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Take Five with Julian Hartwell

Julian Hartwell By

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Desert Island picks:
Miles Davis: Kind of Blue (Columbia), Herbie Hancock: Headhunters (Columbia), Stevie Wonder: Songs in the Key of Life (Tamla), Brad Mehldau: Largo (Warner Bros), Broken Social Scene: You Forgot It In People (Arts & Crafts)

How would you describe the state of jazz today?
It probably depends on who you ask, but it's definitely constantly reinventing itself. I see a newfound interest from my generation across the board in those groups pushing the genre forward, expanding the definition... you know, the big ones like Snarky Puppy, Glasper, Brainfeeder label. I think most people get that jazz is kind of the grandfather in that it can incorporate so many current styles and is musically usually the most sophisticated. Perhaps my general diagnosis would be, healthy in the small scenes and spaces, but still clamoring for respect and appreciation from the culture at large. But in a sense that's the way this music has always been, atleast since bebop... never quite in the "mainstream," and that's OK. The people that will resonate with this music are there but it might take a little more work to find 'em.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?
I think a lot of the cats coming out of schools and such these days need to remind themselves that their purpose on stage is to ENTERTAIN! Yes art for art's sake is great, but when you're dealing in a niche genre that's already misunderstood, the self-important, insular artist thing does more harm than good. At the end of the day nobody really cares about your Coltrane substitutions or how fast you can shred bebop. Are you resonating with listeners, establishing an emotional connection? Does your music evoke a picture or elicit a response greater than the sum of its parts, instead of just a, "woo they're killin?" I think when an artist is really coming from their true authenticity, from digging really deep within themselves, then you're gonna see greater recognition and people coming back. And ya know, look like you're actually having fun onstage too... no one likes to pay money to see a bunch of sour faces on the bandstand, no matter how 'hip' the music is. Jazz musicians could use some lessons in self-awareness and audience engagement if they want to keep this music alive.

What is in the near future?
I have a little solo trip coming up at the end of May to Charleston, S.C. which'll be nice. Getting some gigs lined up down there and playing for my Aunt's art show while the Spoleto festival is happening. On the homefront I'm just really focused on polishing my band's live show and repertoire at the moment, and always looking toward 'the next thing' a la new venues, festivals, etc., so we can continue to play out consistently enough. I'm definitely feeling the call of a new album, but I know this time around I really need to be patient and approach it with a solid vision and workshop the tunes live a bit more first. For that project I'm scheming up a 'JHP video series' of sorts as well that'll document the process a bit more, and thinking of collaborating with some local MC's and/or movement artists for a few bonus tracks. All that will probably really begin to take shape this Summer so I'm excited for that.

What is your greatest fear when you perform?
It's probably only that occasional mental chatter/self-analysis of my playing in my head that says something like "you're not coming from an authentic place... you're not really in the moment right now, and everyone in the audience can tell." I can't stand that feeling the most, but luckily it doesn't happen too often. I'm able to snap out of it pretty quick if I just breathe, listen more to what's happening on the bandstand, and remind myself that this is what I've chosen to do (or it's chosen me) and I'm pretty good at it most of the time. The material I'm playing or the sound of the instrument itself is often a deciding factor in this.

What song would you like played at your funeral?
Hmm, probably something upbeat/celebratory like a New Orleans funeral procession would have... or should we wait on that till after they carry me out? :p Maybe some Chopin preludes playing lightly in the background... yea that'd be nice.

What is your favorite song to whistle or sing in the shower?
"Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay" by Otis Redding.

By Day:
Teaching at Temple or the occasional private lesson at home... rewriting/working on a chart for the umpteenth time... handling the daily grind of promotion/booking/strategy when you are your own manager... taking random outdoor explorations/adventures to get out of the house... squeezing in time to actually sit down and practice my instrument in the midst of it all which can sometimes prove elusive.

If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a:
A gardener perhaps? A craftsperson involving something with my hands... carpenter? Blacksmith? That kind of livelihood has always appealed to me.

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