When: 8 p.m. Saturday, May 14
Where: The Arts Council Smithgall Arts Center, 331 Spring St. SW, Gainesville
Cost: $30 per person; tickets sold out but waiting list available
More info: www.theartscouncil.net or 770-534-2787
The Arts Council Smithgall Arts Center will close out its 2016 Evening of Intimate Jazz series, with a sold-out performance by critically acclaimed singer and pianist Jon Regen.
The performance will be at 8 p.m. Saturday, May 14, in the ballroom at 331 Spring St. SW in Gainesville. Doors open at 7:30 p.m.
The regular $30 tickets are sold out, but anyone interested in attending may call 770-534-2787 to be put on a waiting list. Extra tickets may be sold for seating in the atrium next to the ballroom.
Regen, a former student of the legendary pianist Kenny Barron, has a style full of subtle jazz and soul roots and is comparable to legends such as Billy Joel and Randy Newman.
In an interview, Regen explained music has always been a large part of his life, but it wasn’t until 2004 that he began to re-examine if there was a way to bridge the gap between pop and jazz.
“I’m proud that I never really felt the need to chase anything,” Regen said. “When you start chasing what’s cool, it always ends up changing.”
Frank Zappa once said, “Jazz isn’t dead, it just smells funny.”
Regen takes this idea to heart, blending multi-genre elements to create his own unique sound.
“Jazz is just doing what it does best, evolving,” he said.
Regen’s upcoming performance will include various songs from his four solo albums and possibly even a cover or two from Regens days working with other artists.
Before the performance, Regen took time out of his busy performing schedule to speak with the times about his career thus far.
Question: What musicians or influences got you into music in the first place?
Answer: When I was a kid I was naturally drawn to the old piano in our living room. I realized at an early age I could pick melodies out by ear, so I started composing my own songs pretty early on.
In terms of influences, some of the things that hooked me from the start pop-wise were The Police, James Taylor, Billy Joel, Elton John and Bruce Hornsby.
Jazz-wise I think the first thing I heard that blew my mind was Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers album “Ugetsu,” and later Keith Jarrett’s “Facing You” and early albums by the Pat Metheny Group.
Later, I got heavily into the albums by my mentor Kenny Barron. He taught me about touch and tone and elegance at the piano.
Q: When you sit down at your piano in the studio, what do you play for fun? Are there any pieces that have stuck with you over your career?
A: Usually when I’m sitting at my Steinway grand piano, I’m either just improvising, or I sit down to mine ideas for songs. I try to work on sight-reading and technique when I can, but often I’m looking for new sounds or chord sequences to try to build compositions with.
Q: Besides your solo work, do you have any other projects you are working on with other artists currently?
A: I just played on a new album by a great singer/songwriter named Jeff Slate. I also played piano and Wurlitzeron a recent release by Dana Fuchs.
When you’re a solo artist, people tend to assume you don’t do session or sideman work. But I started my career doing that and never really stopped. So I’m available!
Q: Do you enjoy playing one type of performance over others (close intimate versus larger with other artists?)
A: I think good performers don’t shy away from any type of situation. You get energized from different gigs in different ways. I love playing festivals to thousands of people, and clubs to a fraction of that audience size. The key is to always be working and trying out new things.