Noah Haidu: Carving Out His Place
Native Soul, from left: Marcus McLaurine, Peter Brainin
Noah Haidu, Steve Johns
Haidu says he's already had his eye on the next recording project. "I don't know exactly what it's going to be. I am envisioning what that session is going to be. I'm looking at things I've already written and seeing what would fit with the instrumentation I have in mind, with the players I have in mind, and what things do I need to write to fill in what I don't have. It's a process."
Meanwhile, he's been involved as a sideman over the years with the likes of bassist Curtis Lundy, trumpeter Duane Eubanks and drummer Winard Harper. He's also part of a cooperative band Native Soul which also had a 2011 release, Soul Step (Talking Drum Records)with drummer Steve Johns, saxophonist Peter Brainin, and bassist Marcus McLaurine, playing music that draws from funk, swing, and Latin.
"It's a pretty diverse music that we do," Haidu says of Native Soul. "Everyone in the band writes tunes. Some of the tunes have a soulful, bluesy or gospel element. I play a little bit of Hammond organ and even some Fender Rhodes. Some of the tunes on that record also have some electric bass. They [the group] do a funky version of one of Jimi Hendrix's tunes ['Castles Made of Sand']. There's a tune, 'Soulstep,' that is on my CD, that ended up being the title track of the Native Soul CD. On my CD, it's a quintet with acoustic piano. On the Native Soul thing, it's a quartet. It's got soprano sax, and Fender Rhodes. It has maybe a bit of a Herbie Hancock fusion kind of thing to it. ... There's a little bit more of the electric stuff in that band, although all the music works very well with acoustic stuff. It's a little different attitude."
He explains, "I do play around town with different groups playing electric keyboards. I'm still active in that genre," but notes that electric piano is not really his instrument of choice right now. "It's part of making a living," he says lightheartedly. "If I didn't have to make a living, I would have to decide whether I just wanted to focus on acoustic piano; I think there is a place for keyboards in jazz, [but] I'm not sure if I'm going to be one of the people that explores thator not right now. But it's a possibility."
In that regard, Kirkland's Kenny Kirkland (GRP 1991) had synthesizers on it, and Pelt's electric band WiREDlast heard on Shock Value: Live at Smoke (MaxJazz 2007)is something he enjoyed, and could influence his future explorations.
Haiduwhose piano influences run from one of his teachers, Kenny Barron, to McCoy Tyner, Hancock and Kirklandcomes from a family full of classical pianists. A native of Charlottesville, VA, he really did his growing up in New Jersey, where he took lessons from his grandmother (a classical player) at a young age. His mother and two aunts also played classical, and his uncle, Ian Hobson, performs all over the world at concerts and festivals. All that is on his mother's side of the family.
But there was plenty of influence from his father as well. "He took me to a lot of jazz and blues concerts, things that I was interested in when I was younger. Rock. Everything." As a teenager, he began to see that music would be his career path. "It's not an easy thing as a teenager to convince your family that's what you're going to do," says Haidu. "I felt pretty clear about it from a young age. I played piano and guitar. I used to work on both of them. It took a while to sort out which of them was going to be my main instrument."
Out of high school, he went into the jazz program at Rutgers University, where piano, and also jazz, jumped into focus. He studied with Barron there.