Jazz, swing, barrelhouse, and bluesNashville pianist Mark Sorrells is devoted to it all, having played jazz piano in Nashville for more than 10 years. Here he talks about the inspiration of Iron Butterfly, getting his audience to shake their "ya-ya's," and healing the world through the blues. Catch Sorrells Thursday nights at The Wild Boar, 7 pm; and the Mark Sorrells Trio Friday nights, 7:30 pm. For more info, go to www.marksorrells.com.
1. What's the first and last concert you ever went to? First concert: Well, I went with my family to a nightclub dinner and show in Houston featuring Mel Torme. I was probably in seventh grade, so I did not count this as a "concert," although I remember being pleasantly surprised and highly entertained by the full horn section, lights and drama of the evening. I actually consider my first "concert" (i.e. rock concert), to be Iron Butterfly, Waco, Texas, with my red-haired crush of the moment, Suzanne. I think I was 14 or 15. Second row of the Heart of Texas Coliseum. We left hearing-impaired and brain-damaged, but proud. Last concert: Buddy & Julie Miller, singing in benefit of Jonell's tough-as-nails mate after his horse-riding accident. Buddy and Julie are mystical and deep of heart and soul, and he plays an unidentified flying object with six strings. God, I love what they do! I play "The River's Gonna Run" daily for inspiration.
2. What is your favorite local show? Mike Henderson and The Bluebloods. They are the Beatles of Nashville, musically as hot as firecrackers, down-to-earth shamans, healing the world through their nightly wrestling with the blues.
3. What's your favorite cheesy song? My favorite song is "What a Wonderful World." Some might think it cheesy, being so overplayed and popular. I think it's a profound prayer.
4. What record do you wish you'd made? I love Sting's "Sacred Love" cut and U2's "When Love Comes to Town." I'm not jealous, I just love that they did these songs and shared them with us!
5. What is one of your shows like? Whether I'm performing solo, in the blues duo Newell & Sorrells, or with the Mark Sorrells Trio, the structure is always spontaneous. I am playing off my own feelings, or those of myself and the other musicians, and we're making ourselves happy, and that's when we connect best with our audiences, when we are genuinely connecting with each other and the muse.
It's kind of a mutual, global understanding in the present. We pick up vibes from our audience and from each other, and choose the songs, lyrics and grooves that either complement those feelings, or compare/contrast. Sometimes it seems like people need a little salt, paprika...a kick. They wanna whoop it up, sweat, get their ya-ya's out. Other times, you sense two lovers in the room and want to help them musically make love to each other in their quiet conversations or in a slow dance on the dance floor.
It's much like a conversationfun, sensual, intellectual. My co-conspirators James Newell, Dave Dunseath and Gene Ford are all amazing and excellent conversationalists, both musically and just sittin' down with a beer or coffee, and that makes my job so much easier. Then, when you sense the feelings and desires of the people hanging with us at the performance, it can many times become quite rare and magical.
6. If you could be in any other band (past or present) for 24 hours, what band would you be in? I don't dare ask it. I'd be over my head, but I try to visualize being John Jarvis on keys for a song or two with the Mike Henderson & The Bluebloods. God, his precision, technique, repertoire and cool are amazing and so consistent. I go to see them on a regular basis to refuel, to reconnect with where I wanna be someday.
7. What's your opinion on the Nashville music scene? I think the Nashville live music scene has burgeoned and become much more organic and real since Opryland shut down. Now we've got little funky dives and excellent restaurants, pizza joints, coffeehouses and listening posts that can grow the grass-roots musicians and their followings. It's an entrepreneur's paradise; it just requires the sweat equity necessary for all of us to really cherish, grow and protect our gifts, and to grow them up in this big, bad world.
8. Who are your favorite Nashville musicians/artists? Other than Dave and Gene, my favorite B3 player is Reese Wynans, with Dave Perkins vocals and guitar. Kami Lyle went and moved up north; I love her presence and heart. For that same reason, my favorite singers are Jonell Mosser and Etta Britt, and Buddy and Julie Miller, I love my Lori Mecham and Roger Spencer, two full-on music lovers and some of the most generous, sparkling entities in our small town! And Ashley Cleveland and Michael McDonald.
9. What's the last album you bought? Keb Mo', Keb Mo', 1994. I'm behind but finally caught up with him!
10. Have you embraced music-listening technology? Yes, I use my iMac (best musician's tool I've ever purchased!) to scout songs from iTunes. Anytime someone requests a song, I write it down and try to find it on iTunes, at least to see what it's about. I use my iPod to listen and work out to a series of Led Zeppelin songs but I still have CDs and cassettes in the car.