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04 July 2011

Neil Cowley - Interview

von Philharmonie Luxemburg

A few days ago, we had the pleasure to have a little chat with Neil Cowley, who'll be at the Philharmonie with his trio in October. Here is an excerpt from our chat. The whole interview will be put online here in September :-) Don't miss that!

Who (which musician) did you admire while growing up?

As a child I admired Erroll Garner for his lyricism. Michel Petruciani for his melody. Dudley Moore for his charisma. After that I tended to become obsessed with other instrumentalists. Frank Zappa had a great influence on me. His playing and his composition.

Aged 10, you already played Shostakovich. So you have a classical background. What made you turn into a Jazz pianist?

I was taught classically. Though I had no real love for music until someone introduced me to American soul/funk and jazz. It was then that the passion was ignited and I began to teach myself the language of contemporary music by ear. I was performing with bands aged 14 and in order to survive I had to build up my jazz and blues knowledge very quickly.

Are you still listening to classical music?

I still love Shostakovich. Though mostly I just play the occasional piece of Bach or Mozart on the piano, rather than listening to it on CD.

(...)

"Encouraging, intelligent and appreciative"

How much space does improvisation have in your music, in your concerts? Could you possibly briefly explain what improvisation is and how people during a concert can recognize it as such?

We have sections of improvisation in our music. It generally takes the form of having a chord or a series of chords as your basis. You either play around those chords, or internalise those chords and use them as a root for developing invented notes or expansions of those chords. It acts as a way of voicing something instantaneous and impulsive.

(...)

It’s going to be your first time in Luxembourg, right? Do you have any expectations? How do you imagine the Luxemburgish public to be?

Yep. First time. I imagine they are going to be like most other mainland European audiences. Encouraging, intelligent and appreciative. Its great that I do music and not comedy! It means I can be understood in all sorts of new places.