interviewed by Josephine Ochej
August 21, 2002
The Sharon Minemoto Quintet releases their debut
CD, with a performance Wednesday, August 21, 2002 at the Cellar.
Side A is Vancouver pianist Minemotos first release
as a leader, and it may be the best release on the Cellar Live label
yet (of course I think that about every new one that comes out
theyre all great listens!). Comprised of all original tunes
rooted firmly in the straight-ahead jazz tradition (read: major
verve, kick and swing), this disc is a terrific recording documenting
a first-class group well on its way. The Sharon Minemoto Quintet
includes: Ross Taggart, sax; Brad Turner, trumpet; Darren Radtke,
bass, Bernie Arai, drums.
This is your first release as a leader - congratulations! Describe
your feelings on the eve of this milestone in your career/life?
I am looking forward to playing the CD release party. I just got
home from a solo piano gig, which was pretty noisy, so playing for
a listening crowd will be great. Naturally, I am pleased to have
the CD out, but since we recorded the CD back in March, my thoughts
are focused on coming up with some fresh material for the band.
I feel quite satisfied that this CD project is now complete, but
rather than feeling like the work is all done now, and I can relax,
I feel like I'm at the beginning of a new path.
How did the project of recording Side A come about?
Thanks to Cory Weeds taking over the Cellar, the band was able
to play a number of gigs together, rather than just once a year
during the jazz festival. I felt like we were really starting to
sound like a unit, and thought it would be a good time to record.
Why did you decide to do a live record for your first release,
as opposed to the traditional studio route?
Initially, I was planning to do a studio recording, but just when
I was about to start booking some studio time, Cory approached me
about doing the album live at the Cellar. I was very flattered that
Cory was interested in recording us. I went back and forth on the
idea of a live album at first, but I knew if I didn't like what
went on to tape, I wasn't obligated to make it into a CD.
What have the benefits been of doing a live record?
Brad Turner, Ross Taggart,
Sharon Minemoto, Bernie Arai, Darren Radtke
I like the energy that the band can feel from the audience. It's
easier to remove the focus of getting the perfect take, not wasting
people's time, etc. and just play the way that you play if the situation
is similar to one you've been in before. One could say that the
downside to a recording a live album would be having the choice
of only two takes for each tune, but often in studio recordings,
if the band has already rehearsed, the best takes are the first
Describe the contribution to this record by each member of your
Let's start with Brad. I can't say enough about this guy. He was
the first person to ever encourage me to have my own band, he plays
beautifully in the band, he has recorded the quintet's demos from
the very beginning, and now, he has become the recording engineer
for the CD as well. Ross consistently plays with a lot of heart.
It shines through on the CD, and as a writer, it's a great feeling
to know that someone is putting everything they have into your composition.
Darren and Bernie always seem to know what I'm looking in terms
of groove, even if I don't write down anything specific. It's amazing
to say "Let's just try reading the tune and we'll see what
happens" and then have them play exactly what I heard in my
head, or something that I like even better that I hadn't considered.
You recorded over two nights at The Cellar last Spring. Was
it difficult to choose tunes from the two nights you recorded, and
whittle it down to the eight that appear on Side A?
Choosing tunes didn't end up being all that difficult. I chose
six of the tunes that appear on the CD after two or three listenings.
There were a couple of tunes that I didn't want on the CD even before
we recorded, but I wanted to play them just as kind of a warm up.
All of the tunes on the record are your originals. Describe
your writing style what works for you?
I don't think that I have a particular style. I like the sound
of slash chords (a chord over a bass note that is not the root of
the chord), but I don't intentionally write them in. Listening to
different types of music whether it be jazz, classical or pop seems
to help with the writing.
Are you happy with Side A or, in hindsight is there
anything you wish youd done additionally or differently?
A live recording is like an audio documentary. I am happy with
the CD and it's an honest take of how we played that night. There
are great moments on the CD, and there are a couple of things that
I wish I executed a bit better, but it's raw and has that live energy
to it that I don't know I could've pulled off in the studio. Personally,
I'd rather hear intensity with a few rough edges over something
that is note-perfect with no emotional attachment to the music.
Who has been the greatest influence on your music and in your
life as a musician, and why?
I can't say that there is just one person who has been the greatest
influence on me, but two of my earliest favorites were Stan Getz
and Ella Fitzgerald. They both had beautiful sound and were so melodic.
Some of my most negative musical experiences with people have ironically
become very positive influences on my life. I have learned a lot
of lessons in life on what not to do when others don't behave well.
Whats next for Sharon Minemoto and/or the Sharon Minemoto
I'd like to look into doing a tour with the band in the near future.
I'll keep writing and see where we go from there. I'd also like
to try putting together a piano trio at some point.
Sharon Minemoto web site