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JAZZ CORNER Presents: Pat Bianchi

Pat Bianchi is a dominant force on the Hammond Organ. He's one of the leading Organist and an incredible B3 player. He's a very busy man – playing and touring with various of projects. Currently, Bianchi is an active member of the Pat Martino Trio, the Tim Warfield Organ Quartet, and he also frequently plays with Lou Donaldson. 
His current trio recorded A Higher Standard, on which we will return later in our conversation with Pat.  

When and where were you born?

I was born Dec 7, 1975 in Rochester NY.

How old were you when you began playing music and what was the first instrument you played?

I was probably 5 or 6 when I started, I was playing completely by ear at that time, I did not start any kind of lessons until I was 7 (I think). Once my parents saw I was really interested in music they decided to enroll me in classical piano lessons. But before that, the first instrument I played was organ, though it wasn’t a Hammond. I think I had a toy organ… a “Magnus” or something then soon after my grandfather gave me a Farfisa Compact Duo as a Christmas present and my other grandfather gave me an amplifier as a gift to go with the organ.

What inspired you to start playing music?  Do you recall the first song you ever learned to play?

I come from a family of musicians. Both grandfathers played (semi professionally) my father is a drummer, one uncle is a classical trumpet player, a cousin is a professional opera singer and my brother plays guitar and records and tours with many different bands. But my inspiration came at a very young age. My father would often make recordings of the band he played with. He would bring them home and we would listen to them together. There was a sound that really had caught my attention, looking back it sounded very much like an organ. I didn’t realize then, but that sound turned out to be a Cordovox which was an accordion with organ electronics built in. I never played the accordion or cordovox, but I would sit for hours at my toy keyboard and later Farfisa and figure out these songs from the recordings my dad made. I am trying to remember the first song I learned.. Maybe it was "Misty" or something like that. Anyhow looking back, I had a real advantage when I was starting out. Since the Farfisa had an octave of bass, I ended up learning how to play left hand bass first. Later I had spent a lot of time playing all pedal bass and comping with my left hand, eventually switching back to the way Jimmy Smith and all the greats played the bass. The majority of your bass lines come from your left hand while accenting notes with the bass pedals.

Did you attend any school of music? Would you say school assisted on what you became as a musician? By that I mean your style of playing and on how are you approaching the process of writing new compositions.

When I was still in high school I attended the preparatory department at Eastman School of Music (in Rochester) .. I studied both classical piano as well as music theory. I do believe that everything in life shapes you in terms of your playing and music. Our experiences both good and bad define who we are, which comes out in our music. But to answer your question in a more concrete way, yes school played a big part in shaping me. I attended Berklee College of Music focusing on Jazz Piano since there wasn’t and still is not any type of formal study for Jazz Organ or Hammond B3. But I was very fortunate to find some very incredible teachers and mentors. I learned a lot from many of the classes I took, more theory, arranging, etc.
For me, I am not sure school really had dictated my approach to composing.  A composition can be the result of so many things.. rhythmic ideas, melodic or motivic ideas or a set of chord changes, sometimes it comes easy to me while other times it takes more effort. Actually I do not compose as often as I should.

Who are some musicians, that influenced you in one way or another?

There are so many musicians that have influenced me. Of course the biggest influences are the musicians I have worked for and with. I was very fortunate to be mentored by many great musicians, some you have heard of, others maybe not. But these people gave me the opportunity to learn from them both on and off the bandstand. I truly believe that is the real school.. On the bandstand you are dealing with everything in real time, playing with musicians that may be two or three times your age. That is when your education truly begins and you are able to develop even quicker. You are constantly being put to the test and growing as a result.

You played and shared stages with many worldwide known jazz musicians. How was to work with them and what are some altering experiences from co-working with them?

When I look back at the the number of people I’ve played with over the years, first I am pretty amazed. So I guess you can say that I am humbled for sure. But I can remember having a wide range of emotions, being nervous almost to the point of being scared, excited beyond belief and of course everything in the middle. In terms of life altering experiences, I can think of a few. Right after graduating from Berklee I did a few gigs with the great saxophonist Red Holloway. I remember being so nervous, cause he was a legend. But he was on of the nicest and most encouraging people I had met! Another was playing a concert with George Coleman.. I was a little nervous, but excited too.. so the first tune he call’s was "Day’s of Wine and Roses". I felt relieved because I knew that song.. but then he looks at me and says "play it in the key of E". We’ll as I mentioned earlier the bandstand is where you really learn. George took me to school that night! Of course having the opportunity to play a two B3 concert with Joey D and Byron Landham was just an incredible experience. These are the kinds of things you will never forget.

You have a brand new album out 'A Higher Standard', which you recorded with Byron Landham and Craig Ebner. What can you say about the lineup and the recording process of releasing your latest album?

I think both Byron and Craig are two of my favorite musicians to work with. Both are great friends, Byron is like an older (and wiser) brother to me. He’s taught me a lot, and kicks my butt on the stage. He’s is with out a doubt one of the best drummers playing today! Craig is an amazing guitarist. I am very sensitive to how others "comp" or accompany me when I solo. Craig always plays great behind me and when he solo’s, look out!! He is of the most creative players on his instrument and has some serious intensity. I feel he deserves much more recognition. The recording process was straight forward, but since I did this record on a small budget, I ended up mixing it myself. That was very tedious for me, but with the help of my mastering engineer, I think I got a nice sound. But in order to actually release the record, I needed to get more money together for the manufacturing, promo, etc. So I am also very proud to say that thanks to my friends, family and fans who donated money and supported my efforts, I was successful in using to to raise money AND meet my financial goal needed to release the CD.

How about the arrangements?

One word… challenging!! I have never been one to just go into a studio and call a bunch of tunes on the spot and call it a record. So I feel part of my "voice" is also in the arranging, the harmony, the rhythm, etc. I spend a lot of time really trying to get these arrangements as focused as possible.. Also I feel this record covers a lot of ground musically and each tune demands something different from me. I always try and push myself, you can never be complacent. 

What lies in the near future for you?

Well I have another record in the can. It pays tribute to the great Henry Mancini. This trio (Jim White on drums and Steve Kovalcheck on guitar) use to work a lot together when I was living in Denver, Colorado. There are some great, but obscure songs with great arrangements. I hope to get this released over the summer. Also another trio I work with quite a bit in Italy featuring Massimo Farao on piano and Byron Landham on drums have done a few things in the studio and I am working on getting that record together as well. Finally I am also considering which direction I want to go for my next trio recording. So many project!!

During the past few years you have been part of many projects. What are some you would like to highlight?

Well the Unity Project, which is led by master drummer Ralph Peterson Jr. was an incredible group. This group pays tribute to the great Larry Young and the recording Unity, the quartet has a CD released by Onyx Productions. Of course working with Pat Martino, Lou Donaldson and other living legends has been amazing! So many great experiences and stories, I feel very lucky to have the opportunities to play with them!

Thank you very much for taking time to be part of It's Psychedelic Baby's Jazz Corner. Last word is yours.

Well I really appreciate you taking the time to do this interview with me and of course I am very grateful for the opportunity to share some of my stories and experiences! To those who are reading this, please take a moment and visit and check out excerpts of A Higher Standard I hope you enjoy listening to it! Again thank you so much!!

Interview made by Klemen Breznikar/2015
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