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Take Five With Jon Wirtz

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Meet Jon Wirtz:

Arriving on the Denver scene just a few years ago, Jon Wirtz has since performed for millions of people, both locally and nationally. Over the past eight years he has performed mainly as a sideman, having worked with Grammy Award-winning producer Malcolm Burn on multiple occasions, and shared the stage with artists including Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey
Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey
Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey

band/orchestra
, Robbie Krieger (The Doors), Melissa Etheridge, Matt Morris, Charlie Sexton and even Justin Timberlake. In addition to performing with Matt Morris on The Late Show with David Letterman, Wirtz has also appeared on the CBS Early Morning Show's "2nd Cup Cafe," Ellen (the Ellen DeGeneres Show), and Lopez Tonight (George Lopez). For the past three years he has studied under Art Lande
Art Lande
Art Lande

piano
, an internationally respected jazz educator and Grammy-nominated pianist/composer.

Despite these successes, Wirtz is more driven than ever to share his creativity with listeners all over the world. In the fall of 2010, he took one more step in that direction by displaying his versatility on his debut solo album entitled Sea Level, which showcases original compositions as well as his own unique interpretations on a few choice covers. While the release is still gaining attention, the response thus far has been very positive. "Playing solo allows me to forget the rules, or even make my own rules. There's no boundaries. It's like building my own little world on stage."

Instrument(s):

Piano.

Teachers and/or influences? Still studying under Art Lande. Influences include Miles Davis
Miles Davis
Miles Davis
1926 - 1991
trumpet
, Brad Mehldau
Brad Mehldau
Brad Mehldau
b.1970
piano
, The Bad Plus
The Bad Plus
The Bad Plus

band/orchestra
, Happy Apple, Rage Against the Machine, Keith Jarrett
Keith Jarrett
Keith Jarrett
b.1945
piano
, Esbjorn Svensson
Esbjorn Svensson
Esbjorn Svensson
1964 - 2008
piano
Trio, Art Lande, Dave Cieri, Justin Adams, Kneebody
Kneebody
Kneebody

band/orchestra
, Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Monk
1917 - 1982
piano
, family, friends, a Higher Power, music, art, life...

I knew I wanted to be a musician when... I was eight years old and I learned that it could actually be a profession. After working a few "real jobs" during my teens and 20s, there was no doubt that music was gonna be how I made a living, no matter what it took.

Your sound and approach to music: I believe that you have to remain in the moment, regardless of what style or genre you're playing. Serve the Song, not the Ego.

Your teaching approach: Teach not only what they need to learn, but what they want to learn. They have to enjoy it or it defeats the whole purpose.

Your dream band:

Such a tough question...

Drums—Jorge Rossy, Chris Daves, Dave King
Dave King
Dave King

drums
, Eric Harland
Eric Harland
Eric Harland
b.1976
drums
or Carter Beauford;

Trumpet—Miles or Terence Blanchard
Terence Blanchard
Terence Blanchard
b.1962
trumpet
;

Bass—Ron Carter
Ron Carter
Ron Carter
b.1937
bass
, Avishai Cohen
Avishai Cohen
Avishai Cohen
b.1971
bass
or Derrick Hodge
Derrick Hodge
Derrick Hodge
b.1979
bass
;

Sax: John Coltrane
John Coltrane
John Coltrane
1926 - 1967
saxophone
or Chris Potter
Chris Potter
Chris Potter
b.1971
reeds
.

This is too tough!

Road story: Your best or worst experience: The coolest gig I ever played was The David Letterman Show. I don't get normally get nervous for gigs, but that one went by in the blink of an eye. I remember taking the stage and hearing Paul Schaeffer and the band rocking away. The next thing I knew Dave was thanking us for coming on the show. I have almost zero memory of the performance itself, it went by so quick.

Favorite venue:

Playing The George Lopez Show was awesome, as the band was treated great by the whole staff. The sound was great, and the crowd was off the hook.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why? In my personal discography, I'd have to say my own album, Sea Level, because it was an opportunity to perform original solo piano pieces. As a sideman, I'm most proud of my work on John Common and Blinding Flashes of Light's Beautiful Empty.

The first Jazz album I bought was: Thelonious Monk: The Composer. When I first put it on I thought, "This guy can't play!" Obviously I was too young to understand and appreciate his genius (as well as basic jazz harmony).

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically? I'm sincerely trying to be myself, and move my own sound and abilities forward. I try to experiment constantly and never take the same approach towards the same song twice.

Did you know...

Despite currently residing in Denver, CO, I still can't root for the Broncos. I was born and raised in the Cleveland area and still have not been able to forgive John Elway for breaking my heart as a child. Twice.

CDs you are listening to now:

Vijay Iyer—Solo;

Brad Mehldau, Places;

Gregory Alan Isakov, The Sea, That Gambler and This Empty Northern Hemisphere.

How would you describe the state of jazz today? Going through exciting changes that are revitalizing the music. Some of the younger musicians are doing some very cool things (Aaron Parks
Aaron Parks
Aaron Parks
b.1983
piano
, Robert Glasper
Robert Glasper
Robert Glasper
b.1978
piano
, etc).

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