INTERVIEW WITH THOMAS LAUDERDALE (PINK MARTINI)

Thomas Lauderdale, pianist and founder of Pink Martini (photo by Autumn de Wilde)

Thomas Lauderdale, pianist and founder of Pink Martini (photo by Autumn de Wilde)

By Anita Malhotra

Few people can say they have appeared as a soloist with a major symphony orchestra, aspired to be mayor, founded a band whose albums have sold more than three million copies, and worn a cocktail dress in public. Portland-based pianist and composer Thomas Lauderdale, who launched Pink Martini in 1994, has done all these things and more.

Under his direction, Pink Martini has released eight best-selling albums of tuneful, sultry songs in 25 languages that blend world, jazz, pop, lounge and classical styles. From its origins as a four-member band playing Portland parties for progressive causes, it has grown to 12+ members, including vocalist China Forbes, who co-writes many of the songs with Lauderdale. In the process, the “little orchestra” has toured much of the world, played with more than 50 symphony orchestras, and appeared at such venues as the Hollywood Bowl, Carnegie Hall, L’Olympia theatre in Paris and Royal Albert Hall.

Anita Malhotra spoke by phone with Thomas Lauderdale, who was in Portland, on June 17, 2015.

Pink Martini founder Thomas Lauderdale (photo by Holly Andres)

Pink Martini founder Thomas Lauderdale (photo by Holly Andres)

AM: What are your earliest memories of music?

TL: I was born in Oakland, California and my family moved when I was two to Indiana. My parents were from the earnest side of the ‘60s. They had a reel-to-reel tape machine and there were six things that made up my childhood in terms of music. They were: Ray Conniff, Ray Charles, Roger Miller, the New Christy Minstrels, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the soundtrack to Jesus Christ Superstar. In addition, my father was a Church of the Brethren minister – one of the three peace denominations along with the Quakers and Mennonites. I was deeply affected by the hymns that were played during church – the bloody hymns of the 1880s, 1890s. So those were my biggest influences.

What all of this had in common was beautiful melodies. I never paid attention to lyrics until we started writing songs for the band. It was always about melody for me. Because the lyrics are in 25 different languages, the common thing holding them all together are the melodies. So one doesn’t necessarily have to speak the language to understand or to appreciate the beauty of the melody. Continue reading

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INTERVIEW WITH EMIL VIKLICKÝ

By Anita Malhotra

Czech jazz pianist and composer Emil Viklický (photo by Tomáš Krist)

Czech jazz pianist and composer Emil Viklický (photo by Tomáš Krist)

Often described as the “Patriarch of Czech jazz piano,” pianist and composer Emil Viklický was born in 1948 in Olomouc, Moravia and later moved to Prague. Although his formal training was in mathematics, in the ‘70s he won awards for his jazz improvisation skills and music compositions, and in 1977 he received a scholarship to study for a year at the Berklee College of Music in Boston.

As a jazz pianist, he has performed in the USA, Canada, Japan, Mexico, Israel, and Europe with various artists and ensembles, including with his own trio.

As a composer, he has worked in a wide range of styles, including jazz, contemporary classical, electroacoustic, and in an original style combining jazz with Moravian folk music. His works include three operas, full-length film scores, television music and incidental music for theatre, as well as numerous orchestral and ensemble pieces. He has won many awards for his compositions, and in 2004 was commissioned by Wynton Marsalis to write a melodrama for jazz band based on the prison letters of Václav Havel. In 2011 Viklický was honored with the Czech Republic’s prestigious Medal of Merit.

Anita Malhotra spoke with Emil Viklický, who was at his home in Prague, by telephone on June 14, 2015.

Emil Viklický

Emil Viklický

AM: What first attracted you to music?

EV: I grew up in a painter’s family. My father and my uncle were both painters. And my grandfather was a railway engineer in Vienna, so we had a grand piano at home. So I guess I started banging on it when I was two or three.

AM: How did you embark on a career in music?

