THE FAMOUS ELSEWHERE JAZZ QUESTIONNAIRE: Jan Preston

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 THE FAMOUS ELSEWHERE JAZZ QUESTIONNAIRE: Jan Preston
Earlier this year when pianist Jan Preston released her Play It Again Jan album and toured, we reviewed the album and peppered in some of her background: Red Mole Cabaret, Midge Marsden's Country Flyers, Coup D'Etat, soundtracks, awards . . .

Born in Greymouth but a longtime resident of Australia, she returns to New Zealand for further dates to pick up where that earlier 88 Pianos I Have Known tour left off, and left out. (See dates and places below)

So rather than tell her story all over again, let's let Jan Preston speak for herself . . .


The first piece of music, jazz or otherwise, which really affected you was . . .

Henry Mancini’s “Baby Elephant Walk” We had the sheet music in our house in Napier and, looking back now, it was the first Piano Boogie left hand Bass I ever played. I was 11 at the time.

When did you first realise this jazz thing was for you?

After spending years in Rock Bands and never feeling comfortable musically, (throughout Coup D’Etat’s hit single), I moved to New York. There I heard Professor Longhair live. I learnt one of his pieces and immediately felt a comfortable groove, and I still play that piece, called “Gone So Long”, today.

What one piece of music would you play to a 15-year old into rock music to show them, 'This is jazz, and this is how it works'?

That’s a difficult question for me because I’m a boogie specialist. I’d probably play them Meade Lux Lewis’ “Honky Tonk Train Blues” which has an amazing groove and phenomenal cross rhythms.

Time travel allows you go back to experience great jazz. You would go to . . .

A “rent party” in one of the Honky Tonks in the 1930’s in the States to see Albert Ammons, Meade Lux Lewis or Pete Johnson playing. These guys would thrash the piano all night for tips to pay their rent. I’d love to stand up real close and see their fingering and power.

Which period of Miles Davis' career do you most relate to, and why: the acoustic Fifties; his orchestrated albums with Gil Evans; the acoustic bands, the fusion of the late Sixties; street funk of the Seventies or the Tutu album and beyond in the Eighties . . .

I had a flatmate in the 1970’s who played “Bitches Brew” on high rotate, so that’s the Miles I know. Amazing music!

Any interesting, valuable or just plain strange musical memorabilia at home?

I have a very rare Katie Webster promotional t-shirt. I tried to place it in an auction to raise money for charity a couple of years ago thinking it was super precious, but it turned out no one had heard of the (now deceased) Swamp Boogie Queen and it didn’t sell!

The best book on the jazz life you have read is . . .

“A Left Hand Like God” by Peter Sylvester which is the complete and comprehensively researched history of Boogie Piano.

If you could get on stage with anyone it would be (And you would play?) . . .

Much as it’s super exciting to perform with other brilliant musicians, I’d rather have workshops with certain guys than perform live with them, as I’d get inside their head and learn more that way. I have no desire whatsoever to play anything than piano, it’s the only instrument I understand.

The three films you'd insist anybody watch because they might understand you better are . . .

I don’t think any film would clarify my crazed musical brain to anyone really, and because I compose music for films I’m always listening to the soundtrack. Most distracting!

The last CD or vinyl album you bought was . . . (And your most recent downloads include . . .)

I mostly listen to my musician friends and always on CD; artists such as (acoustic guitarist/songwriter) Nick Charles, the glorious Phil Manning, and (NZ band) Kokomo. Other than that I listen to fairly obscure early women’s boogie/jazz/blues such as Julia Lee (I have her box set which is everything she recorded) and Hadda Brooks.

One jazz standard you wished you had written . . .

Take The A Train. Love it!

The poster, album cover or piece of art could you live with on your bedroom forever would be . . .

I’m not a collector of album covers or posters, all my favourite art is from friends who are artists. My sister-in-law Mercedes Webb-Pullman does amazing (and unusual) stained glass works which I never tire of looking at.

Three non-jazz albums for a desert island would be . . ?

I listen to film soundtrack music quite a lot. I love Gabriel Yared’s “Betty Blue” soundtrack and I’ve fallen in love recently with a German pianist/composer called Hauschka. Totally amazing!

jpresYour dream band of musicians (living or dead) would be . . ?

To be honest I don’t dream of playing with other musicians. I so love playing with my rhythm section Mike Pullman (drums) and bass player Nigel Masters, who has an instinct and groove like no other acoustic bassist I’ve ever worked with.

And finally, is there a track on your most recent album you would love people to hear. And, if so, why that one?

I want people to hear all the tracks on my recent CD “Play It Again Jan”! I’m so proud of that recording, it’s my best CD.

For a surprise track check out “Scared of the Dark”.

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