Music

Five Questions for Jazz Pianist Naomi LaViolette

OPB | May 1, 2013 7:15 a.m.

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Jazz Musician Naomi LaViolette

Jazz Musician Naomi LaViolette

Courtesy of Naomi LaViolette

 Naomi LaViolette says she may be young, but she knows “a ton of standard jazz songs.” The pianist/vocalist/songwriter talks about her life with jazz with Deborah DeMoss Smith, host of KMHD’s Tuesday AM edition of The Bridge.

1. Were you born with the love of jazz in your soul or did you acquire it?

I acquired it. Absolutely. I was raised in a very conservative household where we did classical or church music, so I wasn’t exposed to it until much later. I remember awhile, as a classical artist, thinking it was a bit beyond the scope of what I did. I just focused on classical and really tried to do my very best at that, but I admired jazz players so much. The more I listened to them, and the more I started understanding, I thought, great — this is just an extension of the music theory that I’ve already learned and I threw myself into it. I acquired it much like you acquire the taste for coffee or wine as you grow up. Now it is a part of my fiber.

2. What country have you never been to but would like to go and play jazz?

I would say France. I do love French food, so I’d eat well when I was there (laugh)! I’m a big fan of Claude Bolling — he’s a French jazz composer so it would be fun to go and play some of his music and also play some of my interpretations. And maybe try to sing in French, but I don’t know … I might be too scared to actually do that in France.

3. You’re in Mount Hood National Forest and come upon Thelonious Monk, Art Tatum and McCoy Tyner; which one would you choose to sit down with?

Probably Thelonious Monk. He was one of the first pianists that, when I was getting into studying jazz, I learned a ton from transcriptions of his solos because coming from the classical world I really had to wrap my head around it in a visual way. I was just very entertained hearing, reading and learning what he would do with different changes and melodies. I’d probably want to sit down and try to understand how his mind went going into such dissonances and angular melodic twists. Yeah, I’d love that.

4. What music do you like that would surprise people?

I have to be in the right mood to listen it, but heavy metal from the early ’90s. Def Leppard and Poison. It reminds me of my childhood and what everyone was listening to. It makes me think of a strobe light and a dance in the gym. And all of us kids thinking we’re the coolest thing ever.

5. Other than the piano, what’s your favorite instrument?

The voice; I love lyrics and I love stories being told in song. You can get that from instruments in music but you can absolutely get it from someone singing lyrics. I love languages as well, and the different moods, the styles created and the languages the songs are written in. Then, the different types of voices. There are so many ways you can sing the same thing. So many people that sing that will sing things differently. I love that as well.

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