Interview with Mark Baldridge: Capturing both emotion and technique in the sound of the recordings: Video

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Jazz interview with jazz composer, owner and producer Mark Baldridge. An interview by email in writing. 

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

Mark Baldridge: – I grew up on the South-West Side of Chicago, near Midway Airport, and was the fourth generation that lived in my house. The person who influenced me the most was my cousin Jim Nyeholt, a professional keyboard player who performed in Chicago bands like Aorta, Exceptions, and the Rotary Connection. He was also the factor that inspired me attend the American Conservatory of Music. At the Conservatory in the late 1970s, under the direction of James Dutton in the Percussion Department, I was introduced to jazz. In terms of my ability to play an instrument, I can’t because I stopped performing after I left the American Conservatory of music.

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

MB: – In terms of my sound, I am constantly changing. I do not know what I’m going to write next in terms of style. My goal is to only write what sounds good so that my audience has a memorable experience. The benefit of not being able to play an instrument is that I am not restricted to a playing style.

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

MB: – In terms of practice routine or exercise, I am constantly composing music incorporating new styles that expand my horizons. The one thing I do maintain is my compositional philosophy based on the synthesis of Chick Corea’s ability to pursue any idea he sees fit, Miles Davis’ lifelong embrace of change, and Thelonious Monk’s use of simple melodies with complex chord change.

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

MB: – In terms of harmonies, I prefer a sound that is appealing to everybody and is able to introduce a new audience to jazz.

JBN.S: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?

MB: – Disparate influences are not a problem with my compositional style; actually, different influences enhance what I am doing and trying to accomplish. In some of my compositions I have incorporated counterpoint, improvisation and World Music into one style which can also be considered Third Stream. The reason why each composition on my album is different from another is that I have to adapt my compositions to the streaming market, which allows me to enjoy composing music.

JBN.S: – What do you love most about your new album 2019: <Reverse Perspective>, how it was formed and what you are working on today.

MB: – What I loved the most about this album is that I was able to achieve my goal of being on a record label, despite the fact that I cannot play an instrument. The other thing I’m grateful for is working with the wonderful musicians. If it was not for Steven Hashimoto, Neal Alger, Darryl Boggs, Diane Delin, Donn DeSanto, Heath Chappell, Stephen Koerner, Michael Levin, Leandro Lopez-Varady, Barry Winograd, Amy Yassinger, and Edward M. Zajda, I would have been unable to make my album.

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

MB: – The balance between intellect and souls when I create compositions is that I try to achieve the same nuance as Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue” by capturing both emotion and technique in the sound of the recordings.

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

MB: – My goal and aspiration is that I want my audience to have a memorable experience that they can take home from my compositions.

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

MB: – Recording in the studio has always been memorable. It is great to see all my musicians enjoy themselves while performing my music.

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

MB: – How I have gotten a younger audience involved in my music is by diversifying my product so that each composition does not sound the same. The next thing I have done is to modernize the sound of my songs so they appeal to the younger audience while still basing my songs’ roots in traditional jazz.

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

MB: – It is just not about playing notes, it is about how you play the notes to tap into the listener’s emotions. When recording that is one thing I look for: Do I feel anything in terms of emotions? That was the problem with my first album, Beginnings. It was too mechanical, like a robot. That was mostly due to the fact that due to technical problems we didn’t have enough time to produce the recording we wanted.

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

MB: – In terms of changing jazz, I do not want people to be alienated by jazz. I would like to see more people embrace jazz. Jazz to me is like apple pie; it represents who we are as a country, with all our faults and blessings and diversity.

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

MB: – I listen to anything, from jazz to world music, pop to progressive, and there are times I do not know what I am going to listen to. I’ll have a tune and Steven Hashimoto then introduces me to different styles of music, and then I listen to the artists that perform that style in order to improve my compositions.

JBN.S: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?

MB: – The message I am trying to relay through my compositions is that jazz is still viable and relevant to today’s music scene. Yes, my melodies are memorable, but by utilizing a mosaic/synthesis of melodies and unpredictable chord changes and harmonies, my compositions still maintain their strong integrity.

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

MB: – I would like to go back in time to see where jazz came from and how it developed. I would like to also experience the social conditions the musicians had to experience, in order to connect better to the music.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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