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  CD Reviews

Jean Caze Alphonse Piard Jr. (ALPI): First of all, let me start by saying thanks to you for accepting so spontaneously and graciously to give KariJazz this interview. We really appreciate that.

Jean Caze: You are welcome.

ALPI: To introduce yourself to our listeners, I would like you to give us quickly a kind of synopsis on where you've been? What you've done? And where you're heading if it's possible?

Jean Caze: Ok! Well! My name is Jean Caze. I was born in Haiti and I left when I was four months old. I grew up in New York City. I started playing trumpet when I was nine years old. The first music school training that I got was in Public schools. And I got some outside training at Julliard's MAP program which means Music Advance Program. After that I continued to play in High School. It was the first time that that I played in a Jazz Band and I was forced to improvise. While I was in High School, I studied at Queens College. They have that program for kids on Saturdays. By the time I graduated, I had hung out with Wynton Marsalis; I had played with Chicago, the rock group, live on NBC. I was given some scholarships and awards to go to different universities. I made it to the Grammy Band which is all American High School Jazz band. And once you are in there, a lot of colleges which have music programs are scaling musicians who play in that band. I gained a scholarship and attended Manhattan School of Music for four years where I earned a Bachelor in Music, Jazz trumpet; I moved to Florida and I just finished getting my master degree in Music at Florida International University.

ALPI: In what specific area of music did you get your master degree?

Jean Caze: In music performance. I do arranging, composing, and a little bit of keyboard. I use it as a tool to compose.

ALPI: Let's talk about the CD now. The first track of the CD is a piece called " Haitian Peace Song " Why this title?

Jean Caze: Why Haitian Peace Song? Ok. There is an American Jazz composer called Charles Mingus who wrote a song called Haitian Fight Song. I use to play this piece when I was in High School. It was very interesting. It has a rhythm ta-ta-ta-taaa… ta-ta-ta-taaa… you "kinda" feel the war, the revolution in the music. I wrote the song not thinking how I am going to call it first. But the mood of it was very peaceful, very calm and happy. I taught it would be nice to call it something that reminds peace. I just came back from Haiti at that time. I was deep into Haitian music. I was carried back into that (re)learning process about my culture. It was a great experience. So, I decided to call the song "Haitian peace song".

ALPI: You said you learned about Haiti. How long it has been since you have not visited Haiti?

Jean Caze: I went back when I was 2 years old and I went back again when I was 16 or 17. I stayed for two weeks. I have been going back three to four times for the last six, seven months to play with Reginald Policard and Mushy Widmaier at festivals and events. Every time I go back now, I learn more about who I am, where I have been and where I am going.

ALPI: Do you feel that is something deeply inside that you have to go back to your roots?

Jean Caze: Definitively! Actually when I was younger I did not want anyone to know that I was Haitian. Not I was ashamed but I was such a shy kid. Anything that would make me stand out, I would not want anyone to know about it. Actually my real first name is Amedée. Amedée Jean Caze. First day of School, I would let them call me Jean (sound it English). I would not have to be called such a funny name like Amédée. Not because it is Haitian but, because of its funny connotation taken in the American elementary school context.

Karl Joseph: When your name is Jean, the first thing that comes to people's mind is: "he must be Haitian" Ah! Ah! Ah!

Jean Caze: When I went to Haiti, I got so much pride in the culture that I told myself that I am going to make everyone pronounce my name right (French Pronunciation).

Karl Joseph: I guess Jean Luc Ponty must have gone to the same process until he made a few replies and suggested the right pronunciation. How did you become involved in Haitian Jazz?

Jean Caze: I was not even aware of that big movement about Haitian Jazz until I met Reginald Policard and Mushy Widmaier…and the rest you know it.

ALPI: We are glad you are on board. A trumpet player of your caliber is always welcome to this movement and we should expect more projects carrying this Haitian pride. Shouldn't we"?

Jean Caze: The very next project is going to be a Creole jazz project.

