Interview With Jazz Pianist Tal Cohen


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Q: What made you decide to become a pianist? Did you receive any formal training?

A: I always liked the piano. At first I played xylophone but wasn't very good at it, unfortunately, so my mum suggested the piano. I immediately said yes because it meant I wouldn’t need to carry the xylophone to lessons anymore. I will always thank mum for that. The sound of the piano always touched me, and I suppose as a child in Israel everyone was playing music of some sort. All my friends played music, but none of them played the piano so I thought, “Why not?" I studied classical music and Israeli folk songs throughout my childhood. Classical music has always been an inspiration. I love it, and my appreciation for it has only grown in recent years.

Q: What inspired the intriguing album title?

A: The album title Yellow Sticker is actually a dedication to my car; it represents a time where it kept breaking down on me. A ‘yellow sticker’ is the name of the compliance order you get in Western Australia when your car is not roadworthy. It could happen any day of the week; if you get pulled over by police and they're not satisfied with the working order of your car, there’s a good chance you’ll get one glued to your windscreen. I have had three of them. I used to dread getting one (still do - although the offending car has since been sold). It’s quite a long process in Australia to get a yellow sticker removed once you get it; you get 28 days to fix your car or you have to take it off the road. The track “Yellow Sticker" is also in part a dedication to my dad. Every time my car breaks down he is the one that I call to come and fix it. He’s always been there for me.

I always try to relate my tunes to some sort of an experience in my life. Another track from the album is “Hachlata,” which is inspired by a good friend of mine who decided that the music path was not quite for him. ‘Hachlata’ means ‘decision’ in Hebrew, and it’s a tribute to hard decisions such as the changing of life-paths.

Q: Have you recorded anything prior to this CD? How would you compare working in the studio to performing in front of a live crowd?

A: I have done a couple of recordings prior to Yellow Sticker, although this was my first album as a leader. Playing live and in a studio are two different things. Playing live is always exhilarating. It allows for the kind of interaction which I believe is second to none. Anything can happen really. That said, the studio experience is exciting in its own way. You really try to capture the spirit of a live performance onto a record. That’s how I look at it.

Q: How would you describe the jazz scene in Australia?

A: The jazz scene in Australia - where do I begin? First of all, there are so many incredible musicians here, some which are not getting heard enough. But they are here no doubt; I’ve had the privilege of playing with a few. There’s a lot of creative people here and a lot of different music coming out of Australia, to say the least. There is also a great culture in nurturing young artists, which is important for encouraging younger musicians to really give it a shot.

Q: What advice would you give to other young, aspiring jazz artists?

A: Let me start by saying that I believe that artists should be able to express themselves freely. Something I’ve been thinking about recently is how much different music is out there, some of which is very involved and complicated. It can sometimes be quite a lot of pressure. In regards to that my advice has to be to try and stay true to yourself. If you like it, then you like it; and that has nothing to do with anyone else but you.

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