Jazz Interview with jazz pianist, composer Pablo Ziegler. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?
Pablo Ziegler: – I grew up in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I started being interested in music through films that my parents used to take me to when I was three or four years old.
JBN.S: – What got you interested in picking up the piano?
PZ: – At my house, there was a piano that used to belong to my grandmother. After going to a film with my parents, I would go straight to the music room and try to play the music I heard in the film by ear. Apparently I was playing the music from the film pretty accurate, and my mother thought that I had some talent in music and took me to the Buenos Aires Music Conservatory to study piano.
JBN.S: – What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today? What made you choose the piano?
PZ: – At Buenos Aires Music Conservatory, they specialized in developing a classical pianist and it was established by Alberto Williams, the pupil of Cesar Franck. I studied there for 10 years. That’s why we had some great professors like Andrian Moreo. After that, I studied with Galia Scharfman who was a classmate of Martha Argerich. She was a pupil of Vlado Perlemuter who was one of the best students of Maurice Ravel. I learned all the techniques to play impressionist composers from them. This is my classical background.
I developed my jazz piano skill by joining jazz orchestra as a pianist in Buenos Aires when I was around 15 years old. By performing with them, I started learning the way to play jazz music.
I never played tango music in public until I joined Piazzolla Quintet. Of course, Piazzolla’s music is not traditional tango. His music is contemporary tango or what’s called nuevo tango which is a combination of classical music, jazz and tango. In other words, Piazzolla opened a door for me to play music of Buenos Aires by introducing me to his music that has some influence of tango.
JBN.S: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?
PZ: – At the conservatory, they would teach me how to look for a beautiful sound. Sometimes I would try different technique or position of the hands to see how I can improve my sound. I’m still trying to improve my sound every day.
JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?
PZ: – My daily routine is to start my practice with Chopin Etude and some Beethoven and Bach. Then, I like to go over some finger exercise. The rhythm part comes naturally from my wide variety of background. But I do practice pieces with different rhythm like milonga, candonbe, be-bop, hot-jazz, ragtime and nuevo tango.
JBN.S: – Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now?
PZ: – I like to use the combination of minor and major code, for example, Dm and Bb7 every 2 bars until the next changes. That is one of the color I like.
JBN.S: – What do you love most about your new album with trio: <Jazz Tango>, how it was formed and what you are working on today. Next year your fans like we can wait for a new album?
PZ: – What I love about this album is the energy and delicacy of the sound from each one of the band members. We’ve been performing together almost 20 years together and we’ve developed our own language through years. This CD is the outcome of the search of our identity as musicians and for me as a composer. Every piece in this album tells a story of Buenos Aires and it’s full of the essence of nuevo tango and jazz music. Next year, I’m releasing a first solo piano album from Steinway and Sons Label.
JBN.S: – You were presented at the Grammy Awards: Best Latin Jazz Album, how do you assess your potential?
PZ: – This is the first time that the Recording Academy recognized this Nuevo Tango Jazz Fusion as a part of Latin Jazz. If we win, this will change the music history and probably it will open a door to many musicians from my country in international music scene. I would really like to be the one who can make that happen in the music history.
JBN.S: – We wish you every success and will follow you, however do you think that Grammys are purely musical or political overtones?
PZ: – I really don’t know what’s behind all the Award system but I feel that this album has been purely enjoyed by so many people. I always believe in creating the great art as much as I can. I think creating something new is also partly politics because you have to break the barrier or tradition in order to be innovative.
JBN.S: – Many aspiring musicians are always looking for advice when navigating thru the music business. Is there any piece of advice you can offer to aspiring students or even your peers that you believe will help them succeed and stay positive in this business?
PZ: – Through years, I’ve been teaching the technique of piano and composition but I also give advice on how to find their identity. There are many musicians who are into social media marketing or networking these days but they have to remember that the most important thing to become a successful musician is to develop their music skills, expand their imagination and create something new. Daily practice is crucial in order to be ready to be presented in the important engagement and many young musicians tend to forget about it. Being musicians means to work 24/7 even when you’re sleeping.
JBN.S: – Аnd furthermore, can jazz be a business today or someday?
PZ: – I consider Jazz as a way of life. If Jazz can be a business, it maybe helps the musicians to work on more projects. As a musician, we should never focus on business first. If you create good music, the business comes after.
JBN.S: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?
PZ: – I was first attracted to jazz when I was 15 years old in 1970’s when jazz rock like “Return to Forever”, “Weather Report”, “Mahavishnu Orchestra” appeared. The fusion of jazz and other type of music attracted me immediately. Something like that has to happen again. Probably, one of the key to connect to young people is to create a fusion of jazz with other type of music.
JBN.S: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?
PZ: – I believe in my spirit. My spirit always tells me what I should do in my music life.
JBN.S: – What are your expectations of the future? What brings you fear or anxiety?
PZ: – I want to compose more music for my jazz trio, classical ensemble, orchestra, big band, two pianos, solo piano, etc. In my head, I hear music all the time. I just need time to write them down and share them with the audience.
I never feel fear but I feel anxiety when I’m not playing or composing. Or when I don’t have a piano close to me that’s why I ask my manager to have a piano available all the time for me wherever I travel to. I need my lovely wife and piano next to me every day. That gives me joy and relaxation.
JBN.S: – What’s the next musical frontier for you?
PZ: – I’m working on a few piano concertos with orchestra. Also, I have an Opera project. I really want to write more new composition.
JBN.S: – Are there any similarities between jazz and world music, including folk music?
PZ: – There are many world music like flamenco, gypsy and Hindi music where they improvise. Jazz is not the only music that improvise. In that sense, there are similarities between jazz and world music. It just depends on where you are coming from to be called jazz or world music.
JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?
PZ: – I have my own radio in my head 24/7 for good or bad. Sometimes, I have to pay attention to those music in order to compose. But I always enjoy listening to different composers from classical to jazz and world music.
JBN.S: – What’s your current setup?
PZ: – My set up is piano, computer (next to the piano), headset/speakers, full of music books over the piano and a kitchen. I don’t only compose music but I love cooking! The creation process of composition and cooking is very similar to me.
JBN.S: – And if you want, you can congratulate jazz and blues listeners on Christmas and Happy New Year.
PZ: – I wish you all the jazz and blues listeners Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!