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JazzColumbus.com Interview Series: Dean Marcellana

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by Mark Subel on May 4, 2015

Next in our new series of interviews with some of Central Ohio’s finest jazz musicians is pianist Dean Marcellana. Dean hails from the San Joaquin Valley of California (Delano, CA) and holds degrees from the University of the Pacific Conservatory of Music and the Boston Conservatory. Dean moved to Columbus from Boston about 8-9 years ago and since then has been involved with a myriad of musical projects from classical, jazz, blues, salsa, and musical theatre. Dean currently performs regularly with his own group, Clave Sonic, and several other local acts including: The Rorschach Trio, singer Abbie Stands, and serves as music director/keyboardist with Project Novo.

When and why did you start playing music and jazz?

Dean Marcellana (DM): I first started playing piano/music at the age of 9. I lived in the central San Joaquin Valley of California (Delano, CA) and there wasn’t a whole lot of resources/outlets/opportunities for music lessons in my area. Even so, I was fortunate and blessed to have a piano teacher who was a graduate of the Paris Conservatory (she moved to Delano from France with her husband after World War II). I studied primarily classical music and then when I turned 30, I decided that I wanted to study and play jazz as well as other non-classical music idioms. I decided to travel this new musical path/direction because it was just calling out to me AND I just love being able to express myself/experiment/explore within the spirit of jazz improvisation.

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

DM: This is a really hard one to answer because there are SO many wonderful musicians/artists who I’ve looked up to and tried to emulate. Some people who I’ve really admired over the years of my personal study/musical path are:

-Herbie Hancock
-Chick Corea
-Kenny Barron
-John Medeski
-Red Garland
-Bill Evans
-Jacky Terrason
-Peter Martin
-Jason Rebello

This list is just piano/keyboard players. One of the great things about jazz and music in general is that it has SO MANY wonderful people that you can look to for inspiration.

What is your fondest musical memory? (A live performance, party, etc.)

DM: I’ve been performing and attending concerts/shows since I was 9 years old so there are a LOT and they are all different from one another. If I were to focus on my own fondest memories of performing, I would break it down accordingly:

Classical: performing as a concerto soloist with orchestra (performing Bach’s Concerto No. 1 in D minor, Ravel’s Concerto No. 1 and Rhapsody in Blue)
Jazz: performing with my group CLAVE SONIC (either at Dick’s Den or Brothers Drake) – we’ve had a LOT of really wonderful moments
Gospel: playing at Morningstar Baptist (in Mattapan, MA) with the Gospel Chorus
Salsa: playing at BoMa back in the day with Yumbambe
Musical Theatre: playing in the pit for the national tour of Wicked, Ave Q and Spelling Bee at the Riffe Center and Grand Night For Singing at the Short North Stage

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

DM: As of right now, I am listening to a lot of Jacky Terrasson’s music.

What inspires you about the Columbus Jazz scene?

DM: I am inspired and encouraged by all the great music and musicians that are out there. There are SO many great players and groups. Columbus just has a VERY unique and diverse group of music and musicians to check out!

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

DM: I am in the process of doing some recording with my group CLAVE SONIC. We are working towards getting a number of new original tunes arranged and recorded and released as a CD recording (sometime this summer). Some upcoming shows that we have are:

– Global Gallery (May 9th: 12pm-3pm)
– Brothers Drake (May 13th: 8pm-11pm)
– Comfest
– Columbus Jazz and Ribs

Dean Marcellana performing with his group Clave Sonic at a recent Columbus Jazz & Ribs Festival:

Clave Sonic-“Wacky & Wild Wurlitzer” Live @ Columbus, OH Jazz and Rib Fest 2012 from GingerATTACK! Video Production on Vimeo.

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