Skip to content Skip to footer
David Janeway
<noscript><img loading=lazy decoding=async class=wp image 2616 size large lazyload src=httpsdecibelpresentscomwp contentuploads202401David Janeway 1024x768jpeg alt=David Janeway width=1024 height=768 srcset=httpsdecibelpresentscomwp contentuploads202401David Janeway 1024x768jpeg 1024w httpsdecibelpresentscomwp contentuploads202401David Janeway 300x225jpeg 300w httpsdecibelpresentscomwp contentuploads202401David Janeway 768x576jpeg 768w httpsdecibelpresentscomwp contentuploads202401David Janeway 1536x1152jpeg 1536w httpsdecibelpresentscomwp contentuploads202401David Janeway 2048x1536jpeg 2048w httpsdecibelpresentscomwp contentuploads202401David Janeway 370x278jpeg 370w httpsdecibelpresentscomwp contentuploads202401David Janeway 840x630jpeg 840w httpsdecibelpresentscomwp contentuploads202401David Janeway 410x308jpeg 410w sizes=max width 1024px 100vw 1024px ><noscript> David Janeway

Hailing from Rochester, New York, jazz pianist David Janeway‘s musical odyssey began with classical piano at the age of six. Influenced by luminaries such as Bill Evans and Denny Zeitlin, he made his mark in Detroit before moving to New York City in 1978.

Janeway’s career spans collaborations with artists like Art Farmer, and Michal Urbaniak, and performances at iconic venues like Mezzrow and Zinc Bar. Noteworthy events include appearances at the NYC Salsa Festival and the Detroit Jazz Festival, showcasing his versatility.

As the founder of the Hastings Jazz Collective in 2008, Janeway pushes boundaries with the ensemble’s latest release, Shadow Dances (2019). His piano trio, featuring Billy Hart and Cameron Brown, released Distant Voices in 2021, paying tribute to jazz pianists who inspired him.

A member of “Soartet” since 2020, Janeway’s influence continues to shape the NYC jazz scene. With a rich tapestry of experiences, his upcoming debut in the Piano Jazz Series at Zinc on January 30 promises a captivating fusion of tradition and innovation, reflecting his dynamic journey through the world of jazz. We had the privilege to sit down with him and delve into his musical journey.

Charles Carlini: Can you share a bit about your musical journey and how you found your way to jazz piano?

David Janeway: I grew up in a profoundly musical family, where it seemed everyone, including my grandparents, played the piano. At the age of four, I began tinkering with a toy piano we had in Rochester, NY. Recognizing my love for it, my mother initiated rudimentary lessons, and by the time I turned five, we had moved to Detroit, marking the start of my formal classical training, which continued until I was 13.

My interest shifted towards improvisation, leading me to discontinue formal lessons. Around this juncture, I delved into professional engagements with rock and blues bands in Detroit. These collaborations eventually evolved into experimental rock ventures with extended jams, akin to the styles of the Grateful Dead, Soft Machine, and Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Keith Jarrett’s albums, Explorations and Facing You, had a profound impact on me during this period.

Around 1969, the fusion of jazz and rock was taking shape, with pivotal releases like Bitches Brew, Chick Corea’s “Return to Forever,” Herbie Hancock’s band Mwandishi, and the innovative sounds of artists like Ornette Coleman, Billy Cobham, George Duke, and Denny Zeitlin altering the course of music forever.

A transformative experience occurred at the age of 14 when my father took me to witness Oscar Peterson at Baker’s Keyboard Lounge in Detroit. Jazz had always resonated in my home, given my father and grandfather’s affinity for jazz standards and George Shearing’s books.

By the time I turned 16, I frequented jazz clubs in Detroit, including jazz lofts like Strata Concert Gallery and Ibo, where I could enjoy live jazz despite being underage. For a mere $5, I witnessed performances by Rahsaan Roland Kirk, McCoy Tyner, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Elvin Jones, Mingus, Weather Report, Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, and many others.

During high school, I encountered Marcus Belgrave and Harold McKinney, part of the Creative Profiles group, at Bert’s club in Detroit. Their mentorship through the Metro Arts jazz workshop was pivotal in my musical education.

In the early ’70s, Marvin “Doc” Holliday initiated a jazz program with a big band at Oakland University, where I played alongside Dizzy Gillespie and Marcus as guest artists. These experiences, combined with performances around Detroit with various musicians, laid the foundation for my growth as a musician.

In the early to mid-’70s, Detroit’s music scene, spanning Motown, jazz, rock, and Latin genres, thrived with creativity. The competition was less intense, and as long as you demonstrated a high level of competence, the bandstand served as a vital educational platform.

