'Lucky Number 12!'
Though one of jazz’s newest and brightest stars, Taylor Eigsti has been on the jazz scene for quite some time, with four independent releases and an extensive touring history already under his belt. This experience has provided Eigsti – at only 21 - with a wealth of knowledge and an ability to create a genre-defining album that will influence the jazz scene.
During his high school years in Northern California, Eigsti worked with such respected jazz artists as Bobby Hutcherson, Red Holloway and Kevin Mahogany. He also made his mark in the classical field, performing with singers Frederica von Stade and Sylvia McNair, as well as with numerous symphonies.
Eigsti’s classical knowledge and influence is clearly evident throughout the album. While he really shines on the keys, Eigsti also offers a distinctive and compelling, modern rhythmic twist by encompassing funk and hip-hop in addition to a traditional swing feel, opening a whole new dimension in the genre. It is here, in his innovative arrangements, that Taylor clearly demonstrates his strengths and defines himself as an inspired, cutting-edge composer.
His personal influences come from both the traditional and modern corners of the jazz world. Charlie Parker, Phineas Newborn and Oscar Peterson are cited as sources of influence, while players from the younger generation such as Geoff Keezer and Brad Mehldau are equally as inspiring to Eigsti.
Chatting recently with Taylor, and mentioning that it had been stated that he was one of jazz's newest and brightest stars - and yet he's already released four independent albums, I first wondered why it had taken until now, his fifth album to finally find the brilliant glare of media success? "Well I feel very fortunate to be with a great record label now, Concord Records, who are an amazing team of people who are passionate, devoted, and just all-around great people to work with. They have done an incredible job with promoting the album, and I am so thankful to have people out there who help me share the music that I make."
Having worked with such respected jazz artists as Red Holloway and Kevin Mahogany whilst you were still at high school, I'm wondering what words of wisdom you brought away from these people? "I have learned a great deal from all of the musicians I have worked with - I find that I can gather great advice from younger musicians as well as the masters. Mostly what I learn from people who have spent their whole lives with the music is how to be professional, what to practice, and how to truly listen to other musicians. It is extremely important as a musician to have an all-encompassing handle on the elements at play when you are in the middle of a song, and the more experience you have and the more you play with different people, the more seasoned you become. I have found that playing with amazing musicians has made me a much better musician myself."
Your album title 'Lucky To Be Me' is an obvious statement of feeling, but does it truly originate from a more personal standpoint for you? "I have dealt with numerous personal tragedies in my life, but I feel like having music in my life and having a passion and focus has made me able to survive all of it and keep my head on straight. “Lucky to be Me” is a beautiful song with lyrics that express how fortunate someone feels, and it is always important to me to play this as a serious ballad, to express the juxtoposition of both sadness and a solemn, reflective vibe, while attempting to also reveal that I feel very lucky to be doing what I’m doing and be in the position I am in."
If there was one track on this new album that truly encapsulated Taylor Eigsti at his musical and lyrical finest, which one would it be? "The composition 'Argument' was a piece I wrote that essentially maps out the general course of an Argument, through the harmonies, rhythmic jumps, and the overall structure of how the piece is designed. In writing this piece, I tried to examine each section and try to let the melody and the balance of dissonance and harmony dictate the emotion throughout in a very particular way. It is difficult for instrumentalists to be able to clearly demonstrate some concept without the use of lyrics, so I’ve found that I need to turn to specific and very selective use of the tools I am given, harmony, melody, dynamics, and structure, to create the what I am going for."
At what stage did the piano fast become your musical weapon of choice? Were there any other contenders that you tried out first though? "I was always only drawn to the piano, and I became drawn to it at an early age after watching my sister play the piano. She unfortunately died when I was 3 years old, but getting to watch her play was very inspiring for me at an early age, and I wanted to try to be like her and started very young."
What '80s (and possibly cheesy!) pop song would you love to cover today if asked ... and why?! "Not really my generation - I have an eclectic taste in music, but not very knowledgable or much of a fan of 80s pop songs. Sorry!"
Lastly, I like Penguins ... do you?! "Sure!"
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
If you would like to win an AUTOGRAPHED copy of Taylor's brand new CD, just answer this easy question: Taylor spent his high school years in Northern California, but at which school?
Send me your answers and if you're correct you'll be in the running to win one of these great new and AUTOGRAPHED CDs! Just send us an e:mail here before May 15th with your answer and the subject title 'TAYLOR EIGSTI SIGNED CDs' to: email@example.com
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