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Take Five With Mike McKoy

Mike McKoy By

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Meet Mike McKoy:
Mike McKoy is a former member of the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain with professional experience in musical theatre. He has performed in six European countries and aboard the Majesty of the Seas for Royal Caribbean Celebrity Cruises. He made his debut at London's Ronnie Scott's club opening for Elvin Jones Jazz Machine. His first CD, Mike McKoy Swings to the Bossa Nova (Zephyr, 2003), was recorded live at the Pizza on the Park with Bobby Wellins, Pete Letanka, Anthony Kerr, Simon Woolf, and Simon Morton.

His latest album, Ludwig Manhattan's Germaican Blues (Self Produced, 2014), combines original spoken-word narrative and jazz. It was recorded in Valencia, Spain with Toni Belenguer, Vicent Colonques, Matt Baker, and Ignacio Aguilar as well as McKoy narrating, singing and playing acoustic and electric guitars.

Instrument(s):
Vocals and guitar.

Teachers and/or influences?
I've had private voice lessons with Janet Canetty-Clarke and Jan Ponsford, and guitar lessons with Dave Cliff, Trefor Owen and Pere Soto, but I'm mostly self-taught. My influences are Sean Levitt, Joao Gilberto, Nat King Cole and my hero, Marty Grosz.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...
I saw Joao Gilberto performing solo; the subtle interaction of his voice with his guitar spoke powerfully to me.

Your sound and approach to music:
I prefer music that is rhythmically strong. And when it comes to rhythm, I subscribe to the KISSS method: Keep it Simple, Solid, and Soft.

Your teaching approach:
I don't teach music— mostly because I feel I'm only just beginning to grow musically. I do think Clark Terry's "Imitation, Assimilation, Innovation" is very sound advice for learning the jazz language, but I feel I've only just entered the 'Assimilation' phase. I would recommend reflecting and drawing on inspiration beyond what can be found in jazz alone: develop an aesthetic. As a musician who sings, I've developed a strong need to preserve what I consider elegant and beautiful.

Your dream band:
If I were being fanciful as well as open and direct, I'd say that I'd absolutely love to sing harmonies and play guitar with Rebecca Kilgore. But, in truth, my ideal band is the one I work with now.

Favorite venue:
I love the 606 Club in London, the Duc des Lombards in Paris, and the Jimmy Glass in Valenci. They're all wonderful intimate venues that share the same great vibe, sound, and experience from the bandstand—but I also love playing for diners at Pata Negra restaurant in Valencia.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why?
Ludwig Manhattan's Germaican Blues because of everything that writing and recording it has meant to me.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?
My intention is to contribute towards the possibility of peace and love, of renewal and growth, of reconciliation and mutual understanding.

Did you know...
I wrote Ludwig Manhattan's Germaican Blues on the bus for over three years during my journey to my day job.

What is in the near future?
I'm looking forward to performing Ludwig Manhattan's Germaican Blues as a meticulously-crafted live show combining literary and spoken-word narrative, instrumental and vocal jazz (in vintage style), photographic imagery and stop-motion cut-out animation.

What song would you like played at your funeral?
Count Basie's "April in Paris."

By Day:
Head of Studies at a language school.

If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a:
Very dull boy!

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