TALENT SCOUT - West Coast Jazzer Connie Han

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We're relaunching our series TALENT SCOUT with Connie Han, a 21-year-old jazz pianist from Los Angeles who's been shaking up the West Coast jazz scene of late.

Find-out more about her below and at www.conniehan.com


NAME: Connie Han

HOMETOWN: Los Angeles, California

MUSICAL TRAINING: I was born to Chinese immigrants who were both professional musicians. They started me on classical piano at five years-old. It was doubtful if they intended for me to pursue music as a career - rather they hoped daily practicing would build my character. I'm thankful every day for their insistence because I wouldn't be the musician I am without internalizing that early work ethic. I discovered jazz after being accepted into the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts. There I learned the value of mentorship. One faculty member, Bill Wysaske, took me under his wing and was vital to my musical development. I attribute much of the knowledge I apply to my playing, practicing ethic, and musical philosophy to his teachings. He has not only been invaluable to me as a mentor, but he's also the musical director and producer of my upcoming record, not to mention a world-class drummer.

FIRST GIGS: At 18-years-old, I attended UCLA under a full scholarship for 3 weeks until I decided to drop out and pursue a full-time music career. I immediately started working as a trio pianist and band leader (often underage) at local bars, jazz clubs, and restaurants. By the time I was 19-years-old, I was performing at Los Angeles venues like Catalina Jazz Club, the Baked Potato, and Vibrato Grill Jazz.

MUSICAL INFLUENCES: Kenny Kirkland, Hank Jones, and Mulgrew Miller are my biggest influences precisely because they represent complete jazz musicianship. They never had to deconstruct the building blocks of jazz in order to be original.

WHAT I’M LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW: One of the best things about jazz is discovering rare recordings and bootlegs. One of my friends turned me on to a 1992 bootleg recording of Kenny Kirkland, Robert Hurst, and Jeff "Tain" Watts playing at Gilly's in Dayton, Ohio. They played music from Kenny's self titled album and also some Chick Corea which was cool having never heard Kenny perform Chick's repertoire (the tune "Steps" to be exact). Kenny and Tain's chemistry in a live performance was even more exciting than in a studio, and it's not too often you get to hear Kenny in a trio environment.

INSTRUMENTS PLAYED: Piano, Fender Rhodes, keyboard.

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MY BIG BREAK: I'm excited to be performing with my trio at the Montreal Jazz Festival this year on Thursday, June 29, 2017, featuring my favorite musicians: drummer Bill Wysaske and bassist Edwin Livingston.

LATEST ALBUM: What I love about the 1990s' "young lions" movement was that musicians like Kenny Kirkland and Wynton Marsalis breathed new life into the straight-ahead jazz language. The music on my upcoming album was written with the intention of capturing that same youthful energy. The album, featuring my trio and special guests, will be recorded in early June and released in the late summer 0f 2017. There will also be a few arrangements of my favorite composers' music, among them Joe Henderson, Duke Pearson, and modern musical theater giant Stephen Sondheim.

FAVORITE KEYBOARD GEAR: I consider myself a pianist first, although I must admit on many gigs I use the Roland RD-800 because the keyboard was specifically designed to feel and sound as close to an acoustic piano as possible. The added nuances of string and keys-off resonance when using the damper pedal makes a huge difference when a piano's timbre becomes vital to the success of my music.

WHAT’S NEXT: Recording my album, performing at the Montreal Jazz Festival, and for those in Los Angeles, a performance at the famous Jazz at the "A" Frame on Sunday, October 22, 2017.

ADVICE: Know your craft. In a chaotic and often ruthless industry, art can fall victim to politics, profit, and the fast-paced social media-dominated environment. It is easy to lose confidence in what's good or bad music so always be conscious to what you know to be true. Your greatest weapons are the skills and musicianship you acquire from hard work, learning repertoire, knowing how to play your instrument, and fully comprehending the sophistication of your art form. Honor the truth that your musical heroes left behind by using it to pave a path for yourself as a unique voice and that, I believe, will ultimately lead to a fulfilling artistic experience.