Take Five With Adam Meckler
Adam and his wife Jana (Nyberg) currently reside in Saint Paul, MN. Adam performs regularly with The Jana Nyberg Group, the Stan BannBig Band, his own quintet, Con Alma, Nova Modern Jazz Trio, and freelances as a composer and performer. You can find Meckler on the Jana Nyberg Group's latest self-titled album released in March of 2008, and his debut album For Dad.
Teachers and/or influences?
Fred Sturm has been a huge influence on my improvising and composing. I got to study privately with Fred during my Junior and Senior years at Lawrence University. The biggest influences on my playing have been Dave Douglas, Ingrid Jensen, and Kenny Wheeler. I grew up listening to Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Clifford Brown, and Lee Morgan as well. I think my biggest influence both on my composing as improvising has been Dave Douglas. I have spent many, many hours studying his music, and transcribing his solos. Dave's playing and writing is so unique, yet so accessible, which is what first drew me to his music. A technique which is very prominent in Dave's music is how he often blurs the lines between what is written and what is improvised. I often try to draw on those techniques when approaching my own compositions.
I knew I wanted to be a musician when...
I knew I wanted to be a musician from a very early age. My mom (and brother, unfortunately for him we shared a room for many years) tells me I used to sing myself to sleep every night starting when I was very young. When I was eight I asked for a guitar for Christmas and started taking lessons with our church pastor. Somehow guitar fell by the wayside for a few years, I think my dad wanted me to be a pro baseball player. By the time I was in middle school I had moved to Illinois and began playing the trumpet. I remember telling a friend, "I'm going to major in music in college" just before my sixth grade year started. Thinking about it now, I'm surprised I even knew what college was, let along knowing what I was going to major in. That being said, I was right, so...
Your sound and approach to music:
I'm in it for the music. When I have a great night playing music at a club, or just jamming with friends, I can't sleep at night. I don't know where I'd be without jazz. This music has gotten me through every heartache in my life. It's therapeutic. So, I guess my approach to music is that if I like how it sounds, then I like it. It could be just a pretty folk melody, or some of the most complex math rock, if its played well, and I can feel it, then I like it. So when I approach my own music I try to come up with the most organic melodies, no matter how simple. My melodies tell my story. On the trumpet I love a big dark warm sound. I have spent a lot of time listening to Dave Douglas, and his sound is something that I try to emulate (but not so much that it is nauseating). When I hear Clifford play "Laura," or Lee Morgan play "I Remember Clifford," or Dave play "Poses," I think "I want to sound like that."
Your teaching approach:
I've only been teaching for a few years, so I am not going to try and pretend like I am some kind of expert. That being said, I believe that it is important for teachers to be performing regularly, and for them to remember how it was when they were just starting on their instrument. In lessons, my students spend time listening to music (anything from Maurice Andre to Dave Douglas), playing etudes, scales (majors/minors and pentatonics first), playing by ear, and improvising. I make all my students improvise, even if they are not interested in jazz because improvisation forces you to make musical decisions and commit to them.
Your dream band:
My ideal band is a quintet that is enthusiastic about playing my music, with some time to rehearse. I would also like to form bands with other instrumentation to experiment with other styles of music and musical settings. For instance, I would like to form a band made up of trumpet/melodica (yeah, I play melodica too), acoustic bass, bass clarinet, and percussion. I wrote for a band like this one in college some and really enjoyed the sounds we were able to get.
I would love to work with Mike Lewis of Happy Apple someday. And Maria Schneider. Yeah, that'd be nice.
Road story: Your best or worst experience: