Primary Instrument: Drums
Drummer/composer, Jimmy Weinstein was born in Chicago, IL. he moved with his wandering family from Chicago to Europe, back to California and later to Spain. As a child he studied piano and cello. At age 13 he taught himself drums and guitar, and played in school bands and musicals. After finishing high school in Spain he went to England to pursue a career as a yacht designer, which eventually landed him a job in New York City where he began to study jazz, working as a designer by day and studying at the Drummer's Collective and Barry Harris' Jazz Cultural Theater by night. He also studied and jammed with bop saxophonist ClarenceC Sharpe during that time. In 1986 he moved to Boston and attended Berklee, where he studied jazz with Joe Hunt and drumset technique with world renowned maestro, Alan Dawson. Later he played in small and large ensembles directed by Max Roach. Over the course of time, didactic encounters with Jaco Pastorious, Paul Bley, David Liebman, Yusef Lateef, Bob Brookmeyer, Peter Erskine, Bob Moses, Karl Berger, and Nasyr Abdul Al-khabyyr all influenced him greatly.
After completing a degree at Berklee, he was encouraged by Brookmeyer to get a gig by going out to play in the street. He took this advice very seriously and embarked on a 3 year experience of playing the streets of Cambridge and Boston . This is how he developed his sound, and concept often spending 12 hours a day experimenting with diverse and unusual formations. Street bands frequently included Jeff Parker, Oscar Noriega, Andrew d'Angelo, Don Houge and guitarist Elie Massias with whom he formed his first band, Jimmy Weinstein Group with bassist Masa Kamaguchi and saxophonist Chris Cheek. In 1993 he moved back to New York, and recorded his group's first album, Nostalgia. The album was critically acclaimed in Downbeat, Jazz Times and other publications. Critic John Andrews called him a restless, inventive drummer and praised the album highly. Modern Drummer wrote Weinstein successfully explores the noir-ish balance of dangling space and interaction. A follow-up recording Sound Emotion was produced by Gunther Schuller. As a development of his group and sound, this album featured mostly the leader's compositions. To date Weinstein has recorded over 20 albums as a leader or sideman, on labels which include, Fresh Sound, Clean Feed, CIMP, El Gallo Rojo, Accurate, Splasch, GM, and Philology
While re-based in Brooklyn, Weinstein cultivated experimental groups that performed in New York and toured Europe and Japan. In 1998 he co-founded the quartet, NAM with Ahmed Abdullah, Alex Harding and Masa Kamaguchi. New projects include recordings with Marcello Tonolo Trio, Renzi/Senni/Weinstein as well as Weinstein's projects with Satoko Fujii and Natsuki Tamura of which there is a CD entitled This Ocean. A jazz -rock trio with, Francesco Guaiana (guitar) and Luca Lo Bianco (bass), collectively known as Hitch_Hikers released in 2007. Other recording and touring projects include, Amy Kohn, Ahmed Abdullah's Diaspora, Ben Monder, Matt Renzi Group, Alex Harding's Free Flow, Sten Hosfalt, Rosario Di Rosa, Stefano Solani, Paolo Porta, Alfredo Ponissi, Dahlia and the Llamas, Frank Carlberg and Christine Correa. Jimmy also led the experimental trio RED that featured New York reedman Oscar Noriega and Chicago based omni-dimensional guitarist Jeff Parker.
Since 2002 Weinstein has been teaching and developing a jazz traveling school, with his wife vocalist and energy therapist Liliana Santon. The initiative collaborates with other clinicians to create workshops focused on jazz and experimental improvisation. Since 2006 they have held the jazz workshop at Sa Pobla Jazz Mallorca, in Spain, under Jimmy Weinsteins' Traveling School direction
Weinstein has produced 5 albums for the Barcelona based Fresh Sound label including cd’s by pianist extraordinaire Roberta Piket and tenor saxophonist Jacques Schwarz-Bart in addition to his own undertakings, most notably with Renzi/Weinstein/Kamaguchi (RWK). The later receiving a myriad of stellar reviews including album of the year in 2000 from the Spanish publication Cuadernos de Jazz for their CD Lines and Ballads (FSNT 065). Weinstein has also composed scores for the independent feature films, Under The Bridge (1997) and Riding the Rails (1997).
