giovedì 29 maggio 2014

Interview with Amanda Monaco by Andrea Aguzzi

The first question is always the classic one: how does it start your love and interest for guitar and what instruments do you play or have you played? 

I come from a very musical family. My father played guitar, and he was in a band with his three older brothers when he was a teenager. My grandmother would book them gigs! They were called the Monacats, then they changed their name to the Pat Williams Four (my grandfather's name was Pasquale William). I come from a large Italian family, and they will spontaneously break into song at family functions. Every member of the Monaco family sings in tune! I know it doesn't sound possible, but it's true.
I played French horn in high school, but since age 12 it's been all about the guitar. I keep saying I'm going to start playing French horn again, but when I have an extra time (which is almost never) I always give that extra time to the guitar. I also play a little piano but not very well.

I know that you play a Brian Moore guitar, how is this instrument?

I love it! It's got a warm tone and it's small and light. The neck is just thick enough to have some weight to it, not too skinny.

What was your musical training, with which teachers have you studied and what impression they left in your music? I asked for it because, I don’t know if it’s true, listening to you music I immediately though about Jim Hall …

In high school I studied with a wonderful guitarist named George Raccio. He was an incredible teacher who always taught things in a very simple, accessible way; even when it was really difficult material, George had a way of making everything seem simple. In college I studied with the great Ted Dunbar, as well as pianist Kenny Barron, bassist Rufus Reid, pianist Harold Mabern and saxophonist Steve Wilson.
And I LOVE Jim Hall. I had the good fortune to attend his very last concert in November 2013 at Jazz at Lincoln Center. I must have heard him play 100 times over the years, and every time was just incredible. I once bumped into him on the street in Greenwich Village and we took a lovely, slow walk together, talking about Charlie Christian and Oscar Moore. I'll never forget it.

The first time I met you it was on Ralph Gibson’s book “State of the Axe: Guitar Masters in Photographs and Words”, there are two pictures of you on that book … how do you meet Gisbon and … do you still have problems with club’s owner who play your guitar without asking it to you?

I met Ralph Gibson through Tina Pelikan of ECM Records. He is a phenomenal photographer, taking those pictures in under five minutes during a sound check. As for my essay about being treated differently for being a woman, it still happens, but a lot less. Maybe it's because I'm 40 now. :-)

What does improvisation mean for your music research? Do you think it’s possible to talk about improvisation for classical music or we have to turn to other repertories like jazz, contemporary music, etc.?

Improvisation is everything. I'm currently serving as Artistic Director of Convergence Arts, Inc., a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization committed to sharing the art and fun of improvisation with the community at large. Classical music used to have improvisational sections - the cadenza of a concerto was traditionally used for that - and I think there's still room for that today. Improvisation is an important tool in all aspects of life; it gives you flexibility and resilience.

Your record “The Pirkei Avot Project Vol. 1” really surprised me. I like Jewish music, I’m a fan of John Zorn and Tzadik, and I really like it? Can you tell us more about this recording? How much important is your religion for you and your music?

I discovered the Pirkei Avot when reading through a prayer book at my synagogue. I looked for music that had been written to some of its verses, but found nothing, so I decided to write some, and record it with some of my favorite musicians.
Since 2000 I have been a resident musician at Congregation B'nai Jeshurun on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Music is a very big part of the spiritual life there, and I play Shabbat services with myriad ensembles that include cello, piano, recorder, percussion and/or mandolin. There are eight resident musicians in total.

What’s the role of the “Error” in your musical vision? For “error” I mean an incorrect procedure, an irregularity in the normal operation of a mechanism, a discontinuity on an otherwise uniform surface that can lead to new developments and unexpected surprise.

Some of the greatest discoveries are made through mistakes. I welcome them and embrace them.

I have met your drummer, Satoshi Takeishi, last here in a concert closer to my home in Mestre, he was playing with Marco Cappelli, I really enjoyed him, he is a great drummer and percussionist .. how do you met him?

I met Satoshi in 1999 through a mutual friend, guitarist Adam Levy. We played for a few years together, then life took us in different paths and we started playing together again in 2008. I'm so glad we're working together again!

I have, sometimes, the feeling that in our times music’s history flows without a particular interest in its chronological course, in our discotheque before and after, past and future become interchangeable elements, shall this be a risk of a uniform vision for an interpreter and a composer? The risk of a musical "globalization"?

I think that it's important to have a history of the music even if you're not going to play it the way it used to be played. Some of my favorite avant-garde jazz musicians are incredible straight-ahead players when asked to play that way. I love it when I can hear the entire history of the music come out of someone's horn. Otherwise it sounds like a lot of noise.

Let’s talk about marketing. How much do you think it’s important for a modern musician? I mean: how much is crucial to be good promoters of themselves and their works in music today?

Since 2012 I've been working with a business consultant named Marty Khan. He has a blog on his web site., and has written a great music business book called Straight Ahead that stresses the importance of the collective as a way to move ahead in the music business as well as the 501(c)(3) non-profit organization as a vehicle for doing business (the way almost every other arts organization does it; for some reason it hasn't caught on as much in jazz).

Which composer (or which historical movement or genre) do you think is easiest for the non-musician listener to appreciate? Do you think they enjoy pieces that are more technically difficult or just more "flashy"?

This is a tough question because I think that all music is accessible, but jazz has been given a bad rap. There's been too much discussion of how "intellectual" it is, or how you have to be "sophisticated"

Please tell us five essential records, to have always with you .. the classic five discs for the desert island …

OOH! That's a tough one!
"The Bridge" - Sonny Rollins
"Extrapolation" - John McLaughlin
"Cannonball Adderley and the Poll Winners"
"Coltrane's Sound"
"James Brown's 20 All-Time Greatest Hits"

What are your five favorite scores?

Henry Mancini - Breakfast at Tiffany's
Herbie Hancock - Blow-up
String Quartet No. 5, 1st movement (Bartok)

With whom would you like to play? What kind of music do you listen to usually?

There's so many musicians I'd love to play with, but I'm really happy with the ones I'm playing with now. I am very blessed in that regard.

What I listen to depends on where I am. I commute four hours from NYC every week to teach at Berklee College of Music in Boston, so I usually listen to guitar music (Ralph Towner's new album Travel Guide with Slava Grigoryan and Wolfgang Muthspiel is amazing, you must hear it, you'll love it!) or stuff like Tony Bennett/Bill Evans. When I go for a run it has to be soul music/Motown. My husband is the Editorial Director of The New York City Jazz Record, so we listen to a lot of new jazz of all styles in the house as well as the re-issue classics

Your next projects? When we will see you playing in Italy?

Currently I am writing music inspired by Formula One racing. I am a huge F1 fan and recently discovered that my great-uncle Walter E. Monaco was heavily involved in the racing scene, as well as a good pal of Sir Stirling Moss.

I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to play in Italy! Where do I sign up?

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