Motivational Music for the Syncopated Soul: an espresso with Cory Wong

November 26, 2019

Live at Jazz:Re:Found 2019

American guitarist and author Cory Wong, along with artists such as Vulfpeck, Snarky Puppy, Louis Cole, and Knower represents one of the ways in which jazz today is evolving. Certainly one of the most influential ways that this genre is drawing in the younger generation.

> interview: Ivano Rossato – Iug Mirti

> photo: Erminio Garotta per LKV Photo Agency

You started your musical career as a producer…

Yes. When I was in college, a lot of the albums I was asked to put together were records not under my own name. They were generic albums for a big book store. It was a nice way to learn how to produce, arrange and mix really fast and then let it go. I also didn’t have the pressure of having my name on it, which was a good thing. It was just a job. I learned the mechanics and the logistics of recording and producing. When it came time for my artist career, I didn’t have to worry about it. I could concentrate on the Art side of it.

As far as streaming, I could put more effort into it and make it my entire living.

The community of musicians has different opinions about internet and streaming: can playing guitar be “a real job”?
Yes! I choose to spend a lot of my time touring and playing live. The immediate effects of making a dollar are felt when I play live. I’m being paid for a service. As far as streaming, I could put more effort into it and make it my entire living. Most of the musicians of my generation and I don’t have anything else to compare to. We didn’t grow up living on cd sales or vinyl record sales. The generations before us were making hundreds of thousands of dollars selling records because there was so much margin. For us there’s not much reason to complain with what we get paid from streaming though does feel criminal. I don’t drive a Tesla, I don’t have a house in New York, Paris or in Verona, but I am making a living doing it!
cory wong Jazzespresso interview Ivano Rossato Iug Mirti
photo: Erminio Garotta per LKV Photo Agency
You grew up in Minneapolis and you play funk music, so it’s natural to immediately think of Prince…
Absolutely. The brand of funk that I play and where I’m from are heavily influenced by Prince, there’s some lineage. Also, some of the guys I cut my teeth with and learned from were guys that were in Prince’s band. I grew up listening to that music. I was big into Red Hot Chili Peppers as a kid and, as far as the funk thing, I love artists like Earth Wind And Fire, Jamiroquai, Michael Jackson, Prince. That musical era represented my main influence at the beginning.
What do you look for in another musician?
I think there are different things for different musicians. Sometimes it’s the way they feel music, the time, and the groove that match the way I do. From there, musical decisions can be wide open. But there is another side of it, like my recent collaboration with Jon Batiste where we just have a deep musical connection. We see the storyline of the music in a similar way even if we have such different backgrounds. What I look for is more about “what is the purpose of the collaboration”.
What’s in your mp3 player today?
I listen to a lot of modern and classic jazz and I like a lot of pop music. My palate is very wide. I love Emily King for example. She has a lot of very musical elements but at the same time very simple. Also Brad Mehldau, Pat Metheny, etc.
…no Pantera?
I’m down with Pantera! Dimebag Darrell was an insane guitar player! For me it’s not about the genre, it’s about the energy and “are these guys good at what they do?”. Marty Friedman, Dave Mustaine, those guys are great. Granted I don’t listen to their music much, but when I do and sit down and listen to it, I have a lot of respect for it.
Motivational Music for the Syncopated Soul: an espresso with Cory Wong copyright Jazzespresso 2019.
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