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Willing to teach:
Jimmy Weinstein's Traveling School The Traveling School Creative music workshops in schools, community centres or music festivals - the “Traveling School” has a unique approach involving participants in an emotional and dynamic experience. The workshops are designed to encourage people to improvise, and place an emphasis on group interaction. Jazz, Rock and Blues idioms are the springboards, and Traveling School specializes in helping anyone to learn to improvise. Beginners, conservatory students, professional musicians and teachers, have all participated simultaneously at “Traveling School” workshops. Traveling School goes “on tour” with its staff. The staff is a group of facilitators that include teachers and student teachers. The staff coordinates workshops and performs concerts with the participants. Traveling school also conducts workshops on how to give workshops. CULTURE MAGAZINE INTERVIEW FEB 2006 In autumn 2005 they arranged the first workshop in Mallorca at the “Factoria de So” in Santa Maria del Camí. We were very impressed to see a large group of musicians on stage, who had never played together before and who, with only two days of workshop participation, made wonderful groovy music. So we wanted to know from the founders of Traveling School, Jimmy Weinstein and Lilli Santon, what their secrets are. CM: There were a lot of people on stage, were they all students? Jimmy: There were fifteen students and three teachers. CM: So, it was the first time you arranged a workshop with the “Traveling School” in Mallorca. How do you reach the people? Jimmy: Our newest Traveling School teacher, the mallorquin guitarist Antoni Miranda, made posters, and put an ad in YOUTHING and of course word of mouth. CM: You know Mallorca well, because you’ve lived here. Jimmy: I was born in Chicago, but I spent part of my childhood here, and graduated from high school here. I lived for about 20 years in New York, and started touring Spain and Europe in 1992 with New York based groups. I’ve travelled extensively in Spain and played everywhere on the Iberian peninsula from Andalucia to Aragon and Teruel to Tondela. Sometimes I would do tours of 25 dates in as many days. CM: Besides that you are a really great jazz musician, what was your motivation to start the “Traveling School”? Jimmy: I wanted to do something different outside the “business as usual” music business. There are problems in the music business and also with music school business, especially with regard to creative and non-commercial music. Jazz music education is becoming globally standardized. Right now Berklee College of Music, from where I am a graduate, has its affiliates in Barcelona coming to Mallorca to give exams to students at the Factoria. If everybody is going to use the same blue print for studying, then that’s what we will have. Students are often very well trained but have problems finding their own voice. Others live in places where they have no hope of studying and/or playing with new people. Our main motivation is to offer something non-standard. So we started “Traveling School”. What you saw at the final concert, the excitement and happiness of people playing together is a result that happens constantly when we do our workshops. It’s really great that we met and collaborated with the “Factoria de So”, they are a non profit association, and we are very much of the same mind...the fact that it takes a little more of special effort to do things outside of the music industry. One has to “travel” the extra mile. CM: Where do you hold your workshops normally? Jimmy: We do it internationally. We started out of our home in New York in 2000. We hold the workshops at music schools, jazz festivals and community centres. It’s a lot about feeling, and its very successful. The conservatory method can be helpful for jazz if you develop a strong foundation. One needs to work hard, to practice and to study, but the point is, what do you do with all your information? How do you improvise once you are “at home” with your instrument? Lilli: And what happens if nothing comes out? Sometimes you got a psychological problem in your way…Playing music; it’s a lot about being together, making something together, maybe never heard before, you know, for example, there was a woman at the workshop, playing saxophone, and she could play... she told me how usually she has fun playing, but after she experienced playing with us at the workshop, she was able to improvise like never before. She was able to “break out”. To break with her habitual way of playing… she didn’t know what to do before this work, and after only six hours together or even less… Jimmy: With a coffee break! Lilli: Yes, with a coffee break, so there was very little time. Jimmy: You guys saw what happened: we got on stage and some of those musicians were