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Take Five With Scott Healy

Take Five With Scott Healy
Scott Healy By

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Meet Scott Healy:

Scott Healy is a classically-trained pianist and composer who in the past three decades has performed and recorded many jazz, blues and rock artists, from Tony Bennett and B.B. King, to Bruce Springsteen, Levon Helm and Christina Aguilera. In addition, Scott has written concert music for symphony orchestra, chamber groups, film scores, and for a wide variety of original jazz and modern music projects. He is perhaps best-known for his longtime role in the house band for Conan O'Brien, first on Late Night in New York, then The Tonight Show in Los Angeles, and currently on the TBS show Conan. His new ensemble recording, Hudson City Suite, by the Scott Healy Ensemble, is just out on and has been garnering praise from the critics and his audience.

Instrument(s):

Piano, Hammond B3 organ, accordion, guitar.

Teachers and/or influences?

Everyone. James P. Johnson, Herbie Hancock, Igor Stravinsky, Duke Ellington, Joseph Schwantner, Gil Evans... the list goes on and on.

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

When I hear my uncle's Dixieland band play at a picnic when I was a little kid. I remember being able to hear the blues progression, and knowing what key they were in. I guess I always knew I always knew.

Your sound and approach to music:

If it sounds good, it is good. All music is equal, all can have powerful emotional content, detail, sustained interest, motion, three-dimensionality; try to find what it is in anything that gives it life, and if you find it, work the hell out of it.

Your dream band:

Piano duo with Billy Strayhorn.

Road story: Your best or worst experience:

Way too many stories...This one is not best or worst, but I think about it a lot, I don't quite know why. I was playing a wedding in New Jersey when we got word that the father of the bride had experienced a heart attack at the church and was rushed to the hospital. As the stunned guests filed in, we were trying to figure out what to play...then word came down that the old man was going to be fine. The leader got on the mic and said: "Ladies and Gentlemen, I'm pleased to announce that Mr. Jones is going to be fine..."Celebration," F, one, two, one two three four..."

Favorite venue:

I love playing at Vitello's in Los Angeles, it has a marvelous Steinway B and a great sounding room. I played once in Carnegie Hall, and I suddenly knew what all the fuss was about. We had a regular gig on Tuesday nights for a long time in LA, I was able to leave a 1958 Hammond B3 at the club, and that was the only instrument I had. Every week I'd show up and it would be set up, turned on, and ready to go. Combine that with a killing rhythm section and I'm happy as a clam!

Your favorite recording in your discography and why?

The first Weather Report record, Weather Report (Columbia, 1971). That was my introduction to Wayne Shorter, free jazz, and extended/improvised form. I know I wasn't ready for it yet, but for some reason that record had a tremendous impact on me. It also reminds me of my grandfather, who was in the room with me when I opened it up, having ran back from the record store, and popped it on the turntable. He went nuts, told me "this is noise, take it off!" That's when I knew I was onto something.

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

A great attitude.

Did you know...

I'm a closet accordionist.

CDs you are listening to now:

Last week I was checking out Stefon Harris. Holy sh*t—!! I feel late to the party!

Desert Island picks:

Rolling Stones, Exile on Main Street;

Bill Evans, Live at Montreux;

Weather Report, Weather Report;

John Coltrane , Coltrane Plays the Blues;

Duke Ellington's 1935-41.

How would you describe the state of jazz today?

Different. Crazy. A great opportunity. Overcrowded. Underfunded. Inspiring.

Photo Credit

Courtesy of Scott Healy

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