venerdì 27 gennaio 2012

Intervista a Christian McBride

Sul sito IrockJazz è stata pubblicata una interessante intervista a Christian McBride che ha appena pubblicato due fantastici album, The Good Feeling con una big band e Conversations with Christian, una collezione di duetti che include Sting, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Chick Corea, Regina Carter, Roy Hargrove ed altri.

Ecco il testo dell'intervista: 
iRJ: You grew up in Philadelphia and your earlier influences were your dad and your great uncle. What was it like growing up in a musical family?
Christian: It was great. I got to hear all this wonderful music every day. I don’t think my childhood was unlike most other kids in the neighborhood because everyone was listening to good music. People were going out more. They were much more curious and the economy wasn’t as awful as it is now. People were able to go out and see more things at reasonable prices. All my friends were going to live concerts and museums. I just happen to have two musicians in the family. I was hearing them as well as all the great records in the house.
How do you define your own style and signature as an artist?
I’m not really aware of stuff like that. It’s the listener’s job to figure that out. I try not to get too comfortable. As an artist, it’s our job to express ourselves. I’ve never been conscious of what my style is. I just know that I like playing music that has a nice strong groove to it. Now groove means several things. When you say groove someone may automatically say funk. Or it might mean a jazz groove. Or, to someone else it might mean some sort of Latin or world beat. To me, groove is a very loose term describing something you can feel throughout your body, that’s rhythmic.
How do we keep jazz alive? What’s the best way to jump start this again?
That’s a topic that’s been up for discussion for a half century. People have been asking since the British invasion how we keep jazz alive and it’s never died nor will it ever. First of all, the music is too pure to ever go anywhere. It might not be popular in terms of mass media or mainstream attention, but I once heard someone say, do we want it to be mainstream or popular? Would I want to turn on TMZ and see Roy Hargrove? I like to see the jazz community have some really diehard fans. I would like it to be a better balance in terms of recognition. I think we’d all like that. In terms of music dying or needing a jumpstart, as long as we can pass the message to generations behind us, that’s how you keep it going. A lot of jazz fans want to keep it close to their heart, not wanting to pass it on to others. We have to pass the music on to younger generations instead of berating them. When I was 9 or 10 my great uncle never told me to stop listening to Michael Jackson, Prince, Earth Wind & Fire or whoever was hot at the time, he just said add it to your arsenal and learn from it.
There is a movement taking place to drop the name jazz and call it Black American Music (BAM). Do you think musicians should drop the jazz name?
Jazz is nothing but a terminology. BAM is a terminology. It’s just a phrase that’s been created for identification. Think about black people in general in this country. We’ve been called Negro, Colored, Black, Afro-American and now African American. Who decides these terms? Are they bad, good, or neutral? Or, are they just simply terms? Jazz has always been Black American music and musicians who play it no matter what culture they’ve come from need to understand that and I know deep down inside do understand that. To actually start calling it BAM is unrealistic. If you do that, then you’ll have to start calling hip hop Bam. We will have to change Soul music to Bam, Gospel music to BAM and Blues to BAM. Maybe we should drop all terminologies for all kinds of music? I believe musicians have already starting do that. Musicians are the ones to not see no genres or boundaries. I look at someone like Herbie Hancock who sees no boundaries and looks at music like this big palette with all these different colors. It doesn’t matter what people call it all you have to do is agree with it or not and move forward. Jazz has always been Black American music. I am not going to start calling it BAM because I know in my heart that it already is “BAM”. I just think it’s an incomplete strategy to call it BAM because the next generation is going to end up calling it something else and so will the next generation after that. Just like we call the black people of America it changes every generation.
What does it take for you to be successful? The perception is all artists are rich.
I feel sometimes so many musicians get off the path of staying honest and staying true to what led you to this music in the first place. I can give you two extremely different examples. Dianne Reeves and Diana Krall. Dianne Reeves is someone who has been a steady burning flame that keeps becoming a bigger legend year after year. She is quickly approaching “one name” status. She started out her career a very young lady singing a lot of background gigs. She sang with George Duke, Harry Belafonte, just doing a lot of pickup gigs. When she was trying to get her own career established, she’d take little dive gigs and getting better, acquiring more respect from her peers. She’s never been a marquee name to play at some place like the United Center, but she has that slow growing legacy and legend where she is quickly becoming this generation’s Ella Fitzgerald or Sarah Vaughn. Everyone knows she’s the best. I’ve always thought of that as a successful career, never looking to get famous but to get better at what she does. I take a look at someone like Diana Kralll, a woman who was almost completely unknown to people in the jazz world. She was doing real dive gigs, singing in hotel lobbies, and no one knew her name. I got to know her and saw she was really serious about her career. It wasn’t until her album Love Scenes in 1997 when she completely exploded. I’ve known Diana very well before she got famous and afterwards. When she got famous right away every singer in the world got insanely jealous. It’s not like she made herself famous, nor did she change to get popular. I admire her because she still stays who she is. What Diana became popular for is the same exact thing she was doing when no one knew who she was. The timing was such someone put money behind her and she got popular. A long answer to your question, there are a lot of singers out there, they all trying to find their voice. Just be true to who you are and stay with that vibe that brought you to it. Someone is going to notice you.
Jazz is not considered a lifestyle right now, but it is. However, it’s not hip hop. Why can’t jazz musicians figure out a way to monetize what you all do to make the money hip hoppers and rappers do?
Jazz is not the style of music you can figure out in the first head pounding beat. You have to spend some time and use your brain and not have ADD and let it seep in for a couple of minutes. Pop music (hip hop and rock & roll) in the last 20 years has gotten louder and louder and shorter and shorter. Jazz has never been that way, it has so many possibilities. You actually have to sit and think about it. To feel it, you have to stick with it for a minute. If you get a billionaire to say they really love jazz and create a movement to say jazz is cool, it would be cool overnight. We need money pumped behind jazz in order to create a lifestyle because that’s what happened in hip hop. Not sure if we want that lifestyle created in jazz, because once it’s created, you are now under pressure to stick with that.
Russ Malone believes there’s racism when it comes to music. What do you think? How does that happen?
I wish I could remember who said this, but they said something like “It’s only natural that people are more in tune with people who look like them.” In a way white jazz musicians have been treated like white heavyweights. It’s like the phrase “The great white hope”. In boxing when a white contender comes along, you can feel people going finally, somebody to breakup all this brownness I think in many ways that has happened in the jazz world. I do not blame the musicians at all. Needless to say there have been a lot of brilliant white musicians who understood and accepted the fact that this music comes from Black culture and they realize to play this music with the right feeling is necessary. People like Stan Getz, Benny Goodman, and Dave Brubeck understood that and they’ve played some of the best music ever made in this genre. At the same time, those musicians have always been much more popular than their Black American peers. Why is that? Was Stan Getz that much better than Sonny Rollins or Coltrane? Was Dave Brubeck that much better than Thelonious Monk or Bud Powell? So, why have they been so much more immensely popular than all of their Black peers? That’s the question I have a feeling the people who helped make them famous wouldn’t dare answer.
How do you manage it all being a composer, bandleader, educator and musician?
My day is always an exercise in business arrhythmia. Between emails, calls, correspondence, flights, gigs and rehearsals, it can all be a jumbled mess every now and then. It’s all fun. I rarely get frustrated about anything.

Ecco il video di Afrika, con la cantante Angelique Kidjo, tratto dall'album Conversations with Christian:

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