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Zach Brock: The New Meritocracy of Jazz

George Colligan By

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That being said, it's the only place in the world where I could have met and played with you [George Colligan], Phil Markowitz, the guys on my last record, etc. I still secretly flip out when I walk into my bodega and there's some guy in there buying eggs and I have all of his records! I love that aspect of the music scene in New York. It keeps motivating me in the most primal, immediate way. I realize that any given day could be the day I finally play with "that guy" and I want to make sure that I show up as the musician I want to be in that situation.

GC: What advice would you give to young jazz musicians?

ZB: If they want to be professional performers on the world stage then I would advise them to recognize the distinction between developing their playing and developing their careers; to work at both with as much focus, energy, and intelligence as possible, and to learn how to manage their time. I think this concept is somewhat easier for younger musicians who didn't grow up in the "young lions" era because the "Do-It-Yourself" skill set is now seen as a strength instead of a weakness and the necessary information is readily available.

I remember when older musicians would ridicule younger musicians for putting out their own CDs, telling them that it was bullshit, they were bullshit, that the internet was watering down the meritocracy of jazz, and a lot of other misguided things. Now Sonny Rollins is DIY. So is Branford Marsalis. The stigma of putting out your own CD is passé. You have to learn how to do everything in your career now because there is no mainstream illusion that someone is going to come along and put you on the world stage while they write your blog for you and book your gigs. Coca-Cola sells Taylor Swift by promoting her as DIY-savvy, whether that's even true or not. At the same time, if you don't work equally hard at your craft as a musician then you will be exposed as "sad" a whole lot faster than you would have been in the past. YouTube and HD video on everyone's phone can and will show you at your best and your worst. There's no escaping it and it's not going away.

GC: What's your latest project?

ZB: I have a few things going on right now. First, I'm writing/arranging a new record for Criss Cross. Second, I'm working with Phil Markowitz to get our new CD, Perpetuity, released. And third, I'm working on an unaccompanied, acoustic violin project. Most of the playing I do in jazz requires a certain amount of amplification because I like to play with drummers. But lately I've been getting more and more into the violin in its most natural state. I really love the freakish amount of variations possible for tone color, articulation, dynamics, etc. I also find the limitations of creating harmonic complexity on the acoustic violin to be a very rewarding challenge. It definitely deepens and clarifies one's linear concept on the instrument.

Photo Credit

Courtesy of Zach Brock


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