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Take Five with Sergio Pamies

Sergio Pamies By

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About Sergio Pamies
Born in Granada, Spain in 1983, Pamies has published three albums under his name; Entre Amigos (PSM, 2008), Borrachito (Bebyne Records, 2011), and What Brought You Here? (Bebyne Records, 2017). Critics have acknowledged his talent for composition, the lyrical qualities of his playing, and his natural and spontaneous ability to fuse the traditional jazz language and flamenco music of his childhood. Pamies has performed at festivals in Austria, Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Colombia, Perú, China, Spain, and the United States. He has collaborated with outstanding artists, such as Christian Scott, Rubem Dantas, Antonio Serrano, Diego Amador, Pepe Luis Carmona "Habichuela" (all of whom collaborated in the making of Borrachito), Quamon Fowler, Horacio Fumero, Matthew Simon, Michael Miskiewicz, and Joan Albert Amargós. Besides leading his own projects, he has produced other artists such as Verso Suelto (Verso Suelto, Youkali Music 2016), Korean singer Roja (My Shining Hour, Mirrorball Music, 2013), and The Zebras (Flamenco Jazz Project, North Texas Jazz, 2011).

Instrument(s):
I do not own an acoustic piano at the moment, but my preference for grand piano is Steinway & Sons. I use a Korg-SV1 Vintage for "Rhodes" sounds on gigs and recordings.

Teachers and/or influences?
I am a jazz pianist, and I think jazz aficionados could tell what famous jazz pianists have had a strong influence on me! So I am going to mention some artists that I have met at some point, who greatly impressed me and have been very influential since then: Diego Amador (pianist), Josemi Carmona (flamenco guitarist), Antonio Serrano (harmonica), Joan Albert Amargós (composer), Brad Leali (saxophone), Christian Scott (trumpet), Ed Soph (drums), Samuel Torres (percussion), and Francesc Burrull (piano). I have had great piano teachers, such as Stefan Karlsson, Michael Palma, Iñaki Sandoval, and Mariano Díaz.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...
My dad is a big jazz fan, and a record collector. He plays guitar (self-taught, all by ear), and that's the reason why I grew up listening to all the jazz greats at home. When I started playing piano, I remember trying to play my first jazz standards, such as "These Foolish Things," and how happy my dad was. I wanted to be a musician because I knew it would make my dad proud.

Your sound and approach to music.
I love music. I am dedicating my life to music, and I made music my "job," but I am very committed to it. I will always try to be as honest as I can, with my teaching, playing, composing, arranging... I am an only child and I developed a strong imagination (otherwise I would have been bored all the time without any siblings!). I think imagination is my best tool and I try to take advantage of that skill and bring it to my music.

Your teaching approach
I don't want my students to sound like me, because that would be a very small goal. You have to point high, dream big. I am a pianist because when I was a kid I wanted to be like Bill Evans! When you only teach your students "what you know" I believe you are limiting them. I make a diagnosis of their playing, find their weaknesses...then I assign them repertory and recordings to transcribe, in order to learn from the masters the things I believe they are missing. I try to guide them, point them in the right direction. That way they discover by themselves all the details that make jazz so fascinating. For example: Learn "Alone Together" from Hank Jones' recording. If they do their homework, they will come up next time with questions about reharmonization, tritone subs, drop two voicings, passing diminished chords, etc, and I try to answer these questions.

Your dream band
I would love to have a trio with Lewis Nash and Christian McBride.

Favorite venue
I love the atmosphere of the classic jazz club setting. When I was 13, my parents took me to NY and I remember sitting next to Cyrus Chestnut at the Village Vanguard and thinking "I want to do this for a living!"

Your favorite recording in your discography and why?
My last album, What Brought You Here?, just came out last week, so I need some time to evaluate it. I like Borrachito, my previous recording. I think I presented my honest vision of what people calls "flamenco jazz," and even though it is an aesthetic that has been widely explored since the 80's with Chick Corea's Touchstone, with Paco De Lucia as a guest artist, I believe my album was still unique and innovative somehow. My favorite track is "Fandango in Boskovice," which features Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah on trumpet, with a very unusual background for him (flamenco singers and hand clapping!).

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?
Jazz is very complex, and it has this great capacity of absorbing traits from other musics without loosing its' identity (improvisation, interplay, call and response). I am from Spain, and I like a wide variety of music, from many different countries. I try to study these different genres in depth, and I believe the "jazz" I produce it's different or unique because of my musical and cultural background.

The first jazz album I bought was:
I mentioned my dad is a record collector, so all I had to do was to explore his music library. But when I moved to Barcelona to study my undergrad, the first two recordings I bought were 'Round About Midnight by Miles Davis (I learned Miles' solo on "All of You" and Red Garland's on "Bye Bye Blackbird"), and Jazz Giant by Bud Powell (I learned "Celia," the whole track).

Music you are listening to now:
Phineas Newborn, Jr., A World of Piano! (Contemporary, 1961).

Desert Island picks:
Keith Jarrett, The Melody at Night, With You (ECM, 1999). Bill Evans, Portrait in Jazz (Riverside, 1959). Camarón de la Isla (with Paco de Lucía and Tomatito), Viviré (Phillips, 1984). Antonio Carlos Jobim and Elis Regina, Elis & Tom (Phillips, 1974). Miles Davis, Workin' with the Miles Davis Quintet (Prestige, 1956).

How would you describe the state of jazz today?
Confusing! Jazz has so many different substyles, and jazz fans are exposed to so much variety, that I bet it has to be hard for them to form an opinion. Also, musicians are required to be versatile and it is impossible to know in depth all the different things that we are expected to...but I think it has always been this way. If you take a look at any jazz discography and look by year...it is amazing how much variety you can find. I encourage the readers to investigate what was going on in jazz in 1959! There is a very interesting article published in All About Jazz about this subject (read here).

What is in the near future?
I am very excited about my new album's release, What Brought You Here? (Bebyne Records). I would love to keep working with the musicians featured in this record, such as Quamon Fowler, Clay Pritchard, Young Heo, Andrew Griffith, Lupe Barrera... I hope the album has a good reception among aficionados, writers, musicians, and everybody in the jazz community. It is the result of what I have learned and experienced in the past six years.

What song would you like played at your funeral?
Keith Jarrett's solo piano performance of "Be My Love:" it is so peaceful and beautiful that I hope people forget about why they are there!

What is your favorite song to whistle or sing in the shower?
I couldn't say just one, but, how about Dave Brubeck's "In Your Own Sweet Way"?

If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a:
A Pirate! :D

If I could have dinner with anyone from history, who would it be and why? Bill Evans, I have many questions for him...he would hate me though! He would ask for the bill after five minutes. Maybe Paco de Lucía... we have more things in common and he might have enjoyed more the time together.

Why did you move to the United States?
Swing! I came to the USA looking for opportunities to play with jazz musicians in the country where this music was created, and to learn from them. There is something about drummers and bass players here in the USA that is unique and special. I also came here to learn from people like Stefan Karlsson, because I knew he had figured it out how to sound like the jazz records I loved. The last eight years here in the USA have been a constant struggle with nostalgia, but jazz keeps me alive and moving forward.

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