An interview with Benny Lackner: I recently started working on polyrhythmic exercises … Video

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Jazz Interview with Jazz pianist Benny Lackner. interview by email in writing.

JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?

Benny Lackner: – Hello and Thanks for having me. I am of German and American Heritage and grew up in Berlin in the late 1980’s listening to Keith Jarret and Oscar Peterson as well as Miles Davis. My father taught me how to play the Blues at a young age and my uncle, Tom Lackner is a drummer who got me involved in jam sessions early on as well.

JBN.S: – What interested you in picking up the piano?

BL: – Listening to Oscar Peterson’s Night Train Album and Keith Jarret’s My Song.

JBN.S: – What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the piano you are today? What made you choose the piano?

BL: – Well, I have had a number of great teachers. Dick Dunlap in California as well as Theo   Saunders in Los Angeles. Brad Mehldau and David Roitstein. Martin Soderberg in NYC.  But Mehldau really was my main inspiration for finding new harmonies and getting
really centered in my own path.

JBN.S: – What about the Your sound did that influence at all? What did you do to find and develop your sound?

BL: – As a student I was always reluctant to transcribe in the traditional sense because I felt that it would cloud my own path. Nowadays, I actually check out any solos that interest me but probably because I feel more secure in my own approach. I have to say that Keith Jarrett for his lyrical lines, Herbie Hancock for his feel and phrasing and Brad Mehldau for his harmonic, melodic and rhythmic approach are the biggest influences on me.

JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?

BL: – I recently started working on polyrhythmic exercises where I start my day working with a metronome away from the piano. Tapping out rhythm against rhythm of any numbers. Then I move to the piano and start improvising in the different rhythms. Then I usually try to write a song with one of the rhythmic layers in mind, that helps me really get it internalized.

JBN.S: – Many aspiring musicians are always looking for advice when navigating thru the music business. Is there any piece of advice you can offer to aspiring students or even your peers that you believe will help them succeed and stay positive in this business?

BL: – All I can say is to be persistent and have a long term view of your career. You have to really believe in yourself without being a narcissist. I am still on the same path I was on when I started booking gigs at 16 years old and I still do not feel like I have reached the end of the road by a long shot. I make time every week for booking gigs, doing promotion, composing, practicing and physical exercise as well as writing applications for grants and booking my own flights for touring. Its a lot of work.

JBN.S: – Аnd finally jazz can be a business today and someday?

BL: – Yes it can. Its about creating your own market and your own fan base that will follow your career to wherever it leads you. Major labels are not looking to build up any new artists so its much safer to create your own following. what is a great market is getting your music into Film and TV. That expands your following tremendously.

JBN.S: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are from half-a-century ago?

BL: – Well, since the 90’s there has been a movement of Jazz Groups covering pop songs that are pretty modern. Everything from Radiohead, the Beatles to James Blake has been covered. Its basically the same thing that Miles and everyone else used to do. Standards used to be the popular songs of a current generation. Nowadays its important to integrate current songs into the jazz repertoire.

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

BL: – I only feel happy and grounded when I am able to play my instrument every single day. Playing concerts is the best feeling in the world, but working on music alone is the second best thing. However, my personal family life has to be functioning in order for me to play well. So its about keeping that balance!

JBN.S: – What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

BL: – I hope to be touring more and more each year and to only be involved in projects that are musically inspiring to me.

JBN.S: – What’s the next musical frontier for you?

BL: – We are recording a new Trio Record at the end of the year with my band members, Matthieu Chazarenc and Jerome Regard. The music is evolving in a new direction with the bass being electric with many layers of effects and the drums sounding more modern than they
used to. Also, I will be recording a solo piano record soon. It is a big step for me and I am preparing for one year to do it.

JBN.S: – Are there any similarities between the blues/jazz and the genres of local folk music and traditional forms?

BL: – Yes, for me good music has a melody that you can memorize easily and that stays in your head. I try to present my themes very clearly before abstracting them so that the listener can follow, even if they are not used to listening to jazz.

JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?

BL: – Keith Jarrett, Vijay Iyer, Ethan Iverson, Craig Taborn, Radiohead, young pianists like Gerald Clayton, Aaron Parks and Fabian Almazan and the Ari Hoenig Group. Brahms, Bach, Chopin and I am getting back into Hip Hop these days.

Conversation led: Simon Sargsyan

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