EV: When it was time for me to decide what to do, I decided I wanted to be a composer. But my father said, “Are you crazy? Do you want another artist in the family?” My father was referring to his older brother, the painter Victor Viklický. The Communists came into power in the country in ’48, and Victor was put in labour camp in southern Slovakia. So he was just gone. My father said “Look, you have a talent for mathematics, so why don’t you go for maths and have music as a hobby?” I was an obedient boy, so I agreed. Continue reading

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INTERVIEW WITH KENNY WERNER

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Jazz pianist, composer and educator Kenny Werner (photo courtesy of Kenny Werner)

By Anita Malhotra

Brooklyn-born jazz pianist, composer and educator Kenny Werner studied piano at the Manhattan School of Music and jazz improvisation at the Berklee Institute. Greatly influenced by the Boston piano teacher Madame Chaloff and the Brazilian concert pianist Joao Assis Brasil, he developed a paradigm-shifting approach to performance that led to the publication in 1995 of his best-selling book Effortless Mastery: Liberating the Master Musician Within.

As a performer, Werner has appeared extensively throughout North America and Europe. He has also composed many works for small ensembles and orchestra, and received the 2010 Guggenheim Fellowship Award for his orchestral piece No Beginning, No End. Werner recently became artistic director of Berklee’s Effortless Mastery Institute (formerly the Performance Wellness Institute), which helps students develop and maintain healthy performances practices.

Anita Malhotra spoke with Kenny Werner, who lives in Monticello, New York, by telephone on June 13, 2015, a week before his performance at the Ottawa Jazz Festival.

Kenny Werner performing with his quartet and with Toots Thielemans in Antwerp, Belgium in 2008 (photo by Bruno Bollaert, Flickr Creative Commons, Aug. 15, 2008)

Kenny Werner performing with his quartet and with Toots Thielemans in Antwerp, Belgium in 2008 (photo by Bruno Bollaert, Flickr Creative Commons, Aug. 15, 2008)

AM: You just came back from Europe. What were you up to there?

KW: I was playing in different configurations with someone who in the last seven years has become a very deep music partner of mine – Benjamin Koppel. He’s a brilliant alto player and composer, and his whole family is a kind of royal musical family in Denmark. So we just spent about two weeks doing about five or six countries – Denmark, Spain, Germany, France and Austria – some duo, and some with rhythm section.

AM: What is it about playing with him that is so satisfying?

KW: Well, it’s the same thing that makes it special playing in my trio. It’s the conversation back and forth, arranging freer improvisations to such a degree of clarity in the interaction that you could almost say it was composition being written down at that very moment. Continue reading

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INTERVIEW WITH BRUCE COCKBURN

By Anita Malhotra

Singer-songwriter and guitarist Bruce Cockburn (photo by Kevin Kelly)

Singer-songwriter and guitarist Bruce Cockburn (photo by Kevin Kelly)

In his 45-year career as a guitarist and singer-songwriter, Ottawa-born Bruce Cockburn has produced 31 albums of passionate, evocative songs based on his personal experiences and his observations while travelling, often in war-torn countries and in a humanitarian role.

With more than seven million records sold, he has been honoured with 13 Juno Awards, 21 gold and platinum certifications, membership in the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and a Governor General’s Performing Arts Award. In 1982, he was made a Member of the Order of Canada, and in 2002 was promoted to Officer.

Last year, Cockburn published the extensive, very personal memoir Rumours of Glory, which details his childhood, travels, humanitarian work, personal relationships and spiritual search as well as the stories behind many of his songs.

Anita Malhotra spoke to Bruce Cockburn, who now lives in San Francisco, by telephone about his life and music on June 12, 2015.

Bruce Cockburn (photo by Kevin Kelly)

Bruce Cockburn (photo by Kevin Kelly)

AM: You turned 70 a few weeks ago. Was turning 70 any particular cause for reflection?

BC: It’s cause for alarm more than reflection! I put so much reflection into writing the book that it wasn’t, really. It’s like, “Okay I’m 70 now,” and I wrote this book and the book has all this stuff in it, but I think that that kind of superseded any information to be overly reflective of on my birthday. A bunch of us were gathered in a little resort town in Delaware at the end of the northeastern U.S. tour that I was doing through the month of May, and there was a lot of eating, drinking and merriment, and that’s what I was thinking about.

AM: Your autobiography Rumours of Glory is very personal, very honest. Was the process of writing the book cathartic for you?

