A couple of weeks ago, gypsy jazz violinist Jason Anick released his terrific solo album Sleepless (check out the review by jazzmando.com). Jason has always been a precocious violinist, and he was among the few young players at Mark O’Connor’s Tennessee fiddle camp who always wanted to hang with the jazz guys at the jams. Even when he was like 15 or something I remember him latching onto everything I was saying about bebop scales.
He went his own way during college, graduating from the unlikely Hartt School of Music. These days everyone is wondering what programs they can try besides Berklee or the New School!
Three years ago, he began touring worldwide with American gypsy jazz pioneers the John Jorgenson Quintet, and has been out on the scene doing the gypsy jazz thing for years.
I’m usually pretty upfront about being somewhat skeptical of gypsy jazz. This is mostly because it has tended to be the most common thing for classical players to pursue when they only want to half-heartedly learn jazz, although I realize this is not fair to Jason and other serious practitioners of this style. In Jason’s case, I have to give him lots of proper respect.
Jason is most likely holding a workshop at this year’s Creative Strings Workshop, June 21-26, 2011 in Columbus, OH. Participants will get a chance to experiment with gypsy jazz, as well as take violin lessons from some of the other leading strings innovators from around the world.
And just for the record, I will, from time to time, play gypsy jazz:
Interview with Jason
Below is an interview I did with Jason about his experiences at the Hartt School music, his time with John Jorgensen, and his practice routine.
CH: Why did you choose to go to Hartt and not one of the big names (Berklee, New School)?
JA: I did consider Berklee and NEC, but as a senior in high school, I was still on the fence about majoring only in music. I first discovered Hartt Conservatory while searching for colleges that had unique dual major programs involving music. The program that intrigued me and ultimately convinced me to go there, combined jazz/music studies at Hartt and acoustics (science of sound) courses at the University of Hartford. I also liked the idea of being the first jazz violinist to study at Hartt, giving me a unique jazz violin education different from some of my peers.
CH: What was your experience there? Challenging? What did they emphasize?
JA: At Hartt I had the opportunity to study with a great classical violinist Anthea Kreston. Since she knew I was a jazz player, she tailored my lessons to working more on technique, tone, and expressiveness and less on building a classical repertoire. On the jazz side, I tried to soak up a little from all the professors, no matter what instrument they played. The main emphasis was centered around be-bop and straight-ahead jazz. We had to do a lot of of listening and transcribing of all the jazz greats. The most challenging part for me was trying to shine in a world that is dominated by horn players. Ultimately these challenges only inspired me to play better and hopefully helped to show that the violin can be a legitimate jazz instrument.
CH: What is your practice routine?
JA: Nowadays it’s all over the place, but when I was at Hartt I set up a pretty strict practice routine. This combined around 1-2 hours dedicated to technique and scales, an hour of improv practice (2-5-1 play-alongs, etc.), an hour or so of listening/transcribing, and some time dedicated to either playing with other musicians or just exploring my instrument.
CH: Any recommendations on playing gypsy jazz?
JA: Listen to violinists like Florin Niculescu who have that authentic Gypsy sound down. A lot of players do a good job getting a good swing violin sound but have a hard to channeling the emotions and feeling that the gypsy violin players get while playing ballads.
CH: Apart from Django and Grappelli, who do you feel has influenced your style the most?
JA: You were one of the first jazz violinists and musician to truly inspire me and encourage me to start developing my own style. I have also listened/learned a lot from Didier Lockwood, Jean-Luc Ponty, and Florin Niculescu. Studying sax players like Charlie Parker, Cannonball Aderly, and Sonny Stitt has also helped shape my phrasing and understanding of jazz.
CH: You’ve been on the road with the John Jorgensen Quintet for three years now. How’s that going? Do you plan on keeping that up?
JA: I have been touring nationally and internationally with the John Jorngenson Quintet for three years now. It’s been a wonderful opportunity for me and has really been a great outlet for me to grow as a musician and make lots of connections. It’s hard to tell how much longer I will be with the group, but as of now I plan on continuing to play with the quintet alongside my side projects back in Boston.
CH: What’s next for you now that this album is out? What are you most excited about in the coming year?
JA: Now that “Sleepless” is out, I plan on playing out more with my new project that features the great young jazz guitarist Lee Dynes. Last month we played a CD release show and had a wonderful reception from the audience. I also plan on teaching more workshops this year and hope to make more of a presence in the string world. I will be teaching at Django camp in June, a week long camp dedicated to Gypsy jazz and hope to teach a workshop at the Creative Strings Camp if my touring schedule allows. Looking forward to what 2011 has in store for me!
CH: What do you wish you had learned sooner?
JA: Sometimes I wish that I knew I would be pursuing music when I started violin at 5, but in general I always try to see how I can grow as a musician today and not worry about the past.
Jason Anick has contributed some video lessons to the Creative Strings Academy, the online curriculum for creative string players. Gain access to all 100+ videos and become a better musician. Try it for free for seven days here: http://creativestrings.christianhowes.com