For those of you who were acutely feeling the absence of High School All-Stars alumni interviews, we have a wonderful May installment for you. Many of you may know of the New York-based band, the Amigos, either by way of one of last summer’s alumni interviewees, Sam Reider, or by way of the Amigos’ upcoming SFJAZZ Family Matinée engagement on May 16th. Amigos’ bassist, Noah Garabedian, is more than simply a slice of the Amigos’ pie; the Brooklyn-based alumn fronts his own sextet, Big Butter And The Egg Men. Noah also works with Jazz At Lincoln Center, the Weil Institute at Carnegie Hall, is part-time faculty at The New School, and has served as adjunct faculty at NYU. Impressive CV? Read on to learn about Noah’s musical journey following SFJAZZ and you’ll see that you don’t know the half of it.
What is your favorite memory of your time in the High School All-Stars?
“I have two favorite memories: the first was when we played at Lincoln Center in NYC in the Essentially Ellington competition. It was a true thrill to play on that stage, and our band was slamming that year; there were some really wonderful players in it whom I still play with today. My second favorite memory is when we performed at a ballet at the Yerba Buena Center: we all had to wear Santa Hats because it was holiday time, and we set up on a stage that was below ground. When it was our time to play, they elevated us and we played a bunch of music from Duke's Nutcracker Suite. It was hilarious and really fun.”
Can you describe your current sextet project? What were the influences that generated it?
“It is a sextet with bass, drums, two tenor saxophones, alto saxophone, and trumpet: www.bjurecords.com/noah-garabedian. All of the musicians in the band are friends of mine, which is very important to me; we share a lot of musical interests and hang out together frequently. The writing is influenced by everything from New Orleans Jazz, to Afrobeat, to J.S. Bach. The name of the band is a nod to the tune made famous by Louis Armstrong, "Big Butter And Egg Man," and I try to maintain the spirit of collective improvisation that New Orleans Jazz popularized within our ensemble. We released our first album in September 2014 on Brooklyn Jazz Underground Records, and hopefully will be recording more soon.”
You have a degree in Ethnomusicology; what was your focus and (how) does it inform your musical performance?
“I entered UCLA not really sure of what I wanted to study or pursue. Eventually I gravitated towards the ethnomusicology department because I wanted to remain involved with music, but learn about it and approach it from a different perspective than a performer. In the beginning of my time in the Ethno department I was drawn towards music from West Africa, Mexico, and Appalachia in the Southeastern US. The department had wonderful faculty from all around the world who led performance ensembles, so I got to play in all sorts of inspiring groups on different instruments, and learn from experts. The department also had an incredibly extensive library full of video and audio recordings that previous students and famous ethnographers made while doing research in the field. After my first two years I became more serious about jazz again and ended up doing my final project on jazz bass. But through studying world music, I deepened my understanding and appreciation of jazz, which combines African rhythms with European harmonies, making it a truly original American art form. Also learning about how cultural identity and music are intertwined, and understanding the relationship between them has profoundly informed my work in and passion for music, especially my own original compositions.”
As a teacher at several NY universities, what are some of the concepts and skill that you feel are most important for young jazz musicians to grasp these days?
“The musical way to answer this is pretty simple; young musicians should make sure they develop their ears, compose music, keep an open mind, and listen to a lot of music. The other side to your question is a little more complicated. Young musicians actually need to understand what being a musician means; it is a financially difficult life, and can be very frustrating at times. It is important to learn how to be self-sufficient and learn about everything from taxes to web design. A lot of musician friends I have do something else on the side to add a little more financial support for themselves: teaching music, tutoring academics, web design, or anything else part time. But most importantly, just be yourself and pursue music because you love the music, do not pursue it for any other reason.”
Keep up with Noah's musical projects at http://noahgarabedian.com
Friday, May 15, 2015
Tuesday, May 12, 2015
The SFJAZZ Gala 2015 honored the legacy of Joni Mitchell on Friday, May 8 with the SFJAZZ Lifetime Achievement Award. We grabbed a number of #ThankYouJoni interviews with artists who performed in the All-Star Concert, including co-director Brian Blade, singers Judith Hill and Joe Jackson, as well as Joni collaborators Tom Scott and Mark Isham. Watch them all on YouTube.
Thursday, May 7, 2015
"I think what she really teaches other people is that you should just find your own artist in you. She is to me the definition of an artist..." Greg Leisz reflects on touring with Joni Mitchell.
Leisz performs at the SFJAZZ Gala 2015 All-Star Concert tomorrow, Friday, May 8th, where Joni will be honored with a SFJAZZ Lifetime Achievement Award (to be accepted by Wayne Shorter).
What would you say to Joni? #ThankYouJoni
Wednesday, May 6, 2015
On Saturday, May 2nd, SFJAZZ installed a #ThankYouJoni Art Installation in the windows of the San Francisco Unified School District Building (opposite SFJAZZ Center) where the Herman Leonard jazz portraits have resided since the opening of the Center back in January, 2013.
This tribute to Joni Mitchell, part of the SFJAZZ Gala 2015 honoring Joni with a Lifetime Achievement Award (to be accepted by Wayne Shorter), sparked numerous #ThankYouJoni messages and well-wishes from Joni fans on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, as well as on the fence beneath the art installation!
Why #ThankYouJoni? The phrase arose organically from interviews we've been conducting with artists at the SFJAZZ Center since February. The #ThankYouJoni YouTube Playlist below compiles all of these interviews. You can also watch them, and learn much more, at sfjazz.org/thankyoujoni.
Tuesday, May 5, 2015
"An artist without a genre attached, from electronic music, to soul music, to folk music, to jazz music, that's something that Joni Mitchell has done throughout her career, and continues to do..."
Oakland's own Chris Turner remembers how he discovered Joni Mitchell.
How did you discover Joni? #ThankYouJoni
Monday, May 4, 2015
"It just completely blew me away that someone could sound so soulful, yet so elegant, and yet so uniquely different at the same time..." Eric Harland and Anissa Martell Harland each remember how, and when they discovered Joni Mitchell. How did you discover Joni? #ThankYouJoni
Joni Mitchell will be honored with the SFJAZZ Lifetime Achievement Award at this year's Gala on May 8th. Watch what other artists have to say at sfjazz.org/thankyoujoni.
Saturday, May 2, 2015
Thursday, April 30, 2015
"When I think of Joni Mitchell, I think of a true artist, in every sense of the word, someone who's searching for meaning in the mysteries of life..." Gerald Clayton shares words for Joni Mitchell. What would you say to Joni? #ThankYouJoni
Joni Mitchell will be honored with the SFJAZZ Lifetime Achievement Award at this year's Gala, on May 8th.