Category: S

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

Four part Joe Sample video interview

Today, a fantastic four-part video interview with the late Joe Sample from the Keyboard Magazine YouTube page. The interview took place  before a 2010 reunion gig with the Jazz Crusaders at Yoshi’s in Oakland, CA.

Part 1: Joe talks about the early days, bad road pianos, adopting the Fender Rhodes, and technology

Part 2: Joe discusseswhat he feels ls lacking in digital pianos, and the challenges of getting consistent dynamics out of even an acoustic piano.

Part 3: The new Rhodes, the Jazz Crusaders vintage set list, and how there’s no middle class in the music business.

Part 4: The interview wraps with with Mr. Sample demonstrating his favorite voicings and approaches to chords.

—Peter Blasevick

Mike Stern: Guitar to the stars . . . and Miles beyond

mikeSternMike Stern is truly one of the great guitarists of our age, equally comfortable in straight ahead jazz, fusion, and rock and roll—he has been in the news most recently for his collaborations with rock guitar hero Eric Johnson. Here is a typically honest 2013 interview in which he discusses much, including his time with Miles:

You mentioned Miles Davis. That must have actually been a difficult period for you in a way in that he was unwell and struggling. And that rock-fusion at the time was not well received by jazz critics. Do you look back on that period fondly?

Definitely. I loved it. People will say what they say, and Miles would always say people will catch on 10 years later with what he was doing. And that was kind of what happened. I wanted to play more bebop and he wanted me to rock. He liked the fact I was playing lines, but he wanted the volume.

I thought we could split the difference maybe and he would say ‘No, no. Let’s rock.’ And he’d always say, ‘Play me some Hendrix’. What he meant was, ‘Play your stuff, but with that attitude’. So I was playing a lot of lines and there was rock in there because I come from that.

It was great experience playing with him, he played so much from the heart. People say what they say but they’ve all turned around and people are discovering it now. He was always ahead of the time. And that always invites criticism. But he always told me, ‘Don’t worry about [criticism]’. So it was a great experience and the only thing is . . . Well, I finally did it sober. (laughs).

I was really messed up in those days and for some of it I was pretty trashed. But, for all that, some of it still came out good. Miles had a way of getting stuff out of people. Then I went back with him and the band was a bit different with keyboard players. That first group was really open with just guitar.

Then Sco [Scofield] played with us for a while. Me and Sco played together in that band, then I left and Sco did it for a while, then Miles added keyboards and I went back with that band when Sco left. It was still a great vibe but it was a little more structured, which is cool. But I liked the first band which was really open and fun. All of it was great because I got to play with him and Jaco Pastorius and Michael Brecker. It was amazing.

Click here to read Mike Stern: Guitar to the stars . . . and Miles beyond

—Peter Blasevick

Jimmy Smith Documentary (Jazz Organ) – 1965

Here is a great 90 minute long West German documentary film made about Jimmy Smith and his trio. As you can imagine, there are great performances, but also tons of backstage footage and discussions. One interesting exchange happens backstage when Smith and his interviewer discuss if the Beatles are clever musicians or just a gimmick as Smith notes. Great stuff.

—Peter Blasevick

Intl Jazz Day 2014: Wayne Shorter—Philosophy of Life Through Jazz

On April 30 of this year, the world celebrated International Jazz Day with a day of music, talks, workshops and an All-Star Global Concert from Osaka, Japan. Included in the festivities were jazz greats such as  Herbie Hancock, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Roy Hargrove,  Marcus Miller, Esperanza Spalding, T.S.Monk, Kenny Garrett, Courtney Pine, and so many others. I am going to post some of the video interviews over the next week or so.

Here is a fantastic hour-long talk with Mika Shino, the legendary Wayne Shorter in which he discusses what has inspired and continues to inspire his body of work, including philosophy, art, literature, science, physics, and an hours worth of other topics.

—Peter Blasevick

2006 Mike Stern Interview With Jazz Guitar Life

mikeSternToday a very candid interview with guitarist Mike Stern. In 2006 he spoke with Lyle Robinson from JazzGuitarLife.com about his life and music, and in depth about his previous substance abuse:

JGL: I can imagine. Actually, using the cat metaphor and the whole nine lives thing, you’ve been very lucky in that you have had at least two lives so far given the personal issues you faced in the ‘80’s.

