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Take Five With Michael Francis Zinna


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Meet Michael Francis Zinna:

60 years old. Grew up in New York and Long Island. Loved the guitar the first time I heard it. Growing up in New York, jazz was all around. My first epiphany came with the great blues renaissance of the 1960s. Then I heard Wes Montgomery and people like Barney Kesseland Chuck Wayne. I knew then the path to go down.



Teachers and/or influences?

The blues was a great influence—all those 7th chords. The teacher who put all together for me was the late great Joe Monk. I studied with him all through the '70s and early '80s. He had a studio and an incredible ability to teach and to discipline a player. He was also wonderful live. All those Saturday—rain, sleet or snow—in Great Neck. Great days; I think about him every day.

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

I heard the guitar work on the old western song "El Paso." It was Glenn Campbell. I didn't know that at the time I was about six years old.

Your sound and approach to music:

I like a big archtop sound these days with a little acoustic organic edge to it. I play what I hear and arrange it that way, all based on my studies and my humble experience. You have to do things your way.

Your teaching approach:

Give them all the harmonic tools including reading. Then encourage them to use that information to express their own ideas their way.

Your dream band:

There are many but they'd scare me to death! I would love to play with someone like Larry Coryell or Kevin Eubanks. I have to say I'm playing with George Hoar on bass and piano. He's incredible and he does his best to challenge me every time we play. I couldn't ask for more. Then there's Brian Sullivan on drums. Both these guys are really heavily studied but totally original. Very spiritual and great attitudes and humility.

Road story: Your best or worst experience:

I've been working and travelling around the country for 33 years. I'm originally from New York. Recently a wonderful old friend from back in Farmingdale High School came waltzing through the front door of the Cork Screw in Huntersville, NC one Sunday afternoon at a gig, after 37 years. I'll post the video one of these days.

Favorite venue:

The Cork Screw, Huntersville, NC; Cafe Monte in Charlotte, NC; and Main Street 202 in Mooresville, NC. All great, enlightened places to play with great audiences. Main St 202 in Mooresville is in one of the old buildings on Main St. It is all old brick and wood. The sound is amazing. The atmosphere is wonderful, rumors of the ghost have yet to be proven. The Cork Screw is just flat out fun. Cafe Monte in Charlotte is very French. You walk in and you're in Paris. Great People and food. I'm a very happy guy lately.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why?

Recently, "Lets Cool One," on our latest CD, Takin' on Monk, our tribute to Thelonious Monk's genius. We feel it's a pretty interesting and fresh approach. Especially adding spoken word. The CD is now available on CDBaby, iTunes and Amazon.

The first Jazz album I bought was:

Kind of Blue, by Miles Davis.

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

Exposing people to jazz. We're finding great response as the culture expands here in Charlotte. We've been around the block a few times and we know how to make people comfortable with it. We are very pleasantly surprised when somebody comes and says, "Hey I know who Coltrane is"; it's such a great change. It's the music that's important not your chops.

Did you know...

I can still hang in with a blues band. I love to jam with some great local blues bands. Love cranking up my little Les Paul.

CDs you are listening to now:

Bill Evans, Jazz Collections;

Tony Williams Lifetime, The Collection;

Wayne Shorter, Footprints;

Bud Powell, The Amazing Bud Powell;

Jonathan Kreisberg, Night Songs.

Desert Island picks:

Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass, Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Tower of Power.

How would you describe the state of jazz today?

Growing but needs more exposure. The players and artists must become more business- like and promote themselves and, more importantly, the music.

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

Better education and radio exposure. Also a lot of jazz musicians have an attitude. That's gotta stop.

What is in the near future?

We just released our new CD, Takin' on Monk. A tribute to Thelonious Monk. Me on guitar. George Hoar on upright and piano. Featuring Richard Dalyrmple on spoken word. Besides the music, we've included Richard reciting statements by Monk and Kerouac. The both are joined at the hip. It also includes Carl Mendez and Kira Kindu on percussion. They're fabulous. It's available on CDBaby, iTunes and Amazon, along with our first CD, The Mike Zinna Trio, The Roar of the Archtops. Both produced by George Hoar, an amazing talent and person.

What's your greatest fear when you perform?

That I'll get distracted by the damn TV or I'll forget the arrangement. I never drink anything until after the second set. I have a one-Guinness rule.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

"Everything Happens to Me."

By Day:

I'm a consultant for an investment software company. Hey man you gotta eat and have a roof over your head. Gigs are more frequent but you have to be realistic.

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

I would like to be an artist like a sculptor or painter.



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