Here is the second half of my interview with vocalist Laurie Antonioli. The Jazzschool faculty member marks the release of her new album, “American Dreams, with a performance Monday at Yoshi’s in San Francisco. Click here to read the first part of our interview.
Question: You have been on the Jazzschool faculty for some time. How did you get involved there and what can you tell us about the type of musicians it’s creating?
Antonioli: Before going overseas in 2002, I was teaching a few classes at the Jazzschool. In 2006, Susan Muscarella invited me to be the Director of the Vocal Program at the Jazzschool. I enthusiastically accepted and it’s been an amazing experience.
It’s been a busy time and we’ve got a bustling vocal program with many workshops, classes and concerts featuring the best local and international talent in vocal jazz. In fall 2009, we started our four-year degree program, the Jazzschool Institute and I’m also the Director of that vocal program.
There are volumes to say on the topic of jazz education and its role in creating new artists. What I know is this: In order to become a musician, there must be a passion and love and inspiration that transcends “basic training.” It takes talent as well as a strong impulse and desire to improvise. The role education plays is to give the basic skills theoretically, technically and historically. From there, hopefully the students will run with it.
As for the future of jazz, I do my part to nurture the essence of the music and believe that authenticity is the key. Finding an authentic voice. Jazz is always changing – it is not a static art form – so what we are hearing now is a lot of genre-bending with the up-and-coming artists. It will be very interesting to see where we’re at in 10 years when all the pioneers of this music are gone and the primary voices are ones that have come through the educational system, rather than the streets and the clubs.
Question: You have worked with a number of great jazz artists but let me ask about two in particular, Mark Murphy and Joe Henderson. What impact did each have on your creative evolution? Moreover, what can you tell us about them as people?
Antonioli: To be in the presence of a master, your life is impacted forever. I met Joe as a 20-year-old and had written some lyrics to his song “Isotope.” Someone gave me his number and said I should call him and let him hear the lyrics. I did and shortly thereafter I was invited to sing with him. The first time the rhythm section was Joanne Brackeen, Charlie Haden and Danny Spencer, the next time Tootie Heath was on drums. Imagine being so young and having an experience like that.
Mark Murphy regularly invited me to sit in with him, as he did with many of the vocalists in the Bay Area, and we all got to have the experience of hearing him, singing with him and hanging out with him. Joe really respected Mark, by the way, and said he was one of the best jazz singers, ever. So, heavy company, no?
It’s timing and karma to have people like this in one’s life. Joe was a fiercely private person. He gave me a “reading list” that he thought I needed if I were to be a citizen of the world. It included Camus, Hesse, Dostoevsky, Sartre and others. This alone was a game changer for me. I miss Joe and am sorry he passed at such a young age. I will tell you this one thing about him – he rarely practiced. He’d look at music and finger his horn, but the practicing he did must have taken place early in his career.
Mark Murphy’s creative genius and devastatingly beautiful ballad singing is like none other. As a person, Mark is generous with his time and completely devoted to the art of singing. I remember meeting him at a train in Graz a few years back. He’d been out on a road trip for too long with an Italian rhythm section that wasn’t really that happening. He got off the train in his big overcoat, with his huge bag of music and said “Ooooo Baby, that was a drag.” – I looked at him and realized that this is one of the world’s greatest singers just doing what it takes to keep singing. If that doesn’t inspire you, I don’t know what does.
Want to keep up with the best in Bay Area jazz?
Subscribe to us: Have our jazz Examiner columns sent to your inbox. Click SUBSCRIBE TO EMAIL on the button above this column. It’s free. (And we won’t spam you or give out your information.)
Bookmark us: http://dampfang.com/x-12458-Oakland-Jazz-Music-Examiner
Make us your home page, add us as a Favorite Examiner (see above), take us mobile at www.dampfang.com/mobile.html