Interview with Yuhan Su: Both important that soul generates the arts and intellect let you find a way to output the result: Video

Jazz interview with jazz vibraphonist Yuhan Su. An interview by email in writing. 

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

Yuhan Su: – I grew up in Taiwan. My mom plays piano, so there was a natural environment getting into music. So I studied in music focused program since Elementary school, learning piano and Cello in the beginning.

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

YS: – I was majoring in classical Percussion since Junior High School all the way until graduate school, so I play lots of Marimba, snare drums, Multi-percussion music. During my third year of College, Gary Burton and Chick Corea came to Taiwan for their duo anniversary tour. I was amazed by the freedom they have in music. Around the time, I started to be interested in Jazz and I was naturally in love with the sounds of vibraphone. Until I attended Berklee College of Music in 2008, I started to focus on jazz vibraphone study. My teacher was Dave Samuel and Ed Saindon in school. They both helps me develop my jazz vibraphone vocabulary. Dave influenced me a lot in arranging and composing music and finding the bridge between classical and jazz music. And Ed taught me how to use full value of 4-mallets techniques to create lots of harmony layers and counterpoints while improving.

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

YS: – It comes with time that I naturally got interested in different styles of music and also trying to learn more from the masters in history. I always somehow want it to play like a pianist sometimes a guitarist. I transcribed Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett, etc, I want it to have lots of harmony comping movements in vibraphone. And I also love guitarist like Ben Monder, he plays luxury clusters harmonic patterns which I always think this style sounds specially well in Vibraphone, like the percussive elements combining with colors.

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

YS: – I have some routine to practice, for example, practicing over standards but strict go up-and down using the whole range of vibraphone, and it may involve with different harmonic subject I’m working on at the time. I really tried to explore the sounds of whole instrument, and it also helps me to learn how to connect the line in an organic way. In terms of rhythmic practice, I like to explore different grouping and pattern while using 4 mallets sticking combination. It’s really fun thinking like a drummer too. And this usually somehow leads to a beginning of writing a tune.

JBN.S: – Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now? You’re playing is very sensitive, deft, it’s smooth, and I’d say you drift more toward harmony than dissonance. There is some dissonance there, but you use it judiciously. Is that a conscious decision or again, is it just an output of what goes in?

YS: – I think particularly for this record I wanted to play around the things inside/outside of orders and sequences, and it applies to the harmony I choose, the structures of the compositions and meters of the songs, etc. I like both modern jazz’s sounding color and avant grade music. And my background of studying lots of 20th century classical new music while majoring in percussion, always adds a bit spice into the music I write naturally I think.

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

YS: – I think they are both important that soul generates the arts and intellect let you find a way to output the result. (if this makes sense)

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

YS: – I feel usually when I’m open to share about your artistry and stories behind the music, audience always receive the messages well or better than I expected. It might not be always familiar for them, but I tried to be honest and sincere about what I do.

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

YS: – There are a lot of great memories from gigs and tours. I’d like to share this one which made me wrote one of the track in the album, the first track ‘Y El Coche Se Murio’(and the car died). I was on tour in Spain two years ago, and we rent a van filled up with vibes, bass, luggages and 5 musicians. We had a long trip from south Spain Sevilla coming back to Barcelona that is about 10 hours non-stop driving. Our car broke down in highway around Valencia which is still 4 hours away. We’ve tried every way to get back on the road because we have to play at Jamboree(best club in Barcelona)that night. Eventually we took a cab cost like 400 euros but we made it to the gig. Out of exhaustion and anxiety, we somehow played the best show in that tour. I wrote a song to remember this special experience.

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

YS: – I think because of music, I came so far from my hometown to USA studying, working here, learning completely different culture, touching the people all around the world, touring and connecting with people in different corners. Music leads me to this way living my life. It can be challenging in so many ways but I found it amazingly profound. Music means the spirit for me to open to possibilities.

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

YS: – I listen to lots of different things from time to time, I listen to lots of Charlie Parker, Bill Evans, Bud Powell, Andrew Hills, Jackie McLean, Herbie Hancock, Lee Konitz, Keith Jarrett, Mark Turner, Miguel Zenon, etc.

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

YS: – I would really love to play with Bill Evans because is my all time hero. I may be into different style of music over times, but I think the elegancy and beauty of his playing is always something special like the pure jewel for me. Also he is one of the first jazz musician I got to know when I start learning jazz piano. Poncho Song in my record is a tune dedicated to him.

JBN.S: – So putting that all together, how are you able to harness that now?

YS: – I truly love this record City Animals and I think it strongly presents my musical statement at this moment. I’ll keep moving on to the adventures in the music world. I wish you all find specially lots of joy in this music. Thank you for your interview.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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