Bruce in 1947 as a toddler with his parents in Kingston, Ontario (photo courtesy of Bernie Finkelstein and Bruce Cockburn)

Bruce in 1947 as a toddler with his parents in Kingston, Ontario (photo courtesy of Bernie Finkelstein and Bruce Cockburn)

BC: Not exactly. It was instructive in certain ways and it was an interesting process, by turns gratifying and kind of exciting, and horrible. The horrible part had to do with deadlines, mostly, and with a couple of points where I got stuck and didn’t know how to proceed. But the chief one of those was remedied by engaging Greg King to be a co-writer on it. I’m not really given to a lot of rehashing the past. I’ve never been much for going back and sentimentalizing things, or being perturbed by things other than the things that have gone into my make-up that have to be exorcized either by time or by psychological or spiritual effort. Continue reading

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INTERVIEW WITH BRIA SKONBERG

Jazz trumpet player and singer Bria Skonberg (photo by Thomas Concordia)

Jazz trumpet player and singer Bria Skonberg (photo by Thomas Concordia)

By Anita Malhotra

Born in 1983 in Chilliwack, British Columbia, trumpet player, singer and composer Bria Skonberg has been featured as a bandleader and guest artist at more than 50 jazz festivals in North America, Europe, China and Japan.

In 2010, she relocated from Vancouver to New York, where she has headlined at Symphony Space, Birdland, The Iridium and Dizzy’s. She has released three albums, one of which peaked at #7 on the U.S. National jazz charts. In addition, she has earned a New York Bistro Award for Outstanding Jazz Artist, four Hot House Jazz Magazine Awards and is a 2015 recipient of the Swing! award from Jazz At Lincoln Center.

Anita Malhotra spoke by phone with Skonberg, who was at her home in Brooklyn, N.Y., on June 10, 2015.

The cover of

The cover of “Into Your Own,” Bria Skonberg’s third album, released in 2014 (photo by Seth Cashman)

AM: Where did your love of jazz come from?

BS: I was introduced to jazz through the school big band and the local Dixieland jazz festival. Chilliwack had a jazz festival for over 20 years and they did a really good job of incorporating the youth bands of the district into the festival. So we’d get our set and then we’d get passes for the whole weekend to go and watch professional players do their thing. That was a much more organic introduction to jazz as opposed to listening to it because the old-style scratchy recordings don’t always translate to young listeners. Continue reading

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INTERVIEW WITH STEPHEN BULGER

Stephen Bulger in the office of his gallery after his Artsmania interview on February 27, 2015 (photo by Anita Malhotra)

Stephen Bulger in the office of his gallery after his Artsmania interview on February 27, 2015 (photo by Anita Malhotra)

By Anita Malhotra

Photographic art dealer, curator and appraiser Stephen Bulger opened his photo gallery in 1995 at a time when Toronto’s photography scene was relatively quiet. Since then, the Stephen Bulger Gallery has played a leading role in cultivating Toronto’s now-flourishing photo scene by hosting more than 150 photography exhibits, representing over 50 Canadian and international photographers, and building an inventory of approximately 50,000 prints and negatives that includes the work of Vivian Maier, the prolific street photographer who became famous after her death in 2009. 

Anita Malhotra spoke with Stephen Bulger at his gallery at 1026 Queen St. West on February 27, 2015 during his group exhibit “Subway.”

"Subway Tunnel Construction, N.Y," February 22, 1932, by Ewing Galloway (1881-1953), from the 2015 show "Subway" at the Stephen Bulger Gallery (© Ewing Galloway / Courtesy of Stephen Bulger Gallery)

“Subway Tunnel Construction, N.Y,” February 22, 1932, by Ewing Galloway (1881-1953), from the 2015 show “Subway” at the Stephen Bulger Gallery (© Ewing Galloway / Courtesy of Stephen Bulger Gallery)

AM: Where did your love of photography come from?

SB: It started in childhood, probably when I was seven or eight years old. It became a bit of a hobby to take snapshots. My mom used a camera to take pictures that she would later make paintings from, so she had an active use of photography that intrigued me. So I think from a young age I started recognizing photography as being something more than just snapping pictures.

