"Jazz Monthly Feature Interview"
Almost all of us wanted to grow up to be an Airline Pilot or a Professional Musician. But most of the time we settle in to our regular day-to-day life style with that dream slowly fading away… only to remerge when we take a flight somewhere and are transformed into that imaginable youngster again when the captain walks out of the cockpit… or if we go to a concert and see the artists performing live in a spectacular event that electrifies our dream once again.
Well today we are talking to someone that has accomplished both! Today we are talking with Paul Tuvman. This is Paul’s second release, RIDING THE JETSTREAM . Paul has accomplished things that most of us have fantasized about. It takes a special person to achieve both of these in one lifetime.
We would like to welcome Paul Tuvman to JazzMonthly.com
Jazz Monthly: It’s noted that you have been a Delta Airline Pilot for many years. You also have this exceptional talent as a composer, pianist and a multi-instrumentalist. How were you able to manage and perfect all these talents?
Paul Tuvman: I’m pretty good at managing my time but “perfecting” all of these talents might be a bit of a stretch! I was fortunate to have inherited the gift of good timing and the use of left/right brain associated with creativity-creativity “a vein that runs deep in our family roots”. I have a thirst for knowledge and love the learning process. I know I had a “knack” for music as well as flying. In the early stages, they both came relatively easy for me. Then, I put a lot of hard work and dedication into honing my craft. There’s always some sacrifice when you choose to take a skill to a high level. It’s all a matter of priorities. Looking back, it was all worth it!
JM: Before we talk more on your new release, we don’t really interview many Airline Pilots here on JazzMonthly.com so I would like you to tell the readers, how did you grow up to be an airline Pilot?
PT: I originally had my sights set on being a musician. I was playing in rock bands until age 19 and got tired of smoke filled bars and loud music. I’ve always been fascinated by airplanes. Our dad took my brother and I to airshows when we were kids. I would ride my bike to the Santa Monica Airport and watch the planes take off and land. I learned to fly upon graduation from high school. All of my licenses were achieved at a rapid pace and before long, I was teaching people how to fly. I had pretty much given up on becoming a full time musician and felt that flying planes was challenging, fun and would be a better full time paying gig!
I started flying planes for corporations at age 21 and was flying small private jets (Cessna Citation’s/Learjet’s) by age 23. In 1986, Western Airlines hired me as a B727 Second Officer. In 1987, Delta Airlines bought Western Airlines and I’ve been a Delta pilot ever since. Throughout my 32-year airline career I’ve flown the B727, MD-11, A-310, B757/B767, B777. I’ve been a Captain for the past 18 years. My current gig is Captain on the B777 flying the long haul to mostly Sydney/Shanghai and Tokyo. I’m a Line Check Pilot on the B777 which means that I teach the “real” plane to new Captains and First Officers when they finish training in the simulator. I also ride in the cockpits making sure our crews are adhering to Delta standards/procedures. I have well over 22,000 hours of flight time.
One of my more memorable flying gigs was a 2-month stint flying the rock bands “Aerosmith” and “Loverboy” on tour for a month at a time. This was around 1985. Aerosmith was on the comeback trail & Loverboy was at the height of their hit-making career. It was great being on the “inside” with these bands. I think being a musician really helped me connect with the guys. It was a great experience that I’ll never forget. Loverboy band keyboard player (Doug Johnson) and I became good friends. That friendship continues today after all of these years.
JM: Was there a main event in your life when you realized you should move forward and start writing and producing major music projects?
PT: I’ve written music throughout my life. One of my former band mates (Hank Mann) and I had a conversation several years ago. Hank is a great steel guitar player/vocalist/songwriter. The turning point was when he told me that I should “get busy” and “leave some evidence” of my work. He was right! I felt that I wasn’t getting any younger and the only people who’ve heard my work are family and friends. I’ve dabbled in home recording and really felt motivated to start laying down some work.
JM: Your new project Riding The Jetstream really captured the essence of a bright, upliftlty sound. As if you are soaring. Especially track 1 FALL IS IN THE AIR and track 6 RIDING THE JETSTREAM. Tell us about your songwriting experience on this terrific project.
PT:“Fall is in the Air” was written many years ago. As a lifelong fan/student of the Beatles music, I was reading the story of how the tune “I’ll be back” from “A Hard Days Night” came about. It was John Lennon’s take on Del Shannon’s “Runaway”. It switches between the chords A major and A minor. I started playing around with the chords “A major 7th” and “A minor 7th”. I think my “inner Vince Guaraldi” took hold and the song just kind of wrote itself. I originally named the tune ”A major 7th/A minor 7th” until the project was completed. I eventually had to give it a real name! When I really gave the tune a listen, it had a nice feel of fall to it so I named it “Fall is in the Air”.
The tune “Riding the Jetstream” was a homework assignment given to me by Producer Rick Braun. We were going over some ideas and listening to my tunes in his studio. Rick is so good at establishing a “groove” to his music. I usually sit down and “doodle” on the piano and come up with a melody/riff/chords that I can morph into a song. I start with the piano and add other instruments to the mix. Rick said, “I want you to start a tune with a drum line, add a bass line and go from there”. When I got home that evening, I found a great groove of a drum line from one of my music programs. I quickly added a bass line. I then added the piano/organ. The song was mostly written in 10-15 minutes tops! I sent it to Rick the following day. My teacher was impressed!
“Afraid to fall in love again” and “Daydreaming” were songs I wrote many years ago with lyrics. Producer Rick Braun and I decided to record them as instrumentals. I plan on re-releasing them again in the future with the vocal tracks. I wrote the intro riff to “Just when I think I’m over her” many years ago as well. I put it together for a fun jam with this project. “Shinjuku Sunrise”, “Irish Dream” and “December Samba” all were written while doing this project.
