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.