Bill Laurance interview

Bill Laurance: “Snarky Puppy is a band of brothers” // Interview

State of jazz

You once said that jazz has become too cerebral. 

“I feel like jazz lost its way and become sort of niche. The only way you can access it is by knowing a lot about it. That’s not really where jazz began. Jazz started out as a very social kind of music linked to rhythm and blues. People would dance to it and drink and socialize. And I think that the minute it stopped being music that allowed you to do that, was the minute that people stopped being interested in it. It’s become a study object only accessible to real jazzers. And I’m not saying that it hasn’t got its place. There is beautiful stuff out there. But I’ve always tried to include as many people as possible. I’m interested in breaking down as many barriers as possible.”

“When Miles died, we
kind of lost our leader”

“One of the beautiful things about jazz is that is can go so deep. Jazz and classical are really the only genres that have that depth of analysis. So it can easily become academic. I just try to be aware when it does and not lose too many people.”

When did jazz move into celebral territory?

“I feel like really when Miles Davis died [1991]. He was the pioneer. Mind you, my favourite Miles is his earlier stuff for sure. I’m not the biggest fan of his electronic stuff. But when he died we sort of lost our leader [laughs]. Nobody really stepped up to plate to replace him. There are lots young white middle-class school kids in the practice room, but that’s so far removed from the origins of jazz. No wonder it’s gonna fall short in some way. I want to experience those places, that heritage first-hand.”

“I remember Mike [League] and I went to this blues club in a dodgy area in Dallas, years ago. It was an atmosphere like I never ever experienced before. It was just sooo electric, the energy in the room. It kind of needed to be in a seedy area. There was an element of danger about it. There must have been like 400 people there and us, the only white guys. And of course we we’re getting a few weird looks. But that slightly uneasy feeling kind of made it cool.”

“That night in Dallas will stay with me forever. It’s a shame those things don’t happen more often. I always think about that when I’m playing the blues you know, rather than thinking of what scales I’ve practiced. Context is everything.”


Michael produced David Crosby album ‘Lighthouse’. And you played keys on two songs. Where you actually in the studio together with Croz?

“Yeah, I was. I went towards the end of the sessions. But I caught quite a bit of it and it was amazing. It’s beautiful to see him, David Crosby, so happy. Cause it’s been a while since he felt so proud of a project. It’s a beautiful record. So understated. Michael used his musical family around him really well for that record. Cory Henry of Snarky and singer Becca Stevens [who released the brilliant album ‘Regina’ on GroundUP earlier this year] contributed too.”

“David Crosby is kind of guy
you wish was your grandpa”

Are you a fan of Croz. Did you know his records?

“I mostly knew the more famous CSN stuff. Of course I did my homework, trying to familiarize myself with that sound. Crosby’s a remarkable guy, man, he’s got a huge heart. He’s kind of like the guy you wish was your grandpa. He’s a real personality.”

Do you still feel nervous when you get lined up for a challenge like that?

“I do. But it’s all about using that adrenalin for the better. There’s a reason why you’re there. And if there’s anything that I find exciting, it’s the feeling that this might become something really special. Therefore I’m gonna really raise my game and give the best I’ve got. It pushes you to prove yourself. Otherwise you can get very comfortable, very quickly.”

It keeps you sharp.

“Exactly. When students ask me for advice, I always say: just hang around with musicians who are better than you. Don’t ever get comfortable. Always put yourself in a position that challenges you.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s