Journalist Margo Ormotsadze first interviewed me for Forbes last summer with provocative questions about the state of jazz. She recently followed up by asking a new set of questions via email. Here is her published interview in Russian which appeared in YEP.TODAY. The original interview in English is below.
How the XXI century changes jazz? What new time can give to the new music?
We know that music is a language and languages are rarely static. We always have new idioms, new expressions and reinvention of older styles. We’re seeing increasing numbers of students wanting to study and learn how to play jazz or become jazz musicians, but there are limited numbers of jobs and it’s becoming more difficult to make a living as a player. There’s just so much competition, and in the U.S., very little public support. Even in Europe, subsidies are shrinking. Oddly, jazz music, which has always had a finger on the pulse of politics, seems somewhat apolitical these days. We’re not seeing much much original new work focused on what’s happening politically. Musicians will often speak about and share their political opinions, but that is rarely reflected in their music, except maybe in oblique ways. The jazz intelligentsia also seems to have a chip on its shoulder and overreacts to any insult about the music that can be found on the internet.
Apart from that, we may see some developments involving formats (such as high definition vinyl), new modes or models of distribution, new theories, new hybrids, new audiences, etc. But the differences and developments may not necessarily be fundamental. There’s still and always will be the matter of creative people coming out of the jazz tradition expressing themselves in ways that may or may not be compelling to the general or esoteric audience. It’s a safe prediction that there will be greater challenges ahead when art tries to reconcile with commerce and the marketplace, especially when it comes to venues for live music.
There’s a new crop emerging every year. Joey Alexander, for example, is still a very young man, barely a teenager, so I look forward to hearing his journey as he matures. I think Cecile McLorin Salvant and Esperanza Spalding are doing interesting things, although they’ve been out there for a while (Esperanza is 31, Cecile is 26). I could also point to Marquis Hill, Kayon Harrold, Jamison Ross, Linda Oh, Kendrick Scott and many others. And these are just the Americans. This music is played all over the world and it’s always exciting to discover new talent deserving of wider recognition.
How do you choose what music to listen to?
I would rather be moved than impressed, so anything that makes me feel something will catch my ear.
Which page in the history of jazz is most important to you? Why?
I like many different styles, but I suppose what interests me most are the transitions from one era to another. And I like both innovators and stylists.
What importance do you think about Ukrainian jazz?
I think it’s important to Ukrainians. They tell stories with their music that resonate with anyone who is open. But I think that Ukrainians may be able to appreciate these stories and better understand without having to translate or think about it. At the same time, there is a need to get out there into the international marketplace, to travel, to exchange views and experiences with other musicians from around the world.
What you can wish to Ukrainian musicians?
The courage to go deeper and not give up.
What important events of 2016 year in jazz you can denote? What you expect from the jazz year?
I’m always hoping to hear something new that will blow me away. Next month I will interview both Maria Schneider and Abdullah Ibrahim, and I’m working on arranging to give some lectures in Europe this summer, including at the Alfa Jazz Festival in Lviv. So it will be nice to revisit and catch up with my Ukrainian friends.