Jon Batiste: Staying Human

jonBatisteNearly everything about Jonathan Batiste is steeped in New Orleans—from the way he talks, walks, and claps his hands to the way he plays the piano, composes, and leads his Stay Human Band. So, it’s surprising to consider he’s actually spent most of his adult life in New York City, having arrived in 2004 when he was a teenager to study at Juilliard. Since then, he’s been making a firm connection with the City, including a close association with National Jazz Museum in Harlem. Oh, and as of a week ago, he is also Stephen Colbert’s bandleader on the new Late Show. Here is a recent reprint of a great interview he did with AllAboutJazz in 2013. From the interview:

Batiste’s work at Jazz at Lincoln Center ties in with another New Orleans connection of his —and here we have to make clear that in saying “New Orleans,” we’re using a bit of shorthand. Batiste actually hails from Kenner, Louisiana, a suburb of the New Orleans metro area, which also happens to be the hometown of trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, the Managing and Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center. 

“I don’t know another person in New York who’s from Kenner,” says Batiste. “We have that mutual connection. The Batistes and the Marsalises are very big musical families in the New Orleans area. We went to the same schools and had a lot of the same instructors. I met him in New Orleans as a kid, and then when I came to Juilliard, I started to play with him, and over time I started to do concerts with Jazz at Lincoln Center.”

Click here to read Jon Batiste: Staying Human

Hank Jones (July 31, 1918 – May 16, 2010) — His 93rd Birthday Anniversary

hankJonesHank Jones would have been 97 years old the other day, and if he were still with us, I’m sure he’d be the same funny, polite, gentleman he always was…and he’d still be one of the very baddest musicians on the planet.

Here is a fantastic pair of interviews with the great pianist, both from Ted Panken’s great blog. He posted these a couple years ago also in honor of Jones’ birthday, one from a 2007 Jazziz piece, and the other a transcription from a 1994 WKCR interview. Both interviews are just great, and cover so much. Hank covers a number of personal topics in the 2007 interview in particular. From the piece:

And I wonder if I was true, let’s say, to my race. There were times when I wanted to join the civil rights movement and march, but I would have lost my job. I had a wife and stepdaughter, and I had to support them. With my temperament, something could have happened to me, because things were going on that I might not have been able to accept. Although my instincts were to do the proper thing, I repressed them.

Click here to read Hank Jones (July 31, 1918 – May 16, 2010) — His 93rd Birthday Anniversary

—Peter Blasevick

George Benson has no plans to hang up guitar

georgeBensonToday a new interview with the great George Benson from Jim Gilchrist in this past Sunday’s Scotsman. The interview covers his thoughts on the playing and recording of his huge hit This Masquerade, influences like Charlie Christian and Wes Montgomery, and his early decision not to join Miles Davis’ band. From the interview, here he is on his love for Nat King Cole:

 “When I was young, Nat King Cole was the quintessential African-American singer in the United States. Everybody loved Nat. He had great variety in his music – romanticism, great musicianship – and I said to myself that if I ever became anybody in the music business, I wanted to be like that.”

Benson has sometimes been described as Nat King Cole with a guitar, a label which he says flatters him, while stressing that he in no way compares himself to Cole, who died in 1965: “I think he inspired anything good that has happened to me, but he was a very special individual and his gifts were exclusive to him.”

Click here to read George Benson has no plans to hang up guitar

Sonny Rollins interviewed by Joshua Redman: Newk’s time

sonnyRollinsHere is a great 2005 interview with the legendary Sonny Rollins conducted by modern master Joshua Redman. The two tenor greats discuss everything from Sonny’s early days in New York to never being satisfied with one of his performances. Included at the bottom of the piece are many quotes from other musicians about Sonny Rollins, which are great reading all on their own!

From the interview:

JR: The ’50s and ’60s were an amazing age in music, where all these incredible innovations were taking place. Among musicians in my generation, with everything we’ve read and heard, there is a perception that there was more of a life for jazz on the streets of New York, a sense of real community; musicians playing and recording with each other all the time. Is that true?

SR: Well, in those days-and I’m speaking now primarily of when I came on the scene, the latter part of the ’40s, into the ’50s and so on, there was less money to be made. Therefore, the guys sort of stuck together. It was more about the music than about becoming a household name-especially the type of music that was making the break from swing; the guys that were doing that felt marginalized anyway, so they had a community and it was a very close-knit community. There were the usual problems between human beings, but the jazz community, the guys that were playing, they were naturally brought closer together because there weren’t that many places to play. There were just clubs, and clubs were small, and not that much money to be made, not as many records sold.

