Despite being a member of the “under 30” group of upcoming musicians, Grant Levin is already an accomplished jazz pianist and a very productive composer. I spoke to Grant recently about his new projects.
Thanks for talking to me today, and also for agreeing to play a concert at Old City Hall on Sun., Aug. 2. You are already becoming a regular attraction at the hall, having played there recently with both the CSUC Faculty Jazz Band and also with Victor Martin and Allison Scull. What projects are you working on now?
I’m best known for playing jazz, but actually I am involved in all types of music. I think of myself as a “Freelance Pianist," so I’m not really tied to any particular genre. I’m working on a new album with Victor and Allison right now, which I could be best described as Soul/Folk music.
Tell me about the new album of your own that you have recently released from Beezwax Records. It is at your third, isn’t it?
That’s right. The title of the album is RIEGO, a Spanish verb that can be translated as “to water." All of the material on the album is original, and one of the tunes on it, “Blues For Trane," was used in a tutorial book for recording software called “Logic Pro 8 – Beyond The Basics” written by David Dvorin.
Wow! I just got that book this summer. (One of the 2 books I read this year!) I had no idea that you were involved in its production. But tell me why you named it RIEGO. Does it have special meaning?
One of my greatest musical influences is the work of the Cuban pianist Gonsalo Rubalcava. I was listening to one of his albums over and over at the same time that I was composing my album. Rubalcava was on the stereo, as usual, while I was driving my car, and I saw a big road sign that said only “riego”. It struck me that that needed to be the name of the album.
It is always fascinating to me the way that inspiration for music strikes people. Do your compositions follow a special theme?
I think that I am still finding my musical voice. I would rather not be limited to any special style right now. Last year I took some lessons from Micheal Weiss, the writer for the Village Vanguard Orchestra in New York. That experience really opened my mind to how to find strong melodies and interesting, unusual harmonies. I guess if I had to, I would call my music progressive mainstream jazz.
So you are still evolving as a musician.
Not only as a musician, but as a person. I have to laugh when I see the photo that you used for this interview, which was taken 2 years ago. The hair, beard, and even the clothes have changed.
When I saw you last time I didn’t even recognize you at first. Why the change?
Last year, when I turned 28, I realized that I had not cut my hair for seven years, and that I was kind of in a rut when it came to my image. I decided that my appearance should reflect the contemporary nature of the music I play. I noticed that, at 28, my life has been running in 7 year cycles, and it was time for a change.
What is in store for you now?
I feel that right now I am probably at the peak of my abilities, and perhaps this will be the best opportunity for me to be the most productive with writing and performing. I do not wish to miss the best chance of my life.
Well you have this seven years off to a great start already!
Dave Short M.D. is a Redding Family Physician. He has been active in the jazz scene since moving back home to Redding in 1980. He loves to play the tenor sax, and has recorded 3 albums with the band Sax Therapy. His favorite project is “Dave Short’s Jazz at Old City Hall," a monthly concert series that features the finest north state jazz musicians. to learn more about Dave Short's Jazz at Old City Hall, visit daveshortjazz.com