Jeff Lashway Interview
Whenever Maynard is out on the road fans write in to give me reviews of the shows they are seeing. During the tours of 2001, the one Big Bop Nouveau member that I received the most frequent and positive comments about was pianist Jeff Lashway. I've seen Jeff perform with the band twice, and he truly is phenomenal. The icing on the cake is that Jeff is also very gracious to fans, and took the time out to answer a few questions for the Maynard Ferguson web site.
- What makes up your musical background?
I studied classical piano from the age of five until I was sixteen. I really didn't formally study jazz, instead absorbing it through LOTS of listening and hanging out with friends that turned out to be great musicians. I began working in clubs at the age of thirteen! Imagine THAT happening today! My parents would probably be arrested! Also, I began playing trombone around the age of 10.
- Who are your musical influences?
Oddly enough, I did not listen to pianists as much as I did horn players such as Joe Henderson, Carl Fontana, Freddie Hubbard. As for pianists, I probably listened to the people you would expect such as Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, and of course the Great Oscar Peterson.
- What are some of your favorite jazz albums or artists?
That's a hard one to answer. I have probably gone through phases through the years. At one time I listened to LOTS of big bands, especially the Buddy Rich Band, Thad and Mel's band, and of course Maynard. These days, I find myself listening mostly to singers. One of my very favorites is a Canadian woman by the name of Carol Welsman. She's not real well known in the U.S, but she's terrific. Also coming to mind are Holly Cole, Dominique Eade and Etta Jones, who recently passed away.
- Before joining the band, were you a fan of Maynard's music?
I love to tell this story when we are doing clinics with the high school kids. My brother, who is six years older was a terrific high school trumpet player. As I was studying classical piano, he had lots of Maynard albums laying around that I started listening to and that was really my introduction to jazz. Actually, I was probably a bigger Maynard fan than you might expect a piano player to be. Of course I also play trombone and especially valve trombone. In addition to being such a great trumpet player, Maynard was also a terrific valve trombonist. And ANYONE that is a brass player would have to love Maynard.
- How long have you been with Maynard and his band?
I joined the band in September 2000.
- How did you get on the band?
I used to live in Pittsburgh and had worked with Brian Stahurski, who was then the bass player on the band, and Reggie Watkins, both of whom lived in Pittsburgh. Reggie took a liking to my playing and as musical director recommended me for the job. I sent in an audition tape, but was actually hired before they even heard it.
- How is playing on Maynard's band different from other gigs?
I guess the main thing is that you really have to be "up" every night. It's a very high energy band and you have to be "on" from the very first tune.
- Tell us about the recording of Swingin' for Schuur.
We recorded the album at Capital Records in Los Angeles in Studio A which is the studio that Frank Sinatra recorded in for years. The album took four days including one evening of rehearsal. The session was very relaxed and low key. Diane was great. She was very easy to work with and seemed to really enjoy the band. The album was produced by Phil Ramone which was a great thrill for all of us. He has produced so many artists and albums over the years. Truly a legend in the industry. One of the things that made it all go so well was the writing. All of the arrangers were totally familiar with Diane, Maynard and the style of the band. I especially thought that Reggie Watkins' arrangement of Besame Mucho was absolutely smoking. And of course, Dennis DiBlasio's contributions were priceless. Especially his humor!
- Do you have a favorite story from playing with the band yet?
Yes I do, although it has nothing to do with music. We went to Thailand last year to play for the King. We were staying in Bangkok and had to travel to the King's palace, a two hour drive, for a concert. We were traveling in several vans complete with a police escort along one of the main highways in Thailand. At every intersection there were police stopping traffic from entering the road. Up ahead of us were more police clearing the way for us. They would pull up along side of traffic and motion for drivers to pull off the road and if they hesitated for even a moment the police would literally bump them off to the side of the road. I was riding in the lead van along with Maynard. As our speeds exceeded 100 mph and with the police running people off the road ahead of us, it took on the look of a video game. While most people might have been nervous or maybe even car sick, Maynard was having the time of his life. We were laughing hysterically! It was my first close-up glimpse of just how free spirited Maynard really is.
- What do you think makes a good jazz pianist?
Probably the most important thing is the ability to listen and react to other players and musical situations. I find that I tend to play differently behind Maynard as opposed to other soloists. And playing behind singers is a whole other ball game. All these different situations require some adjustments in one's playing. Also, it ALWAYS has to swing. All the chops in the world mean nothing if it's not swinging.
- How would you describe Maynard's bandleading style?
He's very easygoing. He encourages everyone to develop their own artistry. He makes every gig fun and what's really amazing is the amount of energy he produces every night. There are times when we've had an unusually hectic travel schedule and the entire band is exhausted, Maynard included, but he manages to "turn it on" anyway and it's inspiring for everyone else.
- Do you find it difficult to reach Maynard's audience as a pianist?
Not necessarily. There seems to be a little difference when we play high schools as opposed to clubs. The high school audience is maybe mostly interested in Maynard and all the amazing things he does, whereas the club audience might sometimes have a greater appreciation for other soloists within the band. But both kinds of gig are always fun to do!