Sunday, April 8, 2012

KENNY WERNER ON HIS NEW SOLO ALBUM, HIS WILLINGNESS TO SELL OUT, AND WHY JAZZ IS ALIVE AND WELL


"Me, Myself, & I” is a solo album jazz piano player Kenny Werner cut live last year at the Upstairs Jazz Bar & Grill in Montreal. Werner has cut other solo albums “Live at Maybeck Concert Hall, Volume 34” and “Live at Visiones” for example. Neither has the abstract feel his new album has, which Justin Time Records will release Tuesday. 


The title is misleading. It suggests the album is about self-indulgence, but that is false. "'Round Midnight," "All the Things You Are," and "Giant Steps" are some of the oldies but goodies Werner sicked  his imagination on. Frankly, I'm not a fan of solo jazz piano projects. Most come off as self-indulgent woodshedding sessions, but "Me, Myself & I" surprised me.  


Werner is comfortable playing unaccompanied. The album is more than a garden variety piano recital. It’ll run circles around any solo jazz piano album out there. Jordy Freed of DL Media, the company that handles publicity for Justin Time Records, had Werner answer  some questions I had about the album.

How does "Me, Myself & I" stack up to your other solo albums?
It's more abstract than any of them and as I said in the liner notes, I've never been captured on a recording feeling in such good shape

Some noted jazz pianists have recently put out solo albums. Did you feel any peer pressure to make this album?
I don't feel peer pressure in general.

Is playing solo piano in front of a live audience nerve-wracking? 
No.
Bassist Andrea Veneziani featured you on his debut "Oltreoceano". You totally dominated the album. When you play with younger jazz musicians, do you have to modify your playing any, or do you let it all hang out no matter what?
I don't think about it. I respond to the music in the moment and if I have to measure how much passion to bring to the music I can't play.

You are a great composer. Why did you decide to perform golden oldies and only one original?
Because when you know the songs so well you can go the farthest away from them and still be playing them. How many years has Lee Konitz been playing "All The Things You Are."

You are jazz bigwig. Do you have to fight your record label to make the kind of albums you want?
No. I haven't experienced a company get in the way of the music since I was just starting out. Companies don't invest much in you so they have to respect what kind of CD you want to make. I've always said I'm willing to sell out, but the price is going to be prohibitive.

Is there an upcoming tour to promote the album?
I'll be playing a series of solo concerts in Belgium and Holland in May. Other than that Patricia Barber {jazz vocalist} and I will play duo piano for the Montreal Jazz Festival. I'll be at The Blue Note in NYC playing my music from my previous album{Balloons}with The Brussels Jazz Orchestra. The entire band is coming over to play the week. Sort of the opposite of a solo concert.

There's been talk lately about jazz being dead, which I think is bull. What are your thoughts about the topic?
There's always talk of that. It was supposed to be dead in 1970 when I was first starting out. If  jazz is dead then why is every jazz musician who's worth hearing so damn busy?

Do you have another solo album in you?
Always.

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