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Steve Herberman, Hristo Vitchev, Rick Stone and Harvey Valdes

Dom Minasi By

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Harvey was born in April 1977. He grew up in Roselle, New Jersey and started coming to NYC at a very young age. He's lived in Brooklyn since 1999. Early on he studied with Chris Buono who turned him onto jazz. Chris recommended that Harvey study with Vic Juris. Harvey studied with Vic for five years. He attended the New School in 1999 and studied with some great teachers including Reggie Workman, Andrew Cyrille, Junior Mance, Jack Wilkins, David Fiuczynski, Simon Shaheen, Najib Shaheen, Phil Markowitz and Richard Boukas.

I had heard of Harvey a few years ago when he started playing with Blaise Siwula, whom I have recorded with and have been together as a duo since 1996. My first encounter with Harvey was at the Cadence Jazz Festival. I was there with my trio and Harvey was there with a Blaise's trio. I recognized right away that Harvey was different. A few years later, Harvey started posting videos. His subtle and tasteful sense of harmony and voicings are all his own, which can be heard on his self-produced CD, Roundabout. Don't get me wrong, he can dig in a play hard too, but Harvey knows where and when to do it.

Q: How long have you played the guitar?

A: 27 years and it still feels like a brand new thing.

Q: Who are your major influences?

A: I have very eclectic tastes that really run the gamut. But, regardless of genre there are unique individuals that have left a lasting impression on me. Musicians who continue to surprise and astound me include Cecil Taylor, Pat Martino, David Torn, Miles Davis, Olivier Messiaen, the band Candiria, Matthew Shipp, Joe Diorio, Umm Kulthum, Butch Morris, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Dolphy, Jaki Byard, Riyad Al-Sunbati, Marc Ducret, Vic Juris, Bartok, and countless others.

Q: Why jazz?

A: I've always been fascinated by the intense interactions that happen between the players. Though there are many different styles within jazz, they all share an emphasis on a unified sound that is created by the spontaneous interaction of the players. That is the great challenge of jazz, to find a unified sound that is comprised of the spontaneous musical interaction of all the players. I find it really exciting to listen to the choices that players make in response to one another, the material itself, the audience, and their own internal musical spirit. The journey of learning and performing on my instrument with an emphasis on improvisation pushes me to discover new sounds, approaches to playing, and to listening.

Q: Where do you think jazz is headed?

A: Musicians from all over the world are doing all kinds of things with improvisation and composition. Improvisation is strongly associated with jazz but it exists in so many other types of music around the world. One thing that is exciting is seeing musicians expand their own ideas of what improvisation can be as a result of exposure to other types of music. Another exciting angle that's been happening is moving beyond the "tune." Musicians are taking ideas from long form compositional styles and are really pushing the boundaries on what kind of material can serve as the composed section of a piece. It's not just about the head and the solos anymore. For some purists, this brings up the debate of what jazz is or should be. But, I'm not concerned with that at all. Music is much bigger than tradition or genre. The more we can leave our comfort zones and learn from one another, the more we can collectively move jazz forward.

I couldn't have said it better. Harvey is one of a kind.

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