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Take Five With Noah Haidu

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Meet Noah Haidu:
Pianist and composer Noah Haidu is evidence that 21st century jazz can be adventurous, fresh and swing hard; that an exciting, modern pianist can play memorable melodies and soulful grooves. His powerful Posi-Tone Records CDs Slipstream and Momentum garnered an impressive response: write-ups included All About Jazz, JazzTimes, The Financial Times, and Downbeat; while his music was played in heavy rotation on radio, satellite, and cable jazz channels. Noah has also gained the attention of the jazz world through live appearances or recordings with artists such as Mike Stern, Jeremy Pelt, Ambrose Akinmusire, Benny Golson, Jon Irabagon, Eddie Henderson, Billy Hart, Duane Eubanks, and Winard Harper.

Born in Charlottesville, Virginia, Noah was exposed early on to all kinds of music: classical, avant-garde, rock, and jazz. His high school years were spent in New Jersey and Los Angeles, where he was increasingly drawn to jazz and blues piano. His father, an avid music fan, took him to countless concerts, lessons, and band rehearsals and his first jazz shows. He moved to Brooklyn, New York and it wasn't long before he was constantly performing.

Now one of New York's leading young jazz pianists, Noah combines new rhythmic ideas, harmonic sophistication, spontaneity, soul, and swing into his own unique approach.

Instrument(s):
Piano

Teachers and/or influences?
Teachers: Kenny Barron, Barry Harris, David Hazeltine, Bruce Barth.
Influences: Herbie Hancock, McCoy Tyner, Kenny Kirkland, Wynton Kelly, Gene Harris.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...
I got my first record as a kid, around seven years old. It was Thriller by Michael Jackson. I listened to it beginning to end every day after school. Couldn't decide which was my favorite song. I liked it that much.

Your sound and approach to music:
My music is Jazz from right now, not some other period. I believe in tight arrangements attractive melodies and improvisation that goes somewhere. The goal is take the audience into the music, forget their surroundings and feel something.

Your dream band:
My next recording will feature Jon Irabagon and Sharel Cassity on saxophones; in the rhythm section drummer John Davis and upright bassist Ariel Alejandro de la Portilla. There's no one i'd rather be playing with then these people. They all bring so much to the music and really bring my vision to life. There's alot of pressure on artists right now to play and record with "all-star bands" but that doesn't always lead to great music...or even good music. As it happens my band members are all very well-known but that's not why I work with them. Musicianship, shared vision, dedication, creativity, the ability and desire to communicate through music. Those are the qualities I look for in other musicians. So that's my dream band: the Noah Haidu Quintet. .

The first Jazz album I bought was:
Renaissance by Branford Marsalis.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?
I try to get outside of my own head with the music. It's not just about playing the piano. When I play I do get lost in the music. But the way I do that is I connect with the musicians I'm playing with and the audience. I can't enjoy performing without the audience and the band to inspire me. I use modern techniques as tools to add to a performance, not tricks to impress my musician friends.

Did you know...
Haidu is a common name in Hungary. Almost like Smith is in the United States.

CDs you are listening to now:
Kenny Kirkland, Kenny Kirkland (Verve);
Jimmy Greene Quartet, Forever (Criss Cross Jazz);
Keith Jarrett Trio, Standards in Norway (ECM Records);
Rudy Royston, 303 (Greenleaf Music).

How would you describe the state of jazz today?
I've talked about this a lot already. The music is healthy to my ear. But because there are many musicians competing for few gigs the camaraderie among the players has been somewhat eroded. It still exists, but it's harder to come by then what I've heard about earlier generations.

What is in the near future?
First is my show at Birdland, that's Thursday February 5, 2015. That's the aforementioned band with Sharel Cassity, John Davis and Ariel de la Portilla. We will be heading into the studio very soon to record my next CD. I've let this particular project marinade for a bit and it's time to get it out there. We've got a run of gigs planned for the summer starting in New England in June and heading south from there. In July we have a concert at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Miami.

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