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Jack Reilly: Making the Most of the Gift of Life

By Published: January 14, 2008

JR: Practice nine hours a day. Work a night gig that is not music so you can continue your studies [during the day]. And it has to be a calling; something that your life will have no meaning if you don't do it.

AAJ: Can a serious musician make a living as a composer and/or a performer?

JR: Yes. I read [the book on] Paul Hindemith called The Man Behind the Music (Taplinger, 1978), [about being a] composer/performer/teacher, and he says you should do all three things. I have done that and I fell fulfilled and I have been able to make a living in each category. I think it's harder if I said I wanted to compose all my life.

[My greatest challenge would be] composing an opera. It has a story, it has singing and it has instrumental forces that are as great, if not greater, than anything together. A symphony orchestra, it has acting; it is a challenge in every form of writing.

AAJ: Who do you think was the most innovative vocalist you have heard in your life?

JR: Vocalists I never warmed up to. Sheila Jordan is my favorite jazz vocalist. Classically, probably José Carreras, and Pavarotti had a lot [of] enormous communication powers.

Jack ReillyAAJ: What can we next expect from the prolific Jack Reilly?

JR: The biggest work, opera is in my next life, but the biggest work I have in mind is to combine choral forces, symphonic forces with a jazz quartet, two pianos and a narrator. This is a large group at my disposal, based on the work of a very controversial, twentieth century philosopher, the German, Martin Heidegger. To me he has changed the whole philosophical thinking of the twentieth century; him mainly, also people like Ludwig Wittgenstein. He is more like the Lennie Tristano of philosophy. Heidegger is the Verdi. He has a book called Being and Time (1927). Those will be the two main singers. One will be a soprano and the other will be a tenor. The book is like five hundred pages and no one knows what he is saying yet. I bought another book almost twice as thick trying to explain what he is saying and the genesis of it. He has a lot of books out and they are easier to read than this, so there is something in there and once I get it I'll write the music. It will be a two hour work.

AAJ: Do you have a working trio?

JR: In America, no. In England and Wales I work with [drummer] Steven Keough and [bassist] Dave Green. I will be going back to do a composition seminar in Wales for Steve's organization called Global Music Foundation in July.

AAJ: What albums will be coming out next?

JR: Innocence - Green Spring Suite is just out, and then in November, The Jack Reilly Trio Live at Dean Clough. We are also waiting for Jimmy Giuffre's estate to release a recording of a concert I did with him at The New England Conservatory in 1982, when I was chairman. I have been wanting to put that out for years.

Selected Discography

Jack Reilly Trio, Live at Dean Clough Centre (Unichrom, 2007)
Jack Reilly, Innocence - Green Spring Suite (Unichrom, 2007)
Jack Reilly, Pure Passion: Solo Piano Improvisations (Unichrom, 2002)
Jack Reilly, Tzu-Jan The Sound of the Tarot, Volume 1 (Unichrom, 2001)
Jack Reilly, Tzu-Jan The Sound of the Tarot, Volume 2 (Unichrom, 2001)
Jack Reilly, Masks (Unichrom, 1998)
Jack Reilly, Here's What I Like (Unichrom, 1994)
Jack Reilly Trio, November (Unichrom, 1981)
Jack Reilly, Live in Poland (Unichrom, 1978)
Jack Reilly, Tributes (Unichrom, 1976)
Jack Reilly Trio, Blue Sean Green (Unichrom, 1974)

Photo Credits
Top Photo: Joe Kirkish, courtesy of Jack Reilly
Live Trio Photo: Eric Budney

Trio Portrait Photo: Vic Allen
Bottom Photo: Peter Tully Owen, courtesy of Jack Reilly

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  • Innocence: Green Spring Suite