Andy Milne is beyond just the leader, pianist /composer of the band Dapp Theory; jazz is his superpower. He has been described as a "superb pianist of undisguisedly jazz-rooted, Herbie Hancock-like fluency."
Milne’s prolific resume is not only impressive, but also a little daunting. Milne has gone where no man has gone before; he recently scored seven William Shatner-directed documentaries and in addition, he’s an accomplished educator and received several awards and commissions.
Dapp Theory’s music is intricate and engaging with multiple influences and thought provoking lyrics that make categorizing it a challenge. Their latest album, "Forward in All Directions," is a diverse collection of ten tracks that celebrates the band’s 15-year journey and Milne’s personal enthusiasm for his life’s multifaceted ambitions.
The band’s sax player, Aaron Kruziki is from Wisconsin, making their Milwaukee show on Friday, March 27 at The Jazz Estate a homecoming of sorts.
Milne generously imparts a Jazz 101 lesson, divulges details of his Shatner collaboration and praises MKE vegetarian culinary fare below.
Lindsay Garric: Andy, tell me everything you know about Jazz! (This is a serious question and kind of a "challenge.") You’re an educator, so if you had to welcome students to your own brand of Jazz 101 in a couple sentences, what would you say?
Andy Milne: Jazz is a musical art form/culture that strives to uphold the principles of a democratic society. Yes, there are stylistic markings associated with the music known as "jazz", however jazz is as much about its many styles as it is about the concepts. Improvisation, groove, swing, individuality, lyricism, exoticism, sincerity and polyphony can all be found in jazz music. It requires a liberated spirit to express it and it affords the listener the opportunity to liberate their spirit.
LG: I recently watched "Whiplash." Have you seen it? I don’t know why but, when I see young(er)(ish) people playing jazz I am struck by the juxtaposition of youth playing such a classic form of music. (As opposed to what they are hearing on "popular" radio, which of course – has been influenced by jazz.) I admire when people choose a path less traveled, less mainstream. And when I see anyone with an interest or focus in the over 100-year-old genre, I am curious about the motivation to devote their life and study to it.
So for you ... why jazz?
AM: I haven’t seen "Whiplash" but I’m aware of it. From what I’ve heard, it’s not terribly realistic so it might drive me crazy. For me, my music is jazz but it’s also folk, rock, classical, funk, hip-hop and sometimes electronic. The "why jazz?" part can be answered like this. The language of jazz is robust, sophisticated and primal. I was drawn to it when I about 8 years old and as the music continues to expand, and I continue to evolve as an artist, I relish how the language of jazz offers me endless pathways to follow creative impulses. Not every project I develop is considered "jazz" in the purest sense, but a large portion of the language I use to create that music is informed by the jazz vocabulary. I think it is difficult to draw a hard line in the sand these days.
LG: You recently composed music for seven documentary films directed by William Shatner. That must have been a thrill. Were you a fan of his at all? Can you tell us the subject matter and what the experience was like working with him?
AM: The Shatner experience was really wonderful opportunity. I was, (and still am), a Star Trek fan so when the opportunity came my way, I was eager to be involved. The films were all Star Trek related in that he was profiling the various actors who came after him in the role of commander/captain. Working with Shatner was a real honor. He’s a very intense person and wants what he wants in service of his creative vision. I respect that. I also spent a great deal of time working with Avery Brooks during the scoring of "The Captains," the first of those films. Avery was the person who recommended me to Shatner and served as the music supervisor for that film. It was definitely a very demanding environment, but I thoroughly enjoyed becoming more fluent with scoring for film. One nice take away was that I composed several pieces that I still perform. One of them appears on the latest Dapp Theory recording.
LG: Dapp Theory is really a fusion of so many musical styles and even art forms. It’s hard to pin it in one genre. Do you feel like jazz or modern jazz is an appropriate category for Dapp Theory? If not, how do you categorize it?
AM: I think I’m no different than most artists who shy away from the categorization of their music. That being said, I feel Dapp Theory is jazz because its steeped in improvisation and the vocabulary draws so heavily from the jazz language. I definitely don’t think I sound like my jazz piano heroes like McCoy Tyner, Thelonious Monk, Herbie Hancock, Fred Hersch or Oscar Peterson, but their music has greatly informed my aesthetic. Of course there are other musical styles blended in there, but as a band, we don’t draw on them to quite the same degree as jazz. As for modern jazz, it is a funny description because it’s a moving target in a way. The title of the most recent CD, "Forward in all Directions," suggests I’m striving to maintain a forward vision but I always want to reserve space for reflecting and celebrating the past.
LG: Aside from your piano, spoken word is highlighted on Dapp Theory’s latest album "Forward in all Directions." You are the leader, pianist and composer in the band, but how involved are you in the content of the lyrics?
AM: Sometimes I have a hand in the lyrical content in terms of suggesting the general subject matter. For this recording the lyrical content evolved mostly as John Moon interpreted the musical material during rehearsals and performances. I’m currently working on new material for a large ensemble Dapp Theory project that will premiere at Lincoln Center in September. For that music I have clearer conceptual directives for the lyrical content.
LG: You are doing a master class at UW-Parkside on March 25 before your show at The Jazz Estate on the March 27. What will you be covering? Who should go?
AM: I’m not 100 percent certain that the master class is open to the public. It’s mainly for the students, but best contact the school to be sure. I suspect we’ll cover topics that range from how we rehearse, how I compose, and what our approach to fusing the various influences we have.
LG: You’re from Toronto. I always feel like there’s an easy report between Canadians and Midwesterners. Have you ever visited Milwaukee before? If so, what are you looking forward to doing while you are in Milwaukee? (Time permitting of course!) If you haven’t visited before, anything you’ve heard about you’d like to do?
AM: Yeah, that’s funny. Traditionally, we both referred to soft drinks as "pop." My only previous trip to Milwaukee was in 2012 when I performed with Quinsin Nachoff’s band at The Tonic Tavern. We also did a master class at UW-Parkside. I had a great time on that visit. I can’t remember the name, but I remember eating a nice restaurant that had some great vegetarian friendly dishes so I’m game to reconnect with that side of Milwaukee. Aaron Kruziki, the saxophonist in the band is from Wisconsin so I suspect he will be our tour guide.
Lindsay Garric is a Milwaukee native who calls her favorite city home base for as long as her lifestyle will allow her. A hybrid of a makeup artist, esthetician, personal trainer and entrepreneur all rolled into a tattooed, dolled-up package, she has fantasies of being a big, bad rock star who lives in a house with a porch and a white picket fence, complete with small farm animals in a version of Milwaukee that has a tropical climate.
A mishmash of contradictions, colliding polar opposites and a dash of camp, her passion is for all pretty things and the products that go with it. From makeup to workouts, food to fashion, Lindsay has a polished finger on the pulse of beauty, fashion, fitness and nutrition trends and is super duper excited to share that and other randomness from her crazy, sexy, gypsy life with the readers of OnMilwaukee.com.