Author Archives: Jon De Lucia

Interview with Greg Ruggiero

by Nathan Rios

Greg Ruggiero is a jazz musician, specifically a guitarist, who came and has been a New Yorker since 2004. Greg learned from the jazz musicians during the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s who had played in New York . Ruggiero’s style comes from a mix of the American Songbook and Swing .He is currently playing with the Michaell Kanan trio and he performs as a sideman or leader around New York . Ruggiero has played in some of the most noticed musical clubs such as : Carnegie Hall, Mezzrow , Dizzy’s Coca Cola club room and more .During his time as a guitarist he has played with artists such as Micheal Kanan , Warren Vache , Bill Crow , Frank Morgan and the list goes on . His talent as guitarist has allowed him to travel the world to perform in places such as Spain, Japan , Portugal , Italy and Switzerland .


Nathan : Who inspired your love for jazz ?

Greg : My father , who always had people like Count Basie , Duke Ellington or Nat Cole playing on the stereo.

Nathan : What/ Who showed you your calling as a guitarist ?

Greg: My grandfather played a little and was my first introduction to guitar. Then it was starting bands and writing music with friends in high school.

Nathan :What is your favorite record you worked on as a sideman ?

Greg : Michael Kanan Trio, In This Moment.

Nathan : In which country were you most surprised to have a large amount of people come to see you perform ?

Greg :I played and taught at a week-long festival in Vigo, Spain . It was a great experience and made a strong connection with many of the local musicians.

Nathan : Which even that you performed at that caused you to be the most nervous ?

Greg : Probably playing concerts in my hometown of Albuquerque , New Mexico. For many years I felt self imposed pressure of feeling like I need to prove myself to people from my hometown.

Interview with Colin Avery Hinton

by Hawa Konneh

All about Colin Avery Hinton!

Childhood Life

Colin Avery Hinton was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. At a very young age, he started to get familiar with musical instruments such as the piano. Keep in mind he was only 4 years old when he started exploring his musical talents! So, from a very early age he already knew what he wanted to do in the future. To get more familiar with his talents, Colin would always go to one of his friends’ houses after school just to play the piano. According to Colin, he didn’t really come from a musical background family so going over to his friend’s house and playing the piano was his way of exploring himself at the time.

High school life

Colin attended a local high school in his hometown where he was first introduced to jazz. He was a part of the jazz band in his high school as a drummer where they performed for the school. Because he was more advanced in his talents than others, during practices group leaders thought it was a good idea to have him sit out while others rehearsed. So, he would just be at practice not doing anything. Sitting around not doing anything in practice caused colin to start experimenting on other instruments like the trombone. The way he gained more experience in jazz was by joining an afterschool club in Dallas, Texas who held classes for students who did not have good musical departments in their school. Colin mentioned how hard the afterschool instructors were on the students because they knew that going into music was a tough career path, so he wanted to make sure they were ready for the real world. To this day Colin appreciates the way he was taught in the after-school club because it helped him later in the future.

College Life

University of Northern Texas was the college Colin was attending. It was the first public jazz school in the country. Colin was able to get into the school with a scholarship and paid about $2000 a semester since he was paying state tuition. He was commuting to school since the school was only an hour away from his home. The Jazz program that he was a part of in the school was such a huge program, it was filled with over 500 students! Attending school benefited his career today because he learned a lot from the jazz program that he was a part of. Things started to get a little rocky during his second senior year at the university. Colin had about 120 credits at the time, but you needed 150 credits to graduate. He had enough music credits, he just needed credits for general ed classes. Also, he was going on tour with people from Newyork at the time which caused him to miss a few classes. Eventually, he dropped out of school to move to New York.

Moving to New York!