ALPI: Any particular musician in perspective for this album?

Jean Caze: It is too early to say. There are speculations at this stage and I already got the whole concept ready to go. I have an idea of the name… but we will talk about this when time comes.

ALPI: Of course! As I have stated earlier to you, we (KariJazz) want to be in the forefront of this movement and essentially document everything that is happening in this growing movement of Haitian Jazz. Anything you want to disseminate, we will be glad to put it on our site or play it on the radio.

Jean Caze: Thanks.

ALPI: Let's keep on going with the CD. I have noticed that there is a wonderful keyboardist whose support is so effective. Can you elaborate more about him?

Jean Caze: His name is Andrew Fisher. He is 23. He just finished his degree at University of Miami. He is the type of musician who's never satisfied with what he has as far as sound. He is always looking for good sounds. At this stage, he is using the moog which is an instrument musicians were using a lot in the seventies. It is a phase able recorder that adds pitch to your voice. It gives also a kind of twisted sound like (weird noise). So he brought this seventies flavor to the recording and also he has this classic piano sound. With those two sounds, he gave a lot of support to the music and makes it have that kind of lush and soft texture as opposed to playing in a more rhythmic and more open style that would make it mellower.

ALPI: I have notice that the general tone of the CD is mellow. I have to confess that I was expecting something typical of Miami when I read the title. This omnipresent mellow tone, is it something you were looking for?

Jean Caze: Well, the way I play is very melodic. I wasn't exactly going for mellow only. When you rehearse the music, things happened naturally. I guess the musicians were looking to me to see what I wanted. The way I was playing, that particular day, may have had an influence on them. I was not looking for specifically something mellow. I was going for music. I try to write music as accessible as possible to everybody.

ALPI: What do you mean exactly by using the term "accessible" here?

Jean Caze: Accessible means they can listen to it and find something in it whether they know anything about jazz or not. There are so many musicians who write things that are so complicated or so far away from what an average listener would be able to understand or appreciate. And… what they produce becomes so exclusive.

ALPI: Do you have someone in mind?

Jean Caze: Yeah! Not to put anyone on spot, but a musician like Greg Osby whom I listen a lot. I love his music. But I think if I play his music to folks who are not into Jazz, they will probably go like "What's this?" I write not to be commercial or not to appeal to everybody but I write music in a way that is universal and anyone can feel associated with what I am doing.

ALPI: Can we say that you are ready to compromise in order to reach a certain level of success?

Jean Caze: Not really. If that was the case, I would be a singer and I would do pop and R&B. (laughter). I grew up listening to what was playing on the radio before going to jazz. I enjoyed this music although there were not a lot of folks of my age listening to it. Maybe was it the melodies, the rhythms? One of the songs that I remember is Bobby Mac Ferrin's "Don't Worry, Be Happy" and it is only recently that I realized that only his hands played the rhythm in the music. I did not know that when I was a kid. I just loved the music.

Karl Joseph: He has another CD where he plays live with Chick Corea. Just the two of them… A lot of "sounds", so much of it coming at all angles.

ALPI: I know! You get the impression there is a whole band playing. Jean, coming to Jazz has been something natural to you or, at a certain time did you have to make a choice?

Jean Caze: No! It came easy to me because, I was taught by one professor who was teaching trumpet and a bunch of other instruments at the same time. There was only one professor, one time a week. The way he taught us was first by ear. He was just showing us what to do. I had a quick ear to pick out what he wanted me to do. Right way, I was a step ahead of everyone in playing trumpet just naturally. Afterwards, I started learning music theory. But really it was about my ear. Look at what you suppose to get. So, I came to jazz so… naturally… I'd say.

Karl Joseph: Who is your favorite jazz trumpet player?

Jean Caze: I do not have one favorite. But to pick some I would say my earlier influences were Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong. I like Clark Terry a lot, Wynton Marsalis. I like the two guys who are on the scene. They've been there for a while now, Nicholas Payton and Roy Hargrove. I do like Chet Baker of whom we spoke off microphone. There are other guys but these are the main influences. Actually I would say N. Payton has been the main influence these last three to four years.

