April 20, 2024

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Interview with John Stowell: Jazz has always been eclectic, so elements of popular

Interview with guitarist John Stowell. 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?

John Stowell: – I grew up in Connecticut, about an hour north of New York City. I began playing in rock groups as a teenager and slowly developed some talent and interest in becoming a serious musician. I began private lessons in my early 20’s with guitarist Linc Chamberland and pianist John Mehegan, and both men were very helpful in giving me a good foundation in harmony and theory. I had a real love for the music and a desire to be a professional, but no real game plan about how to make a living. By my late 20’s, I was making a very modest income from teaching and playing.

OUR US/EU Jazz and Blues Festivals 2023

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

JS: – I was using a pure guitar tone when I began to play jazz. I added some some effects and processing to my sound in the 1980’s and 1990’s. I came back to a pure sound about 20 years ago. I play a variety of different guitars (steel and nylon string, fretless and fretted baritone) to create some different textures for my recordings and concerts. I use a combination of tube and solid state amps and a digital reverb pedal to create a nice spread to my sound.

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

JS: – I don’t have a specific practice routine these days. I compose occasionally, and I’m still learning new tunes to add to my repertoire. I’m also trying to become more fluent with odd meters. My proficiency in the areas of rhythm and harmony have been honed and developed in the context of playing with others and learning challenging tunes.

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

JS: – I’m still evolving slowly. I’m placing more emphasis now on melodic content and compositional intention when I improvise. I’m also trying to think more pianistically on the guitar in my use of voicings and integrating chords and single lines together in my solos.

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

JS: – That delicate balance that you referenced is very much a matter of personal preference. If I’m not careful, I can feel my playing drifting more into the realm of the intellectual. If I hear myself thinking, I know that the emotional content in my solo is lacking. I always strive to strike the right balance.

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

JS: – I try to engage audiences at every performance. I don’t know how exactly how my playing will be received, but it is possible to read an audience and get a sense if I’m providing a meaningful experience for people.

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

JS: – I hear young jazz musicians learning standards and playing them well, so that repertoire will continue to be a part of jazz going forward. Jazz has always been eclectic, so elements of popular or world music may be used by younger players to create new musical hybrids. This trend could engage younger listeners and expand the jazz audience.

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

JS: – For me, the spirit and meaning of life are embodied in kindness, empathy and love, I try to communicate all of these things in my music.

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

JS: – More venues with good listening audiences would allow musicians to develop and hone their craft.

OUR US/EU Jazz and Blues Association 2023

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

JS: – I don’t have a lot of free time for listening these days, but I try to keep up with the musicians that I like, and I also make an effort to check out the good younger players that are coming up.

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

JS: – I’d love to sit in J.S.Bach’s music room and listen to him compose and play.

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

JS: – You obviously have a real love for music and a desire to help and promote musicians.

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Interview by Simon Sarg

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