Interview with Pete Kelly: The score is grinning at me from the piano as I write: Video

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Jazz interview with jazz vocalist and flautist Pete Kelly. An interview by Facebook in writing.

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

Pete Kelly: – My wife would say I haven’t grown up yet. But I was born in Sydney, Australia to parents who had a lot of music at home and my mum played piano and sang in church choirs. Classical music was the theme and Beethoven reigned supreme.

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

PK: – I found my sister’s student flute at my parent’s home after she had moved out and thought great, a free instrument. I also saw it as easy to carry to gigs. Seriously that’s what I thought.

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

PK: – My first lesson on the flute came from my music teacher, Freddie Wilson. I showed him my flute and he said, “Play just the head joint for the first 3 months, every day for 5-10 minutes until you get a good sound out of it.” I did that and when we finally put the instrument together a beautiful sound came out of it immediately. I was hooked and thought this will be easy. Ha, what a fool I was/am. Then Andrew Oh and Casey Greene were my first proper teachers whose facility on the instrument is astounding.

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

PK: –  I always had a good sound, right from the start. I think because of how I was originally instructed and the fact I’d already been singing for a number for years I had good breath control. When I read Boehm’s book and he talked about tone I immediately adopted a slow methodical approach to tone. After 10 years I still start my daily practice with drones and using my ear to pitch sharp and flat against them. I don’t use visual tuners. For melodic influences I have Paulo Levi standing beside me a lot and Dexter, Paul and Ahmad Jamal as close personal friends (in my music collection anyway). My aim is to say something succinct with each phrase, I am no master of this at time of writing.

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

PK: – I learnt to play drums. Mostly with brushes but sometimes sticks. I have been told I have good “feel”, lousy technique but good feel. That’s enough for me.

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

PK: – Right at the moment I am revisiting the blues. I had it for awhile that the blues was a little pedestrian for me preferring compositions with more complicated chord structures.  Then I really listened to Ray Charles, Lou Rawls and Sam Cooke. I thought how do players like that keep these progressions fresh. Am going to take a long hard listen to B.B. King soon too.

JBN.S: – Many aspiring musicians are always looking for advice when navigating through 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?

PK: – Being a musician is many hours of being alone in a room with your instrument, continually approaching things you can’t do and living in a world of frustration. If you don’t learn to love practice forget it. The beautiful bits are few and far between, though having said that they are so sublime they make up for all the dross. Set yourself up to win. Get a mentor, someone who is making it happen. Don’t hang out with the “artists must suffer” crowd, they are in it for the lifestyle. At the beginning keep your overheads low but have the best gear you can afford. I just LOVE picking up my gig flute even though my practice flute is great I love having beautiful instruments to play. In the world of flutes money makes a difference. Sell a kidney if you have to. Also don’t have children there are enough people doing that already haha!

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

PK: – Yes. Antonio Hart is one example of someone making it happen AND trust me he works at it like no one I ever heard of. If you put in the effort, keep a broad view of the music over the years I believe so. Head down, bum up and believe is my mantra.

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

PK: – I’m still playing Alone Together and Willow Weep For Me, both from 1932. If you bring yourself to the work, how you are in this moment it will sound fresh. Having said that All Of Me is a little done to death. Play stuff people don’t know is another important guideline when building a repertoire. I love surprising my band with tunes they have never heard of and it’s especially great when I get the “That’s a keeper” nod of approval.  BTW your listeners may wasn’t to listen to Spirit Song by Bernie Mcgann from 2008, that’s a baby in terms of standards.

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

PK: – There is something that takes place when we go beyond the ego and allow ourselves to be vulnerable with a group of people who have the same intention. A space opens up within us that allows more love, acceptance and just being with each other in a new and vital way. M. Scott Peck documents it in his book, The Different Drum. Musicians feel it when we play together and start listening to each other. Audiences become part of that space. My measure for a good gig is when the audience don’t want to leave the venue. That’s when I know I was effective in creating connection and that’s what I’m into music for. Every time that space is created we heal ourselves and the world.

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

PK: – Expectations? I will die. Anything else is a bonus. What brings me fear? Being disconnected, left out of the picture, not being loved.

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

PK: – Herbie Hancock’s Dolphin Dance. The score is grinning at me from the piano as I write.

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

PK: – My teacher used to say there are only two kinds of music, good and bad. And for me, jazz is a complex language in itself. For me, World and Folk don’t use the harmonic extensions to the degree that a good jazz musician does. I like the go anywhere attitude of jazz and I love a hot, swingin’ band around me.

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

PK: – Jeremy Steig, Ray Charles, Glenn Gould, Ravi Shankar, Wayne Shorter, Rampal, Dexter and Paul D. I have a trio that plays together frequently with Paulo Levi on tenor and Bob Mocarsky on keys. Those two giants are my biggest influences at the moment.

JBN.S: – What’s your current setup?

PK: – I am not a gear head. I buy the best I can afford and am happy with that. My performance flute is a Murumatsu PTP with the stock head joint. My practice flute is a semi hand made solid silver Murumatsu. I dig it too. One of the things I love about the flute is I am not chasing “set-up”, mouth pieces, good reeds etc. I have the Selmer Mark VI my mentor and friend Freddie Wilson played for 40 years sitting in it’s stand beside my two flutes and I’d like to play it more but mucking around with wetting the reed, setting the mouth piece up and then putting on the neck strap, adjusting the strap. Aiyah!. With the flute I just pick it up and play. Call me a lazy…

JBN.S: – And if you want, you can congratulate jazz and blues listeners on Christmas and Happy New Year.

PK: –  “Hey jazz lovers, may the spirit of Christmas and the joy of the New Year be a part of your lives now and for evermore. Love, Pete Kelly.”

For more information on Pete and contact details: http://www.petekellyjazz.com

Thanks for supporting jazz.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

Фото Pete Kelly.

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