After dropping out of the University of Northern Texas, Colin moved to New York because it is a huge hub for musicians. He had more opportunities to make money musically than he did in Texas. He was

also already familiarized with New York being that he was performing with people from there before he moved. Ever since he was younger, he knew he would move to New York someday, but he did not know when. Colin was working every single day just to get by, so he decided to go back to school. That is when he started attending The City College of New York to finish grad school. Attending CCNY benefitted colin because it was very affordable, he applied for the Pell grant, and it was able to cover his whole tuition. While attending CCNY, Colin was a TA (Teaching Assistant) for Steve Wilson. When he graduated from CCNY, Colin started to build his own private teaching studio. To fulfil that goal, he had to work major hours to save money to finish building the studio. He started working 7 days a week working at a juvenile psych care facility in Harlem. While he was working there, he was also still teaching private lessons and had gigs. So, he was on average about 80 hours of work a week. September 2019 is when Colin decided to quit his job at the psych care facility because he had finally saved up enough money to finish building his private teaching studio. Colin has about 34 students that attend his private teaching studio.

Biggest achievements and Future Goals

When asked about his biggest achievement, Colin says he is able to live just off music. What he means by this is that Musicians usually must work multiple jobs outside the music field just to make a living, but his earnings are coming from just music and his teaching studio. To him, that is a huge accomplishment as a musician. Another one of his huge achievements is that he got to work with people that he dreamed of working with as a child. He worked with Tony Malaby, Todd Neufeld, Eivind Opsvick, and Ingrid Laubrock. He got recognized by a lot of press in NY and intentionally for his talents and he was able to perform in his dream venues. Colins future goals are to have more albums planned and hope to be performing more. As I mentioned previously, Colin has about 34 students that attend his private teaching studio he would like to teach about 10-15 students weekly in the future, so he has more time to perform and tour.

Interview with Gabe Terracciano

by Arianna Vasquez

Gabriel Terracciano, a resident of Portland, Maine, has been playing the violin since hewas three years old. After eight years of formal study, he found the jazz violin playing of Joe Venuti, Stuff Smith, and, subsequently, Zbigniew Seifert, who all transformed his musical (and life in general!) life forever. Gabe has explored current jazz, Gypsy and hot jazz, Middle Eastern, electronic, pop, bluegrass, and Latin idioms as an improvisational string player, to mention a few! He has performed as a leader and sideman around the United States for many years, including several appearances at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola (NYC), which is part of Jazz at Lincoln Center. Mr. Terracciano is also a member of The Avalon Jazz Band, Arthur Vint and Associates, The Hot Toddies, The Harmolodic String Band, Habina Habina, and Wet Electric, all of which are headquartered in New York. He has performed at the Aspen Jazz Festival, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Musikfest (Bethlehem, PA), and the Freshgrass Festival, among others (North Adams, MA).

The first question I asked Mr. Terracciano was, what do you think you would be doing if you didn’t become a musician right now? And why? He said, If he wasn’t a musician, he would probably want to be involved with some sort of NGO or international peacekeeping organization, or be something like an archivist at a historical society/museum. He also said that during his time in college he did a double bachelor’s in music and was Peace and Justice Studies and had a history minor. I felt this was a very intelligent mature decision since most people don’t acknowledge that not everyone who has a talent becomes famous or wealthy off of it and it’s always good to have a plan A B C and D. The second question I asked him was: If you can have your fans remember one thing about you, what would you like it to be and why? He said he hopes that people would remember him for having a unique and individual sound and style of playing his instrument, which in this case is the violin. He went on to say that his mentors embedded in him that having a unique style is key to being successful and a good musician. I couldn’t agree more. I believe in anything you choose to do, try to be as unique and as creative as possible and challenge yourself.

The third question I posed to him was, “What instruments do you play, and what drew you to these instrument/s?” He stated that his primary instrument is the violin, which he learned to play from his parents. His great-grandfather on his father’s side played the violin, and his father grew up with that instrument in the family. Mr. Terracciano then recounted a really moving and amusing tale about how his parents knew he was going to be a violinist at an early age because he used to play with his father’s violin and eventually shattered it, and his parents knew he was meant to be a musician.