"August 29," 1982, by Hungarian-born photographer André Kertész (1894-1985) (© The Estate of André Kertész / Courtesy of Stephen Bulger Gallery)

“August 29,” 1982, by Hungarian-born photographer André Kertész (1894-1985) (© The Estate of André Kertész / Courtesy of Stephen Bulger Gallery)

AM: What kinds of subjects did you photograph?

SB: Initially it started just with friends and family and events, and by the time I got into high school it became more abstraction or “fine art” photography.

AM: And then you studied photography formally after that?

SB: About four years after graduating from high school, I enrolled at Ryerson in their four-year B.A. program and studied still photography. And then that’s when I started to curate exhibitions. Continue reading

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INTERVIEW WITH CARLOS LUNA

By Anita Malhotra

Cuban-American artist Carlos Luna posing in front of his painting "Empingated" ("Freaking Awesome") on October 11, 2014 in Miami, Florida (photo by Anita Malhotra)

Cuban-American artist Carlos Luna posing in front of his painting “Empingated” (“Freaking Awesome”) on October 11, 2014 in Miami, Florida (photo by Anita Malhotra)

Born in Cuba in 1969, Carlos Luna has built a flourishing career as a painter, sculptor and ceramicist in Mexico, where he relocated in 1991, and in the United States, where he immigrated in 2002 under a visa for extraordinary ability.

His striking, intense works, replete with symbolism and autobiographical elements, have been exhibited in more than 60 galleries and institutions around the world. Highlights include solo exhibits at the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach, the Bass Museum of Art in Miami Beach, and the Museum of Art in Fort Lauderdale, where his paintings were shown with the ceramics of Picasso. Ten books of his art have been published, and many of his works are in private collections.

"Flowers from the Sea" by Carlos Luna (oil on canvas, 47" x 58 1/2") ©2002 Carlos Luna. All Rights Reserved.

“Flowers from the Sea” by Carlos Luna (oil on canvas, 47″ x 58 1/2″) ©2002 Carlos Luna. All Rights Reserved.

Anita Malhotra interviewed Carlos Luna on October 11, 2014 at his home in South Miami, where he lives with his wife and three children. Parts of the interview were in Spanish with translation by his daughter, Camila, and son Carlos.

Carlos Luna at his studio in 2013 (photo by Ignacio Barrios)

Carlos Luna at his studio in 2013 (photo by Ignacio Barrios)

AM: Where did you grow up in Cuba?

CL: I was born in Pinar del Río but I grew up in San Luis. San Luis is a small town that is famous for making the best Havana cigars in the world. My family and I are simple people, but at the same time we are very rich-minded with a great imagination. My father liked to play the guitar and to improvise on Sundays. My two grandmothers liked to dance and sing, and we listened to music in my house all the time.

AM: Tell me a little bit more about your ancestors – when did they come to Cuba?

CL: I have a lot of mixed blood in my heritage. My father’s side of the family came from Northern Spain – Basque and Jewish Sephardic people. My mother’s father came from Andalusia, and all the Andalusians have Arabian blood. But on my mother’s family, my grandfather – his grandfather was Chinese and his grandmother was Japanese. I am proud of my heritage. I believe it is very rich. I respect where I come from because I think a man without a past is a man without a future. Continue reading

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INTERVIEW WITH MAXWELL TAYLOR

Maxwell Taylor with two of his works (photo courtesy of Maxwell and Therese Taylor)

Maxwell Taylor with two of his works (photo courtesy of Maxwell and Therese Taylor)

By Anita Malhotra

Born and raised in Nassau, Bahamian artist Maxwell Taylor trained as a ceramicist while in his teens and held his first solo exhibit as a painter in the early ‘60s. In 1968 he moved to New York, where he studied at the Art Students League, the Pratt Graphic Center and the Printmaking Workshop. There, he made a name for himself with striking woodcuts, prints and paintings that focused on the struggles of the disadvantaged, particularly women.

His works were featured at the 1968 Summer Olympic Games in Mexico and have been exhibited extensively in the United States, the Caribbean and in South and Central America. His awards have included the Southern Arts Federation Fellowship Award.

