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Paula Shocron: Paths to a New Sound

Jakob Baekgaard By

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Today, If I look back in the past, I realize that I’ve always been looking for a free expression. However, I had several stops in my way, classical music or traditional jazz were some of them. What I do feel is that I won’t come back to those old stops, but I’m sure there will be new ones. —Paula Shocron
When Werner X. Uehlinger, the founder of Hat Hut Records, was asked about a statement on why he liked Argentinian pianist Paula Shocron's music, the answer was clear, short and succinct: "The quality of surprise." Uehlinger discovered Shocron's music through her work with the SLD Trio and he liked their debut Anfitrión so much that the group's second album, Tensegridad, was released on his label, entering the prominent company of pianists like Cecil Taylor, Marc Copland, Matthew Shipp, Myra Melford and Ran Blake.

At this point, Shocron has formed an original musical expression that is open, intuitive and free. She is still searching while acknowledging the musical achievements of the past and the values of tradition.

All About Jazz: When did you discover music? Do you come from a musical family?

Paula Shocron: I prefer to say that I was born surrounded by music. My grandparents (mother's side) were both musicians, but not in a professional way. My grandmother was a mezzo soprano in a local choir, and played piano. My grandfather played drums, harmonica, percussion, the washboard and everything that he could make a sound from. He was also a complete entertainer, storyteller, magician, he could imitate different languages, really funny.

AAJ: What are some of your earliest musical memories?

PS: One of my favorite games was when he conducted us (me and my sister/brothers) as an orchestra, it was a lot of fun for all of us. These are my first musical memories, playing instruments and inventing songs, with costumes and everything! My mother used to sing in a choir too and play the guitar, also my father. She told me that I started playing the piano before I started to talk at the age of 2. From my father's side, my grandparents were both music lovers. I didn't know my grandfather, I was just a little baby when he passed, but I know he used to sing very well, zarzuelas and a other Spanish songs. My grandmother played a little piano and it was her who paid for my lessons in a music school when I was 5 years old until I was a teenager.

AAJ: Has growing up in Argentina influenced your music? Have you drawn inspiration from local musicians or traditions?

PS: My parents loved Argentinian folk music. They were always listening to a lot of Argentinian groups. I had my favorite folk vinyl from the "Dúo Salteño," a vocal duo who played Cuchi Leguizamon's compositions. I was influenced by this composer a lot. I think he influenced a lot of musicians of my generation, because he was really avant-garde for the traditional music, but never lost the essence. He was also connected to jazz music and I now think he became to me a kind of link between those musical genres.

AAJ: Did you have any favorite records then and which records are still important for you today?

PS: In addition to Duo Salteño, I had a cassette that I listened to a lot, I loved it but it was strange at the same time. It was Money Jungle from Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus and Max Roach...I still have (and listen to) that recording, I think it is one of the most important recordings of jazz history. I also loved listening to classical music (the music I practiced). "Pictures of an Exhibition," was one of my favorites (the version for orchestra from Ravel). Today I practice the piano version at home. As a little child I grew up with "Peter and the Wolf" from Prokofiev, "The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra" from Britten and "Children's Corner" from Debussy. I love Debussy's music, I can say he is one of my inspirations today. But there are many others...

AAJ: Who are the musicians that have inspired you?

PS: When I started to discover jazz, at 15 years old, I discovered a lot of "new musicians," Thelonius Monk was mostly who caught my attention, and he still does. It is difficult to mention particular records, because I'm so curious that I'm always picking from one music to another. There were some musicians that inspired me in making my own recordings: Andrew Hill, Dollar Brand, Charlie Haden, Archie Shepp, Geri Allen and Connie Crothers are some of them.

AAJ: Did you take piano lessons early on? Did you have any influential teachers, if so what are some of the most important things they told you?


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