Everything changed for trumpeter Philip Dizack when he learned to play a C major scale. An undying love for jazz and a devotion to practice eventually led him to New York City , where he attended the Manhattan School of Music, and won several awards. Philip has just released his second album as a leader: End of an Era.
Mark Turner of "All About Jazz" describes End of an Era as "a resounding album that is solidified by fine ensemble work and composition that breathes emotion and thoughtfulness."
Photo Credit: Gulnara Khomatova
Ying Zhu: What was your introduction to Trumpet?
Philip Dizack: I first tried many other instruments, but they just weren't for me. My father played trumpet all through high school, and one day he convinced me to pick it up and taught me a C major scale. He also introduced me to Miles Davis and I spent the next year trying to mimic Miles' playing on Just Squeeze Me.
My dad was an audio technician and had hundreds of recordings - he was always playing different types of music around the house. I was surrounded by everything from jazz to pop to R&B for as long as I can remember and I think that subconsciously gave me an awareness of the vocabulary of music.
What kind of sound do you strive for?
I strive for an expressive sound that allows me to communicate in the most genuine way possible. I strive to go a little further emotionally each time I play to really get the rawness of the human spirit in my playing.
How did you select the other artists for your album?
I've known all of them for at least four or five years. I grew up with Joe Sanders in Milwaukee so we go back to our early days and the rest I met through my nine years living in New York. I love all of their playing because they each have such an individual voice and there is such beauty and sincerity in their playing. I hired them because of their musicality. I knew they would be able to really project the vision I was aiming for.
Can you talk about your growth since your time at the Manhattan School of Music to now? What have you learned and how have you changed since then?
I think that your early twenties is a really interesting transition period because you go from living with your family to being in school to being completely on your own and really being forced to choose what direction you're going in your life. I think what I've learned was how to make decisions in my life and to shed any need of seeking people's acceptance. Only when I stopped trying to impress people was when I actually began to make great art.
You spend a lot of time in LA and New York. What are some key differences between the music scenes in these places?
I feel that LA is freer; people are less judgmental - music is music and you can be a part of so many different types of genres without worrying about the "jazz integrity". On the other hand, you have New York which is creativity at it's finest. Every time I'm in New York I am inspired to stretch my artistic mind a little more. On top of that, I can go to 20 different venues and hear world-class music any night of the week. But then there are the California beaches...
How is performing with a small group of musicians different than performing with a larger ensemble? Do you take a different approach?
Up until I did my CD release show I did it with just a quartet or quintet. With a small group, you can really develop a strong level of communication and vocabulary. Playing in a larger ensemble with strings pushes you in a direction that's much more confined harmonically; but at the same time they add drama and a lushness to the music. Anytime you add strings to jazz it sounds much more emotional and dramatic.
Is there a special musician or mentor who you worked with that left an impression on you?
Working with Eddie Palmieri has been the most memorable. There isn't one resounding thing that he's said that sticks out, but his approach to music and its history as well as his ability to enhance the music through a great performance has had a big affect on me. He has this amazing charisma that allows him to reach people on a deep level when he takes the stage.
Tell us about the process of creating your album, from Kickstarter to the finished product?
I conceived of the record about two years before it was out. I had most of the compositions done and starting scheduling the musicians. A couple months after, I had the Kickstarter funding to help with the second day in the recording studio. I then, signed on with Truth Revolution records.
I worked with a friend of mine a couple months later – Charles Schiermeyer, he's a great composer and producer - who helped me with the string arrangements and production. After that, I spent three days in the studio with Dave Darlington mixing and mastering in addition to working on the photography and artwork with Jason Goodman and Andrew Neesley. After that it was months of promotion and bookings.
Who are some of your biggest influences?
When I was younger it was Miles Davis and Freddie Hubbard and currently a lot of my contemporaries inspire me, and people in my life that I'm closest to. I've also been getting into artistic films recently and different avenues of art or museums. People I surround myself with are essential to my everyday happiness and in turn have a huge impact on my music.
How much do you allow yourself to improvise in a live performance?
The entire performance. I don't put any limitations on myself at all. There are written melodies and chords, but those are really just implied in the music. Improvisation can also be something small like phrasing a melody in a new way or playing with different dynamics. I think what's important when you improvise is being okay with trying new things and making mistakes.
At what kind of venues do you most enjoy performing?
I love performance halls. I grew up dreaming about playing in jazz clubs. When I was about fifteen, I started going to this jazz club in Milwaukee called the "Jazz Estate." It was the epitome of what you think a jazz club should be like - dark, smoky, noisy - it had a great vibe and made everything more exciting. As I got older, I found more joy playing in performance halls. I think when you're in a performance hall there's a grandeur about it that gives your music proper recognition. It frees you in a way because it gives you validation and the satisfaction of knowing that you're communicating to a lot of people in a big way.
You’ve been touring recently, any memorable experiences?
Recently I did a couple of my own shows to celebrate the CD release. The biggest ones were the three shows with strings in LA, Milwaukee and New York. I wanted to recreate the experience of the album; it was very specific what I was trying to achieve. Those experiences were great! There were great turnouts and energy at all of those shows. I don't think many people get to see a five-piece string section in a jazz setting like we had for a number of these shows. I think because of that it presents a different feeling and experience to people and was something I felt blessed to present and be a part of.
Do you have any advice for young musicians?
Don't worry about having to prove yourself to anyone or straying away from certain things because other people don't approve of them. Just be as genuine as possible and if you put all of your heart into something, people are going to believe you.