Take Five With Charlie Peacock

Charlie Peacock By

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Meet Charlie Peacock:
Charlie Peacock is an American multi-genre Grammy Award-winning record producer, composer, and recording artist. He has award-winning and chart-topping credits in jazz, gospel, country, folk, Americana, rock, and pop. Lemonade (Twenty Ten Music, 2014) is Peacock's third recording in the jazz genre.

His first release, Love Press Ex-Curio (Thirty Tigers, 2005) was followed by Arc of The Circle (Runway Network, 2008), a duet recording with saxophonist Jeff Coffin. Each recording reached the Top 5 on the CMJ Jazz Chart and amply provide clues to Peacock's unique solo piano approach, which is now fully revealed on Lemonade.

Peacock has performed and recorded with notable jazz artists like Don Alias, Bela Fleck, Ravi Coltrane, Marc Ribot, and Victor Wooten. In addition to his unique solo efforts, Charlie Peacock has played a lead role in creating major chart hits in three separate decades, most notably Amy Grant's "Every Heartbeat," Switchfoot's "Dare You To Move," The Civil War's gold certifed debut album Barton Hollow (Sensibility, 2011), which earned a Grammy for Best Folk Album and Country duo, and the 2013 Billboard topping debut, The Civil Wars (Columbia, 2013). The producer's most recent credit is production and arranging of "Misery Chain," performed by Chris Cornell of Soundgarden (featuring Joy Williams) for the 12 years As A Slave soundtrack (Columbia, 2013).

Piano, Fender Rhodes electric piano, Wurlitzer electric piano, trumpet, and electronic organ

Teachers and/or influences?
My father, trumpeter/educator, Bill Ashworth and a grammar and high school educator named Dean Estabrook who taught me music theory in high school. Dr. Frank Kofsky, educator and former editor of the Jazz & Pop magazine was a strong influence also. Dr. Kofsky took me to Keystone Korner in San Francisco and allowed me to help him with interviews when he was writing his column for the San Francisco Chronicle. I specifically remember going to Andrew Hill's home for the afternoon and would claim his playing as a huge influence along with Keith Jarrett (Facing You (ECM, 1972) in particular). Other piano influences include Carla Bley, Joe Sample, Ray Bryant, Chuck Leavell, Bill Evans, Ahmad Jamal, Jackson Browne, and Chick Corea to name a few.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...
I first heard my father rehearsing with his band in the garage. The Beatles on Ed Sullivan sealed the deal. Next came my parent's Columbia Record club discs and finding out about Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk, who were two artists they seemed to feature quite a bit. I loved it all.

Your sound and approach to music:
My approach to music is very broad and inclusive. I am a classic eclectic with an emphasis on American music. As a record producer, I tend to work with simpler rhythmic and harmonic forms, but my ear loves complexity as well. As a result, I've learned to move comfortably between the poles of simplicity and complexity and all points in between in production, composition, and my playing.

I try to major in what is emotive and evocative rather than what is technically accurate or correct. As far as improvising goes, even with the obvious influences, I've tried to do something a little different with the left hand by outlining chords in 5ths and 6ths and avoiding the jazz pedagogy voicings that my generation all learned back in the day. I love the chordal genius of Herbie Hancock and Bill Evans, but because I usually produce much simpler music, it's allowed me a contentment with less complex harmonies. This is probably why my sound is a little less anchored in a particular time in jazz history—that's what I hope for anyway.

Your teaching approach:
My teaching philosophy is very much like house building. I start with the foundation and build up from there to greater and greater detail, complexity, nuance, contradiction, and randomness. In addition, I don't just teach facts, but ideas within varying contexts supported by overarching ideas about the nature of humanness and living in this planet.

Your dream band:
I think my dream band would be one that I compose for... a big band, so let me cast the players based on that. The drummer would have to be Brian Blade, either James Genus or Mike Elizondo on bass, guitars would be Annie Clark and Jerry McPherson, Ralph Alessi on trumpet, Jeff Coffin on tenor, Don Byron on clarinet, my cousin Tom Ashworth on trombone, Jeff Taylor on accordion, pump organ, and misc. instruments, and Danny Lanois on pedal steel.


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