December 7, 2017
You had an extraordinary successful career in music (& in other aspects), Is there any other type of music that you would like to explore now? Is there a dream that you want to pursuit?
I am only into jazz and this is still the type of music that I want to play every day. Every day when I play, I still think the best is still somewhere that I have not reached, so I always want to strive for the best as I can. My dream is every night I and the band I am playing with will become better and better. The best is yet to come.
Among hundreds of music groups, which is the band/project that you are proudest of?
I enjoyed all the projects. Whoever they are, the producers, the band leaders think this person, me, can make their projects get to another level, that I really appreciated their thoughts, I appreciated their awareness of my music, and my job is to make their wish come true. They are all important to me.
Jazz music is always evolving and you have been through all the generations, how do you think the shape of jazz will become?
The quality of the music itself depends on whether jazz records will be made again. One of the things that jazz is missing, there is not a physical disc of the music. Streaming music does not sound the same. The essence, the substance of jazz is difficult to maintain, streaming and downloading music is good for the growth of music, but for the explosion of the music, we need the right format of the music. MP4 file is not the real sound of music. I don’t know who is the guy that will lead the change, but jazz is always moving, it’s like… do you know how marble cakes look like, that is jazz. Some colours get bigger at some point, it evolves itself, no one can predict.
Do you know Asian jazz scene? What do you think of jazz music in Asia?
I have been to Beijing, Hong Kong and Jakarta, but every time my schedule is so tight that I miss the opportunities to go out and meet local musicians. And because almost no one produces CDs anymore, I cannot just go out and buy some, all the music stores are gone.
What about music scene in Japan? Have you got a chance to visit record stores and jazz bars here?
No, I have no time to do that but sometimes, after the show, some great local musicians come to see me or we may play a few tunes or we do some recordings, I am very happy to meet them. I even learnt some folk songs. Traditional Japanese musical instruments are not unfamiliar to me, sometimes I saw people play Shamisen or wooden flute in New York subway, I think the sound is very interesting.
What would you suggest to a young student who wants to become pro in jazz music?
Get a teacher. Learn how the instrument works, the scale, the technique. Learn composition. And absolutely learn piano. Play as often as possible. Go to any jam session as you can. Make mistakes and learn how to fix it. No matter you start from classical or jazz. THERE IS NO SHORTCUT.
© Yuka Yamaji
Everyone knows you are the most recorded jazz bassist in Guinness Records. Jazz is like art+maths+sports. What keeps you inspired in jazz? What keeps you the stamina? How can you just keep playing?
I have a good, well-balanced diet. I am very careful of what and how I eat. I try to go to bed as early as I can when I don’t have to perform. I am determined to play better than I did last night. I work out 3 days a week with my trainer for an hour, and I keep doing this for more than 30 years. Even when I am performing in different places all the time, I make sure I eat breakfast. For inspiration, myself is my "internal drive". It's my responsibility, my determination to make my own music better. I don't rely on any external source.
Are you teaching business of music in numerous universities, what is it about?
I have been teaching this for more than 30 years. It is about how to protect your copyright law for your compositions, what is a collection agency about, who will monitor your songs, how and why you need an accountant to help you filing your tax, how to manage your songs wisely to earn money, even at the time when you want to take a break, etc. These are necessary for musicians.
© Yuka Yamaji
From here, I think jazz is not just art + maths + sports, now it’s including economics. It was only a 15 minutes’ interview, but I learnt a lesson about a professional musician’s life, it’s passion, determination and discipline. Thank you, Mr. Carter.
Ron Carter 80th Birthday Quintet’s featuring Kenny Barron (p); Antonio Hart (sax); Donald Harrison (sax); Billy Drummond (dr).
Mr. Carter leaded the band to play about 6 songs. His welcome message was “Welcome to our living room”, as if they were playing for their close friends and families. He dedicated “Ah, Rio” (from “My Personal Songbook”) to his dear friend Antonio Jobim, who left “the concert” some years ago. Then he dedicated “No flowers, please” (from “Super Strings”) a song he wrote in 1981 for a dear friend’s memorial ceremony. Both are refined pieces but I felt a bit sad, like every note was a missing note to his friends, who dedicated their lives to music like him but have left “the concert”. I felt a bit sad but my soul was immediately captured when he soloed “you are my sunshine” (from “an evening with Ron Carter, Richard Galliano). He made use of every part of the bass like no one has ever done before, every note came out solid, complex, and creative. When I closed my eyes, I completely felt what he said about the depth, the explosiveness of jazz music. No audience dare to speak, not even have a sip of their drinks.
At the end, he and the band played “Cut and paste” (from “My Personal songbook”), which he said it is a song that celebrates the time of newspapers in 1950s, as that was the golden period of Jazz: the emerging of Miles Davis and cool jazz, a time with amazing recordings from Chet Baker, Bill Evans, Stan Getz…
A big thank you to Miho Harasawa and Blue Note Tokyo for arranging this interview.
© Yuka Yamaji
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