ALPI: You mentioned earlier the name of Wynton Marsalis. Has he been a great influence in your music life at that time when you met him? Describe what happened when you first met with him…

Jean Caze: Okay. I had a lesson session at Julliard School with one of my first teachers. Wynton lived there at that time. My teacher took me to his house for the lesson. Wynton came to the room and commented "Whoa! It seems that he can play a little bit". When I heard this and Wynton watching me play, I started getting nervous and messed up. He said: "No you are not doing it right". He picked up my trumpet and started playing it and, of course, he sounded amazing. Then he walked away and my teacher said: "you see you could do that. You can be someone who plays like this" and we continued the lesson. After that I went to Wynton's house on my own, hoping out to run into him and he would let me in.

ALPI: Did you succeed?

Jean Caze: Yeah, I was very shy back then. I am still a little bit shy. I was intimidated by him too. He kind likes to weird out, cool, wants to know the information. We had informal lessons. I will ask questions about music and playing trumpet. We played chess, we played basketball. We hung out together. I wanted to see just what kind of person he is. It is very apparent that hanging out with someone as serious and determine as Wynton Marsalis brings so much evidence on what are the key of success in this field, I mean… those traits of his character are what makes him so great. He's worked hard for it. He is great with students. He will take questions all the way he can.

ALPI: I heard of that. I am also a great fan of Wynton. I have a lot of his CDs.

Jean Caze: Actually I do not really like the CDs that I've heard. I had the opportunity to see him live. I was backstage. It is amazing to see this guy play live.

ALPI: I've never seen him live but I know his music through his CDs. Most of my favorites jazz musicians, I've never seen them live. I know them through their CDs. My Wynton's favorite is "Black Code".

Karl Joseph: I saw him live while I was in college. I was passing by the auditorium and saw the ad Wynton for $5. You bet… I jumped in.

Jean Caze: I doubt you can find that kind of deal now (Everybody laughs).

Karl Joseph: On this project, about 8 of the 9 songs were composed by you, right?

Jean Caze: That's correct!

Karl Joseph: That's an interesting point. I guess you are going to have more coming. Your next project is going to be a Haitian Jazz project. Do you plan on doing your own compositions or are you going to play the traditional Haitian songs many Haitian jazz musicians are playing nowadays.

Jean Caze: I am going to do some traditional songs, maybe not the same ones they have done; two to three of them that all Haitians know, but done in my own way. I think part of being a jazz musician or an artist is to enhance the art, help it develop into new forms. You cannot just keep repeating what was done before. You cannot keep playing the same music. That's the reason an artist must compose. And when you compose you are playing all your life experiences up to a certain point and at the same time, you are making something new out of it. So, the next project will have mostly my music played in a Haitian style, not the same songs. This movement is not as big as it could be. I want to bring my contribution to help it grow.

ALPI: That sounds good to me and that's where we want to go. We've been advocating for this movement for years. We want you guys to compose new materials that will probably become standards of Haitian Jazz Music. Because, when they turn into standards, others musicians from other countries will probably start playing them too and put this Haitian Musical Experience to the next level.

Karl Joseph: When should we expect that project? A couple of years?

Jean Caze: No! Within a year! (Laughter)

ALPI: In December?

Karl Joseph: That would be a nice Christmas present!

ALPI: Jean I know you are very busy and I really appreciate that you took the time to come here today for the interview. KariJazz wants to wish you good luck with your CD and your next project. Keep us updated on your progress and any other new endeavor you might have.

Jean Caze: I certainly will.

Karl Joseph: (shaking his hands) Thank you for accepting our invitation so graciously.

Jean Caze: You are quite welcome guys. This is a valuable work you are doing for this movement. Keep it up.

ALPI: Thanks.

June 3, 2007

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