Taylor divides his time between West Palm Beach, Florida, where he has a ceramics studio, and Nassau. Anita Malhotra spoke with him on October 8, 2014 at the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas.

Maxwell Taylor at the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas on Oct. 8, 2014 with his 1982 linocut reduction "Damn Politics" (photo by Anita Malhotra)

Maxwell Taylor at the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas on Oct. 8, 2014 with his 1982 linocut reduction “Damn Politics” (photo by Anita Malhotra)

AM: What was your childhood like growing up in the Bahamas?

MT: I grew up without a father. My mother was instrumental in bringing up me and my sister. She had four kids. She was a seamstress so she would get up in the morning round about seven, eight o’clock, and the first thing she would do she’d go down to the shop. I used to hit the streets – just went from one neighborhood to the next neighborhood. And then at a very early age I had to work. I didn’t have anybody to give me anything. I used to do things like shoeshine, you know, and I had a job taking care of a horse.

Maxwell Taylor as a young man in the late '50s decorating a religious piece for Chelsea Pottery (photo courtesy of Maxwell and Therese Taylor)

Maxwell Taylor as a young man in the late ’50s decorating a religious piece for Chelsea Pottery (photo courtesy of Maxwell and Therese Taylor)

AM: What got you started in art?

MT: What really got me started was Chelsea Pottery. I always had the ability to draw, but during that period in the Bahamas, there weren’t too many artists. I was working as a bar-boy at the Emerald Beach Hotel and somebody told me about the Chelsea Pottery, which had just opened up and they were looking for young artists.

I was laid off from my job at the hotel and I went and I met Mr. Rawnsley. He checked to see what sort of talent I had and he saw that I could draw. They didn’t pay me right away, but I learned the technique pretty fast, so they put me on piecework. They would pay me for every piece I did that was of some sort of quality. I started getting a salary, and I met Brent Malone, Kendal Hanna, Vernon Cambridge and a lot of young artists. And that’s when I became serious about my art. Continue reading

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INTERVIEW WITH NATALIE MACMASTER

Natalie MacMaster (photo by Rebekah Littlejohn Photography)

Natalie MacMaster (photo by Rebekah Littlejohn Photography)

By Anita Malhotra

A consummate Celtic fiddler with an exuberant stage presence, Natalie MacMaster has been playing the music of her beloved homeland, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, since the age of nine.

She released her debut album at age 16 and followed that with 10 more albums: three went gold in Canada and one (In My Hands, 1999) garnered a Juno award. She has also collaborated with artists such as Yo-Yo Ma, Alison Kraus and Béla Fleck, starred in her own one-hour CBC television special, and appeared on major U.S. television networks.

In 2006, MacMaster was named to the Order of Canada, and she has also been awarded several honorary degrees, including a Doctor of Divinity. A veteran stage performer who has performed up to 100 times a year, she still keeps up a demanding performing schedule while she and her husband, fiddler Donnell Leahy, raise their six young children in rural Ontario.

Anita Malhotra spoke with Natalie MacMaster about her music, family and faith on June 30, 2014, while she was preparing to perform that evening at the Ottawa Jazz Festival.

Natalie MacMaster performing at the Ottawa Jazz Festival on June 30, 2014 (photo by Anita Malhotra)

Natalie MacMaster performing at the Ottawa Jazz Festival on June 30, 2014 (photo by Anita Malhotra)

AM: You have six children now, you have a newborn baby, you’re touring. How do you manage it all?

NM: Well, it is kind of crazy and weird. It’s certainly nothing that I necessarily planned on doing. It’s just something that’s slowly built – much the same as my career, you know. I was just playing music, and gig after gig after gig, and before you know it you need a manager, and before you know it you need a record company, and before you know it there’s awards and there’s traveling. And then marriage came and babies, and it just starts with one and it just gradually builds.

