That was fast! I’ve just reviewed the album of the World Soul Project a few days ago and Ben Flint has already answered my questions. So here are a few background infos about how the World Soul Project started, what Ben has learned while playing with Isaac Hayes, his job of teaching the History of Jazz, Blues and Ragtime at Vista College in Berkeley and much more.
Q: You are a pianist and multi-keyboardist. Please tell who and what has influenced you to pursue a professional career as musician. And who are your main musical influences?
Ben Flint: Well, I was not really good at anything else, so that didn’t leave me with many options. And I wasn’t interested in anything else either, so that helped focus me. We had a great High school band director (Jim Terry), and I went to a couple of Aebersold jazz camps and met the late James Williams (Art Blakey’s pianist). It was just a scene in Memphis - we used to go down to Huey’s every Sunday and hear the Midtown Jazz Mobile, and over to hear the Tony Thomas trio. Also, Joyce Cobb’s group with Donald Brown , Hot Fun. Bill Mobley would play around town too. I was hooked (later, Gerard Harris took over the Midtown Jazz Mobile gig and led it for years; Tony Thomas is still a great pianist in Memphis).
My first great influence was Chick Corea. But James turned me onto Phinneas Newborn, Jr. Then of course, I got into Herbie Hancock, the stuff he was doing in the 60s. I listened to James an awful lot, he was recording then. Later, I went thru this long period of trying to distill my ideas into a more succinct style. At that time, I was listening to a lot of Ahmad Jamal. Still do. Also, I love EST. They’re trying some new stuff.
Q: You’ve played with Isaac Hayes for over a decade. How influential was this time for you and the way you deal with music?
Ben Flint: Well, as a younger musician, I was not really rooted in the groove, I tended to play a little on top of the beat, and not dig in that much. One of the greatest things about playing with Isaac was that, learning how to really settle into a groove, dig in without rushing. The other thing I practiced with Isaac was trying to connect with the audience. As a pianist, it’s easy to look down all the time, which leaves everyone else out. So I would look out, and try to communicate the excitement of the music thru my face, and body. If you notice, when you’re talking to one person, you can be pretty relaxed about how clear you are, how loud. If you’re talking to 40 people, you really have to enunciate and project, maybe use your hands too. If you giving a speech to 10,000 you’re going to probably practice, of course use a mike, but also body language, tone of voice, enunciation, accents. The same when playing, the larger the audience, the bigger you have to communicate the music. With Isaac we played maybe 30,000 people at a time on some of the bigger shows.