The fourth question I asked was: What song or songs have held you through your life and gotten you through your hardest times or even happiest moments? He said “I think I tend to focus on artists rather than individual songs as having effects on me throughout my life. It definitely comes and goes in waves from artist to artist. For instance, when I graduated high school and was just about to go to college and was feeling really nervous, Bon Iver’s self-titled album had just come out, and that definitely made me feel much more calm and secure going into a new stage of my life. There’s a Bill Frisell album called “Have a Little Faith” that I keep on coming back to over and over again for various reasons. And I think a lot of the time if I want to listen to something to help me get through a difficult situation, I’ll go back to things that I listened to when I was younger – artists like Elton John, Tom Waits, John Coltrane, Zbigniew Seifert, Charley Patton, George Jones, and others. If I had to give an example of one song that I’ve been listening to a lot lately, there’s an amazing band playing right now called Paris Monster that has a song called “The Unclean”, and that is definitely one of my motivational songs to listen to.” I really enjoyed tuning into some of these songs after talking to him. I can understand why at different times of his life he could have related to the songs or albums he mentioned.

Finally, I said, “What was your greatest hurdle in becoming a musician?” And how did your friends and family react to your choice to pursue a career as a musician? He went on to say that striking a balance between playing and producing his own music and making a career was his hardest problem. He felt he was instilled with a very practical sense of what it was to be a working musician from a young age because his father played in a wedding band and many of the other musicians he knew were working and busy, and were less focused on creating their own individual art form than making a living. He admitted that he has always battled with the balancing act, and that he still needs to remind himself that both are vital. He then got a little personal, saying that he absolutely has phases where he prioritizes one over the other, and if he does that for a long enough length of time, everything starts to seem out of place. He had then quickly mentioned that his family and friends were really supportive, although his mother was tough and stubborn at first, which is why he double majored as a backup plan.

To summarize, I had a great time getting to know Gabe on a personal level and hope to watch him perform one day. Gabe is the First Violinist of the two-time Grammy-winning Turtle Island String Quartet, with whom he has performed and recorded throughout the United States, as well as with other jazz heavyweights like Cyrus Chestnut and Terence Blanchard, in addition to directing his own ensembles.

Interview with David Bertrand #4

by David Osah-Odjugo

  1. What made you want to become a musician? (A little background information)
  2. What is your creative process like?
  3. Do you have any hobbies or interests outside music?
  4. What is your least favorite part about being a musician?
  5. How do you balance music and other obligations?
  6. Do you ever get anxious before your shows?

David Bertrand grew up in the Trinidadian neighborhood of Cocorite. David’s main drive to become a musician started in high school. The high school he attended allowed him to choose his preferred vocational direction. David ended up choosing humanities, as he became a student of literature. On the side, he dabbled in arts and music. He joined the school’s Scout Troops band program throughout high school. As he studied literature, he became amazed by the eloquence of great speakers through poetry. However, he felt compelled to release that eloquence through his music. He felt that music was universally understood regardless of language and background, which could bring us all to a common understanding through emotion. Once he understood the power of music, David dedicated himself to being a musician by playing the flute.

Being a jazz musician, David has a creative process he goes through before his performances. Most of the time David improvises during his performances. This means he is composing music “on the spot.” To make sure he doesn’t go through any mental blocks, he tries to relax so he could remember all the things he’s already practiced. The fundamentals he’s learned as a musician and as a flutist such as basic scales and triads. This approach makes him more flexible in playing rhythms.

David has put in thousands of hours of practice and even though he’s dedicated to being a musician, it doesn’t mean he likes the practice. Before he got married, he put in four to six hours a day which didn’t include performing or rehearsing with other musicians. With David, the practice had to be constant. If he went a week without practicing, he started to feel disconnected from his instruments. When COVID hit, his entire musical routine came to a halt since there were other priorities. That’s when he realized that even if he’s been playing for over 20 years, something as small as a one-week break could hinder him.

That isn’t the only battle he goes through as a musician. Before he goes on stage, David experiences some anxiety before his performances. Since he plays the flute, which isn’t that loud, he must bring his amplification set up. He worries that he won’t be heard due to the other instruments. Instruments like the drums, trumpet, or saxophone have great respect amongst the audience. Due to this, he’s concerned that the flute won’t hold its own compared to the louder instruments. He gets over this anxiety by realizing that communication is key and not worrying about the opinions of others. David makes sure his sound is heard by communicating with the sound person to find the optimum volume so people could hear the instrument. He prides himself to put on his best performance on stage to change the opinions of those who don’t see the flute as a great instrument.

