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Jowee Omicil, One on One with KariJazz

KariJazz: Let me start by saying it is a real pleasure to have you on board Jowee. We were looking forward to this interview to happen. So thanks for taking the time to seat down with us and talk about your passion.

Jowee: It is definitely a pleasure for me to be here on Karijazz's network. Let's get to the Core…

KariJazz: Can you give us a brief synopsis of your musical adventure. Can you also tell us how did the Paul Mauriat's endorsement go?

Jowee: Well, I received various scholarships to enroll at Berkley College of Music, 3 years after I started learning the Alto sax. I majored in Music Education. While I was in school, I met a lot of great musicians, amongst them Darren Barrett, Lionel Loueke, Jaleel Shaw, Jeremy Pelt and many others who were there at the time. I also linked a tight friendship with Kenny Garrett who was and still is one of my main influences, in the lines of Coltrane, Miles, and Ornette etc…. Then, let's fast forward, I also met World Music artists like Beethova Obas, Emeline Michel through Harold Faustin (another giant guitarist in our midst). During the Berklee days, I built a music curriculum for woodwinds at Mission Hill School in Massachusetts. I taught there for 4 years then moved on to NY. In NY I toured with Roy Hargrove, played sideman gigs at churches, clubs; following that I had to do my own thing. Meaning the music that I was feeling which is still in process now.

As far as Paul Mauriat's endorsement, it's a full endorsement. I met their CEO at Berkley while I was rehearsing, they heard me and fell in love with my sound, and then later on they offered the endorsement. You can imagine I was thrilled.

KariJazz: Why did you choose to embrace jazz music?

Jowee: I just love the sound of jazz music, the freedom, the liberty. This is the only kind of music where there's no restriction in terms of vocabulary.

KariJazz: Indeed, there isn't any. When I go to your site, there are two things that always caught my attention. Among others are myriad of projects you have been involved in with other musicians nationwide from trumpeter Darren Barrett, Roy Hargrove to former Zap Mama's singer Sally Nyolo. How do you manage to navigate between all these cats?

Jowee: To manage different cats is part of the journey. I believe that as a musicians/educator, one needs to adapt to any given musical situation. That's my approach.

KariJazz: Teaching seems to be a central component of your career. You are very active in the academic field. Can you talk to us about your motivation toward music education? Why it is important to share this knowledge of music to the extent of producing a workshop for kids at the Miami Museum of Science?

Jowee: They always say knowledge is in the books, I believe that firmly. I spend hours reading musical books and lots of time with my person…in search of knowledge. Music education is Life and Music and how they link. It's mandatory for our kids who are the future, to understand the power of awareness. That's my mission. Let the student know that he/she too can be a genius like Beethoven or Mozart. At the Museum of Science I had to teach F school students. Believe me, they were not anything as such. We spoke about how Music meets Science, how you can make any subject in life scientific…. They all got out of the sessions knowing that they were able to be whoever they wanted to be in this realm.

KariJazz: Your first album "Let's Do It" (2006) exhibits a kind of Jazz/Hip Hop flavor. We are a few days from the release of your new CD "Roots and Grooves" 3 years later. This title resonates like a statement. Can you tell us what motivates this shift in direction?

Jowee: Right!.. the shift because that's what I'm hearing musically. The "Roots" is where one comes from. For me it's the Church (Classical and Gospel music). "Grooves" is my different sounds associations. African sounds and rhythms, Jazz, Funk, Hip-Hop, R&B, Indian, Japanese music and…. It's vast. Remember that Haiti is Africa too.

KariJazz: As you know, we have been observing a progressive development of Kreyòl Jazz in our community these last four years. How do you see yourself in this movement promoting a music that would reflect a fusion of our roots and Jazz music?

Jowee: I'm proud to be part of the Kreyòl jazz scene and even more to have been in the first Haitian Jazz Festival four years ago. It's a sound that people want to hear, they are curious about it and it's always an urgent matter for me to satisfy avid listeners.

KariJazz: Can you name some musicians who have influenced your work?

Jowee: Miles Davis is my main influence; John Coltrane in terms of spiritual moods; Charlie Parker for the essence of bebop; Kenny Garrett, Marcus Miller, Ornette Coleman's bluesy connotations; Bach and Mozart are two of my favorite musicians and composers, these are only some of my immediate influences.

KariJazz: On this CD, there are many musicians from different cultures; yet this project is so coherent that one might think you've been playing for years. How did you manage such an eclectic cast of musicians?

Jowee: The creator has blessed me to cross path with different people throughout my life. Roots & Grooves features: Lionel Loueke (Benin), Mawuena Kodjovi (Togo), Patrick Andriant silonina (Madagascar), Kona Khasu (Liberia) , Francisco Mela (Cuba), Nedelka (Panama), Jeremy Pelt and Nir Felder (USA), Emeline Michel, Val-Inc, Manny Laine and Johnny Mercier (Haiti). They are the product of a long cultivated friendship. We all share fellowship, harmony, respect, love and the same passion for the music we love.

KariJazz: Thanks for your time Jowee. KariJazz is looking forward to the release of "Roots and Grooves". Good luck!

Jowee: Thanks

Alphonse Piard, Jr.
August 29, 2009

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