Interview with Elliot Deutsch: Intellect, musically speaking, is in the music’s complexity: Video

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Jazz interview with jazz composer & band leader Elliot Deutsch. An interview by email in writing. 

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

Elliot Deutsch: – I grew up in Chatsworth, CA, a suburb of Los Angeles. My father was (and still is) a NASA scientist by-day and a dixieland musician by-night. I grew up associating jazz music with recreation. My father often took me to his rehearsals and to weekend jam sessions.

JBN.S: – What got you interested in composing for big band? What teacher or teachers helped you progress?

ED: – As a trumpeter, I played in big band starting in high school. I think I was always attracted to the idea that I was somehow in control of the sound of the band. Lead trumpet leads the band’s interpretation of the written music (along with the drummer and the lead alto saxophonist). I wrote my first arrangement for big band when I was in graduate school at Cal State Long Beach. When I heard the band playing my notes I was hooked.  During college, I studied arranging with Jeff Jarvis who is best known for his excellent educational-level pieces. Since graduating in 2008, I have picked up lessons here and there with Kim Richmond, John Clayton, Patrick Williams, and Chris Walden. The best catalyst for progress, however, is playing my pieces with a live band.  It is immediately evident what works well and what needs work.  I always record my early readings and try to listen back objectively.

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

ED: – When I first started writing, all of my pieces were in the “classic” big band style: swing, with sax soli, shout chorus, etc. I think that I have progressed the way that I have because of my profound respect for the craft of big band arranging. Only in the past few years have I felt comfortable breaking convention and writing in a contemporary style.  For my newest project “Make Big Band Great Again” I leaned heavily on modern grooves and high energy composition, while utilizing traditional orchestration.

JBN.S: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

ED: – To me, the two do not conflict with one another.  Intellect, musically speaking, is in the music’s complexity. For jazz music, it is often in the harmony. For large ensemble jazz, the intellect can also be in the texture, in creative ways to utilize the timbres of various instruments.  Soul, on the other hand, is all about attitude.  Any music, simple or complex, can have limitless soul.

JBN.S: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?

ED: – Yes and no. My approach when writing music is to write the music that I would like to listen to. Hopefully I will find an audience with the same sensibilities.

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

ED: – I think that young people would really like jazz if they can hear the new, groovy stuff… let them listen to Kamasi, Thundercat, RH Factor … the music that might be more accessible to them. Forcing young people to listen to Coltrane would be akin to expecting young people to understand Hendrix without any context when you can easily get them started with the Foo Fighters.

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

ED: – I spend a lot of time watching concert recordings on YouTube. It is amazing that I can watch Thad, Buddy, Count, you name it, playing live gigs from my sofa.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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