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Between Sets with Leslie Pintchik

Sensually laced keyboards. Emotionally driven arrangements. Intellectually intense compositions, but still not tender justice to Brooklyn native pianist Leslie Pintchik.

In the fall of 2004, Ambient Records ignited the fire of jazz enthusiasts with Ms. Pintchik’s So Glad To Be Here, an imaginative endeavor that allows the listener to feel the gentleness and compassion of the artist’s unique talent.

This venture is a journey of sorts as you enter the mystical ambiance of the keyboards in tribute piece Hopperesque, while in the next breath you embrace the grace and angelic tones of Something Lost.

To fully appreciate this resourceful pianist one has to just spend a brief moment in time with her, understanding the whole package that refuses to set limits involving her potential. This is Leslie Pintchik between sets

We first delved into her mindset and perspective behind her latest release. Not a surprising revelation was her intense attitude and firm grasp on what decisions were made and her expectations pertaining to the project.

JAZZREVIEW: How was the project "So Glad To Be Here" birthed? Was there a catalyst or philosophy behind its creation?

LESLIE PINTCHIK: The material was written and conceived within the past decade, but this particular CD got its start when my bass player [Scott Hardy] and I heard percussionist Satoshi Takeishi at the Blue Note. The drama and unusual colors in his playing and his kit seemed a natural fit for some of my material. We called him up to play, and soon after decided that we would like to record together.

JAZZREVIEW: You opened it with a Jerome Kern tune versus one of your own. Was there a purpose to this introduction?

LESLIE PINTCHIK: Once we had recorded all the tracks, this one [All The Things You Are] seemed like a natural opener, not so much because it’s a familiar standard, but because of the playful character of the performance.

JAZZREVIEW: In both Hopperesque and Mortal you use space and silence to its advantage. Intriguing! Why this method and how did you come about implanting it?

LESLIE PINTCHIK: To begin with, I wanted Mortal to start (as well as end) with silence. There are four seconds of silence at the beginning of the track, which is a deliberate choice, although to some ears it could seem like the recording engineer made a mistake. I’ve always been attracted to the power of silence and space, and Miles Davis is a particular inspiration in this regard. I think both bassist Scott Hardy and percussionist Satoshi Takeishi played some virtuoso rests on Mortal and Hopperesque. Hopperesque was inspired by the artist Edward Hopper’s paintings, which often depict people in threshold moments and in-between spaces. He suffuses those transitional moments with a feeling of mystery; to reflect that, the playing on Hopperesque is spare. We tried to capture a vibe.

JAZZREVIEW: The bass and piano have a strong relationship in Terse Tune. Explain how that cut was developed and strategy behind the melody?

LESLIE PINTCHIK: The melody of Terse Tune (a minor blues that spans two 12 bar choruses) is quite spare, hence the title. This piece is unique on the CD, in that space is used in the context of an up-tempo composition, in contrast to the ballads Hopperesque and Mortal. Scott developed the bass line in the course of performing the tune, and both in the melody of the piece and the improvising; he provides a wonderfully responsive counterpoint.

JAZZREVIEW: You close the project with We See, a Monk classic. Other than the fact that it showcases your style very well, why not end the project with a Pintchik original? Explain the thought behind the decision.

LESLIE PINTCHIK: Similar to the choice of the opening track, we decided to make We See the closer, once all the tracks had been recorded. It had to do with the flow of the record more than anything else. The preceding track Something Lost is almost a classical piece in feeling; Scott is the only one who solos, and the mood is somewhat dark. Therefore, We See seemed like a nice change of pace, both because the cut is short, and more importantly, because like so many of Monk’s tunes, the melody of We See is profoundly playful.

Understanding the music is not as fulfilling for the listener unless one understands the makeup and background of the artist. The inner thoughts and steps taken to the point they are at are very telling when it comes to the genius we sometime perceive.

JAZZREVIEW: What road did you take in your life to get to this point? A little background music please!

LESLIE PINTCHIK: I did not play music as a child. I studied literature in college, and was a doctoral candidate in 17th century English literature at Columbia University, where I also taught English composition and literature on a teaching fellowship. It was during this time that I began studying piano. The depth, originality and beauty of Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk initially inspired me, and in time, I felt that I couldn’t continue to pursue both my literary studies and a music career in a way that would do either of them justice. So I went from teaching "King Lear" to going on the road playing piano with a Hawaiian revue where I was asked to wear a grass skirt and coconuts. It goes without saying that the transition wasn’t an easy one! (Note to reader: I did NOT wear the skirt and coconuts!) One of my first "big breaks" in the jazz field was when bassist Red Mitchell asked me, along with guitarist Scott Hardy (who is now my bass player), to play a month of Sundays with him at Bradley’s. In the early nineties, I started focusing on performing with my own trio. An early incarnation of the group was chosen as one of the four finalists in the Cognac Hennessy Jazz Search, held at the Bottom Line in Manhattan. In the following years, I’ve put together a book for the trio that consists mostly of original compositions, and I’ve worked primarily with bassist Scott Hardy, and with many wonderful drummers, amongst them Keith Copeland, Rich De Rosa, and most notably, our current working drummer Mark Dodge, as well as percussionist Satoshi Takeishi, who is featured on my new CD.

JAZZREVIEW: How would you describe the style and composition methodology of Leslie Pintchik? When you enter the composition phase of your work, what takes you to the level you need to be at? What is your process in igniting an idea?

LESLIE PINTCHIK: I don’t really have a "method" when I compose. Whatever I write starts with a feeling, and in the process of composing I work to clarify and refine that feeling. The music seems to take shape from there, so I rely more on intuition than on any particular technique. And there are certainly some times when writing is such a struggle that I would welcome a "method" with open arms!

JAZZREVIEW: Scott Hardy and Satoshi Takeishi compliment you extremely well. However Hardy is no stranger to your world. Can you elaborate on this partnership?

LESLIE PINTCHIK: A superb musician and wonderful partner, Scott Hardy is the "house bass player." As I often introduce him on the bandstand: "He’s so good, I had no choice but to marry him!"

JAZZREVIEW: Beside your music, I know you have taken another course in your diverse career. Can you let us in on your literary endeavor?

LESLIE PINTCHIK: As I mentioned earlier, I originally planned on a career teaching literature, before I took a U-turn into becoming a jazz pianist and composer. But I’m still an avid reader, and I have just begun to do some writing about music, which I’ve included in the "Writings" section of my website.

We digress from reality with an idealistic desire.

JAZZREVIEW: If you could go head to head on a keyboard duet, who would be looking across from you?

LESLIE PINTCHIK: This would be my ideal scenario: I would love to invite Keith Jarrett, Herbie Hancock and classical pianist Richard Goode to my home for a private concert. I would bask in the glories of their musicianship. I would enjoy a tuna fish sandwich. I would be all ears and I would not play the piano!

As for the future, which is limitless for this multi-talented artist.

JAZZREVIEW: What is next for you and the year 2005?

LESLIE PINTCHIK: I hope to continue to grow as a musician. My trio performs primarily in Manhattan, our hometown and a city that I love. But perhaps with the release of our CD, we will get the opportunity to travel more, and introduce our music to a wider audience. That would be great.

And it is great, this multi faceted musician driven to succeed every step of the way. For Leslie Pintchik performing is not an event but very much a way of life

Karl Stober is an international freelance columnist and broadcaster who can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Karl can also be reached at 1-802-380-6065.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Leslie Pintchik
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