Although David loves being a musician, he does have other interests outside of music. David is married and has a daughter. His wife is very different from him as she tends to be more adventurous. He usually ends up doing the things she likes to do. Things like traveling and going on hikes. Currently, David enjoys watching movies, exercising, and hanging out with his friends. He did want to try kickboxing but with him being a dedication to his wife, daughter, and music, he’ll probably try it when he’s older.

One thing David knows is that his family comes first. His wife and daughter are his main obligations. Although his family appreciates his gift with music, he’s aware that his family loves him whether he plays music or not. He’s learning how to make sure he gives his family the proper time and attention they deserve, especially since the birth of his daughter two years ago. This makes David more efficient when he has his time, making sure he’s intentional during those moments to practice and perfect his craft. Finding that balance has allowed him to enjoy the presence of those that love him without his mind elsewhere.

Interview with Mike Saul

by Max Manarel

Jazz Interview

Mike Saul is a professional jazz pianist located in Los Angeles. He has played in many clubs in the Los Angeles area, including Catalina’s Bar and Grill, Typhoon and the Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach. In addition to solo piano performances, he continues to play in a number of jazz ensembles, varying in size from 2 to 17 (big band). From 2005-2016 he played at Steamers in Fullerton with the Mark Hix Big Band. Currently, he is performing at the Lighthouse with the Bill Spoke/Gary Herbig quintet. Mike studied jazz at Berklee College of Music and is currently working as an accompanist at the College of The Canyons in Santa Clarita. While he is primarily a jazz player, Mike also has experience playing in other genres, like blues, pop and classical music.

Was there anything that you had to sacrifice to become the musician you are today?

I would say that there were certain trade-offs. When I first started doing music for a living I realized how difficult it is to make money playing music. So there were some financial sacrifices involved.

Were there any points in your early career that made you know that this was the right path for you?

I always knew that I wanted to continue with music, no matter what else I had to do to make a living. So at some point I took a job in another field but continued to practice and play music.

Who is the artist that inspires you most?

There are so many that it is hard to name just one. For pianists I can start off with Bill Evans, Bud Powell, Monk, Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson, McCoy Tyner, Keith Jarrett, etc. Love other instrumentalists and singers too…

What type/time period of jazz is your favorite to play and why?

I love the 1970’s because there was such a mix of styles – bebop, hard bop, funk, etc. But recently I’ve gotten into playing some 1930’s music which has a nice feel to it.

What’s your ideal performing environment?

A trio or quartet with an acoustic piano is always good and a concert setting can be even better.

Interview with Mike Pinto

by Kelsi Nicholson

Michael Pinto is a gifted and accomplished vibraphonist and electric musician whose style of vibraphone playing and passion for science-fiction makes him unique amongst his peers. Thanks to the late Milt Jackson, another vibraphonist, he was inspired enough to turn a superficial interest in jazz into a calling. He would go on to study at Berklee College of Music in Boston and hone his skills as a composer, arranger, and bandleader.

Pinto has worked alongside jazz musicians like Greg Osby, Logan Richardson, Billy Hart, and many more. He led a band called “Little Green Men” in 2010 and composed his own music in his self-titled debut album called Prologue in 2008, a musical short story that will be continued on his second album. He also developed, programmed, and composed the soundtrack for two video games in 2014 and 2018/2019. Here are the questions I asked him and what he had to say.

1. Me: Your love for science fiction is very apparent. You performed a jazz remix of
the Terminator theme, there are plenty of Star Trek references in your debut album, and you developed two video games in the sci-fi genre (which is the coolest as a huge fan of video games myself). And I’m wondering if that is why your instrument of choice is the vibraphone. I did some research on common sound effects and musical choices in sci-fi cinema, television, and video games. And I think the instruments used, the waterphone, the theremin, and an interesting one called the “Blaster Beam” (invented by Craig Huxley, who played Kirk’s nephew in the original Star Trek series), all have similarities to the vibraphone in the vibrato effect and how a mallet is used for the blaster beam. Is that why you gravitated towards the vibraphone? Or is it because Milt Jackson, one of your inspirations, was a vibraphonist as well?

