Interview with an ungrateful, impolite, dull, unhuman, drawn creature, as if guitarist Benjamin Lapidus. 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?
Benjamin Lapidus: – I grew up in New York City in and my first introduction to music was through my grandmother who sang and played piano and accordion as well as my father who played jazz piano and accordion. I was always interested in music but it really became clear when I was 12.
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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 play a number of instruments, so my sound started with emulating the masters of the electric jazz guitar, Cuban tres, Puerto Rican cuatro, and the Chapman Stick/Warr guitar. Once I achieved a personal vocabulary, I tried it out on each instrument while working on a personal sound. Constant listening, practice and performance helps hone the sound on each instrument.
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: – Because I play a number of instruments on different gigs my practice routine is largely dependent on which instruments I have to play. Playing along with records was always helpful in terms of working on musical proficiency as well as learning tunes and practicing improvising on the harmony. I also do a lor of independence work, voice and guitar, foot percussion and guitar, etc. This way rhythmic independence between at least two parts can be practiced. On many gigs I have to sing and play so this helps.
JBN: – Have you changed through the years? Any charges or overall evolution? And if so why?
BL: – I have definitely changed through the years but in ways that surprise me. When I listen to my earliest records from the 1990s, I hear someone who plays quite strong and technically well, but I don’t play a lot of the same compositions today. So if I have to play some of my old music, I really have to practice it because it’s not under my fingers That said, I love hearing what other musicians do with my compositions, what ideas they come up with when soloing, what spaces they explore in the music. That really pushes me. I think I play with more economy as I get older.
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JBN: – In your opinion, what’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
BL: – I think that proportion depends on each person’s personal interpretation and position. What’s soulful for me may not be for you and vice versa. Music requires intense study and constant practice, but ultimately that’s all in the service of communication and emotion, telling a story.
JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of standard tunes are half a century old?
BL: – We need to keep writing good music that’s not necessarily part of the canon of standards that reflects our current times. Alternatively, we can record popular music from the 1960s-1980s. Some of those tunes are amazing.
JBN: – John Coltrane once said that music was his spirit. How do you perceive the spirit and the meaning of life?
BL: – Good question! I would say music occupies a similar space for me, I even see it as my religion in many ways. There is a tremendous amount of spirituality in music, Coltrane offered us his amazing take on it, and it is perceivable in many other musical genres throughout the world. The meaning of life is quite deep and is something that changes according to where you are in the lifecycle.
JBN: – If you could change one single thing in the musical world and that would become reality, what would that be?
BL: – The pay rate for streaming and digital downloads.
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JBN: – Whom do you find yourself listening to these days?
BL: – All of the old masters, all of the current practitioners for Cuban, Puerto Rican, Dominican folkloric and dance music as well as jazz, hip hop, and anything else people recommend to me.
JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine: where and why would you really want to go?
BL: – 1940s La Habana and Guantánamo, Cuba also New York City. I would see all of the great bands of the 1940s and watch the best dancers, too.
JBN: – Do You like our questions? So far, it’s been me asking you questions, now may I have a question from yourself…
BL: – This is fun! Can you get me a gig in your country?
JBN: – We organize 15 festivals in the capitals of European countries, which country do you mean? And you have sewn your hole in your pocket, I’m sorry, you can reply by e-mail…
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Interview by Simon Sarg