fix

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