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 December 2008
"Jazz Monthly Feature Interview" Haim Cotton
Interview by Baldwin "Smitty" Smith

project grand slamJazz Monthly:   I am so happy to welcome to an incredible keyboard player.  He represents a band that has no boundaries when it comes to making great music.  The music of this cat is just amazing and if you’ve heard his release which is appropriately titled, 100% Cotton, you know what I’m talking about.  The great band that he represents has a new record.  It is called Play and it is a plethora of fantastic songs, a very eclectic mix of fusion, improvisational jazz that will just pique your ear.  Please welcome the incredible and amazing, from the fantastic group Project Grand Slam, Haim Cotton.  Haim, how you doing, my friend?

Haim Cotton (HC):  Good.  How are you?  Oh my God, what an introduction of me.  I’m blushing.  (Both laugh.)  Very kind of you.  Appreciate it.

Jazz Monthly:  Oh, you’re so welcome.  But the music just evokes that kind of introduction because you cats have really put together a fantastic project, and I think it’s really starting to get recognized by the public because it’s moving up on the charts, the single out there, and I say to everyone that has heard the single “Captain of the Heart,” wait until you hear the rest of the project.  (Both laugh.)  So you gotta get this record because it’s fantastic.  But now you’re no stranger to great music.  You started out playing music at an early age, didn’t you?

HC:  Yes.  Although it was considered, when you start with classical music, I always felt like I started too late, being that I was always jealous of the kids that their parents got them started at four and five, so that was a little bit of frustration when I was 11 and started to play the piano, but it is considered early, I agree.

Jazz Monthly:  Yes.  What did you enjoy most in those early years of playing classical music?

HC:  Mm-hmm, that’s a very good question because before I played the piano in general, once I discovered the great symphonies and great classical music, I just felt like I got lost in it every time I heard a piece.  It would just move me from the inside to places I couldn’t describe.  But things did change.  It is a perceptive question since when I started playing the piano, I was viewing it from within, so what I enjoyed is really looking forward to playing. I constantly dreamt of playing the big pieces, and I remember really annoying my teachers because they would give me some little piano piece and I wouldn’t touch it and I would take like the big concertos or the big sonatas and study them on my own and then come to lesson and then the teacher said “I’m surprised somebody talented like you is not prepared” or something like that and they’d make comments.  The style of teaching was a little bit different than today.  And then a few weeks later I would say “But I learned this sonata” and they would get really upset.  “How dare you!  You can study it wrong or develop the bad habits.”  So I think that’s what I kind of like enjoyed is really aiming for the big pieces.

Jazz Monthly:  When you joined the band, did that change your approach to making music?

HC:  Yes, it changed, absolutely, because now you’re not just a solo artist.  I think there’s a difference between a solo project and a band project in a sense that in a solo project, that’s really featuring you, and in a band project you have to keep the band sound in general in your mind.  So sometimes I would encounter, like even today, like the people who are close to me who know my playing will say “There’s not enough piano” or “You’re not stretching yourself out and playing the way we’re used to hearing you play.  We need more piano.”  And it’s hard to explain because everything you tell them will sound like an excuse, you know?  But I feel like, especially in my forties now, I was in there listening to the overall picture and not just trying to stand out or do like a great solo or something like that.  So I think, in that sense, yes, I agree the approach was different.

Jazz Monthly:  Yes.  Well, I can’t help but get into this record because when I listened to this latest project from you great cats, Play, it is overwhelmingly good.

HC:  Oh my Gosh, that’s really beyond my expectations.  Thank you, because that is a huge compliment coming from a veteran like yourself.

Jazz Monthly:  Well, thank you.  But the credit goes to all of you.

HC:  Absolutely.

Jazz Monthly: Yes, because you as a band have such a synergy of creating music that is felt throughout this whole record, and one has to only sit down and listen and feel the synergy and the great appreciation of every note, every chord in this project.

HC:  Wow.

Jazz Monthly:  Because it’s so evident.  It’s like a bright light when you hear the synergy and the energy of this great record.

HC:  Oh, thank you.  I’m really humbled to hear that, I have to say.

Jazz Monthly:  And the other thing that I thought of when listening to this is this is a band that could easily go in so many directions with ease because you demonstrated that with every song.  This is a great record in that not every song sounds the same and it’s almost like you selected something that would be hard for a lot of people and you made it look easy.

HC:  Oh wow.

Jazz Monthly:  Yeah, it’s just that good.  My hat’s off to the entire band, all of you.

HC:  Thank you.

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