Click here to read Sonny Rollins interviewed by Joshua Redman: Newk’s time

—Peter Blasevick

Steve Smith: Drummer For All Seasons

steveSmithSteve Smith is best known as the drummer for the rock band Journey, but the Berklee educated Smith has played and recorded with a long list of jazz greats including Buddy DeFranco, Jean-Luc Ponty, Mike Stern, Scott Henderson, Jeff Berlin, and Larry Coryell. In this new interview with R.J. DeLuke and AllAboutJazz, Smith discusses everything from his early days in Boston, to touring the world with a rock and roll band to recent recording projects. On having to learn how to play rock songs with Journey after having played virtually nothing but fusion and straight ahead jazz until that point:

“I didn’t really know how to play rock songs. I had to discipline myself to play drums in a very compositional way. Which means I needed a particular beat for the verse and then another beat for the chorus and something else for the bridge, then some fills to pull it all together. That was a very different way of conceiving of playing the drums. Before, I was playing time feels behind people. Not necessarily a repetitive beat. Supporting soloists. I hadn’t worked with a vocalist really. Someone might sing a pop tune when I was playing a Top 40 gig in Boston, but I wouldn’t consider them great singers. Steve Perry was a great singer. That was an education. Part of what was interesting about it was it was so new and I had never done it before. It was a great experience for me.”

Click here to read Steve Smith: Drummer For All Seasons

Three 1976 Lee Konitz interviews

LeeKonitzToday, three 1976 interviews with the great altoist Lee Konitz. I could listen to Konitz talk about playing with Miles and studying with Lennie Tristano all day! In addition to those topics, The iconic saxophonist discusses his early days in Chicago, Chet Baker, teaching, the jazz scene in Europe, and plenty more, From the first interview, about Tristano:

Well I’d studied with Lennie earlier, actually – when I was fifteen, in Chicago. One of the great things I learned was: how much of a discipline this music calls for. And that it’s possible, through picking important people and learning as much as possible about them, to go through the motions of playing this music. As with any art form, I think you try to go through the motion. You find out what it’s like to paint like Van Gogh, play like Charlie Parker, and then, if it’s possible, you go on, use that energy and that information, and do something of your own with it. If not, at least you’ve had that experience.

Click here to read Interview One: Speaks His Mind

Click here to read Interview Two: On Jazz Form

Click here to read Interview Three: Looking at the Scene

—Peter Blasevick

Fresh Air Remembers Jazz Innovator Ornette Coleman


Jazz legend Ornette Coleman left us earlier this month, and here is a great retrospective piece from NPR’s Fresh Air. Included in the piece are parts of earlier interviews with his former bandmates Charlie Haden and Don Cherry, his son Denardo Coleman, and two with Ornette himself.

In the interviews, among other topics, Coleman discusses the early days with his quartet and their residence at the Five Spot in NYC. At one point Ornette says “Leonard Bernstein, Gunther Schuller, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, they all came by.” He goes on to relate how one night after they were done with a set, Leonard Bernstein just jumped up on the bandstand and started hugging everyone in the band. Wow.

Click here to listen to Fresh Air Remembers Jazz Innovator Ornette Coleman

Steve Gadd: Consummate Drummer

SteveGaddHere is a new interview with the great Steve Gadd from R.J. Deluxe at AllAboutJazz. As Deluke says, it might be easier to list the people he hasn’t played with than those he has (Paul Simon, Carly Simon, James Taylor, Paul McCartneySteely Dan, The Manhattan Transfer, Al Di MeolaChuck MangioneHubert LawsJoe FarrellGeorge Benson the Brecker BrothersFrank SinatraDave Grusin, Michael McDonald…).

Gadd talks about everything from his his early days to Eric Clapton to the Mickey Mouse Club in this piece. Enjoy!

From the interview:

“With studio work, a lot of times you don’t hear the music before you get in there. You go in and listen to what people are saying. I try to get them to play either the demo or get them to sit at the piano or the guitar and play the song before we start playing so that when people start using words, you know what they’re referring to. If you’ve never heard the song, its just words. That’s one rule I try to keep in place: to listen to what the song is before we do it in the studio. You either have the artist sing it or play it, or a lot of times they have a demo.”

Click here to read Steve Gadd: Consummate Drummer

—Peter Blasevick




Dave Frank: My Teacher, Lennie Tristano

Here is 6:22 of pretty much everything I love about jazz on the internet. JazzVideoGuy, who does such important work for the legacy of jazz, interviewing the ridiculously hip, funny, and burning Dave Frank about his teacher and great influence Lennie Tristano. Eat up every second of this great interview.


—Peter Blasevick

Ornette Coleman at Bonnaroo, 2008

“To tell you the truth, I never think about the subject of what I’m doing, I only think about the quality of what I’m doing,” says jazz legend Ornette Coleman in response to a question about playing in front of a mainly rock and roll audience at the Bonnaroo festival in 2008. Coleman proceeds to touch on music as religion, healing through music, his philosophy of harmolodics, his Pulitzer Prize winning 2007 album Sound Grammar, and a lot more, all packed into this 5:39 minute interview! Please do yourself a favor and well-spend your next five or so minutes watching it.

—Peter Blasevick