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Take Five with George Kahn


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Meet George Kahn

George Kahn majored in music at Brandeis University and moved to Los Angeles in 1976 to pursue a music career as a pianist and film composer. His jazz recording career now spans over 20 years. The George Kahn Trio album, released in 2018 reached #16 on the JazzWeek Charts. His new album, George Kahn Quartet -DreamCatcher was released on November 6, 2020.



Teachers and/or influences?

I studied classical music growing up.I studied piano from the age of nine, but did not get serious about it until high school. Majored in music at Brandeis University (BA '73 Music Composition, graduated with honors) where I studied Stravinsky, Webern, Schoenberg, Cage and Stockhausen. I never took a formal jazz class (Back then they would not allow Jazz in the music building -the only jazz class was in teh Afro-American Studies department!) I moved to Los Angeles in 1976 and started studying arranging and composing for film with Dick Grove and Lyle "Spud" Murphy. After beating my head on the wall of the film scoring business for many years, I decided to start putting out my own albums in a "classic jazz" style in 1998. Influences? Dave Brubeck and Bill Evans, for sure, Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock of course. Many unsung jazz piano greats: Wynton Kelly, Red Garland, Vince Guaraldi, Pete Jolly, Dave Grusin...

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

Don't laugh—I fell into music initially because I could not imagine another subject that would interest me for a full four years of college. Then when I discovered the wonderful world of music improvisation, and the the open-structure "classical" music of Terry Riley, John Cage and others, I got bit and knew this was something I had a gift for and I wanted to share that with the world.

Your sound and approach to music:

As Alex Acuña says, it all comes down to: rhythm, harmony, melody and improvisation. My music needs all four elements to be successful. I love to write a beautiful melody. I love interesting and complex harmonies. I love dance rhythms, Afro-Cuban beats, anything that you can groove to. And it needs an element of improvisation, or its not jazz. At the same time, if it is ALL improv without the other elements, I get bored really quick.

Your teaching approach:

I do not see myself as a teacher of music. I am happy to show some scales and voicings to others, but I am more a student of marketing and "public relations" than of music.

Your dream band:

I have had the blessed ability to play with many of my heroes: Billy Higgins, Alex Acuna, MB Gordy, Brian Bromberg, Lyman Medeiros, David Hughes, Eric Marienthal, Justo Almario, Pat Kelley, Larry Koonse, Abe Laboriel, Bobby Rodriguez, John Fumo, Nolan Shaheed, Ernie Watts... I'd play with any and all these folks again in a heartbeat!

Road story: Your best or worst experience:

One of the best experiences was when I was in a soft-rock band with Parker McGee, and we opened for Billy Joel, Dolly Parton, Steve Martin and others on a US tour. It included a night to forget in New Orleans, out drinking with Kim Gardner, the bassist in the band. Probably my best jazz road experience was when I took the Quintet up to Carmel CA at the invitation of the local jazz radio station. We did two shows, $75 per person tickets, and when we got to the town we were like visiting dignitaries! Our photo was in many store windows and on the front page of the local paper. Both shows sold out! We were hoping that Clint Eastwood would drop by, but he never did.

Favorite venue:

I love VIBRATO in Los Angeles, Herb Alpert's club (closed now due to COVID). Looking forward to playing live again.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why?

My newest one, DreamCatcher, because... it is my newest baby!

The first Jazz album I bought was:

Dave Brubeck: Take Five

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

Carrying the classic jazz tradition is so important, I do not want it to become a "lost art." It is also important to me to use my musical abilities to help raise money for those less fortunate than myself. That is why I do an annual fundraising benefit concert for PATH (People Assisting The Homeless).

Did you know...

I share a birthday with Millard Fillmore (13th President of the United States) and pride myself in my knowledge of American History Trivia.

CDs you are listening to now:

Gina Saputo: Duetto (Self Produced)
Paul Desmond: Complete Toronto Sessions (Mosaic)
Helene Grimaud: Water (Sony Classic)
Grateful Dead: Workingman's Dead and em>American Beauty (50th Anniversary Editions) (WB/Reprise)
Pat Metheny and Brad Mehldau: Metheny/Mehldau (Nonesuch)

How would you describe the state of jazz today?

In flux. Unstoppable. Creative. Pivoting to an online experience.

What is in the near future?

With COVID, all the live gigs are cancelled, so a CD release gig is out of the question. Instead we plan to have a "Some Good Jazz News" video release party on December 6, where we will premiere two new videos from the DreamCatcher album, plus have a Q+A with the whole band. It should be fun!

What's your greatest fear when you perform?

That I will forget my music or my clothes before I go to the gig, and have no time to go back and get them!

What songs would you like played at your funeral?

Barber's "Adagio for Strings"; Mahler's "Symphony No.2: Finale"; George Kahn's "The Heroes Journey."

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

"Speak No Evil."

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

Gourmet Chef. Or maybe a photographer.



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