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Eliot Zigmund (part 4) Eighties – now

December 20, 2013 Leave a comment

 I still love to play and I’m still developing!

Part four of  this Eliot Zigmund special covers his years with Michel Petrucciani in the eighies till now.

Eliot 1

As to your question about Michel (Petrucciani, RA) and Don Friedman. I think both those great pianists were influenced by Bill, but they are very different pianists as far as what is felt like to play with each of them. Don is a contemporary of Bill so shares a certain history of time, place and identity, some harmonic and trio concepts, but is a very different piano player with his own very distinctive style. Maybe in fact, Bill was also influenced early on by Don if he had heard him play somewhere, who knows?. Michel was influenced by Bill like every pianist inevitably was who came after Bill, but he was more a disciple of the straight ahead swingers, McCoy, Cedar, Chick, with a little of the lyricism of Paul Bley or Keith Jarrett thrown in.
My recording Breeze on Steeplechase was the culmination of a bunch of playing sessions at my house over a period several months. We decided to go into the studio and document the music and ending up selling it to Steeplechase under my name. I had played a bunch with Mike Lee on some gigs and jam sessions, we both lived in Brooklyn then, he lived in an coop apartment building in Sunset Park that was all musicians and I had a studio in a store front in the same building, so there was a lot of playing going on. I think Mike introduced me to Gary Versace, Mike had some nice tunes, wrote in a soulful but sophisticated way, Phil Polombi and I knew each other from the scene. I’ve gone on to do different projects with Phil and we do the occasional gig together in town. Breeze was kind of a one off project, although we may have done a few gigs, I worked some at that period as a leader in town in small clubs but we didn’t really actively try to find work for the band, it was a recording project.Eliot 2

In a broader sense playing with myriad players over 50 years, the process of learning from other musicians is a big continuum. There’s a saying, being a jazz player is like singing the same song your whole life. Basically we’re all trying to find people who we’re comfortable singing our song with, and who are comfortable singing their song with us. As all musicians know, there are different levels of comfort zones with different players, in different bands, it’s all very fluid and dynamic. And that the music succeeds on different levels in different ways for different styles that demand different things of the way we play. I still approach it that way today. Every playing situation – every time I sit down to really play, is different – leaves it’s mark, shapes the clay, gives you a challenge to solve, hopefully moves you forward an inch or a foot. I’ve learned from every musician I’ve ever played with, from the worst to the best. I’ve learned how fragile jazz can be, how it’s dependent on everyone you’re playing with, especially the rhythm section players. I’ve learned how strong the music can be when the subtle rhythmic bond is there, when it feels like you can do no wrong.

When you’re a rhythm section player, you’re playing, articulating, every beat of every tune with the rest of the rhythm section and the soloists. We’re like worker bees, continually stitching a rhythmic/harmonic carpet for the soloists to fly on.

Eliot 3I think today we have lived through a tremendous stylistic expansion, the infusion of jazz techniques and theory throughout the world, the popularity of jazz education worldwide, jazz both influencing and being influenced by world ethnic musics. We are no longer moving so boldly forward, to borrow a phrase from Startrek, as when I was younger, when it felt like great waves of stylistic innovation were continually sweeping over the jazz world influencing all who heard it, and it seemed there was endless musical territory to expand into. Expansion or evolution today seems to come more from individual artists – perhaps more self-consciously – mining some unique combination of elements within this amazing choice of style and technique, rather than as part of a musical movement or style that is influencing many people at the same time, as was the case when I was growing up.

For me the playing scene now is very varied, eclectic, and I try to be flexible and supportive, trying to play true to the style of the music I’m playing while still being myself. The music can be anything from swing to bop to post bop to straight eighth note, trio, quartet, backing a singer, playing with a big band, live gigs, recordings, videos, commercial one nighters, whatever. Whereas we used to go on the road for weeks or months at a time with one group, the tours now are much shorter, sometimes only a few days, a week, or even flying around the world for one concert.

I remember people asking Bill Evans, when I was in the band, who was influencing him at the moment. He’d say, more or less, he liked anyone that played well, and maybe he’d name one or two cats he’d heard recently by playing opposite them or on a recording. I’m kind of the same way now. I hear and play so much good music in NYC and around the world,, so many good young players on all the instruments, that I’m inspired and influenced all the time, but not by any one drummer or player, but just by the joy of playing real music with great players. I see myself 50 years ago in all the young drummers I meet trying to make a way for themselves, but one must wonder, given the state of the business of jazz, what the opportunities will be for them.eliot 4
Will jazz survive?What will the future of the music be?

I think the questions are broader in scope.