At the age of 23, after completing my degree at Wayne State University in Detroit, I made the move to NYC. In the mid-’80s, I recorded the first half of my debut album, “Entry Point,” with a Detroit band featuring Marcus Belgrave, Phil Lasley, Vincent York, Marion Hayden, George Davidson, and Jerry LeDuff. Released under my label, New Direction, the album remains available on both LP and CD.

I continue to reside in the vibrant NYC region, believing that its rich music scene provides ongoing opportunities for growth and development as a jazz musician.

CC: What influences have shaped your unique style, and how do you incorporate them into your compositions?

DJ: Hailing from Detroit, a city boasting jazz legends like Barry Harris, Tommy Flanagan, Kirk Lightsey, Harold McKinney, Hank Jones, Earl Van Dyke, and an impressive roster of bassists, drummers, and horn players, I felt compelled to immerse myself in the teachings of these masters. Establishing a solid foundation meant delving into the roots of jazz piano, exploring stride, and bebop, honing accompanist skills, embracing R&B, and recognizing the significance of cultivating a unique sound and musical direction. Throughout, the emphasis has always been on achieving personal expression at the highest level and preserving the freedom to be true to oneself in a world often pulling in opposing directions.

That being said, I must acknowledge that some of the profound influences on my playing and composition have come from horn players. Icons like Wayne Shorter, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Joe Henderson stand prominently atop that list. Their courage in crafting their own distinctive sound and direction has been a guiding force.

Among fellow pianists, the array of inspirations includes Denny Zeitlin, Bill Evans, Paul Bley, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, McCoy Tyner, Andrew Hill, Joe Zawinul, Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, my esteemed teacher Albert Dailey, and contemporaries like Mickey Tucker, Cedar Walton, Mulgrew Miller, Dave Kikoski, Keith Jarrett, and Richie Beirach.

In the realm of vocalists, Carmen McRae, Sarah Vaughan, Betty Carter, Sheila Jordan, Etta Jones, and Johnny Hartman have left an indelible mark on me. Their storytelling prowess, expressed through their voices, resonates as a significant influence.

CC: How do you approach preparing for a performance?

DJ: Selecting the right program holds utmost importance for me, and I dedicate ample time to practicing the music until most of it becomes ingrained in my memory, striving to minimize reliance on sheet music while on stage. Frequently, I record segments at home, engaging in playback for thorough editing. Some pieces undergo months of meticulous work, subject to continuous revisions until I sense they have reached their optimal state. The sequence of tunes plays a crucial role in sustaining audience engagement, a responsibility I take to heart.

My preference is to present a blend of my interpretations of standards and original compositions. I don’t subscribe to the idea of improvising on the bandstand, although there may be moments when, in the spontaneity of the performance, a particular tune may not be the ideal choice, prompting me to propose a substitution. I consistently include these “alternates” in my setlist and roadmap, ensuring clarity for my fellow musicians.

CC: Can you highlight a particular composition or project that holds special significance in your career, and why?

DJ: My album, Distant Voices, featuring my current working trio with Billy Hart and Cameron Brown, holds a profound significance for me. This project took shape during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and stands as a tribute to the numerous great jazz musicians we lost during that challenging period.

I take great pride in my most recent release, Interchange, which was originally recorded back in the 90s. It showcases an earlier trio with Harvie S and Steve Johns, along with one track featuring the late, great alto saxophonist, Pete Yellin. The inspiration drawn from their playing, our interplay, and the recording quality remain a source of gratitude. Special thanks to Nils Winther at Steeplechase for bringing this remarkable recording to light. I’m thrilled to reunite with this exceptional trio for performances as part of the Piano Jazz Series at the Zinc Bar.

CC: How do you see the future of jazz evolving, and what role do you hope to play in shaping its trajectory?

DJ: Regrettably, as many of the masters who shaped my musical upbringing have passed away, it’s intriguing to witness the ongoing evolution of jazz. Jazz, by its very essence, dismantles boundaries, fostering freedom of expression across cultures, continents, and genres. I consider myself incredibly fortunate to be a part of this dynamic stream of music known as jazz. The weighty responsibility of upholding the jazz piano tradition bestowed upon me is something I still feel, and I’m thankful for the Zinc Bar and its Piano Jazz Series.

With great anticipation for David Janeway’s debut in Zinc’s Piano Jazz Series on January 30, it’s evident that his passion for jazz and commitment to artistic exploration have established him as a compelling figure in the contemporary jazz scene. With a career marked by innovation and a steadfast dedication to pushing boundaries, Janeway’s upcoming performance promises to be a captivating experience for all music enthusiasts. Don’t miss the opportunity to witness this virtuoso in action as he takes the spotlight, weaving a tapestry of melodies that transcend the dichotomy between tradition and innovation.

Purchase Tickets

author avatar
Decibel

Leave a comment