June 14, 2024

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Interview with Paul Wertico: Jazz (whatever that is) is really a way of life, not just a style of music

Interview with  an ungrateful, impolite, dull, unhuman, drawn creature, as if drummer Paul Wertico. An interview by email in writing. 

JazzBluesNews.com: – Please explain your creative process … What are your main impulses to write music?

Paul Wertico: – It’s something I love to do, so my music is just a reflection of my journey through life.

OUR US/EU Jazz and Blues Festivals 2023

JBN: – What do you personally consider to be the incisive moments and pieces in your work and/or career?

PW: – Although I’m pretty sure most people would know me best as the drummer in the Pat Metheny Group for 18 years and that is something I’m extremely proud of most of my best drumming has actually been played outside of that band on some of the hundreds of other recordings I’ve done. I also feel that way partly because I think I’m very under-recorded/mixed on most of the PMG albums, so although I served the music to the best of my ability and I usually do like to “blend in” with the sounds of the other musicians when I record, rather than be mixed “on top of” the music when I listen to some of those PMG records now, even I can’t clearly hear or distinguish a lot of the things I played on so many of those records. Now I’m not complaining, mind you, especially since many of those PMG recordings were extremely successful and so many people love them. I’m just pointing out that on many other artists’ albums, as well as on my own recordings, you can really “hear me” so much better and the music on many of those other records allowed me to play in a much more spontaneous and self-expressive way. It’s funny though, because I’ve heard some bootleg recordings of live PMG shows, especially between around 1983 to 1986, and the group was playing in a much more adventurous and improvisational way. Then the sequencers sort of took over, sonically speaking, and my drum sound just got overwhelmed by all those programed sounds.

JBN: – Before we jump into anything historical, can you tell us about what we can expect musically this evening?

PW: – Well, this evening as I’m writing this, I’m actually on vacation with my family in Tahiti, so tonight’s “music” will be the sounds of the ocean waves, and the birds, and the windthe truly awe-inspiring sounds of a “spontaneously improvised symphony of nature.”

JBN: – Are there sub-genres within the jazz field that you tend to stay away from or focus on?

PW: – Not really, because I enjoy playing many styles of music, and different sub-genres of not only jazz, but of all styles of music, all serve a purpose and have their own musical requirements. I’ve also never been a musical snob or a member of the “jazz police.” New sub-genres of music are being created all the time and they all can appeal in their own ways at various times to different listeners /audiences / musicians, etc. Also, remember that early styles of jazz were once a major source of entertainment, not just a type of music to be studied in a conservatory-type setting. So, although I do usually prefer to play creative music that allows me to fully express myself, and I really love variety and new challenges, my main goal is to always “serve the music,” no matter what kind of music it is, and when the music succeeds, I’m happy.

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JBN: – When was your first desire to become involved in the music was & what do you learn about yourself from music?

PW: – It may sound a bit corny or cliché, but I truly feel that “music chose me” and I’ve never had a “master plan.” Just like I love playing totally improvised music, I feel like I live a totally improvised life. It’s very similar to “riding the flow” when playing music. I take life as it comes and then I try to make the best decisions as they appear.

JBN: – How would you describe and rate the music scene you are currently living?

PW: – Chicago has a very healthy and vibrant music scene, and for all kinds of music, not just jazz.

JBN: – When you improvise, you know where you’re going. It’s a matter of taking certain paths and certain directions?

PW: – I just play. When I play music, I listen, I react, I lead, and I follow. I love and enjoy the process of exploring the unknown, taking chances, and living in the moment. Depending on the type of music, I also love just laying down a good groove for the musicians to ride on. Again, if you listen, the music will “tell you what to play.”

JBN: – What about somebody who is really gifted and puts together a band and just gets upset to the point of quitting because of the business aspects-the agents and the clubs?

PW: – As the saying goes: “If it was easy, everyone could do it.” Music, as in all aspects of life, requires things like commitment; adaptability; self-confidence; passion; good decision making; a thirst for knowledge; open-mindedness; the ability to turn “work” into “play”; the love of serving a greater purpose; as well as various degrees of talent and luck.

JBN: – What has given you the most satisfaction musically?

PW: – Each moment is just part of the whole, so everything gives me satisfaction in its own way.

JBN: – From the musical and feeling point of view is there any difference between an old and great jazzman and young?

PW: – The “old” jazz from many years ago was once considered new and even avant-garde in its time. Also, things we may take for granted now, such as certain sounds, beats & grooves, the blues, rhythm changes, modal music, even odd time signatures, polyrhythms, polychords, irregular forms, etc., as well as the very historical, cultural, social, and financial reasons those “older” jazz musicians created that music, need to be studied and appreciated just as much as the notes themselves. Jazz (whatever that is) is really a way of life, not just a style of music.

OUR US/EU Jazz and Blues Association 2023

JBN: – What advice would you give to aspiring musicians thinking of pursuing a career?

PW: – Always keep an open mind; listen as much as you can to all styles of music; learn the “rules” of music theory and authentic/traditional styles of music (in case you find yourself playing authentic/traditional styles of music) but then “be yourself” and express your individuality within those styles (as well as anything you play), but also always “serve the music,” and don’t get discouraged, because the journey through a life in music is one of the greatest blessings anyone can imagine!

Interview by Simon Sarg

Note: https://jazzbluesnews.com/2023/03/19/useu-jazz-blues-association-festivals/ 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. https://jazzbluesnews.com/2022/11/19/useujba/

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