May 18, 2024

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Interview with Bill Laurance: A soulful idea still relies on conviction and purpose: Video

Interview with jazz pianist Bill Laurance. 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? When did you realize that this was a passion you could make a living out of?

Bill Laurance: – I grew up playing ragtime which became my initial incentive to get through the grades. My first gig was in a restaurant in Covent Garden. I was 14 years old pretending to be 18. If I saw someones foot tapping I would hone in on it until I had the whole room engaged in the music. I’ve always tried to bring joy to the piano I guess in part thanks to ragtime!

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

BL: – I think the sound has become leaner, where less is more. I’ve instinctively wanted to focus in and find the root of the idea in its purest form. That said, I’m currently writing for a 20 piece orchestra. Although as with this project I try to make sure the context within which I’m creating is evolving also. A new set of goal posts can be one of the most useful sources of inspiration.

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

BL: – Hanon exercises have always been my go to for keeping up rhythmic technique.  Then I’m currently working my way through a book that the late great Bernard Wright recommended to me. Slonimsky’s thesaurus of Scales and melodic patterns. Super simple methods that have endless possibilities and can be pretty mind blowing in opening up what’s harmonically possible.

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

BL: – The allure of touring the world has been equalled by a desire to now write and produce.

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

BL: – I’ll always go for soul over anything. That said, you need a healthy balance and I would argue that soul and intellect are in some way interdependent. A soulful idea still relies on conviction and purpose. It’s this balance between soul and intellect that represents the challenge in composition, writing music that harbors a healthy amount of both simultaneously.

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

BL: – It is absolutely an exchange. The emotion has to come from the artist first though. My barometer is that it has to move me and if it does, then there’s a good chance it’s likely to move somebody else too. When it comes to the live show though, it’s all about communicating with the audience that has come to see you. So I try to give everything I can and be as in the moment as possible. When on stage my aim is to create something that is completely unique to that show and to that moment so that both myself and the audience are experiencing the music in this way, for the first time.

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

BL: – Good question. For me the answer lies in the fuel that drives the artform: Freedom. I think Jazz stays relevant when there is a clear presence of freedom in expression. The opportunity to express yourself in the moment, whichever way you hear it.  It’s drive and purpose seem to be just as relevant as ever; to be the free speech of instrumental music.

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

BL: – Wow. That’s a tough one. Ok. The spirit is your instinct and I find I can access my spirit / instinct most immediately and directly through music. Music opens up parts of me that I didn’t know existed. In light of Stevie Wonders advice about “being the glue”, I’ve come to appreciate that it is in the exchange of music, ideas and love for all living things, that life  provides its meaning.

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

BL: – End social media and the internet so we can all go back to listening to vinyl only.

OUR US/EU Jazz and Blues Festivals 2023

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

BL: – Lots of Classical right now. John Adams, Phillip Glass, Steve Reich and plenty of Debussy, Vaugh Williams and Beethoven. But also Ehtiopian Jazz. Mulatu Astake is on repeat at the moment.

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

BL: – Into the future. I’d love to go to Mars because of what it would represent in terms of how we would perceive ourselves and how anything would seem possible.

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

BL: – These are great questions. What is it you love so much about music and what is one single thing in the musical world would you want to change?

JBN: – Jazz is my life without which I can’t live, I invest all my resources in it, in the US/EU Jazz – Blues my Festivals, but I would like that there are no unwilling, bum people in such wonderful music as jazz.

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.

Bill Laurance: Where the Magic Is | ROLI

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