MacMaster performing in 2008 at the Festival Mémoire et Racines in Lanaudiere, Quebec (photo by Jacques Pontbriand, courtesy of nataliemacmaster.com)

MacMaster performing in 2008 at the Festival Mémoire et Racines in Lanaudiere, Quebec (photo by Jacques Pontbriand, courtesy of nataliemacmaster.com)

And so here we are now. I’m 42 years old, I have six children, my husband is a fiddler as well, we tour together. Now our kids are playing music, and then sometimes they come play with us on the show depending on naps and diapers and school time and whatever else might come into play. And how do I do it? I don’t know. I don’t really think I do it very well, but somehow it’s getting done. Continue reading

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INTERVIEW WITH JOEY DEFRANCESCO

Joey DeFrancesco at the organ with a trumpet, which he began learning while on tour with Miles Davis, in the background (photo courtesy of Joey DeFrancesco)

Joey DeFrancesco at the organ with a trumpet, which he began learning while on tour with Miles Davis, in the background (photo courtesy of Joey DeFrancesco)

By Anita Malhotra

Born and raised in Philadelphia, jazz organist and trumpeter Joey DeFrancesco first burst on to the jazz scene in 1988 when, as a 17-year-old, he released his first album with Columbia Records. He followed this with a European tour with the legendary Miles Davis. Since then, he has released more than 30 albums of his own, including two that were nominated for Grammy Awards, and has been featured in recordings with Miles Davis, Ray Charles, Henry Mancini, John McLaughlin and David Sanborn, among others. A winner of the Down Beat Critics Poll nine times and the Down Beat Readers Poll every year since 2005, he has influenced an entire generation of Hammond organists.

Anita Malhotra interviewed DeFrancesco, who was at his home in Scottsdale, Arizona, by telephone on Tuesday, June 17, 2014.

DeFrancesco performing (photo courtesy of Joey DeFrancesco)

DeFrancesco performing (photo courtesy of Joey DeFrancesco)

AM: You’re going to be playing three jazz festivals over the next few weeks – in Ottawa, Toronto and Rochester, followed by a tour in Europe. What material will you be doing?

JDF: I usually play a variety of material – some stuff that’s on whatever my last few records are and sometimes stuff that I haven’t recorded. You know, straight-ahead jazz with a twist – a little blues, a little funky. It’s kind of the history of jazz in our set. Continue reading

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INTERVIEW WITH BILL FRISELL

By Anita Malhotra

Seattle-based electric guitarist and composer Bill Frisell is revered in jazz circles for his unique sound and approach to the electric guitar – often compared to that of trumpeter Miles Davis. He is equally known for his innovative and exquisite guitar compositions and re-interpretations of music in a wide variety of genres including jazz, pop, rock, blues, country, folk and world music.

Guitarist and composer Bill Frisell (photo by Michael Wilson)

Guitarist and composer Bill Frisell (photo by Michael Wilson)

Frisell has released more than 40 albums, and won a 2005 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Jazz Album for his CD Unspeakable. He has collaborated live and in recording with hundreds of artists including Paul Motian, John Zorn, Chick Corea, Elvis Costello, Suzanne Vega, Paul Simon, Norah Jones, Brian Eno, Bono, Rickie Lee Jones and Bonnie Raitt. And as a soundtrack composer, he has created music for the films of Wim Wenders, Gus Van Sant, and Buster Keaton, among others.

Anita Malhotra interviewed Frisell by telephone on June 7, 2014. Laid-back and reflective, he spoke about his upcoming concerts at the Ottawa Jazz Festival, his soon-to-be-released CD Guitar in the Space Age, and his love for the Fender Telecaster and the films of Buster Keaton.

Bill Frisell (photo by Michael Wilson)

Bill Frisell (photo by Michael Wilson)

AM: Which city are you in right now?

BF: I’m in New York and it’s a crazy, crazy schedule. I’ve been here for a couple of days and then I go to Toronto tomorrow and then to Ithaca, New York. It’s just insane. Every couple of days somewhere different with some different project.

AM: I hear you don’t like traveling.