JM: You have a gifted roster of musicians on RIDING THE JETSTREAM. How did you all meet and get started on this project?
PT: I have Rick Braun to thank for making this happen. When we had our initial meeting for this project, he discussed bringing in a solid group of musicians to contribute. Rick really gave it some thought as to who would be a good “fit”. The incredible musicians alongside Rick are Pat Kelley (guitar), Ken Wild (bass), Jamey Tate (drums), Rong-Huey Liu (oboe), Ramon Yslas (percussion) and Michael Lington (sax).
I recorded “Irish Dream” at my house and had asked good friend/ world-renowned oboe player Rong-Huey Liu to play the oboe line. Rong-Huey came over one afternoon and did an incredible job like she always does. That was the 1st collaboration on the project.
Pat, Ken, Jamey, Ramon, and Michael all joined in towards the end of the project.
JM: What were your recording studio rehearsals generally like? Was it a collaboration of sort or was it more spontaneous?
PT: I’m kind of laughing at this question. There weren’t ANY rehearsals! I initially recorded most of the project at my home studio along with the help of good friend/recording engineer Matt LaPoint (Matt helps me get my projects started by laying down a good foundation of work to build upon). Rick and I met on several occasions to go over the project. I would bring the files that I had over to Rick’s studio and we’d load them into his system. We would then review the work and he would work his magic by adding some shine to the tunes. Prior to the recording schedule, Pat, Ken, and Jamey were provided charts and MP3’s of the tunes. Rick put a day on the calendar for the guys to come to over to his studio and record. I was really blown away with how that day went. The guys arrived in the morning so well prepared! We recorded 9 tunes in 1 day! I knew from the 1st notes being recorded that I was in good hands. Pat, Ken, and Jamey are the coolest/nicest guys who just happen to be incredible musicians.
When the rhythm section was done with the session, Rick sent the files to percussionist Ramon Yslas who put his touch on just about all of the tunes. Ramon is one of the industries more accomplished percussionists.
I left room on “Daydreaming” and “Afraid to fall in love again” for a saxophone. Rick called his good buddy Michael Lington who was happy to contribute (thanks Michael!!). When I first listened to Michael’s work on these 2 tunes, I was blown away. Michael’s contribution was just perfect!
The icing on the cake was when Rick added some horns and “production” to the project.
I feel so privileged and honored to have Rick, Pat, Ken, Jamey, Rong-Huey, Ramon and Michael play on my project.
JM: Your debut CD “Musically Speaking” was also a terrific CD. How has your music/style evolved with RIDING THE JETSTREAM since your first debut release?
PT: “Musically Speaking” was a more “raw” project. Not as produced as “Riding the Jetstream”. Most of the tunes I wrote for “Musically Speaking” were personal, simple, pretty melodies. I played most of the different parts through virtual instruments. Rick played horns on a couple of the tunes (“Inverted” and “Rebecca”) and Rong-Huey Liu played the oboe line on “Laurie’s Lullaby”.
On the “Riding the Jetstream” project, Rick really taught me about the “groove”. I tend to play things a bit too fast. Rick had me slow things down. Almost like breathing slower. Everything calmed down and became more in focus. I changed keys for one of the tunes (Daydreaming from the key of E to G) that gave it an entirely different feel. Replacing the virtual instruments for the real thing really took the project to a whole new level. Bringing in Pat, Ken, Jamey, Rong-Huey, Ramon and Michael as live players was really the difference between the 2 projects. Everyone stepped up and hit a home run. All of these musicians play alongside the best in the business. It was cool watching my tunes climb to new heights.
JM: You covered two songs BLACKBIRD by John Lennon and Paul McCartney and one of my favorites A SONG FOR YOU by Leon Russell. Tell us a little about the thought of adding these to RIDING THE JETSTREAM?
PT: I’m a huge Beatles fan. I look at their songs very closely from a songwriter’s viewpoint. I’m leaning on doing an all Beatles project for my next endeavor. Stay tuned on that! I learned “Blackbird” on the guitar many years ago and always loved playing it on the piano as well. When I did the recording, I thought about adding a harmonica to the melody (virtual harmonica played through a keyboard). I tried to visualize/hear how Stevie Wonder would play the melody on his harmonica. I would have loved to have Stevie play on the record but he hasn’t returned my calls!!! The Beatle tunes are all so timeless and are covered by everyone. I hope I did it justice!
I’ve always been a huge Leon Russell fan. Leon was definitely an unsung hero. I don’t think most people knew how much of an impact his music and collaboration with the best in the biz affected us all. I played his records so much that I wore the grooves out!. His wide range from blues/rock/ gospel/ honky-tonk style really captured me. I would study his licks and work them into my repertoire that I’m sure I still use today. When Leon passed this last year, I wanted to pay homage to him. “A song for you” is probably his best-known tune that has been covered by just about everyone. I had the idea of just a duet with Rick Braun and myself. Most of today’s recording are done on the “grid” or “click”…in other words along with a metronome in perfect time. I didn’t want to do that with this recording. I wanted it to ebb and flow and not be perfect. For this tune, I just hit the “record” button and played. I feel it’s much more personal and emotional. It’s probably my favorite tune on the project. Rick did such an amazing job playing the melody. It moves me every time I listen to it.
JM: What’s the ultimate direction for Paul Tuvman?
PT: I really don’t have a definitive answer to that question. I’ve always felt after embarking on this musical journey that I’ll let the course take care of itself. One thing I’ve learned from being a pilot is that the course to your destination isn’t always a straight line.