PLEASE PASS THE JAZZ and enjoy the jazz sounds of Jason Peri. A composer with talent and innovation, Jason Peri creates some wonderfully jazz inventive music. PLEASE PASS THE JAZZ showcases Peri at his finest, and reveals the creativity of the man. An interesting person, he had the following to say in a recent interview from California.
JazzReview.com: Jason, you are one of the most innovative composers in today's contemporary jazz. Could you please share your background and early influences with our jazz listening audience?
Jason Peri: "I became interested in music in 1963 when I heard The Beatles. I was six years old at the time. I took drum lessons for a while, but by the time I was seven, I had switched to guitar. I was listening to pop/rock all through the sixties. I was always interested in the more complicated songs, so when the seventies rolled around, I fell right into the progressive rock scene. Looking back, I can see how that led me to jazz. I think there's a fine line between prog rock and jazz fusion, so groups like Yes and Return to Forever really fell into the same category in many ways. Once I was hooked on fusion, it was easy to discover other forms of jazz. My first real jazz guitar influence was George Benson. I think the Breezin' album changed my guitar playing forever."
JazzReview.com: Your performance on CDs is always so clear, flawless, and enjoyable. What inspires your playing?
Jason Peri: "I've always recorded at home, so I've never had to worry about spending too much time on a part and going over budget. I think I work very hard on my guitar solos. I always try to play them straight through, but I'll punch-in a single note if I think it will sound better. The same goes for my keyboard parts. I can edit out bad notes with my computer. For the jazz purists who might frown on that, all I can say is my composing skills are more advanced than my playing. I think using all the tools of the studio is great. A studio recording is something that should be tight and hopefully listened to many times. I know I hate to hear the same mistakes each time I listen to a CD. As far as inspiration goes, well, I suppose it's whatever I'm feeling about any given song. Usually I just try to be melodic and watch my speed. There are times for speed, but a moderately paced solo with well-chosen notes can be more memorable."
JazzReview.com: What inspires your composing? Does the area you live in lend to the creative process?
Jason Peri: "I think there may be something about where I live. I have a big yard right next to a hill. There are always squirrels and bunnies frolicking about. I like to sit and watch them. You haven't lived until you've seen two wild bunnies wrestling. I can't say that I've actually written about these things, but I can't really say what does inspire me. Usually, I sit at the keyboard or pick up my guitar, and I just start experimenting. Sometimes nothing happens, other times everything happens. That's the difference between music and lyrics. With lyrics, you have to have some idea of what it's about before you start. I've written plenty of love songs, angry songs...probably most emotions I've experienced have been converted to lyrics. I like writing science fiction lyrics too. But, with music, especially an instrumental piece, it could mean a lot of things. When I name an instrumental piece, I just have to listen until it paints some kind of picture in my head. It really names itself. That's when I discover what inspired a particular piece."
JazzReview.com: What do you see as the future of jazz music in the United States?
Jason Peri: "I've been listening to jazz for about 25 years. That's a relatively short time, but I've seen a lot of changes. Some ups, some downs. The ups have always been really good. I think it will always be that way. Jazz needs to stay around to provide us with an escape from the monotony of corporate pop (not that there's anything wrong with that stuff...ahhhhem). Like most genres, there are many types of jazz. If one type gets boring, a new one will spring up. There will always be room for a new kind of jazz."
JazzReview.com: What advice and suggestions would you offer to aspiring jazz composers and jazz performers?
Jason Peri: "I think education is important. I used to think I didn't need it because I could play just fine. But, I eventually took classes in theory, improvisation, film scoring, etc. That's how I found out how much I really didn't know. And, I still use a lot of that knowledge all the time. However, I think good composing is much more than just following structural guidelines and formulas. It takes a lot of experimenting. If you're stringing some chords together and one of them sounds a little off, experiment with it. Raise the third, flat the fifth, add a ninth. You'll find the right one. Never say 'that's close enough.' There are always alternatives."
JazzReview.com: You also have interests in rock and roll, and classical. Would you share your thoughts on those, please?
Jason Peri: "As I said earlier, I grew up on sixties pop/rock. I still love most of the old stuff, but I've always been driven to find new music. There came a point when rock music wasn't going in the direction that I wanted it to go. That's when I got into jazz and classical music. Actually, I had an appreciation for classical music much earlier. We had a baby grand in the house I grew up in. My mom used to play Chopin, Debussy, Rachmanninoff, etc. I always enjoyed listening to her play when I was a kid, but it wasn't until much later that I started buying classical records. Anyway, I started to drift away from rock in the late seventies as I continued to discover more jazz and classical. Nowadays I go through phases. I'll spend a few months listening mostly to jazz, then I'll switch to rock for a while, then classical. It's an endless circle. The same goes for my writing. I usually only write orchestral music when I'm working on a film, which is rare. Mostly, I go between writing rock and jazz and usually I try to find a new way to combine the two. I've got a fairly large backlog of music just waiting to be recorded. One thing in the works is a progressive rock project with a lot of classical influence. It may be a while before I can get to it though. It's next in line after my current project, which has a high-energy, jazzy blues sound. You're going to love it."
JazzReview.com: Jason Peri, it has been a pleasure interviewing you. Are there any closing thoughts you wish to share with the jazz listening audience?
Jason Peri: "I'd just like to thank you and the fans for the support. I really enjoy composing, recording and performing. But, knowing somebody else enjoys listening to it makes it much more rewarding. I'll be making music for a long time to come and hope I'll always have people to share it with."