playing that music for the very first time, and the audience doesn’t realize, we had them on the stage to rehearse one or two times, before they started to play, Then they played a set in small groups, the combos. CM: So the whole weekend you were training combos? Lilli: The morning combo session was on Saturday; we had to do it fast, because we didn’t have too much time. Its like really feeling and tuning into people, you know, then to wait and find out which is the best combination, without dividing people into different levels, we don’t put all the advanced players together necessarily, it’s not our way of thinking, it’s more about playing music, it’s not that much about notes. What’s more important is that we group musicians together based on chemistry rather than technical ability. CM: But the people who came to this workshop, they don’t have the same level. How can that work? Lilli: It’s playing music; it’s not playing a lot of notes. Jimmy: They didn’t have the same level, but basically they had at least two years of study. There are different levels, and that’s so exciting. What Lilli is saying is that sometimes music students go to conservatory, they learn their instrument very well, they play music very well, they learn a lot of information, but they still need something to say, because that is simply something they didn’t work on. They worked on playing their instrument, but you know playing this kind of music is like playing who you are, as Ahmed Abdullah the great trumpeter calls it “the music of the spirit”, and so we need to develop that part of ourselves. People spend a lot of time studying, and that’s very good, but you also have to spend time on what you want to say. So what we try to do is help in that area. We may take one idea, and say “this is the strongest idea we have as a group”, we‘re really going to put it forward, and the stronger players will bring up the level of the others, and what’s great about that is, the less experienced or the newer players will play better. I don’t like to judge players as “better” or “worse”, because we never know were a player is going to arrive, and that’s a great thing. We start with the attitude “There is no limit to what you can do” instead of “the limit for you is here”. There is no pre-set parameter because you never know were someone will go. Were can one go with music? The sky is the limit. This is what we promote and if you can come up with one idea to make the level of the group rise, the ensemble will experience a higher level of energy and feeling, and that’s what Lilli is saying about the woman with her tenor saxophone. When she went back to her regular class the next week she was in a whole different place, and she let her feelings out, and that’s not about notes, it’s about getting in touch with your soul. Later, when you figure out where your problems are you can work on the technique. You can say, “I need to work on this and this…” We don’t work with a pre-set curriculum, because we run the risk of pre-judging participants. We need to get to know them at least a little and “feel” where they are and vice versa. If we can “feel” each other, we can facilitate an exploration of their imagination. I like to “feel” what they are doing first and then have an idea. When Lilli and I are teaching improvisation, we have to improvise ourselves. We can’t come up with preset ideas. Sometimes that can be a problem with teaching jazz today, because often instructors come with pre-set ideas, and jazz has become a study like classical music. What happens is you get very good musicians, excellent musicians, very studious, that’s great, but you also get a lot of people sounding the same, they sound like they have been in a school. What they forget is that after that school they need to go to an “un-school”. CM: So besides your career as a really great musician you share nice work with your wife. I think it must be very interesting to meet people from several countries, different schools, different backgrounds, and different temperament. So, would you like to repeat a workshop here in Mallorca? Jimmy: We would like to do it on a scale that we do other jazz workshops; we did only the introduction, hopefully we will be able to set up a full week next time. CM: Two days is really very short time to get in touch with all the people and know their necessities. Jimmy: That was an introduction, a taste. We develop workshops after an introduction into 5 or even a 10-day seminar, like we did in Sicily this summer. Lilli: We also have other staff members; we have six teachers sometimes, dance teachers, improvisation with dance… Jimmy: We did theatre, we did theatre and jazz workshops together, we did Shakespeare and jazz, we do different things, we do a lot of stuff, but it’s hard to explain it all as one thing, so the best thing is when somebody like you guys came and saw what we do.