An interview with Joe Fiedler: Much jazz today is very complex for the sake of complexity … Video

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Jazz interview with jazz trombonist Joe Fiedler. An interview by email in writing.

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

Joe Fiedler: – I grew up in Pittsburgh, PA.  My father was a big music fan and had a varied taste in music.  He wasn’t a big jazz fan, but I remember that he had Cannonball’s “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” and Oscar Peterson’s “Night Train.”  I can remember him playing those on Saturday mornings.

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

JF: – I originally wanted to play trumpet.  I have two older cousins who I looked up to and they both played trumpet.

JBN.S: – What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today? What made you choose the trombone?

JBN.S: – I’m mostly self-taught, but I did take some lessons in my twenties with the Pittsburgh trombone legend, Randy Purcell. Those were mostly trombonistic in nature and not focused on jazz or improvisation. He really helped me develop a much stronger tone and increase my range.   Later, when I moved to New York, I took a couple of lessons with the great Ray Anderson that made a huge impact on my development as an improviser.

When I first started playing, in 4th grade, our music teacher only came to our school once a week.  We just started with the mouthpiece for the first several weeks.  Because I had a large overbite I couldn’t get a buzz from the first mouthpiece that the teacher gave me.  So she gave me a larger one, which I thought was just a larger trumpet mouthpiece.  So finally the day came where we could get our instruments and the teacher handed me a trombone.  I was too shy to say anything, so I took it home and that was it.  So I guess that the trombone kind of chose me.

JBN.S: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?

JBN.S: – I think that, even at a young age, I just naturally had a nice sound with a strong core.  However, Randy Purcell turned me on to some yogic breathing exercises that really opened up my sound.  Also, much later when I was in my 30’s Conrad Herwig hipped me to some great mouthpiece buzzing exercises that, again, took my sound and endurance to another level.

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

JBN.S: – My practice routine is constantly evolving, but I always use a three-pronged approach with attention to improvising, sound and technique.  As I focus more and more on soloistic work and don’t really do that much free-lance/commercial work—I push myself much harder and longer during my routine in order to stay sharp.  As far as rhythm goes, I really don’t spend much of my practice working on that.  I made my living in New York for twenty years playing in Salsa and Latin Jazz bands.  During that time I was immersed in rhythm and played with some of the world’s greatest percussionists.  I played 300+ gigs a year in that scene.  Like anything, I have plenty more to learn, but I do feel that I’m in a good place with my rhythm and feel that its wiser to focus on other aspects of my playing that need more work.

JBN.S: – Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now?

JBN.S: – I really don’t prefer any particular harmonies.  I’m just trying to play and write music that is bouncing around in my head and its quite eclectic.  That being said, the music on my most recent recording was in a more blues based space, overall.

Картинки по запросу joe fidlerLike, StrangeJBN.S: – What do you love most about your new album: <Like, Strange>, how it was formed and what you are working on today. Next year your fans like we can wait for a new album?

JBN.S: – I love the vibe that all of the musicians brought to the table.  When I listen to the tracks, in addition to hearing the music, I feel the love, energy and spirit that all of the guys gave to the music.  That project was an extension of my long running trio.  I had been playing with my trio (Rob Jost/bass & Michael Sarin/drums) for thirteen years and just wanted to add some other colors, harmonies, and texture to the mix.  So I enlisted two of my oldest NYC friends, Jeff Lederer and Pete McCann to come on board.  I am so happy with the result.

I am currently working on a new quartet project.  My “day job” is that I’m one of the music directors / arranger /  orchestrator / trombonist for the television show “Sesame Street.”  At the moment, I’m finishing up my eighth season.  So I figured that it was time to merge my worlds and play my interpretations of Sesame Street classics.  Jeff Lederer is again on board for this one with a new rhythm section of Allison Miller/drums and Chris Lightcap/bass.

For sure, I will be recording the Sesame Street project sometime early in 2018.

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?

JBN.S: – I would say play the music that you love, first and foremost.  The second thing is to continue to practice and study.  Lastly, don’t be so serious.  That is to say, be very serious about your practice and study, but don’t take yourself so seriously.  Have fun!

JBN.S: – Аnd furthermore, can jazz be a business today or someday?

JBN.S: – That’s a very broad question, but I think that jazz is already a business for many.  It’s a tough way to make a living but in this DIY age, there are inroads to be made for the creative entrepreneurs out there.  On the other hand, as a jazz trombonist-band leader, is there a jazz business for me?  I don’t know.  I mean, the legends on the instrument who were also band leaders like J.J. Johnson, Slide Hampton, Curtis Fuller were able to do it for stretches – that is to make their living as a band leader – but it’s not sustainable, at least as a trombonist.  And in today’s jazz world there is somewhat of a bias against trombone-led groups among festival and club bookings.  Just look at the roster of any major or minor jazz festival… (Trombone Shorty notwithstanding.)  So can I do some business?  Yes, of course.  I continue to remain optimistic.  I keep my goals modest, but always keep pushing for more.

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

JBN.S: – I don’t really have a good answer to that.  I’m not sure that standard tunes are the issue, but I do agree that they are aging and younger audiences may not have any connection to them.  I do think that much jazz today is very complex for the sake of complexity and I know that that is a turn off for many fans and musicians alike.  Additionally, I think that many musicians take themselves and their music way too seriously and that can be another turn off.  I think that music can both serious yet have a sense of humor and musicians/bands that have found that balance often have tremendous success in building an audience.

JBN.S: – What are your expectations of the future? What brings you fear or anxiety?

JBN.S: – I expect to continue to grow as an improviser and as a composer.  I feel that I am really just now coming into my prime as a jazz musician and feel that the best is yet to come in terms of performance opportunities.  I don’t really have fear or anxiety about music or the music business.  That’s one great thing about doing Sesame Street and having some financial security—I don’t have to do gigs that I don’t want to.  Furthermore, I’m at a place in my career where I can play how I want to play and don’t really worry about what others think at all.

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

JBN.S: – In about a week I’m heading to Portugal for two weeks as artist in residence at the Guimaeres Festival.  I’ll be co-leading a group with Jeff Lederer that features Mary La Rose, George Schuller and Nick Dunston.  I’m also working towards a new quartet recording of Sesame Street music with my new quartet that will be released on my Multiphonics Music label sometime in late 2018.  In November, I’m looking forward to the release of a co-led project “Information Network” for Nuscope Records that features Jon Irabagon and Todd Neufeld.  Also, I am looking forward to continuing my teaching at Princeton University where I just started teaching jazz trombone.  Lastly, in January, I will begin work on another season at Sesame Street – my 9th with the show.

JBN.S: – Are there any similarities between jazz and world music, including folk music?

JBN.S: – I think so.  I think that jazz and world music is folk music.  I also think that they all share much more than they are different and that labeling of music leads to much confusion.

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

JBN.S: – Unless I’m specifically doing some research or study, I almost always listen to my music library on shuffle.  So it’s really all over the map.  That being said, some recent purchases are:  John Lindberg Trio “Give and Take” (with George Lewis), Sam Rivers “Contrasts”, Anthony Braxton “Five Pieces 1975”, and Sex Mob “Cultural Capital”

JBN.S: – What’s your current setup?

JBN.S: – I play a .508 bore Shires trombone and a custom heavy weight mouthpiece by Greg Black.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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