Interview with Adrean Farrugia

By Jon McCaslin on January 6, 2020

Pianist Adrean Farrugia and New York tenor saxophonist Joel Frahm will be performing at BuckingJam Palace, the first concerts of the year, as a duo on Sunday, January 19th (two shows: 2pm & 8pm). Farrugia are Frahm are both accomplished musicians and these concerts will no doubt start the year at BuckingJam Palace off on a very good note!

Adrean was also very kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions in advance of these highly anticipated concerts:

1) How would you describe the style of Jazz music you are bringing to Calgary?

Joel and I will be performing sax and piano duets. This is a very ‘naked’ and exposed configuration in that each musician has a tremendous amount of freedom, without the confines of a larger ensemble, but also a certain responsibility to contribute to the momentum and clarity of structure in the music. This music is highly expressive and interactive and no two performances of the compositions we’ll play are the same. Improvisation is at the heart of this music—and with that comes, vulnerability and an unparalleled sense of discovery.  We’ll be performing a mix of my own original music as well as some time tested ‘standards’ from the Great American Songbook.

2) Who are some of your influences?

All of the usual suspects such as Bill Evans, Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, Bud Powell, Charlie Parker, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett, and Brad Mehldau. I’m also very inspired by the words and writings of great thinkers like Alan Watts, Eckhart Tolle, Ken Wilber, Carl Jung, and Thich Nhat Khan—people who explore the idea that the infinite exists both inside and outside of us, and is accessed by ‘being’ powerfully in the moment. I also really like Elton John and ABBA:-)

3) How might you describe your relationship with tenor saxophonist Joel Frahm, who is joining you for this performance?

My relationship with Joel is a wonderful relationship. It started as a bit of ‘hero worship’ when I was in my early 20’s— I remember sitting in my car one night with friend (and amazing musician/saxophonist) Kenji Omae and he played one of Joel’s albums and I remember exclaiming ‘Who is THIS?? This is amazing!’ Then a number of years later we found ourselves together in a band led by drummer Ernesto Cervini who met Joel while going to school in NYC. During that time I discovered that Joel is an extremely kind, thoughtful soul with a fierce sense of humor and great integrity. A friendship was born. And today I consider him both a kindred spirit and a mentor.

4) What are some of the lessons you've learned from the many masters of this music you've performed with?

Be yourself. Be honest. Work hard. Listen, listen, listen. It’s not about YOU, it’s always about the MUSIC. If you find the place inside of you where the fire burns and channel THAT through the music, then the music will light the fire of those who witness it. Don’t take the music too seriously—or else you’ll rob it of looseness, humour, and those rare moments of real discovery. People see you as YOU see you—so be real because you ain’t foolin’ no one:)

5) What advice do you have for young, aspiring Jazz musicians?

Learn to love yourself just as you are right here, right now. When you have nothing to prove, the music you play will always penetrate those around you.

Don’t EVER try to sound good. Just play and be honest. Miles Davis never tried to sound good. He didn’t need to and didn’t care if you thought he sounded good. He was too busy DOING, not TRYING.

Don’t attach your identity and self worth to your music—that puts too much pressure on both you and the music and doesn’t allow for the real magic to happen. If you’re fine just as you are without music THEN when you play, the music comes to life— so work just as hard at being a masterful human as you do at being a masterful musician.

Find a powerful sense of purpose for the music you play. You need to have a reason/motivation for doing what you do in order for it to be meaningful for both you and those who listen.

Practice hard with clear goals and realize that discipline is a learned and practicable skill, that sometimes requires sacrifice. (I used to sit at home practicing on Friday night in college when all my friends went out to party and sometimes it REALLY felt like a sacrifice!)

You’ll only ever be as successful as you BELIEVE you can be. Any great person in history ALLOWED themselves to believe that they could accomplish the things they did.

Music is a SOCIAL game. Don’t just sit at home practicing alone and listening to albums and watching YouTube videos. Go out to hear music. Go to jam sessions. Talk to more experienced musicians (on set breaks at their shows) and ask them questions, and tell them about YOU. Let them know who you are and what you want in your pursuit as a musician.

Be ok with failure and uncertainty—these too are practicable skills, and also important for gaining wisdom, and depth as a musician.

Learn to imitate the masters. They are your access point to your own voice. Transcribe their solos and compositions and learn to play them along with their albums capturing every nuance of the performance. Be smart about how you study music. Don’t just listen to who’s popular now—find out who came before them, and before THEM and get a sense of the lineage of this music.

Don’t give up on your dreams. Those who tell you that being a musician is a bad choice most likely do so from a place of fear and most likely gave up on their own dreams.

You only live once, and life is short, so FFS go for it! : )

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