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Interviews

Joey Calderazzo: Improviser in Top Form

By Published: December 19, 2011
Calderazzo says the resulting album "is really a good record." He adds, "Two days we went in and knocked it out. And it sounds great." He also has strong praise for the relatively new drummer, Faulker, who has been part of the band for several months now. Says Calderazzo, "Part of the jazz scene is: you have talent, but you don't have direction. Everybody is ... I don't know what the word is. People are striving so hard to be different. Or they're not complete. They haven't checked out enough jazz, so they're playing just enough to get by. This kid [Faulkner] came into this band with a certain kind of energy. Eric [Revis] has been so helpful. [Pianist] Orrin Evans
Orrin Evans
Orrin Evans
b.1975
piano
has really been helpful in pointing this kid in the right direction. He's 20 years old, and he shows up and the shit that he can't do, we'll be, like, 'You need to check this out.' And he'll check it out, and he'll be playing it the next day. It's really amazing."

"The way I like to play with my trio, I might play one tune. It might be fast one night, it might be a ballad another night, it might be a straight-eight tune. I might play a tune and it has 40 chord changes, but one night I might play all over the chords, the next night I might find a vamp and play on that. The guys gotta follow me. When Justin joined [Marsalis' band], I've said one thing to Justin: 'Don't get comfortable, don't find a part, don't play the same shit every night. I want you to change every day. Don't play anything the same. Ever.'"

Calderazzo says more young musicians could use some direction. "I respect and am aware of all the musicians that are out there today. I don't live in New York anymore, but I spend hours on YouTube and I know exactly what Gerald Clayton sounds like and Aaron Parks
Aaron Parks
Aaron Parks
b.1983
piano
and Aaron Goldberg and Kevin Hays
Kevin Hays
Kevin Hays
b.1968
keyboard
... I'm still a student of all of this stuff and curious to see what's going on." While there are remarkable pianists out there, others have technical ability but are lacking something. "Quite frankly, a lot of it to me is a lot of talent, but not a lot of direction—a lot of mediocrity, a lot of guys that are more interested in being different than good.

"When I came up, the generation before me was Mulgrew Miller
Mulgrew Miller
Mulgrew Miller
1955 - 2013
piano
and Kenny Kirkland
Kenny Kirkland
Kenny Kirkland
1955 - 1998
piano
. The generation before that is Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock
b.1940
piano
, Chick Corea
Chick Corea
Chick Corea
b.1941
piano
, Keith Jarrett
Keith Jarrett
Keith Jarrett
b.1945
piano
and McCoy Tyner
McCoy Tyner
McCoy Tyner
b.1938
piano
. Right? The kids coming up today aren't going back as far. They're going to people like Brad Mehldau
Brad Mehldau
Brad Mehldau
b.1970
piano
, who I respect and think he's a fabulous pianist. But I travel around the world and all I see is a whole bunch of guys that are trying to sound like Brad Mehldau. The thing about that is Brad Mehldau, coming up, had checked out Wynton Kelly
Wynton Kelly
Wynton Kelly
1931 - 1971
piano
. ... Or people are just in love with Keith Jarrett, who I think is one of the greatest piano players in the history of music. They try and play like that, but meanwhile they miss out on the idea that Keith studied the tradition of jazz. Wayne Shorter
Wayne Shorter
Wayne Shorter
b.1933
saxophone
is playing all this crazy shit now, but Wayne had transcribed Lester Young solos.

"To me, there's somewhat of a musical disconnect. If he continues to grow, a guy that will really have the potential to be really special is Gerald Clayton, because his dad [bassist/composer/arranger John Clayton
John Clayton
John Clayton
b.1952
bass, acoustic
] steered him in a good direction. I was checking out videos recently. The kid is young and he can play the blues. He knows how to swing. He has information. He's checked out Oscar Peterson
Oscar Peterson
Oscar Peterson
1925 - 2007
piano
. He's also checked out Benny Green
Benny Green
Benny Green
b.1963
piano
. He's checked out Monty [Alexander]. ... I told Gerald that also. The only problem Gerald is going to have is he's going to have to do a lot of this stuff on his own. That's with everybody that's come up. You know what I mean? He's really good.

"But you know what's really good? Herbie's playing on Four n' More [by Miles Davis
Miles Davis
Miles Davis
1926 - 1991
trumpet
(Columbia, 1964)]. I'm guessing Herbie was 22. It's really amazing how good he fucking plays at 22 years old on that record. He took Bill Evans
Bill Evans
Bill Evans
1929 - 1980
piano
and George Shearing
George Shearing
George Shearing
1919 - 2011
piano
, maybe a little Nat "King" Cole
Nat
Nat "King" Cole
1919 - 1965
piano
. I know Herbie, and he was never a stride player, so he didn't go that route. But he checked out Debussy, Ravel, Mozart. He's extremely gifted. He's one of the few that God decides to put his finger on and say, 'You're going to be one of the chosen ones.' He's just a super talent. But his playing at 21, there's nobody who comes up that's close to that. So 'good' is really a relative term."


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