Great Arts at Eastern talks with Richard Schwartz about his upcoming album: Song for My Mother

Oct 22, 2020

GENTRY:  And now Great Art at Eastern, coming to you from the Portales campus of Eastern New Mexico University. I'm Jeff Gentry, Dean of the College of Fine Arts here on KENW, Your Public Radio Network. Today my guest is Richard Schwartz of ENMUs Department of Music, his latest album is Song for My Mother, available on Sony Orchard records. Thank you very much for joining me today.

SCHWARTZ:  Thank you for having me today Jeff.

GENTRY:  Rich, I've listened to all 11 tracks on Song for My Mother, did you collaborate with any Jazz legends on this album?

SCHWARTZ:  You know its kind of funny you ask that of as a matter of fact I did. I recorded with a Jazz Titan Ellis Marsalis, father or patriarch of the Marsalis family his sons include the well-known Branford Marsalis, Delfeayo Marsalis, Jason Marsalis, and of course the infamous Wynton Marsalis of the jazz at Lincoln Center in New York.

GENTRY:  Now Ellis Marsalis plays piano on 2 songs including Alpha cat.  Do you mind if we listen to a brief sample?

SCHWARTZ:  That would be fantastic.

GENTRY:  Alright this is Richard Schwartz on saxophone with Ellis Marsalis and others, Marsalis on piano. This is Alpha cat.

<Music excerpt Alpha Cat (unabridged)>

GENTRY:  I love some Alpha cat, I just need more Alpha cat. Rich you wrote all the songs on this album. When you have a germ of a new song, what happens during those first 30 seconds?

SCHWARTZ:  That's a good question I think it's different for everybody. for me personally it's different every time. sometimes it's the lyrics, sometimes it's a melodic fragment, sometimes it's just a small phrase and then the hard work begins. So-

GENTRY:  But then you build on that initial germ right.

SCHWARTZ:  Absolutely yeah. it's I think it's I think it was Einstein where it's 1% inspiration 99% perspiration.

GENTRY:  Great another of your collaborators is violinist Julia Akers who delivers vocals on 3 songs. how did you find her?

SCHWARTZ:  Yeah that's a great question you know. My prior institution in Louisiana. She was an undergraduate and Masters student at violin and then she later went to Louisiana State University and studied violin there. But all the time is because of the area, she loves Jazz and she was she just immersed herself in the Jazz scene, and she has such a great voice for, for Jazz, I think almost reminiscent of the vocals on The Girl from Ipanema, a great recording with Getz/Gilberto.  So great little- because she's not from America she has this wonderful accent I believe from the Ukraine and it fits so well on the album.

GENTRY:  Great, now when are we going to hear your voice on record?

SCHWARTZ:  Well actually my voice is on the record. the very beginning of Happy Jazzy Birthday.

GENTRY:  I guess there's a little bit of saying there isn't it.  And is that you as a scat man.

SCHWARTZ:  Yeah.

GENTRY:  I love that everybody, if you listen this strike are the beginning I assumed that you had some guy from New Orleans do that but that's OK; so, we just have vocal talent we need to hear more. So, Song for My Mother is dedicated to Nancy Schwartz, including the title track. how did she contribute to your career in music?

SCHWARTZ:  That great question again my mother pretty much set me up with everything talking about piano lessons from the beginning. And then as a kid I wanted to get out of piano lessons and the only way I could do that is by getting clarinet lessons so then I had clarinet lessons she would drive me to band then I started picking up the saxophone in 6th grade with bigger instruments and she would have to drive me. then taking me to band rehearsals in high school and college etc. So, she's been a driving force behind all of my endeavors.

GENTRY:  Well fantastic. Rich thanks so much. Song for My Mother is available on Sony music's Orchard label And Richard Schwartz thank you for visiting Great Arts at Eastern.  Our listeners can learn more about this program at KENW.org, and for upcoming plays concert San more just take a look at ENMU.EDU/FineArtsEvents. Thanks for listening on KENW, your Public Radio Network.