JazzColumbus.com Interview Series: Dave Powers

Next in our new series of interviews with some of Central Ohio’s finest jazz musicians is pianist Dave Powers. Powers has been an important part of the local music scene for over 30 years, playing a wide variety of venues and gigs with scores of great musicians. He currently plays four solo piano gigs a week (see our calendar for more info), along with the occasional special event like his House Jazz Concert Series (see below). Powers took the time recently to answer our questions and give us insight into his background and upcoming events:

When and why did you start playing music and jazz?

Dave Powers (DP): I’ve been into music ever since I was an infant. My Dad jokes that I was “vaccinated with a phonograph needle” when I was a baby. I loved listening to all kinds of music and playing records. Nothing much has changed 50 years later! I started playing piano around the age of 5, and I kind of gravitated towards jazz by the 5th grade. I wanted to hear music that wasn’t being played on Top 40 radio. I’ve always been interested in all types and genres of music, studying the different styles and techniques. Duke Ellington said “There are two types of music – good, and the other kind.” Ellington’s quote has pretty much been my philosophy. Jazz is basically a big mixture of music borrowed from various backgrounds.

Who are some of your main influences in your playing/performing?

DP: I’m influenced by many different performers, not just pianists, but also horn players. Some of my favorite pianists are Art Tatum, Horace Silver, George Shearing, Erroll Garner, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Thelonious Monk, Ahmad Jamal, Helen Sung and Gerald Clayton. Some of my other favorite jazz musicians include Sonny Rollins, Bob Brookmeyer, Stan Getz, Johnny Smith, Lee Morgan, Hank Mobley, B3 organists Don Patterson and Richard “Groove” Holmes and many others. I’m influenced by everybody I listen to!

What is your fondest musical memory?

DP: That’s a hard question to answer, as there are many fun moments! I have so much fun at all my gigs. I really enjoy being featured and playing with the Columbus Jazz Orchestra. They’re like my extended family. I enjoyed touring France, Germany, Finland, Puerto Rico and Grenada with trumpeter Arturo Sandoval. I also enjoyed playing in Hong Kong, Las Vegas and Los Angeles doing corporate gigs with my band “Powerhouse.” (not necessarily a jazz gig, but lots of fun!) I also really enjoyed playing in Chattanooga, TN at a festival with Mark Farner of Grand Funk Railroad. (also not a jazz gig, but highly memorable and fun!)

What are you listening to today? What’s on your playlist?

DP: I’m always listening to all kinds of music – anything I can get my hands on – jazz, classical, R&B, rock, soul, polka, old 78 rpm records from the 1920’s and 1930’s, basically anything that’s good or deemed good. It all depends on my mood. I carry three iPods with me when I travel. At home I love listening to records.

What inspires you about the Columbus Jazz scene?

DP: I’m inspired by the quality of musicianship in Columbus. There is a greater quality of musicianship in Columbus over other major cities like New York or LA in my opinion. I am a native Columbus-ite, and I’ve observed the “ebb and flow” of changes in the local music scene through the years. There have been some really great past legendary musicians that have come out of Columbus like tenor saxophonist Rusty Bryant, organists Hank Marr and Don Patterson, trumpeter Harry “Sweets” Edison, and current younger players like B3 organist Tony Monaco and pianist Aaron Diehl. The reason why Columbus stands out above major cities like New York or Los Angeles is our cost of living. The musicians here can concentrate more on their craft and artistry and worry less about their next rent or mortgage payment. It’s also nice when your gig is only 15 to 20 minutes or so away from home.

What are you working on for 2015? Any new projects, exciting shows or releases?

DP: I’m real excited about the continuing development of my concert series called “The House Jazz Concert Series.” We are in our sixth year and growing! We do six concerts a year, held at the Clintonville Woman’s Club, located at 3951 N. High Street in Clintonville. There is always a special guest and a theme. We have released four CD’s from these live dates, and they are available on iTunes and amazon (keyword: Dave Powers). Our next House Jazz Concert date is Sunday, March 8th, featuring Dayton musicians Hal Melia and Chris Berg, and we’ll be doing the music of the 1950’s West Coast Jazz scene. On Sunday, May 3rd, legendary jazz guitarist Ken Karsh will be performing at the House Jazz Concert Series. I’m also very excited to be featured once again with The Columbus Jazz Orchestra April 9th – 12th at the Southern Theatre performing the music of James Taylor.

For more info on Powers, visit http://davepowers.com/.

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