|ROCKWiRED iNTERViEWS GiLSON SCHACHNiK
A SECOND WiNDJazz pianist GILSON SCHACHNIK is in the curious position of having to reintroduce his latest CD ĎLAMPIAOí (CANDID RECORDS) to the record buying public. The music industry is full of stories of record companyís that donít have enough resources to promote the music when it comes to the good stuff but Iíve got the feeling that the Sao Paulo-born SCHACHNIK is going to come out on top with ĎLAMPIAOí thanks to its winning combination of top-notch musicianship (featuring alto-saxophonist MIGUEL ZENON and drummer ANTONIO SANCHEZ) and some of the most stunning arrangements this side of HERBIE HANCOCK.
GiLSON SCHACHNiK TALKS TO ROCKWiRED
ABOUT HiS LATEST CD LAMPiAO
HiS EVOLUTiON AS A MUSiCiAN
AND SECURiNG THE RiGHT RECORD DEAL
iNTERViEWED BY BRiAN LUSH
ROCKWIRED spoke with GILSON SCHACHNIK over the phone. Here is how it went.
Your CD LAMPIAO is a re-release. Correct?
It was released but primarily in Europe. I donít think the label had the financial resources to promote it enough in the US. I donít know if that qualifies as a re-release.
So there was no release at all in the States?
On the Internet, yes.
So how does it feel knowing that this CD is getting a second wind?
Itís almost like youíve learned a hard lesson. Nowadays with the state of the music industry, a jazz artist canít rely on the label alone to promote the CD. You have to go out there and do the job yourself. To me, it doesnít even feel like a second wind.
Explain the title of the CD.
LAMPIAO Ė depending on what history book you read Ė is sort of a Brazilian Robin Hood. He was a kind of cowboy in the north of Brazil. He had a posse in this extremely poor region of Brazil called Sertao. Itís a very dry desert type of climate and the people are extremely poor so him and his posse would defy the central government and the government would send soldiers and those guys and his posse would kick everybodyís ass and the soldiers would just runaway if they could. They lasted a long time defying the Central Government. LAMPIAO and his posse are portrayed as ruthless bandits by some and as folk heroes by others. I guess you could compare them with whatís going in Mexico nowadays with the Zapatistas.
You are the second person in weeks that Iíve interviewed that is from Sao Paulo.
Oh really? Who else?
Oh yes, I know her. Iíve played with her a couple of times.
How did music begin for you?
It started when I was eleven years old. Me and this friend of mine were really into music a lot so we started doing what today people would refer to as being deejays. We would get hired by kids our age that were throwing parties and we would go there. My friend would take care of the sound equipment and I would take care of the lights. I had a globe, black lights and strobe lights and we would set up and spin records at the party. It started like that then later on we decided that we wanted to learn to play instruments. Around the age of eleven or twelve we were into groups like DEEP PURPLE and my idol was JOHN LORD the organ player so I started taking organ lessons and my friend started taking guitar lessons. Pretty soon we had a garage band and we would rehearse in my house. So it all pretty much started from there.
How did the evolution happen from rock music to the kind of music that you do now?
It happened from the back door in a away. After getting into hard rock bands like DEEP PURPLE the next musical step for me was SANTANA. That was it for me. SANTANA had quite a few jazz elements in their music. At the same time, my father would buy me these records. I remember he bought me an OSCAR PETERSON record and when I first listened to it, I must have been thirteen years old, I was in total shock. That was music. Not much later after that he bought me a BILL EVANS. SANTANA kind of opened the door for me for other types of Latin music. Later on, I got into funk. At the time disco music was very popular and while listening to it I got into GEORGE DUKE. Through GEORGE DUKE, I started to back track and listen everyone that he had ever worked with like CANNONBALL ADDERLEY. This was how I also discovered CHICK COREA, HERBIE HANCOCK and MILES DAVIS. Later on, I was influenced by the great Brazilian musician CESAR MARIANO. He is one of the most important musicians to come out of Brazil and I had a chance to see him live and that was very important too.
At what point did it occur to you to make your own record. Ultimately you did so with your debut album RAW. What led to its inception?