BF: Yeah, I’m not real big on traveling, but that’s what I do. The payoff is that I get to play music, so I shouldn’t be complaining. I’m so lucky to be doing exactly what I want to be doing. It would be awesome if there was some other way other than going on airplanes all the time, but that’s just part of the deal. Continue reading

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INTERVIEW WITH JASON MARSALIS

Jason Marsalis on February 12, 2014 after his Artsmania interview at the Who Dat Coffee Café in New Orleans (photo by Anita Malhotra)

Jason Marsalis on February 12, 2014 after his Artsmania interview at the Who Dat Coffee Café in New Orleans (photo by Anita Malhotra)

By Anita Malhotra

Born in 1977, drummer, vibraphonist and composer Jason Marsalis is the youngest member of the renowned Marsalis family of New Orleans jazz musicians, which includes his father Ellis Marsalis, Jr., and his brothers Wynton, Branford and Delfeayo.

As a drummer, he began performing at an early age, first with his father and then in groups like Casa Samba, Los Hombres Calientes and the Marcus Roberts Trio. Fourteen years ago, he turned his focus to the vibraphone, forming the Jason Marsalis Vibes Quartet and releasing two vibraphone CDs: Music Update (2009) and In a World of Mallets (2013). His percussion skills are also featured on more than 65 other CDs.

Anita Malhotra interviewed Jason Marsalis over breakfast at the Who Dat Coffee Café in the Marigny neighborhood of New Orleans on February 12, 2014.

Jason Marsalis, aged 8, in a New York photo shoot in the summer of 1985 (photo courtesy of Jason Marsalis)

Jason Marsalis, aged 8, in a New York photo shoot in the summer of 1985 (photo courtesy of Jason Marsalis)

AM: How old were you when you started playing music?

JM: Five. Violin was my first instrument, and then drums was my second at age six.

AM: How did you decide on percussion ?

JM: I grew up playing in string orchestras. From first, second and third grade I always played in string orchestras. So in fifth grade I’m in a junior youth orchestra, and I walk in and I see percussion instruments in the back of the orchestra. And from that point on, the violin’s days were numbered. That was like, “Why didn’t anybody tell me that they had this?” I just didn’t know – seeing timpani and snare drum and bass drum. And so, the following year the violin was over, and that’s when I started pursuing percussion. Continue reading

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INTERVIEW WITH LUCIEN BARBARIN

By Anita Malhotra

Trombonist and singer Lucien Barbarin stands out in the New Orleans traditional jazz scene not only for his superlative technique, soulful playing and showmanship but also for his far-reaching national and international career. A member of Harry Connick, Jr.’s big band since 1991, Barbarin has also performed with Wynton Marsalis, Kermit Ruffins, Doc Cheatham, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Dr. Michael White, among others.

Lucien Barbarin on Feb. 10, 2014 outside Irvin Mayfield's Jazz Playhouse at the Royal Sonesta hotel in New Orleans (photo by Anita Malhotra)

Lucien Barbarin on Feb. 10, 2014 outside Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse at the Royal Sonesta hotel in New Orleans (photo by Anita Malhotra)

His gigs have included the Grammy Awards, the Superbowl XXVI, the 2006 Olympics, Expo 2010 in Shanghai, the White House and playing for the British Royal Family. He has also has appeared on numerous TV shows including Late Night with David Letterman, The Ellen Degeneres Show, The Arsenio Hall Show and The Tonight Show. In addition, Barbarin – who is descended from one of New Orleans’ best-known musical families – can be heard on more than 25 CDs, including several of his own.

Anita Malhotra caught up with Barbarin on Monday, February 10, 2014 as he took a break between sets playing with The Original Tuxedo Band at Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse in New Orleans

AM: When you play the trombone it sounds as expressive as the human voice. How do you achieve that sound?

Lucien Barbarin (extreme right) with the Original Tuxedo Jazz Band on Feb. 10, 2014 at Irvin Mayfield's Jazz Playhouse (L to R: Larry Sieberth, piano; Richard Moten, bass; Andrew Baham, trumpet; Gerald French, drums) (photo by Anita Malhotra)

Lucien Barbarin (extreme right) with the Original Tuxedo Jazz Band on Feb. 10, 2014 at Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse (L to R: Larry Sieberth, piano; Richard Moten, bass; Andrew Baham, trumpet; Gerald French, drums) (photo by Anita Malhotra)

LB: Well, actually the trombone is the closest to the human voice of any instrument that you can find. If you’ve ever seen Charlie Brown, when Charlie Brown talks to his mother, her voice is actually a trombone. And a lot of people don’t know that. And it goes “Wah wah wah wah, wah wah waah” [he vocalizes the sound]. Continue reading

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INTERVIEW WITH BRUCE CONKLE

By Anita Malhotra

Based in Portland, Oregon, conceptual artist and teacher Bruce Conkle has created a body of whimsical, thoughtful works that blend unconventional materials with ironic commentary on environmental and political issues. A recipient in 2011 of the Hallie Ford Fellowship in Visual Arts, he has exhibited in Portland, New York and Chicago as well as in Canada, Brazil, Iceland and Mongolia.

