Jim Cooper

The Interview That Never Was

Interview with Ron DeKett from the The Herald-Palladium newspaper in St. Joseph, MI, regarding performing at the South Haven Jazz Festival last September.  It never got printed, so here it is.

RD:  What does the vibraphone bring to jazz that others instruments don’t?

JC:  The vibes is a relatively new instrument developed in the late 1920s in Chicago.  What's nice about the vibes is that it can be either a lead instrument or an accompanying instrument like a piano or guitar.  I get to do both in my group Nexus.  The tone is unlike any other instrument, giving a light, warm, metallic, percussive sound.  I like how these sound qualities blend with the group.

RD:  What is it about jazz that speaks to you?

JC:  I listened to jazz growing up as a kid with my Dad playing alot of jazz records.   He played anything from the Dukes of Dixieland to Jimmy Smith to big bands.  For me, what's special about jazz, is the open-ness, freedom and creativity that goes into playing it.  Jazz is uplifting and makes you want to tackle the day. It makes people feel good and for me, to play jazz is very therapeutic.

RD:  I understand you lead a "jazz jam" on the second Tuesdays at Harbor Light Brewing company. What can of response to you expect from that experience?

JC:  We played twice at Harbor Light Brewery in South Haven and both times it was packed.  We also did a gig/jam at Cogdal Winery in South Haven and we also had a nice crowd. We're going to continue with jazz at the Brewery once a month through the fall. It's very encouraging to see people come out to hear and support the music.  It also proves the point that if the music is good and the venue is right, people will come. Traditionally, the jam session is where musicians got to hone their craft and meet other players and it continues to be a musical and social event for the audience.

RD:  What is the importance of the jazz genre to the musical world and music lovers?

JC:  Well, jazz is unlike any other music on the planet.  People all over the world love American jazz and for a variety of reasons.  What has started from African American slavery and the blues has developed into an art form, when played well, is comparable to classical music.   It could even be more so, because jazz has an infinite amount of possibilities. As I see it, though, people have the most trouble with the improvisation aspect of jazz, then with the lack of a steady beat which came about in the bebop era.  Jazz also represents artists creating together, listening to each other, responding and taking turns.  It's a pretty democratic art form when you think about it.

RD:  What do you hope the audience takes away from your performance?

JC:  The musicians in Nexus are top notch, Derek Brown on sax, Nick Calandro on bass and Randy Marsh on drums. Derek has recently relocated to Grand Rapids, Nick lives in Flint and Randy's from Grand Rapids.  I grew up in Chicago and have lived in Fennville with my wife for almost twenty years. The word Nexus means a myriad of factors coming together to one point.  The group is just getting started and I have a lot of ideas to eventually try.  People should expect good creative, energizing  jazz with some twists and turns along the way.

RD:  Do you find jazz becoming more popular, particularly with live audiences?

JC:  That's an interesting question, you mean like comparing jazz on recordings to a live performance? The last I checked, jazz recordings account for less that 2% of total music sales. It even sells less than classical.  The whys of that would make a lengthy and interesting discussion. It seems that people would rather go hear live jazz than buy it. I'm not sure if it's becoming more popular, but one thing that's noticeable is that if the venue is good and the quality of the music is good, people will come out to hear it, even in smaller rural towns.  In addition, with all the school jazz bands out there, It would also be great to see more young people at jazz concerts.

RD:  Did you perform at the previous South Haven Jazz Festivals?

JC:  No, this is my first time at the festival.

RD:  How important is it to a community’s cultural identity and quality of life to offer something like the annual Jazz Festival?

JC:  Jazz Festivals seem to attract older crowds who are well behaved for the most part and culturally diverse.  Jazz appeals to many kinds of people and It's great to see them all having a good time. 

RD:  Anything else you might want to add.

JC:  Kudos go out to Tom at Harbor Light Brewery and Lotte Resek and Larry Brown of Foundry Hall for their vision of producing a jazz festival in South Haven.

 

 

 

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