Will serious culture survive? Is it possible to function in the digital age as a professional, working artist? Is academia the answer? Are too many young people seeking careers in the arts? Certainly jazz techniques will survive, they are the language of today’s harmonic/tonal music and improvisation, a must for any working musician on the scene today. In New York we have a marvelous array of older and younger serious jazz musicians who cover the stylistic gambit of what American jazz has offered and is offering over the last 70 years, as well as musicians from all over the world, who, enamored with jazz and the city, come to NY and bring their musical cultures with them to blend with what’s happening here. In Europe, Asia, South America, the Middle East, worldwide, certainly the States, we find great jazz musicians with regional scenes and communities of musicians everywhere, with the usual hard core fans and musicians hanging on in the usual devoted and low budget, hardscrabble ways. I think the music will always survive while there are musicians in the world dedicated enough to learn and play it and there seem to be no shortage of those. Will it sound like what was coming out of the Cafe Bohemia or Slugs in 1967, or Bradley’s in 1978, probably not.
In general the digital age has cheapened the value of art, artists, and media in lots of different ways. Combine that with the number of young people graduating from jazz programs in the States alone (some 5,000 per year I hear), and the general lack of interest in and knowledge of real jazz in the real world, most glaringly in America, and you don’t have a great prescription for the business of jazz in years to come.

I’m hoping to be proven wrong. And, most importantly – I still love to play and I’m still developing!

Interjazz, Try Now!

November 10, 2012 1 comment

ImageLast week we lost Teddy Curson and Elliott Carter. Today we listen to the music of living legends Clark Terry, Mundell Lowe, Don Friedman, Yusef Lateef and Jimmy Heath. Thank you.

Interjazz, try now! by Interjazzblog on Mixcloud

Interview with Don Friedman

October 18, 2012 Leave a comment
There’s at least one element of jazz that has remained the same and that is improvisation.

Today I have the honour to publicise the interview I had with pianist Don Friedman.

Donald Ernest Friedman (born May 4, 1935 in San Francisco California), better known as Don Friedman, is a jazz pianist. On the West Coast, he performed with Dexter GordonChet BakerBuddy DeFranco and Ornette Coleman, among others, before moving to New York. There, he led his own trio in addition to playing in Pepper Adams‘s, Booker Little‘s and Jimmy Giuffre‘s bands in the sixties. He was also a part of Clark Terry‘s big band. He currently works in New York as a pianist and jazz educator.[1] He has many fans in Japan, and has toured the country.[2]

Mr. Friedman, you’re active in Jazzmusic for more than 50 years, that’s a lifetime. Has jazzmusic evolved since you started? We know there are labels for different kinds of music, but (in the core) in what way is jazz nowadadys different from modern jazz?

Yes, jazz music has evolved. When I started out there was very little information available and almost no teachers. So I had to learn by listening to records and going out to play every chance I got. Today, because of the internet and the fact that most colleges have jazz programs, people have tons of information and learning tools.  There’s at least one element of jazz that has remained the same and that is improvisation. All jazz music is primarily improvised. Todays up and coming jazz players are exposed to more different types of music then we were when I was young. That’s why todays jazz is different than “modern jazz”.

Which album you produced do you like best? Why? “My Romance”, is your best appreciated album in The Penguin Guide to Jazz. Is this record your favourite too?

No, I’m most proud of the recording I did at a concert at Jazz Baltica. It’s called Don Friedman The Composer. It is my compositions played by my trio and a string quartet. I loved playing with the strings and since it’s a live performance it has a great intensity and feel.

Do you still visit concerts? (and if  so) Do you still learn from your youthful colleagues? Are you inspired by them?
Bill Evans. He’s been an example for a generation of  pianists. This year it’s thirtytwo years ago he has perished (as many great jazzmusicians passed last three Decades). What does this mean to you?

Bill Evans and his trio had a great influence on me. I loved his concept of group playing and interaction among the players.

The bassist Scott Lafaro was your companion, he died at the start of your carreer. I noticed there has been released  a record with Scott as bandleader in 2009 with you as a pianist accompanied by Pete La Roca.  If there had been no accident, would Lafaro have been your permanent accompanist?

I was very close to Scotty and for me it was terrible that he died so young. I can only imagine all the great music he would have made and I would have loved to play with him whenever possible.

Is there jazz in the future? Jazz is the most recorded musicstyle by now, but do you think jazz will reach our youth?

Yes, I think jazz has a great future thanks in part to all the young people that are taking music and jazz courses in college. Even though most of them will never be professional jazz musicians, they will have a much greater appreciation of the music and they will be the audiences of the future.

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