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Meet Marvin Stamm

By Published: March 25, 2005
CDs as a leader

Besides The Stamm/Soph Project Live at Birdland, I have four other CDs available as a leader. The previous Stamm/Soph Project was the first CD Ed and I did together. I also have the duo CD—By Ourselves—with Bill Mays, done around the same time as that first Stamm/Soph Project. I love duo playing, and for me, Bill is the best!

Another quartet CD—Elegance—recorded in 2001 features pianist Stefan Karlsson, Los Angeles bassist Tom Warrington, and drummer Eliot Zigmund, who played with the Bill Evans Trio for a number of years.

I also recorded two other CDs in the '90s that featured saxophonist Bob Mintzer and drummer Terry Clarke—Mystery Man and Bop Boy. Mystery Man is no longer available unless MusicMasters' parent label, the Musical Heritage Society, still has copies.

But all the other five CDs are available directly from me on my website.

The Stamm/Soph Project Live at Birdland is also available from the usual internet sites and in the stores, but the others are available only from me.

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Bill Mays

Bill Mays and I started playing together in a couple of groups around New York about ten or eleven years ago. We were kind of thrown together. We seemed to have an immediate rapport and decided we really did want to do some things together. I started using Bill in my quartet, and sometime after recording the first Stamm-Soph Project, Bill and I were talking, "Let's just go into the studio and see what happens. We went into Nola Studios in New York City with Jimmy Czak, an excellent acoustic engineer. He just turned on the machine, and we played. I'm extremely proud of the CD, By Ourselves. I believe it shows a lot of what we do.

Since the making of By Ourselves, Bill and I have played and toured together quite a bit as a duo. We recently completed a two-week tour this past January. Spending two solid weeks playing with Bill is just a fantastic experience! On both the musical and personal level, it is sheer fun and joy! Besides the duo performances on the tour, we played two of the concerts as a quartet. In each of these concerts, one of the regular members of my quartet happened to be in that locale and participated.

In our concert at the University of Texas at Dallas, Ed Soph and local bassist John Adams played. John is an excellent bassist and has played with us many times when we performed in Dallas and Houston. The second instance occurred performing an afternoon master class at Indiana University (IU) and again later that evening in a concert for "Jazz from Bloomington," a not-for-profit community organization based in Bloomington, Indiana. Rufus Reid just happened to be doing a residency that week at IU, so he joined us along with drummer Steve Houghton who is on the faculty there. Both concerts were special and received with great enthusiasm. That's what playing is all about for me—being able to express myself freely while also reaching the people for whom I am performing.

Bill Mays is A-MAYS-ING! I feel that he, more than anyone, is the major catalyst in the duo AND the quartet. I doubt Ed or Rufus would disagree with that statement. Bill and I have an uncanny magic going between us. It's almost as if we can read each other's thoughts. At the last concert on the tour, a duo concert at Lawrence University, we reached a new level of communication. We were presented with an archival recording of the concert, and if the sound quality was of a professional level, I would release it in a "New York minute. It really is extraordinary. As Dick Hyman said at one of the two concerts we performed in duo for him at New York City's well-known 92nd Street Y concert venue, "Bill and Marvin's duo is more like chamber music than two guys just playing together. Bill is the most creative musician I've ever worked with, always creative, always sensitive on the most consistent basis.

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Tours combining concerts and Jazz education

The four members of the quartet are all experienced in performing clinics, master classes, and workshops. We really enjoy working with young people. Today all music of value—symphonic music, chamber music, and Jazz—is in jeopardy. Symphony orchestras are in financial trouble, and the places in which to play Jazz are diminishing. Our audiences for great music are ageing or aged, and if we don't create new audiences from among our young people, if we don't inspire the young players of today, then all good music may go by the wayside.

All we have to do is look at what's going on in the political arena to see how little they value things of culture. This has been going on not just with this current administration (which in my opinion has no culture values), but ever since Newt Gingrich raised such a big stink about pornography with the Mapplethorpe Exhibition in Washington ten or twelve years ago they used the Mapplethorpe Exhibition as an excuse to cut the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) budget from something like 163 million dollars a year to 93 million dollars.

The NEA is just a small item compared to all these other programs our legislators fund that are filled with fat and pork. The NEA was generating revenues of about 1.2 billion dollars a year on an output of 163 million. How many investments pay back eight or nine times what is put into it? How many of any of the things these legislators fund pay back anything—except in benefit to themselves? It's a sham—and a shame!

The only way we can affect anything is to go into the communities and encourage young people to be involved in the arts. We try to inspire young musicians to go on with their playing careers even if they decide to go into teaching. But many times students go into teaching because they think they can't make it as players. That's all right if they truly make teaching their priority and treat it with the same importance they would a career in performance. Teaching is one of the most important jobs anyone can perform, and I feel it takes even more dedication to be a great teacher than it does to be a fine player. You see—if people don't like the way I play, they don't lose anything except maybe a few dollars for one ticket. But over a thirty-year career, a bad teacher can destroy the love of culture in hundreds of students. A great teacher can affect the opposite. When we go to these schools, we place the students first, always keeping in mind what we might do to inspire these young people to be more culturally aware, trying to get them to be really involved in the Arts and education.

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