Mike Pinto: In early high school I had a cursory interest in Jazz Band and through that I ended up getting a bebop compilation CD that had a few tracks featuring Milt Jackson. Something immediately clicked when I heard Milt play. The percussive nature of the instrument combined with the ethereal voice-like sound that the vibes produce really spoke to me.

2. Me: While listening to the video game soundtracks you composed for your
games, Hyperspace Delivery Service and Bik – A Space Adventure, I felt as though they went less for a “jazzy” sound and more atmospheric. As a fan of the Sonic The Hedgehog franchise, I am familiar with Jun Senoue’s work. He is a rock musician who has composed songs for the 16-bit era of Sonic games and as soon as the games left that era, he went full throttle with rock music and hasn’t stopped since. Why, as a jazz musician, did you go for the chiptune style of music? Is it because the rest of the games have the 8-bit aesthetic, and it fit the most, maybe you grew up with those NES an/or Master System games and it’s what you’re most comfortable and familiar with when it comes to video game soundtracks, or perhaps jazz music doesn’t translate very well into chiptune music?

Mike Pinto: The style of music in my video games is actually more of an accurate depiction of my authentic musical self than my “jazz” music. I grew up on video games in the late 80’s and 90’s and the type of music that was in games of that day was all a variation on chip tune style. To me, that type of music is a part of my core identity and so expressing it feels truly authentic. I have always experimented with electronic music but during the time right before I made my first game, I was beginning to get more serious about it and decided to make an album for an imagined game. Due to my programming knowledge, I ended up making a simple demo of the game along with some music. At that point I was so inspired that I decided to make the entire game and album. And then another.

3. Me: This question is based on my very limited knowledge of how the vibraphone is played. Wikipedia writes about two different techniques of vibraphone playing. Two- mallet style and Four-mallet style. However, in many of the live performances I’ve seen on your website and YouTube channel, you’re using what I guess I’ll call the “three- mallet style.” Two mallets in your left hand and one mallet in the right hand. Is there a reason for this?

Mike Pinto: I originally started learning vibraphone using a 2-mallet style. Then I learned the 4-mallet style. I could never seem to express myself in a way that felt like my voice with 4 mallets, but I did really appreciate the ability of playing 4 note chords. Through experimentation I was eventually able to find a technique where I could play the 2-mallet style but keep a third mallet in my left hand without affecting the technique in a drastic way. It wasn’t 4 notes, but 3 was close enough for me!

4. Me: Your debut album, Prologue, is a trying to tell a story that you have said “is about an alien scientist who is sent into space to save the world, but instead his attempts accelerate a cataclysmic event.” Which sounds awesome. But what I find interesting is that you developed two video games and neither of them told this specific story. I know it’s been said you plan on continuing the story in your second album, but I want to know what you think about the way different mediums tell stories. Super Game Droid‘s review for your 2014 video game, Bik – A Space Adventure, said “the dialogue is just superb in Bik…” With that being said, I think you’re more than capable of telling a great story in the video game format. Do you think music does it better? Which could make sense as jazz music is a very expressive genre, which was influenced by blues, another expressive genre.

Mike Pinto: I think that video games can express much more literal stories. With dialogue and visual art there is much less room for interpretation by the consumer. With music, the stories tend to be more purely emotional and interpretive. So while I may write music that tells a story, a listener is very much open to re-interpret and imagine their own story. It becomes more of a purely emotional story. With the game, the player can’t quite re-interpret it and has to take it as it is given to them. That’s not to say that exceptions exist in both styles. In both instances, for me at least, the goal is to stimulate and express an emotional reaction. Sometimes getting there requires the more literal design of a game, and sometimes it just needs to be more open and purely musical. I don’t think art should be limited to styles, genres, or artistic methods. As long as the artist has the ability, they should express in a language that allows that emotional intent to flow out of them and into the universe.

