Joey Calderazzo: Improviser in Top Form
"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 and Aaron Goldberg and Kevin Hays ... 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 directiona 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 and Kenny Kirkland. The generation before that is Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett and McCoy Tyner. Right? The kids coming up today aren't going back as far. They're going to people like Brad Mehldau, 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. ... 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 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] 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. He's also checked out Benny Green. 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 (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 and George Shearing, maybe a little Nat "King" Cole. 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."