Lauren McCarthy talks to American jazz pianist and composer Marc Copland.
How I got into jazz is kind of an easy one. I heard it occasionally when I was a child. I remember I saw the Basie Band play jazz on TV and I instantly connected with it but had no idea what it was. Sometime later I was at dinner with my family and there was a small Latin jazz group playing. I remember on the way back in the car the rest of family were laughing because I was pounding out rhythms with my hands on the seat all the way home. But I had no idea what it all was.
When I was 16 I was in a little rock band. One day the guitar player called me up and he said, “you know, I have these tickets for this jazz concert and my date cancelled on me; do you want to come?” I said, “sure, what is it?” and he said “it’s this guy Dave Brubeck.” I’d never heard of him. But I walked in, heard about eight bars and was just knocked out.
Ever since the Big Band era ended I think jazz’s audience base was shrinking somewhat. However, it’s achieved a place as classical music, it’s recognised as an art form. There is more support from listeners out there especially with the birth of the internet then radio and TV. I think jazz is going to be with us a long time. I certainly hope so.
For me, performing live and composing are both equal. I think as an artist you need both. Obviously sharing music with people is why we do what we do. The process of creating and improvising on the spot is great because you get to go to another place that you’re not able to go anywhere else in life. I think any musician, in particular jazz musicians, would tell you the same. But on the other hand, to be effective in doing that you’ve got to put in hours and hours and hours of practise and composing. It’s really a pretty simple formula – the more time you spend with the music, and just thinking about it then the more ideas you have rattling around your head, and when you go to play it all starts to come pouring out.
I’ve been in Ireland quite a bit over the years. Cork is a lovely city I really enjoy it. I really like Ireland in general. There’s kind of a vibe in the air in Ireland that you don’t necessarily get in America and I really like that. It’s a kind of a friendliness, I don’t know exactly how to describe it. And no, I don’t have any Irish heritage, well not that I’m aware of anyway!
I’ve been playing jazz for about forty-five years and it’s always a challenge. Almost every year you have to look around and reinvent yourself in terms of how the music is getting out to the public. The biggest change in this area is obviously the transition from vinyl to compact disk and now to download. it can be a little bit of a rollercoaster because it seems as if every two years you turn around and something new is going on. Whether it’s the birth of iTunes or Facebook, it seems like there’s always something else.
As far as business advice, musicians starting out probably have more to teach me than I have to teach them. They’re very familiar with the internet! Otherwise I would just say stay true to the music, play what you really hear and what you truly feel.