Jazz is inherently complex and sexy, its syncopated rhythms and improvised chord changes lending it a sophisticated feel, yet still retaining the basic elements of music: rhythm, harmony and melody. But if you ask trumpet player Mike Field, it takes a lot of practice to sound that way.
“I felt like I was constantly struggling just to stay afloat,” he said of his days playing jazz in New York City. “There were 16-year-olds, and these guys would get up on stage and-” mimics wild jazz playing “-and I would get up onstage and be like-” gives three trumpet sounds. “That was about all I could do then. It was a really intense learning process.
“But there was this day when everything just clicked. I remember my teacher actually said to me after I went into one improv class. I used what I learned that day when it clicked, and the teacher was like, ‘Hey, Mike, I don’t know what you did but it’s not such a drag to listen to you anymore.'”
Since then, he’s been steadily improving, plying his craft constantly in an effort to keep getting better. “When stuff started to click, it felt like everything started to make sense and came together. It was just finally jelling. It was realizing I’ve got sounds and melodies in my head and the music theory was teaching me that, but it didn’t make sense. There was still some huge disconnect, and what I realized was that [music theory] was giving me names to sounds I already knew and helping me understand chord progressions, like knowing what a II-V-I chord progression sounded like.”
In an interview that got quite technical at points, Mike still retained a common touch in explaining his music, spreading out CD cover artwork and going over each song on his sophomore album, Rush Mode. The CD has a bit of everything on it, from the Eastern European-feeling “Balkan Swing” to the titular “Rush Mode”. And if fans are up on their jazz history, they can even catch nods to the great Thelonius Monk on several songs (“Intersection”, “Arizona Ave”).
“Monk would take the same chord progression,” he explained, “and just bump it up like a semi-tone, and do it again. It’d be a chord progression over over two bars. A lot of [my] tunes are in AABA form and so in the bridge, I’ll just have four bars where I’ll do (what Monk did).”
Having already toured internationally, Mike welcomes the chance to play in many venues and festivals, but did share one dream. “I’d love to play in a theatre, the kind where people buy a ticket and sit down at designated seats, the lights dim, and you start playing. I’ve done lots of club gigs, but it’s always dim and loud. Being on the nice stages- that’s always great, and I’d like to do that more and more.”
Mike Field has several upcoming shows in Toronto where you can catch him playing songs from his latest album, Rush Mode:
Oct. 6, 2013 at the Rex (CD release party)
Oct. 11, 18, and 25, 2013 at Harlem Restaurant
Nov. 1, 2013 at Gate 403
You can also check out some of Mike’s music on his own website at www.mikefieldjazz.com