It has been five years since Chris Morrissey last played at Jazzkaar, but he is back now with a new band. He has graciously found some free time, despite a long day and an upcoming concert, to share his story of forming the band, concert attending cultures in the US and Europe. He has also shared, where he enjoys playing more – this and many more in an interview with Chris Morrissey!
Welcome back to Jazzkaar festival! The last time you were here was in 2019, performing with Mark Guiliana. How does it feel to come back, but now with your own band?
It feels great. It feels like we’ve already crossed this after list with our concert at Philly Joe’s in 2022, but I am glad to bring these guys here (to Jazzkaar). I remember it being such a good festival.
How did you form your band? You were in other bands before, right?
We started two years ago. I’ve had many bands of my own, but I just loved these guys (Charlotte Greve, Marco Bolfelli, and Bill Campbell) individually. This project is about songwriting and improvising. It has elements that do take from jazz and those experiences of mine. It’s got as much rock influences or folk influences like Björk and Radiohead, as it does jazz influences. I wanted people who could comfortably live in both worlds.
Marco was somebody whom I met in New York. When he moved, he took a lesson with me, years and years ago. We stayed friends, and we talked about playing together. I started asking him about the Italian tour, and he said he could put the band together. I used the entirely Italian group that he facilitated, and it was amazing. Marco was the first person in this band.
Bill got a band that he sings and plays in at the same time. That is difficult to categorize, and I’ve always loved that. That felt like a fit for me. Charlotte put out this record of choir music. I’ve heard of her before, but then I’ve heard this record, a choir singing with the band. Despite how strange it was, it just had a connection with me.
You must have performed a lot in your homeland – the USA. Can you feel a difference between the audience in Europe and the United States?
Yes, I do feel the difference, and I have preferred playing over here (Europe). There is a culture around going to concerts and listening with curiosity and openness. It may be people who have never heard of you, but there is a culture around receiving something that they don’t know what it will be. I love that, and I find it very refreshing.
In the States it is possible to play to a listening audience. I’ve done it with other bands, like Norah Jones and Mark Guiliana. However, these people are well known. It’s humbling to admit, but there wasn’t always as much attendance when I toured in US with my current band last summer.
Last night, we had a concert in Viljandi, which was full of people. It was beautiful. A lot of people just came to check it out, and that’s such a lovely thing, that you won’t probably find in the States. For the time being, Europe feels like the place I want to devote my energy to, to cultivate with these guys. Here, the culture allows that more than in America.
You are the author of your own music. Is it lyrics or music that come first when it comes to songwriting?
For me it is music first. I create a form or a progression that I am excited by. And then the melody falls on that without words. And then the words come, but sometimes they can also change the melody.
You are a guest lecturer at Manhattan’s New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music. Could you tell us more about it – what exactly are you doing there?
Adjunct faculty is a more accurate title than guest lecturer. I have done some guest lectures at colleges, but at New School I teach privately. In New School they have a very cool program, in that you don’t have to be somebody who applied for a job there, to work there. They want to take advantage of New York’s musicians who aren’t teaching but are willing to become educators. The student picks the teacher they want. It wasn’t them hiring me. These were the students asking to bring me in.
What is your favorite song from today’s concert set list?
It is a song called Company, which is on the record that’s coming out early next year. Sorry (laughs), I know I am supposed to give one, but Don’t Look So Serious is the one we start with, and it is always very comfortable. It eases into the set in a way the band likes it, and it’s fun to sing it.
And the last question – if you had one message to give to your Jazzkaar audience, what would it be?
Thank you for letting us be here again. Like I said, it’s hard to take a band to the road, and having Jazzkaar offer us two slots (Tallinn and Viljandi) is amazing. The festival is taking care of us. We have an awesome assistant Laura helping and taking us to the places. Thank you and please have us back again, we want to come back many more times.
27th of April, 11 pm at Fotografiska
Chris Morrissey – bass, vocal
Charlotte Greve – alto saxophone, vocal
Marco Bolfelli – guitar, vocal
Bill Campbell – drums
Check out the concert gallery here.