Sunday, July 6, 2014

A Festival Experience- Bobby McFerrin at the Montreal Jazz Festival

This past week I had the amazing opportunity to attend the Montreal Jazz Festival as a journalist, and attend a soundcheck and press Q&A for Bobby McFerrin.
McFerrin during the sound check
Bobby McFerrin is an American vocalist and ten time Grammy Award Winner. He is known for using unique vocal effects, scat singing, and singing unaccompanied- singing both the accompaniment and melody of a song.

McFerrin is well known for his hit song "Don't Worry Be Happy":

McFerrin is also known for giving educational talks, such as this video talking about the Power of the Pentatonic Scale.

A Festival Experience- 
Bobby McFerrin at the Montreal Jazz Festival

McFerrin was at the Montreal Jazz Festival to perform selections from his latest release, "Spirityouall". Listen to this NPR broadcast of McFerrin's 'Spirityouall': Live at Monterey. These songs are heartwarming, and present spirituals in a fresh way.

Bobby McFerrin with his daughter Madison
During the sound check McFerrin was completely focused, and would close his eyes to sing. Yet, while being completely focused, McFerrin would still exude the happiness and joy he is known for- he would make jokes and change the musical direction of a song in order to interact with the musicians in his group. Sometimes McFerrin would get up to sway to the music, exuding a tranquil exuberance in every note, rhythm, and phrase.

Lessons I Learned from Bobby McFerrin
McFerrin's comments from the Q&A
McFerrin at the Q&A

1. There is something musical in all things.

2. You are never truly starting from nothing. There are points to bounce off of, sounds to manipulate, and a palate to work with. Even if you are starting from nothing you have a musical history to rely on.

McFerrin often sings unaccompanied, like in this performance of "Ave Maria":

3. Always be willing to learn.

4. McFerrin does not have stage fright. He thinks of golden moments and wants to exude joy in all his performances.

I love this performance of "Smile" with McFerrin and Chick Corea. McFerrin exudes so much joy in his singing, and spreads that joy to everyone near him through audience participation. His 'smile' when he hands the microphone to the audience member is undeniably jubilant.

5. Technique is just a tool- it is there to share joy and heart.

McFerrin performing "I Can See Clearly Now":

6. Collaborators have musical ideas to share that change the way your ears hear something, putting you in a different direction.

7. It is extremely important to trust the people you are playing with- to hear something and go with it. McFerrin said he learned this idea while collaborating with Chick Corea.

McFerrin and Corea performing "Spain":

Final Thoughts:
McFerrin during the sound check
McFerrin shared that when someone asks him his profession he has two answers: 1. He is a jazz singer 2. He is a folk musician. I was surprised by his second answer- being a folk musician. Yet, McFerrin explained that folk music is the music of the people- the regular folk. McFerrin says he wants to sing the music of the people- whether it be called American jazz or folk music is a label, but he wants his musical effect to be similar- to celebrate people now. 

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