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Interview: Jamie Reynolds on jazz, electronic and inspirations

New York-based Canadian pianist and composer Jamie Reynolds has come along way since his debut album “Time with People”, combining his spontaneous modern jazz with electronic sounds to create a new sound on his most recent album “Counterpart”. “The reason it's called Counterpart is it's everything the first record isn't. It's not just totally acoustic. I was trying to be a little looser with this album...I was just letting the songs be what they wanted to be. Producer Emilio Reyez Lablanc helped with some of the overdubs and tape delay. “That's why you can hear some of those warble-y weird sounds, and I think that makes a difference between a thoughtfully produced pop album, and spontaneous modern jazz.”

Jamie Reynolds at his piano
Fran Kaufman

Still, when Reynolds approached pop stations with “Counterpart”, the fit wasn't quite right. Though this album still sits firmly within the jazz repertoire, the complement of electronic sounds and timbres move Reynold's music in a firm new direction. “I think when you're doing your first album, you feel a little hamstrung by expectations. Weather they're really there, you're still grappling with them.” The somewhat pop feel of this album makes it a little less intellectual and more reachable. But his move toward a more reachable sound doesn't preclude his love for complex and intensely melodic composers like Brahms and Hindemith. “My favorite composer is Brahms, polyphony meets Renaissance. When I write harmony, I'm trying to write it really melodic and linear, so that can result in some really thick textures.”

His list of inspirations is long, including jazz pianists Craig Taborn and Fred Hersh, both of whom he studied with in New York. “When I moved down to NY from Canada, I studied with Fred Hersh...this master, mainstream jazz musician who is just very in touch with the history of the music. Real depth but with a very jazz vocabulary. The second grant I got was for study with Craig. His vocabulary is based on something quite different. One of the few people I've studied with whose lineage isn't based on a bebop style. I find that very refreshing.”

Reynolds push into electronic sound isn't an abandonment of jazz or a full embrace of electronic music. Included in his eclectic list of musical and non-musical inspirations is electronic group Boards of Canada. “It doesn't have that electronic sound at all...I wanted electronic to be a supportive force on the record. I think it can be really jarring to have an acoustic sound and really strong electronic elements”. He still spends much of his time playing standards and sees plenty of room for new music and the old classics. “You hear a lot of people saying 'there are only 12 tones, and there's a finite number of ways you can combine those 12 notes with each other' Don't think of it that way. If you don't want that to be true, it's not true. Don't buy into that; it's all about how you look at it.”

Saxophonist and composer Wayne Shorter has been a model for Reynolds in his use of functional harmony to create something new, but he has also been influenced by Bill Evans. “I love the way Bill Evans played standards. He was my earliest, piano influence, jazz influence.” His non-musical inspirations also include poets Wallace Stevens and John Yeats who inspired titles on “Time with People”.

Reynolds has also found inspiration in people and things close to him. “My wife's brother is an amazing photographer and we have a lot of conversations about what he does and what I do and how they're not so different from each other.” The cover for “Time with People” was taken by one of his oldest friends. “...that photograph has a lot of meaning to me. It's just a powerful image for some reason. I really had to convince her because she really identifies with that as well. She really did some thinking about it, and I was honored that she let me use it.”

For more on Mr. Reynolds, upcoming shows and albums, see his website. His music is available on Itunes and Amazon.

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