MS: Yeah man! It’s true…lol…at least I’m up to two. I don’t know if I have nine in me but I definitely have two…lol…and I’m certainly grateful that I have been able to do this. Do my own music and play with my own band. It’s definitely been with a lot of effort and I’m so grateful that I am able to do it ‘cause there are so many people who deserve to do it and who can’t do it for one reason or another. And it’s something that I’ll never take for granted. It’s been an honor to be able to play in different cities, different countries and with different people and to even play gigs and have people come to those gigs. And to be able to do my own records is an honor, without sounding too corny about it, it really is, and I don’t take it lightly at all and I am very grateful for it. You were mentioning the two lives kind of thing…that’s something I’m definitely grateful for, that I was able to get sober ‘cause that wasn’t a slam-dunk either you know. I was really deep in the other shit and getting high in every way possible and deep into as you can imagine without going into detail but it was all day long with everything out there and I got really strung out…and for years. It took me years to learn how to play music sober. I had never really done it since I was about 13 years old…I had never really experienced played music sober. I had always had a few drinks in me or I would smoke some pot or I’d get into some deeper shit. So for about twenty years I was always high. Miles used to say…well, someone in the band asked “where’s Mike?” And someone replied “he’s probably getting high someplace.” And Miles said (in a hoarse whisper) “Mike don’t get high, Mike stays high”…lol…he knew what was going on, and I was really crazy in those days so I’m really grateful to be alive.

Click here to read 2006 Mike Stern Interview With Jazz Guitar Life

—Peter Blasevick

A Fireside Chat With Horace Silver

horaceSliverSad news from the word of jazz that the legendary Horace Silver has died at the age of 85. As he was for so many others, he was a great favorite of mine, not just for the music, but also for his interesting and insightful commentary on the music he played. Here is an interview conducted by  Fred Jung posted to the AllAboutJazz site about 10 years ago. From the interview:

FJ: It has become a part of jazz lore, but as the story goes, very early in your career, you were struggling to move to New York, Stan Getz hired you and you were able to do so. 

HS: That’s pretty right. I had been saving my money to go to New York and try to make it in music. I got sick at that time and I had maybe seven hundred dollars in the bank and I had spent all that money on doctor bills. So I guess I used that as an excuse not to go because deep down within. I had a fear of going because what if I went down to New York and I didn’t make it? So I had procrastinated on going, although I had all this money saved up. Then when the medical bills came and I had spent all this money, it gave me an excuse not to make the move. But the good Lord was looking after me and Stan Getz came through Hartford and heard me and my trio and hired us. That was a blessing.

Click here to read A Fireside Chat With Horace Silver

—Peter Blasevick

‘Fresh Air’ Remembers Jazz Singer Jimmy Scott

jimmyScottJazz singer Jimmy Scott passed away last week at the age 88. Scott, who had a rare genetic condition that gave him his distinctive voice, was popular in ’50s but didn’t make any records between 1975 and 1992. Here he speaks with Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air in 1992 about his comeback. From the interview:

GROSS: When you started singing, were there a lot of listeners who assumed you were a woman?

SCOTT: Yes. Yes. I had people play the records, after doing them with Lionel Hampton. And they’d have contests on the programs to have the public tell them who it was. And many people called women’s names. Finally, it was announced that it was not a woman, but it was myself whom was singing with Lionel Hampton at the time. I’ve even had people in the public question, is he really a guy, or is he – is that a woman standing there, you know? (Laughing) So those things have happened, you know. But being in the business, you learn that opinions are not supposed to affect the work you do in public, you know?

Click here to read and listen to ‘Fresh Air’ Remembers Jazz Singer Jimmy Scott

—Peter Blasevick

The Jazz Session #91: Mike Stern

mikeSternHere is a cool 2009 talk with Mike Stern from Jason Crane’s JazzSession podcast archive. So many great interviews there, check it out.

“Guitarist Mike Stern has played with everyone. And yes, that includes Miles Davis. After decades in the business, he could easily be resting on his laurels. Instead, he’s pushing himself into new territory, as displayed on his CD Big Neighborhood (Heads Up, 2009), which finds him in the company of everyone from Esperanza Spaulding to Randy Brecker to Eric Johnson to Steve Vai. In this interview, Stern talks about why he likes surrounding himself with fresh ideas; his rockin’ side and his lyrical side; and how guitarist Hiram Bullock once blew Michael Brecker’s mind.”

Click here to listen to The Jazz Session #91: Mike Stern

Woody Shaw: My approach to jazz

woodyShawI’m going to post some interviews from the UK’s National Jazz Archive this week. If you’ve never visited, take a few minutes and check them out, there is a lot of great info on their site.

Here is a cool interview with trumpeter, flugelhornist, composer and band leader Woody Shaw from 1977. From the interview:

“I have played the flugelhorn at times, but I like the trumpet. The flugelhorn is purely incidental to me; it’s effective and pretty in certain things—but I can get just about the same sound on the trumpet. I have a very well–developed low register, with a very big, dark sound; so I don’t worry about the flugel. But—I’m going to get a flugelhorn ! Now, that instrument fits Art Farmer perfectly; you could have no better choice to play the flugel. It fits his style, his whole musical personality—he’s a very lyrical player. I heard him recently; he sounds beautiful.”

Click here to read Woody Shaw: My approach to jazz

—Peter Blasevick