Bruce Conkle at the Red Robe Tea House in Portland, Oregon on December 7, 2013 (photo by Anita Malhotra)

Bruce Conkle at the Red Robe Tea House in Portland, Oregon on December 7, 2013 (photo by Anita Malhotra)

Bruce Conkle’s commissioned bronze sculptures, Burls will be Burls, can be seen in downtown Portland at Southwest 6th Avenue near the corner of West Burnside Street. His works are also on display at the Oranj Studio in Portland until March 15, at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art in Eugene, Oregon until March 16, and at Rocksbox Fine Art in Portland from March 8 to April 27, 2014.

Anita Malhotra interviewed Bruce Conkle on December 7, 2013 at the Red Robe Tea House in Portland.

One of three sculptures in Conkle's "Burls will be Burls," commissioned for Portland's TriMet/MAX Light Rail line in 2009 (photo by Anita Malhotra)

One of three sculptures in Conkle’s “Burls will be Burls,” commissioned for Portland’s TriMet/MAX Light Rail line in 2009 (photo by Anita Malhotra)

AM: Where did you grow up?

BC: Right here in Portland.

AM: You’ve said that as a child you wanted to be both a garbage man and a cartoonist. What did you mean by that?

BC: We didn’t have a lot of toys as kids but there was a big wild area behind where we lived, and a creek, and my brother Brian and I would go down there all the time with our shovels and build dams and play outside. I would find a lot of things left down there, and I guess I was interested in that. At the same time I was also drawing quite a lot and thought I’d want to be a cartoonist when I grew up. So I was torn between being a cartoonist or a garbage man, and most kids wanted to be cowboys, astronauts or whatnot. In some respects it seems like I’ve merged those two a little bit, looking at my work over the years. Continue reading

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INTERVIEW WITH ERIC STOTIK

Eric Stotik posing beside three of his paintings at the Laura Russo Gallery in Portland, Oregon on Saturday, December 7, 2013 (photo by Anita Malhotra)

Eric Stotik posing beside three of his paintings at the Laura Russo Gallery in Portland, Oregon on December 7, 2013 (photo by Anita Malhotra)

By Anita Malhotra

Portland, Oregon artist and musician Eric Stotik has been exhibiting his strikingly imaginative and technically accomplished paintings for more than three decades. 

A graduate of the Pacific Northwest College of Arts, his works can be found in museums and private collections in Portland, Seattle, Washington, Utah, New York and Berlin. In 2011, he was awarded the Regional Arts & Culture Council Fellowship Award in Visual Arts, which enabled him to create a 45-foot-long circular painting that was featured at a solo show at Portland’s Laura Russo Gallery in September 2013.

Anita Malhotra spoke with Eric Stotik on Saturday, December 7, 2013 at the Laura Russo Gallery, where his works were being featured in a group show that ended on December 21.

Detail from an untitled large-scale 2013 painting by Eric Stotik: Continuous Series (Detail 10), acrylic on paper 5' x 4.25' (photo by Bill Bachhuber)

Detail from an untitled large-scale 2013 painting by Eric Stotik: Continuous Series (Detail 10), acrylic on paper 5′ x 4.25′ (photo by Bill Bachhuber)

AM: I understand that you grew up in Papua New Guinea. What was it like growing up there?

ES: My parents were missionaries so we were in a privileged position vis-à-vis the rest of the society and we had a lot of freedom from their social strictures and from American social strictures. It was ideal – it was rural, very little electricity, no heated water, and just wild. We could leave the house and walk up a river all day and play. It was like the movie Swiss Family Robinson – where this family lives in the jungle and the kids are free to play. Continue reading

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