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Ron Korb: Pan-Global Flutist

Ron Korb: Pan-Global Flutist
Rob Caldwell By

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In a 20-year career, Grammy nominated flutist Ron Korb has experienced the lows and highs of a touring musician. He's been stuck in the Panamanian jungle when the bus transporting he and his band to their show broke down, leaving them teetering on the top of a hillside for hours in the blazing sun while repairs were done. Yet, he's also had many experiences to treasure, such as when he performed a concert for 3000 people at the historic Heian Shrine in Kyoto, Japan on a stage situated upon a reflecting pool with rows of radiant blooming cherry trees lining either side. Though he's explored the music of many cultures, it all started with jazz, which is still a part of his playing today. We caught up with the Canadian musician, who has just released his 20th album, World Café, a jazz inflected mix of Latin and Caribbean flavored original compositions.

All About Jazz: Who were and are some of your influences, both as a flutist and in a broader sense? 

Ron Korb: My first love was jazz. As a teenager that is what I collected. That is what got me into the flute, by listening to jazz flute players like Hubert Laws and especially Moe Koffman.  In fact, when I got my learners drivers licence the first thing I did was to grab an older licensed friend and drive down to George's Spaghetti House in Toronto's Cabbagetown district to see Moe play. In retrospect, it is amazing that they even let us into a licensed club at the age of 16 as we looked about nine. Since I was a fan back in the day, it was really nice the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame asked me to join Jane Bunnett and many of Moe Koffman's sidemen to recreate his hit "Swinging Shepherd Blues" for Covered Classics at the CBC music website. 

AAJ: Were there any other memorable jazz artists you saw back then? 

RK: Back then I was obsessed with jazz and visual art. I was a strange kid in that sense as all my school mates were into rock, and I was collecting jazz records and going to jazz festivals and clubs. At the time Toronto's Ontario Place had daily concerts in the summer and featured a lot of legendary artists. It had a great outdoor amphitheatre with a revolving stage where I saw some amazing shows by Ella Fitzgerald, Stan Kenton, Woody Herman, Buddy Rich, Sonny Rollins, VSOP, Herbie Mann, Pat Metheny, Maynard Ferguson, George Benson, Larry Coryell, Chuck Mangione, Rob McConnell and the Boss Brass and many more. I went to many memorable shows in clubs and theatres as well where I saw Art Blakey, Dave Brubeck, Wayne Shorter, Wynton Marsalis, Miles Davis, McCoy Tyner, Chick Corea, etc.   Seeing Art Pepper play at Toronto's Bourbon Street club on Queen Street was a particular highlight. It was so fantastic I actually went to see him twice that week. He just had such an incredible way of expressing himself through his horn. He died in Los Angeles shortly after.

AAJ: Let's talk some about World Café, the album you've just put out.

RK: World Café is a project I have wanted to do for many years. The album features the western flute but there are tracks that feature the Japanese ocarina and bamboo flute and bass flute. We had some productive rehearsals with the musicians which made the recording sessions very fruitful. It is really a pleasure when all the technical and musical challenges have been ironed out and you can just focus on capturing the magic. The album was recorded at Kuhl Musik in Toronto with as many of the musicians playing live off the floor as possible. Gary Honess, the engineer, worked on my last two projects where we did quite a bit of experimentation to get the best sound. I feel on World Café all that previous work has really paid off. The core band are friends I have played with for decades: Bill Evans, Larry Crowe and Steve Lucas. I am very happy that Grammy nominated Cuban jazz pianist Hilario Duran guested with his conga player Papiosco and bassist Roberto Riveron. I am also honored to have the amazing contributions of guitarist Johannes Linstead and legendary accordionist Joseph Macerollo.  

AAJ: The song titles on World Café hop around geographically. Have you been to all the places named?

RK: Yes, I have been to all the places that are named specifically like Cuba, New Orleans, Argentina, Cordoba, Spain and in general the Mediterranean countries and the Caribbean. 

AAJ: What's your favorite place that you've been in Latin America?

RK: I think they are all great places to visit and the people are wonderful. If you think about it, South America is like the mirror image of North America.  Chile has beautiful rocky mountains like British Columbia, and Argentina being far south of the equator is somewhat similar to Canada with four distinct seasons. I like Buenos Aires not just because of its old world charm but because of the cultural diversity similar to Toronto.

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