April 20, 2024

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Interview with Bob Bralove: The soul to connect to it and the intellect to execute it

Interview with multi-instrumentalist Bob Bralove. An interview by email in writing.

Dear readers, get to know more about our US/EU Jazz – Blues Festivals and the activities of our US/EU Jazz – Blues Association in the capitals of Europe, we will soon publish program for 2024, enjoy in the July – August – Brussels, Berlin, Prague, Warsaw, Sofia, new addreses this year, also in Amsterdam, Budapest and Liverpool.

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?

Bob Bralove: – I grew up in the suburbs of New York City. It was a musical family in that my father played the piano, my brother learned to play the clarinet and my sister studied ballet. My father played a kind of swing pop style but his favorite music was the piano works of Chopin.  I took piano lesson as a child and studied the music classics as all the children did back then.  There was a lot of live music around the house.

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I was putting myself through music school by taking temp jobs in the burgeoning computer scene in the Silicon Valley.  When a friend of mine in tech support told me that Stevie Wonder’s chief engineer had called.  Stevie had one of the company’s computers and was looking to do some projects.  I got permission to follow up the call and started to write some programs for Stevie.  We met and did some small projects and he asked me to join his team to help him creat the sounds for his new record.  I then spent the next eight years touring and recording with him.

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

BB: – After Stevie, I started working for the Grateful Dead.  I was tasked with developing synthesizer systems for each of the performers and to develop sequences and drum loops for the two drummers to play against during the drum solos and synth sounds for “ space” sections of the show.

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

BB: – I have a warm up routine for the piano that I try to play every day. It takes about 45 minutes to complete and I keep changing keys so that I eventually get through all twelve keys. It is a combination of exercises.

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

BB: – This a balance that I think is fluid. It depends on the music and the performers. All music needs both. The soul to connect to it and the intellect to execute it. Music missing one of these will fall flat.The balance required for a John Cage piece and a blues song may be quite different but they are both there in both of the pieces. I am fortunate in that I have had exposure to all kinds of music and feel that they all have the power to transport me to a higher place. I also don’t think that anything can be ruled out. If it works for you, it is music.

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

BB: – I cannot assume that I know what other people are longing for. However, the energy of the audience is an essential part of a live performance. To “deliver what people are longing for” implies a relationship of standard commerce. In live performance you are in a contract with the audience to be in the moment. Share that moment with them and create something with their energy that is unique to that moment. If you are doing that, and including the energy from the audience you can give them something that they are not even aware of wanting but are happy to receive. You are there to create magic not to deliver the groceries.

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

BB: – The magic is the magic. It requires a level of sophistication to appreciate music that is constantly changing. There are always good songs being written and performers are usually open to them. Young people will appreciate it if you give it to them where they are. But musicians must do what they love and if they want to make money, they must play what is in demand. The internet has given access to all kinds of music to everyone. I am not a sociologist so I don’t know if there are more young people listening to jazz than there used to be. Maybe it is already working.-The magic is the magic, I trust it.

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

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BB: – I think the one thing that I would change is the sense I have that local music scenes have been drying up. With the ubiquity of DJs and the shutting down from Covid it seems difficult to find places where local musicians can play. I believe the local scenes are where people get their start. I can only think that local scenes are where the next greats come from.

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

BB: – I have been listening to a lot of Cecil Taylor lately. I am captivated by his subtle changes in touch. Also listening to a lot of different jazz vocalists. Different ones from Billie Holiday, and Johnny Hartman, to Etta James and Champion Jack Dupree for phrasing and intonation. I have been listening to Billie Eilish and Finneas for production techniques.

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Interview by Emmanuel Bolton

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