an interview with Mala Waldron

It’s been a month ago since I reviewed Mala Waldron’s album Always There. If you’re looking for inspiring music soul music with lots of jazz (or jazz music with lots of soul) then Always There is the album for you.
In her jazz-not-jazz interview Mala talks about the influence her parents had, why she dedicated three songs to family members and her Soulful Sound imprint amongst others.

Q: Both your parents are professional jazz musicians. How much have they influenced you to become a musician yourself? Did they try to push you in this direction?

Mala Waldron: Fortunately, neither of my parents tried to push me in that way. They seemed to take note of my natural affinity for it, giving me lots of encouragement. As a young child I used to watch my mother rehearsing for performances. Mom started me off with classical piano lessons at age 7 years. When I wasn’t practicing scales or some sonata, I would often go through her sheet music collection looking for something “cool” to play to impress my friends. Sometimes my father took my sister, Lauren, and I on tour with him in the summers. I remember one concert in particular, in Italy where he was scheduled to do a solo performance. I was about 13 years old and recall feeling frightened for him because there were thousands of people at this outdoor festival. I couldn’t imagine what he could do up there all alone to hold this audience’s attention. I saw him take the stage and in a matter of minutes, mesmerize the entire crowd. It was an amazing experience that made a lasting impression on me.

Q: You’ve had the chance to work and record an album with your late father. Please tell me more about this experience.

Mala Waldron: The first time my father and I worked together it was in 1995 during a tour of Japan. Jazz vocalist, Jeanne Lee was also on that tour with us. Dad turned 70 that year so I wrote a song for him called “He’s My Father” and gave it to him as a birthday gift. Later it became the title track of our CD. We decided to make a recording of the songs we were performing. We ended up going to a studio on one of our days off and recorded six tracks. I couldn’t imagine trying to accomplish so much in so little time, but Dad seemed so relaxed about it, I just followed his lead. I did “He’s My Father” and another original piece as solo piano/vocals. We recorded the rest of the tunes as piano duets on two grand pianos. One of my favorites from that recording is a free piece called “Cat and Mouse.” It was totally improvised from start to finish. We didn’t know beforehand what we’d play, but somehow it was decided that I would be the “mouse” and he’d be the “cat” — the rest just unfolded naturally.



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