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Mark Guiliana: A Natural Progression of Research

Angelo Leonardi By

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AAJ: What contemporary bands do you like?

MG: A couple of weeks ago we were at the North Sea Jazz Festival and I heard Corey Kendrick's band. They were amazing... I really like Avishai Cohen -the trumpet player-and his band. Again, there are so many great bands. And I have to add the bands of my band-mates, who are leaders and composers in their own right. Jason Rigby has a new record coming out and he has a great band. The same goes for Fabian and Chris.

AAJ: As a composer, what are the things that inspire you?

MG: In this project it's important for me to develop parameters within the music that would fit everyone's personality. I love the way Fabian, Jason and Chris play. Therefore, it is important for me to create the space for them to improvise. So I'm always trying to strike a balance between the basic structure of the tune and a groove that enables them to inject their personality into the song. Other than that, I don't really have a method. I usually sit down at the piano and just look for ideas until they come naturally.

AAJ: Your surname seems Italian but in Italy it would be spelled Giuliana. Do you have Italian roots?

MG: As my father says, we go back a few generations. We don't know exactly why, but at some point, probably at the time of the move to the United States the spelling got changed.

AAJ: You asked your teacher, Joe Bergamini, to write the foreword of your book "Exploring your Creativity on the Drum set." It was a nice gesture...

MG: He is the reason I'm playing. When I started taking lessons I didn't have any expectations. I didn't even know if I would enjoy myself. It was really his enthusiasm that did it for me. He was such a great teacher, and really helped me to discover my love for music. In addition, he represented a living example that I could relate to and follow. It's one thing to listen John Coltrane and think: "Oh, he does it, I could do it too." But it was different and much more concrete to look at Joe, who was just ten years older than me and lived in the same town, and think: "If he does it, maybe I can do it too."

AAJ: In the introduction to the book you write "I hope this book helps you not only learn more about your instrument, but also learn more about yourself." It's a wonderful advice for young drummers... Can you elaborate on it?

MG: In many ways I've learnt more about myself through my playing than through anything else. I feel more confident at the drum-set than I do in a lot of other situations. For example, on stage I feel very comfortable when we are playing, but when I talk to the audience I feel less confident. For me playing does the talking. Music has brought me so much joy. I hope it does the same for other people.

AAJ: Why did you decide to establish your own label, Beat Music?

MG: I had lots of different ideas about music I wanted to make. At times I would be frustrated because I would get them recorded and then things would get stuck and I didn't have a way to publish. I wanted to get the music out as soon as we were recording it. With Beat Music, I released some electronic albums as well at the more Jazz oriented Family First. This would have been impossible with another label. But for me it was nice to have all those projects under the same umbrella.

AAJ: Besides your long partnership with Avishai Cohen, what have been your most interesting collaborations?

MG: I've learned so much playing with Brad Mehldau, especially in a duo setting. He was already one of my favourite musicians before I met him. We became friends and getting to play with him was fantastic, especially as a duo. That format is so intimate and leaves you with so much room to explore. That collaboration is definitely a highlight because Brad is one of the greatest living improvisers, and to get improvise with him is pretty amazing.

AAJ: You have stated "It's a mistake to claim that Tony Williams is a better drummer than Dave Grohl." Jazz purists would probably find this difficult to relate to.

MG: Well, both of those musicians had a big impact on me. Dave Grohl was one of the first drummers I saw perform. It was around the time I started playing and he definitely inspired me to continue. Dave Grohl will probably tell you that Tony Willias was a better drummer. But for me, for my experience, Dave and Tony had equal impact.

AAJ: How do you spend your time when you are at not touring or playing?

MG: With my family. Unfortunately I'm away from home a lot. Thankfully, Gretchen [Parlato] is very understanding and for now my son is too young... but yes, for me home means family.

AAJ: Is this why you chose Family First as the title of your previous album?

MG: Yes, of course. And Jersey, the title of the upcoming record, represents the place where I'm from.

Photo credit: Deneka Peniston

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