Igor Willcox

BJP Guest Blogger Jon McCaslin is a Calgary-based drummer and author of Four On The Floor, a popular jazz drumming blog.

Brazilian drummer, composer and band leader Igor Willcox and his band are touring Canada in April and performing in Calgary on Thursday, April 25th at BuckingJam Palace, Calgary’s coolest and hippest new Jazz venue. Learn more about this performance here.

In the meantime, Igor was kind enough to answer a few questions about himself and his music in advance of their Canadian tour.

1) Tell us about your latest recording and touring project!

My last recording is the album Igor Willcox Quartet “Live”, released last year (2018). This album features compositions from my first album, released in 2017 and recorded in the studio, plus some tribute songs. This album has received a lot of good reviews in important jazz websites such as All About Jazz.

My touring project, the Igor Willcox Quartet, is a group that I assembled to play the compositions of my first CD, which features original songs. I started this group when I was in the composing process. I called my great friends and amazing musicians Vini Morales (keys), Glecio Nascimento (bass) and Wagner Barbosa (saxophone) to join the group.

We played in the most important Jazz festivals and clubs in Brazil and now we have the happiness to make our first Canadian Tour. Soon after this tour, we will be departing to Europe to play at the North City Jazz Festival, one of the most important jazz festivals of eastern Europe, in Kosovo, on May 18th of 2019.

This project has 3 years of existence and this year we will record a new album with original compositions by myself, Wagner, Vini, and Glecio. Some of these tunes we will be debuting in the Canadian Tour.

2) How did you choose your repertoire and sidemen?

I gave preference to play our original compositions, but there are some tunes that we have chosen in tribute to our great influences, such as Herbie Hancock, Allan Holdsworth, Joe Henderson, etc. Regarding the musicians, I have chosen people who I identify musically and personally with. Despite the group having my name, I don’t consider the musicians as sidemen, because they are very active in the group and we make decisions together about the arrangements of the songs. I also try to let them be free to express themselves musically. We are a unity!

3) What inspired you to pursue the vibe and instrumentation that you did?

I have always liked listening and also playing with this kind of quartet formation. It allows me to compose in a very creative way, leaving a lot of room for the musicians improvisations. I feel that our interaction is also very constant, we are always talking musically during the sound and it sounds very synergistic.

4) Was there a particular message you were trying to convey to the listener?

Yes, that the music is a universal language and we try to transmit this in our music. We are always looking for a musical dialogue during the sound, listening to each other and interacting.

5) Who are your influences with regards to this style of writing and playing?

There a lot, but some of my big influences are: Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Return To Forever, John McLaughlin, Allan Holdsworth, Wayne Shorter and Joe Zawinul.

6) What are you practicing/studying/listening to/researching these days?

I divided my routine in two ways: Practice piano and drums

– On the piano, I’m currently studying harmony, technique, not with the proposal to play, but to help me in the composition process.

– On the drums: I study everyday exercises for my hands such as the book Master Studies by Joe Morello. I love this book and there are a lot of ways to study it. I study also some new rhythms, coordination stuff focused on things that I have to improve on.

About listening, I’m always listening to all kind of good music, I love to discover new sounds and this influences the music I make.

Today, while I’m answering your questions, I am listening to Uri Caine “Bedrock”.

But in the past, I also listened to Joe Zawinul, Allan Pasqua, Sixun, Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams Lifetime, Bartok, etc.

7) What other current and future projects do you have on the go at the moment?

There is no other current project besides the quartet because I’m totally focused on this project. A lot of good things are happening and I want to be 100% dedicated to the band. I also play and record with artists here in Brazil, from Jazz to pop, but they are not my personal projects, but it’s part of my work as a sideman. That I enjoy a lot as well!

On the go: I have plans to record a new album around July/August

8) How do the drums and your overall approach to rhythm factor into your compositions and concept?

The drums influences a lot in my compositions. Often, I use some rhythmic ideas to start a composition, before making melodies and harmony. I love to use polyrhythms, beat displacements, etc.

9) What drummers (or other musicians) do you consider as influences?

A lot of drummers and musicians, but I will try to list my main influences:

Drummers: Tony Williams, Gary Husband, Jack DeJohnette, Gary Novak, Vinnie Colaiuta, Elvin Jones, Bill Stewart, Robertinho Silva, Adam Nussbaum, Lenny White, Will Kennedy, Billy Cobham, etc…

Other musicians: Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, Allan Holdsworth, Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinul, Joshua Redman, Keith Jarret, Allan Pasqua, John McLaughlin, Chick Corea, etc…

10) What advice do you have for younger, aspiring jazz musicians and drummers?

Have always open mind to listen to many different kind of Jazz styles, from the traditional Jazz to fusion. It will give you a deep knowledge and understanding about Jazz.

Try always to play in favor of the music, I mean, think musically, listen to the soloists, the melodies, the harmonies, pay attention to the environment, interact with the musicians you are playing. Live the music every day as if it is part of your life!