Jazz pianist and artist Eric Jones is interviewed about how he started playing piano, the local musicians he admires, a big health scare, and much more.
What first got you into music?
My grandmother had an old piano in her living room. My cousin Joseph would come by and jam to Prince’s Purple Rain. This was the hot song at the time so I was drawn by my cousin’s rendition of Purple Rain. Seeing him at the piano stirred my curiosity and I decided to attempt to play. Lol. It wasn’t pretty at first but things started to come together slowly. I eventually started playing in church and later I started taking private lessons.
Who are some of your influences?
Mozart, Beethoven, Debussy, Ravel, Delius, Fats Waller, Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson, Bud Powell, Hampton Hawes, Horace Silver, Herbie Hancock just to name a few.
I don’t have one favorite, but I love playing music by Herbie Hancock
What is your creative process like?
When it comes to composing a lot of work starts before I put pinned to paper but it depends on the style of music. If I’m doing hip hop music then I approach the process in an improvisational way and see where it leads. Sometimes it’s deliberate and other times it’s improvisational.
What is your favorite song to perform?
I don’t have one favorite, but I love playing music by Herbie Hancock such as “Dolphin Dance” or Stevie Wonder “Overjoyed.”
How did you get your start in the Savannah music scene?
I came to Savannah to study Dr. Kevin Hampton but I got involved with music scene thanks to Dr. Reese, Teddy Adams, Ricardo Ochoa and fellow peers like Robert Stringer who was at Savannah Arts Academy at the time.
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Talk about the local musicians you’ve collaborated with over the years …
Some of the musicians I mentioned earlier were and are local but I’ve worked with a host of amazing, talented local folks such as Marc Chesanow, Robert Saunders, Laiken Williams, Claire Frazier, John Tisbert, Ricardo Ochoa, Roger Moss. There are too many wonderful musicians to name!
How did your health scare a couple years ago affect your music?
It showed me the power of music and it taught me to cherish life because all of us are potentially one prognosis away from having our lives changed. (Not to be depressing). Hopefully, it also taught me to be more empathetic when it comes to listening to other musicians. Finally, I believe it gave me certain type of aggressiveness in my playing after dealing with the limitations caused by the treatment regiment I went through.
It taught me to cherish life because all of us are potentially one prognosis away from having our lives changed
Talk about your favorite local venues to perform in …
There are many places I like to play but I will name two places, The Jazz Corner and Goodtimes Jazz Bar and Restaurant. To me the Jazz Corner is the pinnacle of class and of the highest quality any business aspire to. It’s a wonderful club because the owner and the staff believes in the arts specifically music, musicians, and jazz. Goodtimes Jazz Bar and Restaurant is another place that I love because it’s a place where I’m free to try new things. There’s a sort of nostalgic quality that reminds me of the clubs of NYC from the 50’s. Plus it’s black owned and I believe in supporting black owned businesses especially when it comes to art form of jazz. What more could you ask for?
Your thoughts on the state of the Savannah music scene?
Considering the state of music everywhere I think Savannah music scene is doing well and only going to get better after the pandemic. Savannah is growing and people still want to visit this town. When you add new venues like JW Marriott Plant Riverside District, the future looks bright!
What’s next for you?
Part of my future plans involve three things. First plan is dependent upon the pandemic. I want to get back to playing music for live audiences. Other plans involve writing more music. I’ve had some experiences in orchestral writing but I want to explore that more and fuse it with jazz.
I’m a big fan of Chick Corea’s album “The Continents” which is a concerto for jazz quintet and chamber orchestra. That album is big inspiration. While waiting for the opportunity I am devoting myself to score study of great composers. Last but not least the pandemic has allowed me focus on music production in terms of making music for various hip hop outlets and artists. I plan to continue to teach at Savannah State University and bring light to wonderful music program we are doing especially in the area of music education.