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Interview : Joe Locascio
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In Remembrance of: Benjamin Henry, Eva Burrell, Eric Paul Jackson, Bertha Smith, Leon Guitry, Jackie Hall
By Richard Henry on February 24, 2010

Biography and Interview of Joe Locascio:

Joe LoCascio, a native New Yorker, has resided in Houston since 1977. A prolific performer/composer, he has twelve recordings to his credit, many of them having attained prominent radio airplay nationally and abroad. He has performed and/or recorded with jazz luminaries such as Chet Baker, Freddie Hubbard, Arnett Cobb, Don Wilkerson, Pharoah Sanders, Conrad Herwig, Tim Hagans, Dave Liebman, Randy Brecker, Ernie Watts, Tim Armacost, Billy Hart and George Mraz among others. Jazz critics nationwide have acclaimed him one of the finest artists on the contemporary scene.

He is currently Assistant Chairman of Jazz Studies at Houston Community College where he teaches Piano, Jazz History, Jazz Ensemble and Improvisation Theory. He performs and records with his trio and also with saxophonist Woody Witt.

Joe Locascio has released albums such as Close to So Far, In the City of Lost Things and Ghosts.

Interview with Joe Locascio February 24, 2010

What has been some of the most important developments you have seen in the jazz industry in recent years?
The biggest change is in education. Jazz education has gotten more refined. There are more proficient players because the educational system is turning out great players. However the good players will need perseverance. Young musicians do not have the options available as far as touring and playing at live performance venues. Musicians are being replaced by electronic means. This is not necessarily a bad thing because this gives musicians a chance to learn and study new things to help them in the music world.

As the Assistant Chairman of Jazz Studies at Houston Community College, what elements of the teaching profession do you enjoy the most?
When I see a student come in and not be where they need to be, then grow and become a professional. Even if you have never played, Houston Community College will take you. It gives me no greater joy than to see a student support themselves and their family through our program.

Tell us about any music projects you have just finished, working on or will be involved with in the future.
I am currently composing an opera that I hope to have staged at HCC. It is a chamber opera. Recently, I finished composing my third string quartet. I am preparing for the release of an album with a group called "Q" featuring standards with Bill Miller on bass, Warren Sneed on saxophone and Tim Solook on drums. My original lyrics will be featured on a cd with Tim Solook on drums, Woody Witt on saxophone, David Craig on bass and former HCC student and vocalist Patty Sanders.

Were either one of your parents musicians?
No, but my mother is a great lover of opera.

Is the Houston jazz scene thriving as we speak?
It is a good place to work in jazz and good for young musicians. We are better off than a lot of other cities. By 1985, I was working full time as a jazz musician in Houston.

What are some of the inspirations that help you compose music?
I have never considered myself a musical snob. All kinds of music capture my imagination. I am more influenced by the sound of music. In classical and jazz music, I have done a lot of analysis. If it's good then I want to hear it. When I was young, I grew up with rock and classical music. My early influences were The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix.

What are some of your most memorable moments as a performer?
I got a chance to play with great musicians. Basically, I love to play, it does not matter who it is with, it is always memorable. Playing with Arnett Cobb at Lott's Emporium was a defining moment for me, I learned so much about music.

If you had never learned to play jazz piano, what other jazz instrument would you have played instead?
I would have to say the drums, as they are the real mystery to me because you are not dealing with tonality in the traditional sense.

In your Album Close to So Far, there seems to be a feeling of someone pondering their circumstances in the track Quiet of Autumn and in Edland there seems to be joy and some kind of relief from stressful elements. In this album, is there a journey of different emotions that lead to what you are trying to achieve?
Absolutely, that's the case with every album. In the Quiet of Autumn, it is a song of remembrance for my father who was my most profound influence on my creative life than any other person. Edland is a musical portrait of Ed Soph who I consider to be one of the finest musicians in the world.

Joe Locascio
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