Jeff Lashway Interview
Jeff Lashway Interview
Whenever Maynard is out on the road fans
write in to give me reviews of the shows they are seeing. During the tours
of 2001, the one Big Bop Nouveau member that I received the most frequent
and positive comments about was pianist Jeff Lashway. I've seen Jeff perform
with the band twice, and he truly is phenomenal. The icing on the cake
is that Jeff is also very gracious to fans, and took the time out to answer
a few questions for the Maynard Ferguson Tribute Page.
1) What makes up
your musical background?
I studied classical piano from the age of five until I was sixteen. I
really didn't formally study jazz, instead absorbing it through LOTS of
listening and hanging out with friends that turned out to be great musicians.
I began working in clubs at the age of thirteen! Imagine
THAT happening today! My parents would probably be arrested! Also, I began
playing trombone around the age of 10.
2) Who are your
Oddly enough, I did not listen to pianists as much as I did horn players
such as Joe Henderson, Carl Fontana, Freddie Hubbard. As for pianists,
I probably listened to the people you would expect such as Herbie Hancock,
Chick Corea, and of course the Great Oscar Peterson.
3) What are some of your favorite jazz albums or artists?
That's a hard one to answer. I have probably gone through phases through
the years. At one time I listened to LOTS of big bands, especially the
Buddy Rich Band, Thad and Mel's band, and of course Maynard. These days,
I find myself listening mostly to singers. One of my very favorites is
a Canadian woman by the name of Carol Welsman. She's not real well known
in the U.S, but she's terrific. Also coming to mind are Holly Cole, Dominique
Eade and Etta Jones, who recently passed away.
4) Before joining
the band, were you a fan of Maynard's music?
I love to tell this story when we are doing clinics with the high school
kids. My brother, who is six years older was a terrific high school trumpet
player. As I was studying classical piano, he had lots of Maynard albums
laying around that I started listening to and that was really my introduction
to jazz. Actually, I was probably a bigger Maynard fan than you might
expect a piano player to be. Of course I also play trombone and especially
valve trombone. In addition to being such a great trumpet player, Maynard
was also a terrific valve trombonist. And ANYONE that is a brass player
would have to love Maynard.
5) How long have
you been with Maynard and his band?
I joined the band in September 2000.
6) How did you get on the band?
I used to live in Pittsburgh and had worked with Brian Stahurski, who
was then the bass player on the band, and Reggie Watkins, both of whom
lived in Pittsburgh. Reggie took a liking to my playing and as musical
director recommended me for the job. I sent in an audition tape, but was
actually hired before they even heard it.
7) How is playing
on Maynard's band different from other gigs?
I guess the main thing is that you really have to be "up" every
night. It's a very high energy band and you have to be "on"
from the very first tune.
|8) Tell us
about the recording of Swingin'
We recorded the album at Capital Records in Los Angeles in Studio
A which is the studio that Frank Sinatra recorded in for years. The
album took four days including one evening of rehearsal. The session
was very relaxed and low key. Diane was great. She was very easy to
work with and seemed to really enjoy the band. The album was produced
by Phil Ramone which was a great thrill for all of us. He has produced
so many artists and albums over the years. Truly a legend in the industry.
One of the things that made it all go so well was the writing. All
of the arrangers were totally familiar with Diane, Maynard and the
style of the band. I especially thought that Reggie Watkins' arrangement
of Besame Mucho was absolutely smoking. And of course, Dennis DiBlasio's
priceless. Especially his humor!
the recording of Swingin' For Schuur.
9) Do you have
a favorite story from playing with the band yet?
Yes I do, although it has nothing to do with music. We went to Thailand
last year to play for the King. We were staying in Bangkok and had to
travel to the King's palace, a two hour drive, for a concert. We were
traveling in several vans complete with a police escort along one of the
main highways in Thailand. At every intersection there were police stopping
traffic from entering the road. Up ahead of us were more police clearing
the way for us. They would pull up along side of traffic and motion for
drivers to pull off the road and if they hesitated for even a moment the
police would literally bump them off to the side of the road. I was riding
in the lead van along with Maynard. As our speeds exceeded 100 mph and
with the police running people off the road ahead of us, it took on the
look of a video game. While most people might have been nervous or maybe
even car sick, Maynard was having the time of his life. We were laughing
hysterically! It was my first close-up glimpse of just how free spirited
Maynard really is.
10) What do you think makes a good jazz pianist?
Probably the most important thing is the ability to listen and react to
other players and musical situations. I find that I tend to play differently
behind Maynard as opposed to other soloists. And playing behind singers
is a whole other ball game. All these different situations require some
adjustments in one's playing. Also, it ALWAYS has to swing. All the chops
in the world mean nothing if it's not swinging.
11) How would you
describe Maynard's bandleading style?
He's very easygoing. He encourages everyone to develop their own artistry.
He makes every gig fun and what's really amazing is the
amount of energy he produces every night. There are times when we've had
an unusually hectic travel schedule and the entire band is exhausted,
Maynard included, but he manages to "turn it on" anyway and
it's inspiring for everyone else.
12) Do you find
it difficult to reach Maynard's audience as a pianist?
Not necessarily. There seems to be a little difference when we play high
schools as opposed to clubs. The high school audience is maybe mostly
interested in Maynard and all the amazing things he does, whereas the
club audience might sometimes have a greater appreciation for other soloists
within the band. But both kinds of gig are always fun to do!