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Charles Pillow: Sound Crafter

By Published: December 14, 2010
AAJ: That's a great metaphor for the way you compose and perform; do you have any particular place you like to take your canoe?

CP: What's great about a canoe is that you hardly need any water at all. Sometimes I go along the Hackensack River or up in Harriman State Park, where sometimes the kids go out with me. I've gone to the Delaware Canal, and one time on the Erie Canal.

AAJ: Do they still have locks on those canals?

CP: Yeah, they have locks, and I went through a couple of them with the canoe. It's a fantastic experience. They open the gates, and the water rushes in. It's like being in a huge bathtub of bubbling water, and it floats you to the next level. I'm fascinated by the Hudson River and the Erie Canal, and the way they helped expand the country.

AAJ: Sometimes, driving along the Delaware Canal, I check out the signposts with the history of the region. At one time, before the railroads, those canals were the major means of transporting goods.

CP: Even George Washington got involved in building some of the early canals.

AAJ: What advice and guidelines would you give to up-and-coming musicians who strive for excellence and want to venture into new territory?

CP: The answer to that is: just experience life. Get out and see as many things as you can. They give you something to write about and perform, other than just the music itself. Go to museums, travel to places you haven't been before. Put yourself in unfamiliar territory, and see what you can make of it.

AAJ: Finally, John Coltrane said the music was his spirit. Dave Liebman, Sonny Rollins
Sonny Rollins
Sonny Rollins
, and others pursue meditation. I'd like to ask you if you have some ideas about life and/or spirituality, some accumulated wisdom about the meaning of it all, that you can share with us? What makes it all come together in a meaningful way for you?

CP: That's a really tough question. No, I don't really have a spirituality that I adhere to. One thing I do that for me is spiritual is, I like to run. I've never run a marathon, but have run half marathons. And practicing and composing is spiritual for me.

AAJ: Have you been through anything difficult in life that made you wonder what it's all about?

CP: When I was 13, I lost my mother. That was a major thing for me. I've thought about that a lot, but I haven't come up with any answers. You know Coltrane lost his father at 12, Ken Burns lost a parent at 12, and they say that an early death of a parent makes you turn inward. I feel that for sure. But, no, I can't say that I have any answers.

Selected Discography

Dave Liebman Big Band, As Always (Mama, 2010)

Charles Pillow, Van Gogh Letters (ELCM Records, 2010)

Mike Holober, Quake (Sunnyside, 2007)

John Fedchock's New York Big Band, Up & Running (Reservoir 2007)

Charles Pillow, The Planets (ArtistShare, 2006)

Maria Schneider Orchestra, Sky Blue (Artistshare, 2006)

Maria Schneider Orchestra, Concert in the Garden (Artistshare, 2004)

Michael Brecker, Wide Angles (Verve, 2004)

Michael Holober and the Gotham Orchestra, Thought Trains (Sons of Sound, 2003)

John Fedchock's New York Big Band, No Nonsense (Reservoir 2003)

Charles Pillow, In this World (Summit Records, 2001)

Charles Pillow, Pictures at an Exhibition, (ArtistShare, 2001)

Maria Schneider, Allegresse (Enja, 2000)

John Fedchock, On the Edge (Reservoir 1998)

Bob Belden, Black Dahlia (Blue Note 1998)

Charles Pillow, Currents (A Records, 1997)

John Scofield, Quiet (Verve, 1996)

Photo Credits

Page 1: Courtesy of Watertown Daily Times

Page 2: David Korchin

Page 3: Giorgio Alto

Page 6: Courtesy of mpix464's Photostream

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