Take Five with Julian Waterfall Pollack

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Meet Julian Waterfall Pollack:

At the age of twenty-one, New York pianist Julian Waterfall Pollack has the jazz community abuzz with his mature, technically ferocious, and dynamic piano playing. Among his many accomplishments, Pollack was featured on Marian McPartland
Marian McPartland
Marian McPartland
1918 - 2013
piano
's renowned NPR show, Piano Jazz, at age eighteen.



He has performed internationally at venues including the Blue Note in New York, the Kennedy Center, the Umbria Jazz Festival, and many more. He is also the recipient of numerous prestigious national awards, such as the National Foundation for the Advancement of the Arts (NFAA) Level One Gold Prize and member of its Clifford Brown

Clifford Brown
Clifford Brown
1930 - 1956
trumpet
/Stan Getz
Stan Getz
Stan Getz
1927 - 1991
sax, tenor
All-Stars. He has recently released his second trio album, Infinite Playground.

Instrument(s):

Piano.

Teachers and/or influences?

My mother, who is a concert pianist, started teaching me piano when I was five years old. When I was ten, I began taking piano lessons with Susan Muscarella, founder of the Jazzschool in Berkeley, CA. In college, I studied with Andy Milne
Andy Milne
Andy Milne

piano
, Jean-Michel Pilc, Joe Lovano
Joe Lovano
Joe Lovano
b.1952
saxophone
, John Scofield
John Scofield
John Scofield
b.1951
guitar
, Gil Goldstein, Tony Moreno
Tony Moreno
Tony Moreno

drums
, and many others. I got my degree in composition and studied with Ezequiel Vinao for two years.

As far as my influences go, there are so many, in terms of jazz pianists, my top five influences—if I had to say—are Bill Evans

Bill Evans
Bill Evans
1929 - 1980
piano
, Oscar Peterson
Oscar Peterson
Oscar Peterson
1925 - 2007
piano
, Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock
b.1940
piano
, Keith Jarrett
Keith Jarrett
Keith Jarrett
b.1945
piano
, and Brad Mehldau
Brad Mehldau
Brad Mehldau
b.1970
piano
, but there are so many more.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...

I first heard Oscar Peterson
Oscar Peterson
Oscar Peterson
1925 - 2007
piano
and The Beatles
The Beatles
The Beatles

band/orchestra
. I guess The Beatles came first when I was seven. My dad introduced me to Oscar's stuff when I was eight. The record was Oscar's version of West Side Story. That record really blew me away.

Your sound and approach to music:

I strive to have a clean, beautiful sound when I play the piano. I love clarity. Mehldau, Peterson, Jarrett, Hancock, and Evans are all masters of clarity—on technical, intellectual, and emotional levels. I also strongly believe in form and development. But, at the end of the day, whatever sounds good sounds good. As Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
1899 - 1974
piano
put it, "There's only two kinds of music: good music and bad music."

Your teaching approach:

I try to give students a really solid foundation. I want my students to understand the fundamentals extremely well. That's how I was taught. There is a certain methodology that can be found in Mark Levine
Mark Levine
Mark Levine
b.1938
piano
's The Jazz Piano Book. That's a great book and I use it to teach my students.

Your dream band:

I enjoy the musicians that I play with now. To me, a "dream band" is pointless unless the players get to play together for a long period of time. Otherwise it's just a conglomerate of names that normally does not add up to a "band vibe." The reason Miles' groups sounded so good is because they were real "bands." They played together so much and that gave them their distinctive vibe.

Road story: Your best or worst experience:

Playing at the Blue Note was really great. We had our debut there on May 5, 2010, opening for Chick Corea
Chick Corea
Chick Corea
b.1941
piano
. The place was packed, people were really into it, and the sound was great. Plus, they brought in a special piano just for Chick which I got to play. It was like butter!

Favorite venue:

Hard to say, I really like Smalls Jazz Club because of the vibe and the acoustics. I also like the piano there when it's in tune. To me, it's a real living jazz club. Lots of up-and-coming people are coming out of there as well as people who are preserving the tradition.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why?

I like my new album best! I'm really excited about. I got some of my best friends—who are superb musicians—playing on the record. We all have the same sonic vision and we all know what we want to hear. So we do it!

The first Jazz album I bought was:

Oscar Peterson
Oscar Peterson
Oscar Peterson
1925 - 2007
piano
, West Side Story;

John Coltrane
John Coltrane
John Coltrane
1926 - 1967
saxophone
, Giant Steps.

My dad bought them both at the same time for me when I was eight years old.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?

I'm attempting to contribute beauty. Also, I'm attempting to further blur the lines between what "jazz" "classical" and "pop" music is. I'm just at the beginning of my journey. But it starts with the piano trio. Then it will branch out.

Did you know...

I love making pasta from scratch. I love doing card tricks and coin magic. I also have a secret desire to buy every lego I see (which will be a problem when I have kids).

CDs you are listening to now:

Johnny Adams
Johnny Adams
Johnny Adams
1932 - 1998
vocalist
, Century Rolls (Nonesuch);

Brad Mehldau, Art of the Trio, Volume 4: Back at the Village Vanguard (Warner Bros.);

Aaron Parks
Aaron Parks
Aaron Parks
b.1983
piano
, Invisible Cinema (Blue Note);

Miles Davis
Miles Davis
Miles Davis
1926 - 1991
trumpet
, Four and More Live (Columbia);

Hilliard Greene
Hilliard Greene
Hilliard Greene
b.1958
bass
, Perotin (ECM).

Desert Island picks:

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