Tales from the Jazz Side with Charles Blenzig episode #13

This month’s Tales will be coming from pianist, composer, arranger and teacher Charles Blenzig.

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All good things come to those who wait. And wait I did until finally everything lined up and voilà, I now present to you the interview with my road buddy, my friend, Charles Blenzig. You ask, how come that was so hard to do, don’t you guys tour together? The answer is yes we do, for over 21 years to be exact. Timing is everything and that seems to be the case with Charles and me. It was just the right time when we met, it was just the right amount of time for our friendship to develop, and so its just the right time that we finally are recording this show together.

Musicians are always talking about people that influence them and usually it is around the music, the technical, the technique, etc. The truth is, it really isn’t just the music of the person that influences us, it is their heart, their outlook on life, the way they live their lives and it is through those exchanges that we adapt our lives to match theirs in some subtle way. Now I’m sure there will be those who will disagree with me on this and that’s ok, but really, what is someone’s unique style or stamp other than the choices that person has made in life. Choices that shape the kind of person they are and becoming still. Whether they are mean spirited, nice, generous, temperamental, happy or sad, the most interesting thing is that although they may only let others see one side, all the sides are present when the musician plays her music, when the writer writes,  dancer, dances painter, paints…..

All Music.com commented on Charles’ work – “he moves effortlessly among musical styles while retaining his own distinct sound.”
c-blenzig-performThis moving effortlessly could be contributed to his affable and adaptive nature.  The care and attention shown in his compositions, arrangements, can be experienced when listening to him perform. His ability to play keyboard/synthesizer along with piano, creating a full, lush orchestrated sound. This same attentiveness that is so prominent in his style, is evident in his teaching and in his life.

Charles Blenzig is one of a kind. What you see is what you get, straight on and meeting him changed the course of my life. This evolutionary adventure with Charles is somehow not a solitary one because it was through Charles that I met Michael Franks, a singer-songwriter and musician who continually renews my faith in the power of words and music and how it can change lives.

Working with Charles and Michael has given me a greater understanding around the genre called contemporary jazz.  Before I met them I was not an avid fan of contemporary jazz  and like other straight ahead and traditional players, felt that there were conflicting elements that didn’t allow me to see how it could have the word “jazz” as part of it’s title. By listening, immersing and performing this genre of music, I learned how to unite these seemingly conflicting concepts. How? Well first of all there is no conflict, there is you and what you do and how you hear the music, tools to help you tell your story. Some people do it with rap, pop music, country, classical exclusively and then there are those who understand that these genres are intertwined, some parts (highlighted) standing out more than others, but to see that, to experience that, one must let go of “suppose to” and embrace, “what if”.

Knowing, working and creating with Charles Blenzig has given me eyes to see and a heart to feel the world in ways that celebrate the “what if”.

About Charles Blenzig

“A jazz-fusion piano and synth player whose music encompasses bebop and modern-day fusion, Blenzig is a step above most players in this style.” Paul Kohler wrote ALL Music

“slips effortlessly among musical styles while retaining his own distinct sound.”

Charles Blenzig is a pianist, composer, arranger, and percussionist who slips effortlessly among musical styles while retaining his own distinct sound. Born in the Bronx, raised in Pelham, and now residing in Queens, he has been a part of the New York City jazz scene for over 25 years. Blenzig has worked with a number of musicians including the Italian rap star Lorenzo Cherubini (aka Jovanatti) and Solaluna NY Lab, and is currently working with singer/songer writer Michael Franks, and the multicultural conceptual band Asian*ergy based in Seoul, Korea.

Blenzig’s affiliation with Jovanatti began two summers ago with the creation of Soleluna NY Lab – an experimental group that performed in intimate settings around the US and Canada. Their 2010 tour culminated in Jovanatti & Soleluna’s appearance at New York City’s Summer Stage in Central Park.

Since 1990 has has been the musical director and keyboardist for Michael Franks. Working with the Michael Franks group has led to performances and television appearances throughout the world including Japan, Indonesia, Thailand, Africa, Europe, and Russia. Most recently, Blenzig produced and arranged Michael’s recording “Watching the Snow” as well as co-authored two title tracks to Michael’s CD entitled “Barefoot on the Beach” and “Rendezous in Rio”.

Blenzig has been a guest artist on over 100 recordings and has four CDs as a leader. His first is a self-titled debut featuring Will Lee and Mike Stern, the second, “Say What You Mean”, was produced by Will Lee and joined by Michael Brecker, Dennis Chambers and Manolo Badrena. The third is a piano trio recording entitled “Certain Standards” with Kenny Davis and Gene Jackson. And the latest release, “It’s About Time” for Double Time Records, features Tim Hagens, Greg Tarty, Marcus Strickland, Sean Conly, and Billy Kilson. Through the years Blenzig has performed regularly with several groups including Bill Evans and Kenwood Denard. Both stints led to recordings: “Bill Evans and Push Live in Europe” and Kenwood’s “Just Advance” which featured bass virtuoso Marcus Miller. Blenzig has also worked with Larry Coryell, Michael Urbaniak, Michael Brecker, Gato Barbieri, Joe Beck, the Mingus Big Band, Joe Locke, Eddie Gomez, Randy Brecker, Toninio Horta, Grady Tate, Buster Williams, Roy Ayers and John Patitucci.

Two high visibility gigs in Blenzig’s early career were as a member of the Gil Evans Orchestra where he was fortunate to play weekly engagements with such musicians as George Adams, Hiram Bullock, Mark Eagan, Gil Goldstein and Lou Soloff. Blenzig also hosted The Late Night Session at the Blue Note Jazz Club in Manhattan. The Last Night Session was a steady gig for five years which made him a recognizable face in the jazz community as well as introducing him to scores of both seasoned and up and coming musicians from around the globe.

Along with touring, recording, and producing, Blenzig is also a teacher currently on faculty at the S.U.N.Y. Purchase Conservatory of Music located in Westchester County, New York. The Jazz Department, headed by Todd Coolman, boasts one of the finest faculties in the New York City area including John Faddis, Steve Wilson, John Abercrombie, Hal Galper and Doug Weiss.

bio from Charles website: www.charlesblenzig.com

Listening party section:

Check out Charles’ CD About Time (click on image to listen to sample)

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