I always wanted to record an album because I had been composing and every group I was in I was always the unofficial arranger. I had always been interested in arranging so I had this tremendous desire to record my own stuff. I guess it all happened when I decided to change my major at BERKLEE. I went from Performance to Jazz Composition and as part of our final project, we had to write these extended compositions that had to be at least fifteen minutes and had to be heavily involved in terms of instrumentation. It couldnít be a mere quartet. I wrote these two pieces that are from my CD RAW. Iím still very proud of them. I think they are very good compositions and I like what I did there. So I had that material plus some other arrangements, when I had the opportunity here I was playing with all of these wonderful musicians and thought why not go into the studio and record this? That was how that came about.
How is LAMPIAO different form that first album?
For LAMPIAO I decided to make the music less about the compositions and more about myself. I was feeling a little bit more secure as a pianist so I decided to make it less about complex compositions and arrangements and more about featuring the piano. That was the initial idea. A friend of mine, FERNANDO HUERGO Ė who played bass on this CD Ė was sort of my producer as well. He helped me a lot with ideas, pre-production and getting the whole thing organized. I decided to work with the same rhythm section throughout. We actually went to a studio in New York because most of the musicians on this CD were in New York. After the album was completed, I was shopping for labels to put this record out. I didnít get any kind of deal that was worth signing. I didnít have the money to go ahead and release it myself so the album kind of sat around for a number of years. In 2002, two of the musicians on that album MIGUEL ZENON and ANTONIO SANCHEZ became superstars of jazz so I thought that maybe their reputations could help open some doors for me. I started looking of indie jazz labels and this label, CANDID RECORDS from England was really receptive to what they heard and they advanced me the money to finish the album and get it released.
Explain if it can be explained how the creative process works for you.
A lot of times I hear something and I am completely inspired. I remember I saw a HERMETO PASCOAL concert in Boston. He is a phenomenal Brazilian musician and after the concert I was so inspired that I went home to the piano and I started composing in that style of music that he plays. Two songs came out of that. A lot of times, it starts as an exercise. I start with a tune that I like and I start to change the chords a little bit. I use the same harmonic structure and write a new melody. Once Iíve got the melody, then I change the chords so in the end you have no idea that this new composition started as a known existing tune. An exercises like that serves as a springboard. Sometimes a song can start with a simple groove or something like that.
From LAMPIAO, what tracks stands out for you the most and why?
My favorite track on the album is MR. D.P. Itís my composition and I really like it. I think itís really well crafted. For me, the challenge in doing an extended composition is in trying to get the sections to flow smoothly from one to the other and not sound forced or too intellectual. I think I accomplished that with that song. I also like the track NE TOUCHES PAS A MON POTE. It is a track that I have never done live. It is a Brazilian pop tune written by GILBERTO GIL who is a huge pop star. He was also the Minister of Culture for many years. I like that song because it is very different from all of the other stuff that Iíve done. Itís a pop tune and it has this Afoxe rhythm.
Outside of this latest album of yours you play with this ensemble called SAMPA.
SAMPA is this nickname for Sao Paulo. Iím really happy about this ensemble because these are phenomenal musicians from Boston and I was thinking it would be great if those guys were interested in playing my music and figured that I could learn from them in terms of jazz music and they could learn form me in terms of Brazilian music. This was an opportunity to learn from each other.
It sounds like SAMPA could be an interesting recording project as well.
Weíve been having talks about so itís in the works.
Youíre a teacher in Ear Training at Berklee, which is surprising since your concentration was in Composition.
I teach Ear Training as well as Ensemble at Berklee.
What is that like?
I really enjoy it. One thing about Ear Training is that itís not some sophisticated, intellectual thing. Itís a very basic thing that all musicians need. It is probably the single most important tool for any musician. I think the challenge is how to teach it in a way that is fun and using material that is accessible to students, because in most colleges and conservatories, all of the material that is used for ear training is derived from classical music. There is nothing wrong with that but for most kids that come to Berklee and most kids that go to college nowadays, thatís not the music that they listen to primarily. The great thing about Berklee is that they allow me to bring in my own materials. In my classes I use everything form Brazilian folk music to EARTH, WIND, AND FIRE and everything in between including BEYONCE and PHARRELL. There are no limitations.
What would you like someone to come away with after theyíve heard LAMPIAO?
Thatís an interesting question! Iíd like people to feel moved and inspired.