5. Me: Going back to our first interaction, I told you I was surprised that you were a vibraphonist. I assumed you played a saxophone, and it took me a little while to remember that some of my favorite jazz-influenced video game compositions use a vibraphone. I looked up “most common jazz instruments” and between the three different websites I looked at, only one mentioned the vibraphone. They mostly mentioned the trumpet, saxophone, piano, trombone, clarinet, bass, and guitar. In the beginning of this course, Professor De Lucia did an exercise where he wrote the word “jazz” on the board and asked us what it makes us think of. A lot of students mentioned instruments like the saxophone and trumpet. As a vibraphonist, what do you think about this? You can be honest with me and say that I just don’t know enough about jazz. Considering how the vibraphone’s Wikipedia page says it is “commonly used in jazz music, in which it often plays a featured role…” and its history goes as far back as 1927.

Mike Pinto: I think it is unfortunate how the term Jazz has been co-opted to mean a very narrow subset of historical musical style. The style of Jazz that most people think of when they hear the word is just a tiny fraction of the types of expression that the term truly means. I actually prefer “improvisational music” as it does not have any implicit assumptions on what style of music it is. However, I don’t solely play improvisational music so that doesn’t even always work. I usually end up saying I play and compose modern improvisational and electronic music. I don’t play bebop. I don’t play post-bop. I don’t play swing. I don’t play cool jazz. I don’t play blues. etc. It’s possible you could say all of those fall under the “jazz” umbrella. But in a way, all music is jazz. Jazz to me is a modern expression of contemporary music using improvisation as a platform. Contemporary music is music of the time. Not style. Not genre. Just a reflection of the present. Jazz is not a regurgitation of the past. Genres and Terminology are important for communication but sometimes it can put us into a box and limit evolution.

Works Cited

“Michael Pinto.” Inner Circle Music, Accessed 2 Apr. 2022

Interview with Aya Ishida #3

by Donte Jeffers

Aya Ishida is a New York-based vocalist and composer specializing in Jazz. Originally from Japan, Aya moved to NYC in 2013 to pursue a B.F.A in Jazz Vocal Performance. She developed her sound and style by studying with Steve Wilson and Carolyn Leonhart.

In 2017, Aya graduated from The City College of New York under the Kaye Scholarship with Degree Honors Magna Cum Laude. Her 2018 debut album, Day by Day, was produced by the Grammy award-winning saxophonist Wayne Escoffery. Day by Day is a culmination of Aya’s experience as an artist and reflects the pursuit of her dreams in NYC. Alongside her original compositions, it also includes her favorite jazz standards with her own arrangements. Soon after her album was released, Aya returned to Tokyo to continue composing and performing Jazz for audiences throughout Asia. In 2019, Aya completed tours in Japan, Taiwan, and Paris. She moved back to NYC in October 2019 and now performs regularly with a diverse group of musicians.

When was that first “Oh shit I can sing”, discovering moment for you; When you realized you were gifted with an amazing voice?

“I actually didn’t have a moment of “Oh shit I can sing” lol. However, I always knew that singing was my passion and that I would dedicate 100% of myself to it. That’s why I kept practicing and always giving my best. I probably started singing, around the age of 4. However, I can’t say I was very good back then lol.”

You moved to New York to pursue your B.F.A in Jazz Vocal Performance, is there any reasoning on why you picked the state New York and the college CCNY?

“I always enjoyed the jazz scene/style in NYC and love that you can see amazing musicians perform pretty much everyday! I think CUNY colleges are affordable and CCNY has a great jazz program. I’m really glad I went to CCNY:)”

It’s been nearly 4 years since your Day by Day album (which I loved by the way, especially “Darn That Dream”, “Day by Day”, and “The Petal”), what were the inspiration and creative processes for each song and collectively as a whole the album?

“Thank you so much for listening to my album!! I really appreciate it. It was my first album and I wanted to put together my favorite jazz standards with my own arrangements. I also had ideas for a few original songs to record. For the standards, I analyze the lyrics of the songs and my arrangements capture my interpretation of them. My original songs are special to me and serve as great reminders to keep pursuing music and moving forward when things are tough. That is also a theme in my original lyrics.”

