Monday, May 7, 2012

Catching Up With Hailey Niswanger - The Keeper Interview!

There is a dynamic young player on the straight ahead scene that you have to check out! My review link:

Hailey Niswanger is a 22 year old rising star and was kind enough to sit down for some questions!

The Keeper is just that! A wonderful release with great chemistry. Tell us about it!

H.N. - "The thought of creating a second album happened right after the release of my first, (just as now I am thinking forward to a third album). Since my first album 'Confeddie' was mostly covers of favorite jazz masters' compositions and only one original, my goal for my second album was to have almost all originals. I am very happy to say there are 8 originals and 3 arrangements on 'The Keeper'. It took me just over two years to have enough material that I was happy with to record, however I had already known who the musicians on the album would be for a long time. Takeshi Ohbayashi, Max Moran, Mark Whitfield Jr, and I are all very close friends and have been playing together for years. I hold them in the highest respect musically and as people, they are amazing, and us playing together has such a natural chemistry.  It was also an honor to have my Berklee professor and friend, Darren Barrett, play trumpet on three tracks of the album. He is truly an amazing teacher."
This is a personal release for you as it marked the passing of your mentor. Did the project have any cathartic effect for you? Is it possible to translate your feelings on this and if so how do you  hope it effected the record in a positive way? I find the release very passionate and joyous.
H.N. - "When my mentor Jeff Cumpston passed away in August 2009, i was in shock, everyone that knew him was. Such an amazing, inspirational man gone from this world far too soon. The only way I could really "come to terms" with what had happen, and pay tribute to Jeff, was through composition. I began composing within days after I'd heard the news. The first draft was "okay", but not exactly right for Jeff. I wrote another one, and yet still it wasn't there yet. Then I went in and meshed the two together and added a little more here and there, and came out with a third composition, and that was 'The Keeper'! It was just right for Jeff, as I will always remember him as someone who celebrated life each day. The track 'The Keeper' also opens with a drum solo, which Jeff was an amazing drummer, and a member of my quartet before he moved to Zimbabwe to teach. I could picture him having a really fun time playing the composition I wrote for him. I wouldn't use the word "positively" to say how Jeff's passing effected the record, because I would much rather have Jeff here today teaching and giving for generations than have this record here today. In reality, the sole purpose 'The Keeper' is hear in existence is because of Jeff's effect on my life. Something had jolted inside me when he was taken so abruptly, and my passion for music grew deeper. I will always honor him through music."

Your compositions are the real deal. You also tackle Miles, Monk and Cole Porter. Length of time and competency don't go hand in hand but as a young player does working on a Miles tune ever make you a bit nervous or are you more of a "steady as she goes" type that simply goes for it?
H.N. - "I pretty much just went for it. I know it is always a challenge to tackle well-known compositions of Jazz masters, but I was confident because I had "done my homework". It is important to honor the masters, and be able to hear them within your sound, but to also bring in your own flare. Tradition is very important, and something that will be a life study for me. It is through the study of jazz history and exploration of one's own imagination that you begin to find your own "voice" in jazz."