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  February 2009
"Jazz Feature Interview" Kim Pensyl
Interview by Baldwin "Smitty" Smith

Kim PensylJazz Monthly:  One of my alltime favorite musicians in the world joins me at  I go way back with this cat.  I go all the way back to 1988, when he released Pensyl Sketches No. 1, and it’s always been a thrill whenever he comes out with a new album. I’m still diggin’ his “3 Day Weekend” album.

Kim Pensyl (KP):  Oh yeah.

Jazz Monthly:  Yes indeed.  And one of my favorite songs alltime is “Sweet Spot.”  (Both laugh.)  And now he has just released his 14th album.  Can you believe that?  It is called When Katie Smiles.  Please welcome the with the explosive vibrato Mr. Kim Pensyl.  Kim, how ya doing, my friend?

KP:  Doing great.  Well, thank you, Smitty.  I sure appreciate you having me on Jazz Monthly and it’s so nice to have a new album out in the contemporary jazz format and it’s been too long since I’ve had one out.

Jazz Monthly:  Yeah, I was gonna say “Hey, where you been?”  (Both laugh.)

KP:  I’ve been making music, lots of music.  I just haven’t been recording as much as I did when I was doing pretty much an album every year.  And early on there I was trying to do production for about six months out of the year, the writing and all, then all the recording, and get the record out there and do some touring, and then go right back at it. That slowed down a little bit and I also picked the trumpet back up, actually during the Acoustic Alchemy tour I did with them back in ’93 or ’94, and so I started doing some more straight ahead jazz projects.

Jazz Monthly:  Yeah.  Some great stuff.

KP:  Well, thanks.  I love all jazz music, whatever the style.  I’ve certainly spent a lot of time in all the styles of jazz from bebop to hard bop to straight ahead and free jazz to fusion to contemporary smooth jazz that we play.  I like it all.

Jazz Monthly:  Yeah, so do I.  (Both laugh.)  Amen!

KP:  And then you listen to Duke Ellington, even in 1927 on East St. Louis Toodle-Oo and you realize how great that music is, and you listen to when he did Indigos some 75 plus years ago and you realize how great that stuff is, and so we’re just trying to make great music today.

Jazz Monthly:  Yes indeed.  And speaking of that, you’re one of the most versatile artists I know and over the years you have created some incredible music.  I mean, you’ve been on the charts, all over the charts, at Billboard, you’ve had albums in the Top 10 numerous times.

KP:  Yeah, I really have been.  I’m feeling very fortunate to have four records that were in the Top 10 at Billboard and the majority of them were Top 10 at radio as well, Radio & Records and all that. I think if I summed it up with one word it would be “melody.”

Jazz Monthly: Yes.

KP:  If I have one gift that I’m very proud of, it’s the gift of being able to write a good melody.

Jazz Monthly:  Yes indeed, and this new album is so evident of that.  From the very beginning, the melodies are incredible.  I said to myself “This stuff is like nitro, it’s so good.”  (Both laugh.)

KP:  Well, I’m so glad you like it.  I’m so glad people are embracing the music because number one, it takes a lot of effort to get the music from the whole production standpoint and recording, but it’s also the joy of actually communicating with another person like you.  I’m communicating with you via the music and the melody is the key of that and all the production, everything else, that’s the frame of the landscape that it sits in, and the melody’s like the entrée of the beautiful dinner you have.

Jazz Monthly:  Cool.

KP:  And so all the tunes revolve around that.  So that’s what I’m trying to communicate with people and if they are touched by that, then that’s what I’m hoping for….someone will be moved by the music because that’s why I’m making the music, to communicate.

Jazz Monthly:  I can dig that.

KP:  So it’s not an experiment, it’s an expression, and jazz gives you that freedom to express yourself.

Jazz Monthly: And you’ve been so great at doing that and so consistent over the years because now I can go back to 1988 to your debut album, Pensyl Sketches No. 1, which is again one of my favorite albums, and I can read the quote that you have in the liner notes of that album and it talks identically about that.

KP:  Oh, I can’t even remember what I said.

Jazz Monthly:  Yes, well, let me just read it (both laugh) because I love this, I love the quote, and then when I read the quote in the new album, it mirrors that to a degree, but it’s the consistency of the message and your expression of why you are making music that is so evident.  Now, I’m gonna read from Pensyl Sketches No. 1 in 1988.  It says “When artists draw upon their special gifts to communicate, no matter what medium, they strive to touch our hearts and minds, to forge a common bond. Such communication is difficult to achieve, but very special because it provides a glimpse of the artist’s soul. My music is an essential part of my being-- an artistic, emotional, and intellectual portrait which I offer to you.”

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