7

Kerry Politzer: Voice And Voicings

George Colligan By

Sign in to view read count
[ Editor's Note: The following interview is reprinted from George Colligan's blog, Jazztruth]

Kerry Politzer is one of my favorite musicians, period. (Yeah, she's my wife, you gotta problem wit dat? No, I see the potential conflict of interest, but hey, it's all about who you know, right?)

Seriously, Politzer is one of the most underrated musicians around. She has five amazing CDs to her name. She is a truly gifted jazz pianist and composer; however, a few years back, she whimsically decided to become a singer/songwriter, and within a few months had material for her album, You Took Me In, which would take some artists a lifetime to develop. Her most recent album is called Blue and Blue, and features Politzer's brilliant originals, as well as some brilliant saxophone playing from Donny McCaslin. She's been on hiatus a bit since the birth of our son, but she's slowly coming back. She did some performances in Winnipeg earlier this year, and in a week or so, we are performing a Colligan/Politzer double bill at Cornelia St Cafe in New York.

I thought an interview with her might be a good promotion for the gig.

George Colligan: How did you get started in music? Were your parents musical? How did you get into jazz music?

Kerry Politzer: My mother used to play clarinet, accordion, and piano. My maternal grandfather played violin, saxophone, and clarinet. So, the musical gene was probably passed down that way. I first started piddling around with a toy piano when I was three and started writing little songs. My parents put me in group music lessons when I was four and when I was eight I started with classical piano lessons. For high school, I went away to the North Carolina School of the Arts where I remember hearing some jazz a few times, but it was at the New England Conservatory of Music where I really got hooked on jazz. I just couldn't see myself highlighting each voice of a Bach fugue with a different color marker and practicing passages eight hours a day, which I think you have to do to be a serious classical player. Also, I used to suffer from tendinitis (the Feldenkrais technique fixed this), and I had to stop playing the piano for a few months. During this time I started transcribing jazz solos and doing jazz ear-training in order to be able to hear the alterations.

GC: You studied extensively with Charlie Banacos. Banacos was considered a guru by many renowned musicians. How did his teaching influence your music? What kinds of things did he teach you?

KP: I owe almost all of my jazz musical development to Charlie and miss him terribly. He was deeply spiritual about music and couldn't help but communicate his positivity and enthusiasm for life in every interaction you would have with him. He had a way of making you feel like you could shoot for the moon. I waited to study with him for a year and a half, and I was terrified at my first lesson because I'd heard a rumor that he would choose to accept me or not. So I played my Wynton Kelly and Thelonious Monk transcriptions, then soloed a little. He told me that I was playing a lot of licks, which was absolutely true. We started out with a lot of writing exercises. I wrote 12 long lines a week and also started writing compositions. He also had me transcribe different artists every week and play along with the transcriptions. He wanted me to learn the vocabulary of a lot of different musicians so that I wouldn't start just mimicking one. He had really interesting reasons for choosing the artists; for example, he wanted me to learn Lee Morgan's "shout quality."

Honestly, I think about Charlie whenever I sit down at the piano. When I play a hotel gig, I think about how he said that I should be able to solo over anything and make it sound good, even a tune like "Killing Me Softly," which he had me work on. Of course, we also worked on jazz tunes like "Upper Manhattan Medical Group" and "Lament." He once had me transcribe both a McCoy Tyner and a Herbie Hancock solo from "There Is No Greater Love," so I could see the difference in their thinking.

GC: How did you develop your ears? What would you say to a young student who is frustrated with transcribing solos?

Shop

CD/LP/Track Review
Interviews
CD/LP/Track Review
Take Five With...
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Bill Evans Bill Evans
piano
Chick Corea Chick Corea
piano
Wayne Shorter Wayne Shorter
saxophone
Eliane Elias Eliane Elias
piano
Bud Powell Bud Powell
piano
Randy Brecker Randy Brecker
trumpet
Tony Bennett Tony Bennett
vocalist
Norah Jones Norah Jones
piano
Joel Harrison Joel Harrison
guitar, electric

More Articles

Read Tim Bowness: Ghost Lights and Life Sentences Interviews Tim Bowness: Ghost Lights and Life Sentences
by John Kelman
Published: February 19, 2017
Read Laura Jurd: Big Footprints Interviews Laura Jurd: Big Footprints
by Ian Patterson
Published: February 16, 2017
Read Rick Mandyck: The Return From Now Interviews Rick Mandyck: The Return From Now
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 3, 2017
Read The Wee Trio: Full of Surprises Interviews The Wee Trio: Full of Surprises
by Geno Thackara
Published: January 27, 2017
Read Clarence Becton: Straight Ahead Into Freedom Interviews Clarence Becton: Straight Ahead Into Freedom
by Barbara Ina Frenz
Published: January 19, 2017
Read "Russell Malone: Guitar Master" Interviews Russell Malone: Guitar Master
by R.J. DeLuke
Published: February 29, 2016
Read "Samantha Boshnack: A Musical World Without Boundaries" Interviews Samantha Boshnack: A Musical World Without Boundaries
by Paul Rauch
Published: November 17, 2016
Read "D'Vonne Lewis: It's About the Love" Interviews D'Vonne Lewis: It's About the Love
by Paul Rauch
Published: December 22, 2016
Read "Dominic Duval: Follow Your Melody" Interviews Dominic Duval: Follow Your Melody
by Maxim Micheliov
Published: July 22, 2016
Read "Peter Erskine: Paging Dr. Um" Interviews Peter Erskine: Paging Dr. Um
by R.J. DeLuke
Published: March 14, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!