Interview with Paul Wertico: Being “rich” isn’t always about money: Video

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Jazz interview with jazz drummer Paul Wertico. An interview by email in writing. 

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

Paul Wertico: – I grew up in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, and as far as I can remember, I’ve always loved music…all kinds of music, including rock, jazz, R&B, funk, soul, ethnic, classical, even country…basically anything that not only had a good beat, but that also had good melodies, harmonies, and lyrics too.If I “felt something” from the music, I liked it regardless of the style.  I’ve never been a musical snob.

JBN.S: – What got you interested in picking up the your musical instrument? What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today? What made you choose the your musical instrument?

PW: – I’ve always loved the drums and I’m self-taught on the drum set.My grade school and high school band directors, although not drummers themselves, taught me how to read music, featured me as a soloist in the school bands, and they both really encouraged my passion for the drums, as well as my musical ideas, no matter how extreme and unconventional.

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

PW: – I’ve always been an improviser and “my sound” became “my sound” because of the way I hear and relate to music, as well as my individual touch on the instrument.

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

PW: – I practice with a metronome and with recordings that have a good feel, but I also like to let myself “go” and explore, by just expressing myself on the instrument, since time and rhythm aren’t only measured by pulse and subdivisions, but also by organic flow, which can be like waves of water.

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

PW: – I like harmonies that take the listener on a musical journey, and journeys can go to many different places. Various harmonies can bring out various emotions, and as I said earlier, I love to “feel something” from music.

JBN.S: – Which are the best jazz albums for you this 2017 year?

PW: – There were a number of great jazz releases in 2017, but I really don’t like to choose a “best” (or “worst”) of anything, so I’ll pass on that question.

JBN.S: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

PW: – You’ll find those in my upcoming memoir, although, besides experiencing many wonderful musical moments over the years, I’ve also had the great privilege of doing extraordinary things because of being a musician, such as driving a passenger train through the mountains and flying an aerobatic airplane.

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?

PW: – Always play the truth, believe in yourself and your vision, and have fun!Attitude is so important, and can sometimes be everything!!!

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

PW: – Jazz has always been a business, and probably always will be, although it’s usually never been as financially profitable as various other types of more “popular” styles of music.But then again, being “rich” isn’t always about money.

JBN.S: – Which collaboration have been the most important experiences for you?

PW: – Although most people probably know me as being the drummer in the Pat Metheny Group, which was a fantastic experience, one of my earliest bands, Earwax Control, was a very important musical breeding ground for me as a young musician, especially since everything we played was 100% improvised, and it was almost always adventurous, outrageous, even crazy, and a great example of music made by good friends who also happen to be like-minded bandmates.

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

PW: – Those standard tunes are basically great songs to improvise over and they’ll always be important and part of the jazz repertoire, yet there are also new tunes coming out nowadays that may one day become established standards too.

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

PW: – To me, the art of practicing is not only about discipline, growing as a musician, enjoying doing something you absolutely love, and preparing for upcoming performances and recordings, etc., but it’s also about “opening up channels to the unknown.”When you do that, and you open yourself up to the musical moments at hand, you feel like you’re being played by something greater than yourself.

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

PW: – I don’t like to think in those terms or use words like “fear” and “scared.”I also try to live by the creed “A coward dies a thousand deaths, the brave die but once.”  Being “concerned” about something is different than “fearing” something.

JBN.S: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

PW: – With all the new technology, I would wish musicians would get paid properly for all their musical efforts.After all, musicians not only entertain, but they also help to enlighten and inspire others, and they contribute to society and culture in ways that monetary compensation often does not take into consideration.

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

PW: – Besides teaching full-time at Roosevelt University, I’m currently writing a new book on polyrhythms, and playing and recording with my own bands, as well as with other musical artists.

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

PW: – Jazz began by incorporating elements such as blues, gospel, and ragtime, so in a way, it’s also a type of folk music.I feel that as long as a musical style has improvisation, it has some similarities to jazz.

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

PW: – Between listening to things for teaching, listening to things to prepare for performances and recordings, and listening just for pleasure, there’s way too much to mention.

JBN.S: – What’s your current setup?

PW: – I endorse Drum Workshop, Paiste, Pro-Mark, Remo, and Shure products, but I don’t really have a “current” setup, since I like to utilize different instruments for different situations.Recently, I was asked to play a cajón on one song for a gig and recording, but since I didn’t have a cajón, I made one from a cardboard box, taping snare wires to one side the box.  It sounded great and everyone loved it!

JBN.S: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?

PW: – Although I’d love to have seen some of the great musicians who died before I had a chance to see them play, I have to say that I like where I am right now!

JBN.S: – So far, I ask, please your question to me …

PW: – Do you have a favorite Paul Wertico performance, and why?

JBN.S: – I know its sound since at album Pat Metheny Group – First Circle – 1984. In general I’m not only a jazz critic, but also a jazz collector.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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