During the years from which you started till now, if you were given the chance to completely start over again from day one, what would’ve you done differently?

Interesting question! I would spend more time practicing basic but important skills such as ear training, sight singing and playing piano. I think I was rushing a little bit to learn difficult songs and solos when I first started out. Also, less movie time and more practice!! Lol”

Interview with Aya Ishida #2

by William Ng

Aya Ishida is a New York-based vocalist and composer specializing in Jazz.

Originating from Saitama, Japan, Aya moved to NYC at the age of 22, to pursue a degree in Jazz Vocal Performance. She developed her sound and style by studying under the guidance of her mentor Caroline Leonhart. Graduated from CCNY in 2017. Her interest in music developed early on when she was small and she was taking vocal lessons throughout her middle school years. In high school, she started listening to Japanese Pop music in the 90s, which she described as cheesy and corny. Her interest in Jazz developed during her study of American literature at a university in Japan. It was a class on afro-American history, she was first introduced to the song “Strange fruit”. “ Strange Fruit was a very dark and powerful song with a deep history on African American roots ”, said Aya.

WilliamWho was the biggest inspiration/influence on your career?

Aya: “I have had many influences and inspirations throughout my career, it started with Billie Holiday, Carmen Mcrae, Sarah Vaughan, they were my idols. My most influential mentor is Caroline Leonhart during my studies at City College. Recently, in the process of finding my style, I had developed an interest in electronic music, which has a crossover of Jazz, Electronic, and R&B . My inspiration for this new style is Thana Alexa, a Croatian Jazz Vocalist, (usage of effect looper pedal) I am currently using RC 505 to reproduce her jazz-influenced signature style”.

WilliamWhat was it like working with Grammy award-winning saxophonist Wayne Escoffery?

Aya: “It was a great experience, it was my first album, I was inexperienced with leading a band and recording. Wayne was very helpful throughout the whole process. He had helped me record, taught me to arrange, helped with the selection of musicians and in the process of mixing.”

WilliamAs your career progressed, were there ever any instances where you had to sacrifice in order to achieve the level of success you’ve attained?

Aya: “There were certainly a few sacrifices made, such as working a changing schedule and balancing personal life and work life. Despite feeling accomplished, I had to sacrifice my personal time for my work time. Moving away from family in Japan was one huge sacrifice I had made in order to pursue my career”.

WilliamHave you ever struggled or hit a roadblock in your musical career? 

Aya: “ Yes, The pandemic was the biggest hurdle yet. I was living in NYC for 4 – 5 years and I went back to Japan for a year because I miss my family. I started to miss New York after a year and came back to the states in October 2019 via an artist visa. When Covid started, I had a difficult time pursuing my career and it was especially difficult when it comes to quarantine. I had lost gigs and performances, including a performance in Hong Kong that I was looking forward to. It became a lot harder to hold lessons, in particular, virtual lessons, where teaching music virtually was quite challenging”.

WilliamIn the debut album, Day by Day, the song “Where I Come From” was vocalized in your native tongue, what was your creative thought, and was this done to pay homage to your roots? Was this a memorandum to your future self?

Aya: “This song pays homage to my memory of growing up in Saitama, Kawagoe, Japan. Walking home from school in a suburb. The alley was super long and dark so I would sing really loud on the way home as a form of the brave front. The dark alley resembles how tough it can get living in New York City. Singing was my way of escape and putting on a brave front against all obstacles and despite all challenges, my perseverance overcame it. Singing wasn’t just a career, it was my lifestyle. The creative thought was putting the melody into vocal, the scat singing fits betters into the vocal after the lyrics”.

