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Interviews

Kerry Politzer: Voice And Voicings

By Published: September 9, 2013
KP: I first developed my ears listening to tapes of different jazz chords at New England Conservatory; the department head at the time, Hankus Netsky, had recorded all the different chords and put them in the library. Then I studied with Bevan Manson and John McNeil, and I started doing transcriptions of people like Sonny Stitt
Sonny Stitt
Sonny Stitt
1924 - 1982
saxophone
, Hank Jones
Hank Jones
Hank Jones
1918 - 2010
piano
, Red Garland
Red Garland
Red Garland
1923 - 1984
piano
, Wynton Kelly
Wynton Kelly
Wynton Kelly
1931 - 1971
piano
, and some solo work of Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Monk
1917 - 1982
piano
— I was really proud of transcribing "Round Midnight." To a young student who is frustrated, I would suggest starting with shorter passages and older, more "inside" jazz solos. Take it one measure at a time. Playing along with transcriptions is really important, to get the feel of the player. This is how I learned to swing, as I had no clue before.

GC: How do you approach composition? Where do you get your ideas?

KP: I either start by hearing chords and a melody together, or just hearing a melody, or just noodling around with some chords that sound good to me. Harmony really excites me, which is why I like listening to compositions by Richie Beirach
Richie Beirach
Richie Beirach
b.1947
piano
and Kurt Rosenwinkel
Kurt Rosenwinkel
Kurt Rosenwinkel
b.1970
guitar
, and you, of course. Lately, I've been having fun with trying to write multiple parts because I used to just write lead sheets. Also, although I haven't written any Brazilian tunes in a while, I used to like to play a Brazilian rhythm, find some chords that appealed to me, and write melodies over the rhythms.

GC: What made you interested in becoming a singer/songwriter?

KP: I guess there are many factors. Singer-songwriter music is so immediately accessible to the listener and there are so many ways to approach the singer- songwriter genre. There's just so much good music out there with lyrics. I took a year of SongHall writing workshops with Lorraine Ferro, and that was a lot of fun.

GC: What do you think your next album will be? What are your long term musical goals?

KP: I'd like to do an album of the newer jazz tunes with multiple parts, and I'd also like to do another singer-songwriter album that is more cohesive than the last one, which was really a mishmash of genres. I'd like to have a more consistent sound and instrumentation. This isn't to say that I don't want to continue making a lot of different kinds of music.


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