If you’re in Halifax and looking for a fulfilling way to spend your lunch hour, head down to the Halifax Jazz Fest tent on the waterfront for free concerts from 12 – 5pm. The music begins with Geordie Haley (guitar), Martin Davidson Star (saxophone), Will Paynter (bass) and Tom Roach (drums), and their tribute to the ‘High Priest of Bebop’, American jazz pianist Thelonious Monk (1917-1982).
Geordie Haley is a prolific composer, improviser, educator and guitarist who has been performing and collaborating for over 25 years. During his career he has become a creative fixture in the Toronto, Fredericton and Halifax music scenes and has recorded six albums under his own name. Specifically in Halifax he has been a featured artist for various productions, including those with Symphony Nova Scotia, Mocean Dance, SuddenlyListen and Jazz East Vocalypse. Haley took the time to chat with Arts East during one of his few breaks, as he has already performed several times during this year’s Jazz Fest and has more planned for the rest of the week.
When did you first fall in love with music?
GH: Singing and making up sounds and songs have been part of my life since I can remember.
Why do you think you gravitated to guitar as opposed to another focal instrument?
GH: The guitar was available. I love all the guitars: nylon string, steel string, solid body electric, jazz guitars, resonator guitars… The oud , sitar, sarod and vina have also been a big influence.
Based on your many recordings, it’s obvious that you are in “endless search for new sounds”. What musical genres have you explored?
GH: Like many East Coast beginning guitarists, I started with the blues…ragtime fingerpicking à la John Fahey, Leo Kottke, Bruce Cockburn… I became interested in jazz, modern classical and world music. The recording industry brings the world to your ear, and I still am inspired by the ever increasing access to so many types of music.
Collaboration also seems very important to you—playing with various quartets and trios at Jazz Fest is a case in point. What do you like most about collaborating?
GH: Music is generally a collaborative art. It's more fun with others. A well rehearsed ensemble of any size will develop a third mind, an instinctual group thought that can make a great musical moment on stage supernatural. The communication of these ideas without even speaking is something I strive for. I have also had great joy in working with dancers, writers, and visual artists of all types.
What does a typical day/week look like for you in terms of musical activities (professional and personal)?
GH: Some weeks are crazy, some are more structured. I teach, rehearse, perform, create. There are long cycles—things that are in the works for a long time—and short one-off projects. I am blessed with being asked to do both.
What do you like most about Thelonious Monk?
GH: For me Monk is the composer who brought elements of modern harmonic composition into the jazz world .Monk's ability to blend swing with extended harmony is paramount .His influence on modern jazz is immeasurable . It's taken me a long time to even consider doing a tribute. Monk's music is hard, while it is approachable by the novice too. Many of my peers learned the basics of expressing oneself in a jazz format through learning Monk's music. Plus the tunes are such earworms. I will go around singing them for days.
If you could jam with any musician (from history or present), who would it be?
GH: I feel honoured to work with the musicians that I do. The incredible Canadian drummer Claude Ranger comes to mind.
You can also catch Geordie Hailey:
Tonight (July 9): Sylvio Pupo Quartet (The Company House, 11pm)
Tomorrow (July 10): Will Fisher Quartet (Festival Jazz Tent, 1:15pm)
Tomorrow (July 10): Martin Davidson Trio (Obladee Wine Bar, 8pm)
Thursday (July 11): Riot Squad (Festival Jazz Tent, 2:30pm)