Interview with Mike McGinnis

by Matthew Farfan

Mike McGinnis is a jazz musician/musician/composer from Brooklyn, New York. His primary instruments are the clarinet and the saxophone. Mike has played with a vast array of jazz artists in his lifetime, such as Anthony Braxton, Alice and Ravi Coltrane, Hank Roberts, Ben Goldberg, Steve Coleman, and Lonnie Plaxico. Mike has appeared as a soloist or sideman on over 60 recordings and his work has also been recognized outside of the jazz world, as he tends to create/perform a multitude of music styles that fit his mood. Some albums that Mike has played on in the past few years are, Dana Lyn’s “a point on a slow curve”, Hank Roberts Sextet “Science Of Love”, Gino Sitson “Echo Chamber”, and Erik Deutsch “La Nutt Blanche”. McGinnis has even performed on Broadway in the Tony-winning show “Fela!”, and his innovative composing style has led DownBeat magazine to hail him as “a bold musician who… follows the road less traveled.”


Q: What is jazz to you? (define “jazz” in your own words and/or explain why jazz is important/meaningful to you.)

A: “In general I avoid the word jazz as I feel it’s an inadequate and inaccurate word for my music. So, “jazz” as most people know it is a created marketing concept to sell music. “Jazz” isn’t necessarily more important to me anymore than another “genre” as much as music is and the people who created music. So I don’t think about music in relation to any single genre. I’d rather use the name of the person who made the music.”

Q:What style of jazz do you enjoy playing/performing the most? Why?

A: “I don’t have a preferred style as I enjoy and perform music from many different places and times.”

Q: What non-living jazz musician has inspired you the most throughout your lifetime? Please explain why.

A: “Non- living: Steve Lacy Jimmy Giuffre Bill Smith Charlie Parker

They followed their own path and played a lot of different music and created art in spite of the challenges. Individual, eclectic and unique and focused.”

Q:What living jazz musician do you admire most? Why?

A: “Impossible to pick one. Carla Bley, Django Bates, Ben Goldberg. All three follow their own paths and their music is broad and not limited to one “style”.”

Q:In what ways do you think jazz might continue to evolve in the future?

A: “I think it will evolve the same way it always has. Young musicians will be inspired by certain parts of the history and first make music that imitates their heroes. Then, if they continue their music will become a product of their environment and individual artistic goals.”

Interview with Dan Aran

by Leora Zinstein

I interviewed Dan Aran, a New York based drummer, who has worked with many famous artists such as Natalie Merchant, Harry Whitaker, Stacey Kent and many more. His music is described as a “Unique Blend of Jazz, Latin Rhythms and Middle Eastern melodies” (Downbeat Magazine). His music has a strong rhythm as well and a lot of improvisation which Dan takes pride in. Overall, I am a fan of his music, and he was a pleasure to talk to.

Question 1: Have there been moments where you have had to sacrifice something for the sake of your musical career?

Answer: “If you are serious about anything, you’ll have to sacrifice”, said Dan. He then stated that there are many routine habits that he needed to change in order to ensure his success. Some of these habits would be waking up earlier and going to sleep earlier. He also needs to practice his drumming in a studio since playing drums in his home would be inconsiderate to his neighbors. He then states that after years of being a musician, all of these actions have become routine and no longer feel like a sacrifice.

Question 2: What do you like about jazz?

Answer: Dan said that he loves the cultural aspect of jazz and how it combines African American music with European, Latin, and Caribbean music. He loves the “groove” and “beat” of jazz and has a particular love for the improvisation aspect of it. He enjoys the communal aspect of jazz and how when playing jazz with a group of people it feels as though they are all “speaking the same musical language”.

Question 3: What inspired your fascination with jazz and music in general?

Answer: Dan has always had a fascination with jazz, but he believes it all stemmed from his mother’s records. His mother would always play artists like Louis Armstrong. He says that “music was always in the house”.

Question 4: What artists inspired you the most?

Answer: Dan does not have a singular artist that inspired him the most but artists like Louis Armstrong, Stevie Wonder, and Michel Jackson have all had a big impact on him. Overall, he says that “thousands of artists have inspired me”.

Question 5: What is your favorite piece of music to play?

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Answer: Dan does not have a favorite song to play, he mostly prefers to improvise or play many different songs, but he does enjoy playing the song If You Could See Me Now. He also wanted to emphasize that he enjoys playing any song by Cole Porter.