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Take Five with Dan DeChellis

Dan DeChellis By

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Meet Dan DeChellis:

Dan DeChellis' music consists of melody, emotion, energy, and spontaneous adventure. Born on classic rock, schooled in classical music, matured on jazz, and aged with ambient music, DeChellis is a fan of all music and styles. He has released over eight albums of purely improvised music on his own label, Sachimay Records. He is also a member of the Hassay/DeChellis/Nakatani Trio, which has released two records on the German label, Konnex Records. DeChellis is also a member of two rock bands (Roi & The Secret People and Four The Day) and a professor of music at Moravian College where he directs the improvised music ensemble.

Instrument(s):

Piano.

Teachers and/or influences?

I bought Paul Bley coffee for a year and learned a lot through his amazing stories. I've been falling asleep to Ambient 1: Music for Airports (Astralwerks, 1978), by Brian Eno, for the past 25 years. My favorite rock record is Laughing Stock (Polydor, 1991). By Talk Talk. Other influences are George Winston, Bill Evans, Chick Corea, and Keith Jarrett.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...

I was about five years old when a friend of my grandmothers played some of Scott Joplin's rags for me; I knew then I wanted to play the piano. Quite honestly, I never really thought about it, it was all I was ever good at and I knew that music was what I was going to do.

Your sound and approach to music:

Melody and harmony. I tend to write from an emotional standpoint. I like my music to have a personal meaning to myself as well as draw an emotional response from my audience. My last few records have dealt with very specific events in my life. I see no reason to compose complicated music when—in the end—it's about the live improvisation amongst the players I am working with.

Your teaching approach:

I'm not sure I have a philosophy for teaching. I think in the end I try to teach from my own experience and instill the tools that will help a student make a living as a musician.

Your dream band:

I would have loved to record with Paul Motian. His playing on the Paul Bley Quartet (ECM, 1988) record with John Surman and Bill Frisell is just sublime. As far as bassists, I would have to say my current bassist, Scot Hornick, is pretty amazing.

Road story: Your best or worst experience:

I was once playing a local date, we were in a pretty intense part of "Footprints" when my light went out, I kept playing, and then all of a sudden my bench collapsed and down on the floor I went. I kept on playing, got to the end of the tune, and my light comes back on. The place went crazy!

Favorite venue:

Chris' Jazz Café, in Philadelphia. Great piano and great people!

Your favorite recording in your discography and why?

I think Strength and Anger is my best playing and writing so far.

The first Jazz album I bought was:

The Griffith Park Collection (Wounded Bird, 1982), by Chick Corea and Stanley Clarke.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?

I think my music blends genres that may not normally mingle like ambient, rock, classical, improvised music, and jazz. I have been lucky enough to be involved in many different types of music and I think they each influence each other.

Did you know...

I've been brewing beer for eight years and I do all the cooking at home.

CDs you are listening to now:

Bobo Stenson Trio, Serenity (ECM);

Kenny Werner Trio, Live at Visiones (Concord);

Michael Whalen, My Secret Heart (Narada);

Porcupine Tree, The Incident (Roadrunner Records);

Brian Eno, Lux (Warp Records).

Desert Island picks:

King Crimson, Red (Discipline Records);

Bruce Springsteen, The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle (Columbia);

Paul Bley, Paul Bley Quartet (ECM);

Brian Eno, Music for Airports (Astralwerks);

Talk Talk, Laughing Stock (Polydor).

How would you describe the state of jazz today?

I think jazz and its definition is changing and embracing many other genres and sounds. I think it's very exciting!

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?

Open-minded music fans and a supportive live music scene. In the end, we don't survive on CD sales anymore because it's all about the live gigs.

What is in the near future?

I just released a new trio CD, Strength and Anger. I am currently busy booking and promoting the record as well as getting out and gigging as much as possible. I am hoping to record again sometime this fall.

What's your greatest fear when you perform?

Saying something stupid between songs.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

"Triste," by Paul Bley.

What is your favorite song to whistle or sing in the shower?

"Black Orpheus."

By Day:

Stay at home dad, college professor, and musician.

If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a:

Chef or beer brewer.

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