Interviews

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Ken Micallef  |  Oct 09, 2019  |  11 comments
Armando Anthony "Chick" Corea belongs to that elite cadre of pianists that includes Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett, and Mccoy Tyner, pioneers who reshaped the jazz or- der starting in the early 1960s and continued to make strides into the present day.

The now-78-year-old Corea's attainments are many: composer of the standards "la fiesta," "Spain," "500 Miles High," "Matrix," and "Windows"; winner of 22 Grammy Awards (and 64 nods); founder of at least six colossal improvising units (Return to Forever I and II, Circle, the Three Quartets quartet, the Chick Corea Elektric Band, the Vigil Quintet); popularizer of early monophonic synthesizers, and recipient, in 2006, of an NEA Jazz Masters award.

Jon Iverson  |  Aug 27, 2019  |  6 comments
Vocalist Jon Anderson has been at the center of the fabled rock band Yes since its founding in 1968 and has collaborated with other notable artists including Vangelis, Mike Oldfield, Jean-Luc Ponty, and the Contemporary Youth Orchestra. A tireless and prolific musician, composer, and multi-instrumentalist, he has also released more than a dozen solo albums.

Almost exactly 50 years after the July 1969 release of the first Yes album, Anderson visited my house for an afternoon of talk and listening to music. We listened to some old Yes tracks, some favorites from other artists, and several from his most recent album, 1000 Hands: Chapter One, which was 30 years in the making.

Sasha Matson  |  Jul 02, 2019  |  0 comments
American composer John Adams and I first met in the late 1970s, when I became one of his composition students at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. My recollections from those days endure as near-cinematic images: John lugging his homemade synthesizer—he called it "the Studebaker"—down the hall prior to meeting me at his office; an early performance, at Mills College in Oakland, of Adams's Shaker Loops (footnote 1) for string septet; sitting with Adams during rehearsals for the 1981 premiere of his choral symphony Harmonium (footnote 2), with Edo De Waart and the San Francisco Symphony.
Ken Micallef  |  May 30, 2019  |  4 comments
Louisiana-born, 58-year-old saxophonist Branford Marsalis has achieved singular status in the worlds of both jazz and classical music. He cut his teeth playing hard-hitting hard bop with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, led The Tonight Show band, and kicked it with the Grateful Dead. He's toured and recorded with Sting, costarred in the Spike Lee film School Daze (1988), and made his classical debut with the New York Philharmonic performing Glazunov's Concerto for Alto Saxophone on Central Park's Great Lawn.
Sasha Matson  |  May 02, 2019  |  3 comments
Don Was is a music lover. Looking at his extensive discography as a record producer and musician, one is struck by the variety of artists he's worked with: from Iggy Pop to the B-52's, from Roy Orbison to Elton John, with over half a dozen stops along the way as producer for a little band called the Rolling Stones. In 2017, Was produced Gregg Allman's final studio album, Southern Blood (Rounder 610005). And when you include all the music he's had a hand in since 2012, when he became president of Blue Note Records, you're talking about one busy little red hen helping to bake a lot of bread.
Ken Micallef  |  May 01, 2019  |  31 comments
Tenor saxophonist, composer and hi-fi enthusiast Jed Levy is a perceptive musician and devoted music listener. Over the years, he's upgraded his hi-fi as funds have allowed, typically preceded by intense study of equipment reviews and equally persistent ear-twisting of audiophile friends, some in the industry, some not.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Feb 28, 2019  |  7 comments
Imagine my surprise while I was preparing my review of the EMM Labs DV2 D/A processor in this issue, EMM Labs' manager of production and social media, Amadeus Meitner, informed me that what I'd thought would be a one-on-one chat with his father, EMM Labs founder and CEO Ed Meitner, would also involve himself and EMM's managing engineer of the past 15 years, Mariusz Pawlicki. Once all three had come to the phone, however, information flowed more or less smoothly. My first question was what makes the DV2 special?
Sasha Matson  |  Dec 27, 2018  |  3 comments
Autumn in New York—watching Central Park change colors. Also time to catch the Bill Charlap Trio during their annual residency at the Village Vanguard: Charlap at the piano, Peter Washington on bass, and Kenny Washington at the drums in the Church of Jazz, the room the Bill Evans Trio called home in the 1960s and '70s. Exploring the great traditions of jazz and American song has become a Charlap trademark.
Ken Micallef  |  Dec 11, 2018  |  3 comments
Wayne Shorter is 85. His mind moves at warp speed, a million miles from Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, who rescued him from Newark, New Jersey—or the Miles Davis's second great quintet, for which the saxophonist wrote the compositions that would establish his genius. Shorter's constellation of classic Blue Note recordings from 1964–67—Night Dreamer, JuJu, The All Seeing Eye, ETC, The Soothsayer, Adam's Apple, Speak No Evil, Schizophrenia—is now but a dim cluster of stars in his ever-expanding musical galaxy.
Ken Micallef  |  Nov 18, 2018  |  28 comments
Even newbie audiophiles can be smitten with the vintage hi-fi bug. Keyboardist and composer John Escreet was once a streaming kind of guy. Then he heard the Fisher 500-C/Falcon LS3/5a-endowed system of bassist Matt Brewer, partner of former Stereophile editorial coordinator Jana Dagdagan.
Ken Micallef  |  Nov 06, 2018  |  2 comments
Photo: Nicholas Suttle

Electric guitarist John Scofield, winner of multiple Grammy Awards, has a knack for staying a step ahead of musical trends. In hundreds of jazz settings, "Sco" and his signature Ibanez AS200 guitar and Fender Reverb amplifier have created a unique style and sound that have earned him a popularity beyond jazz's usual audience.

Jim Austin  |  Nov 01, 2018  |  10 comments
Virtually all of the active components in your system—DACs, preamplifiers, power amplifiers—work by modulating the DC output of their power supplies with an AC music signal. Surely, then, the more perfect your household AC is, the more perfect your audio system's output will be. Analogies abound—to dirty water used in distilling good whiskey, to inferior thread used to weave fine fabrics—and all amount to the same thing: you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.
Sasha Matson  |  Sep 04, 2018  |  2 comments
There are the Grammys, and then there's the supermarket. Both are marks of achievement and permanence in popular recorded music. Having just begun writing this piece, I walked into the Price Chopper Supermarket in Cooperstown, New York, and what do I hear? Rita Coolidge, and the refrain from her 1977 recording of "(Your Love Has Lifted Me) Higher and Higher." Now that's a hook—a high mark on the tree of pop.
Ken Micallef  |  Jul 29, 2018  |  30 comments
Arriving at David Smith's comfortable Queens apartment, he walks me into what was once a small dining room. Standing upright like a pair of wood-grained phone booths are the biggest speaker cabinets I've ever seen in anyone's home—anytime, anywhere. What?

Measuring a colossal 23" deep by 26" wide by 66" high, each 20 cubic-feet cabinet holds a vintage Altec 604E coaxial driver wired to a Mastering Lab crossover set in Smith's custom-built MLTL cabinets.

Robert Baird  |  May 29, 2018  |  11 comments
Notoriously opinionated and obstinate Steve Albini, a guy ever vigilant and vocal about the wicked ways of the music business, showing up in Austin, Texas, at the annual South by Southwest festival? This I had to see. After a near-miss at his Austin hotel, we spoke the next morning on the phone.

"It was unspeakable on all levels, as bad as I imagined, and in some ways worse."

Any notion that he'd somehow softened, somehow accepted the music biz as it—

Wait. What the hell am I thinking?

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