Jazz and youth are not mutually exclusive. Twenty-six-year-old jazz trumpeter and Wisconsin native, Paul Dietrich, is proof of that.
The Paul Dietrich Quintet’s first album, "We Always Get There," implies wisdom, experience and emotion that couldn’t possibly be contained in a 20-something’s wheelhouse. But, then there’s that cover of Bjork’s "Unravel" that reminds the listener that perhaps this is not your great-granddaddy’s jazz.
The modern jazz group formed in 2012 to showcase Dietrich’s small group writing. The band offers an accessible style that’s a fusion of influences like progressive rock, modern and classic jazz, contemporary classical music and folk and world styles. The band includes three more Wisconsinites: Dustin Laurenzi on tenor saxophone, Tim Ipsen on bass, Wisco-educated Andrew Green on drums and Paul Bedal on piano.
Dietrich, who went to college in Appleton and got his Master’s Degree at DePaul University in Chicago, now resides in Madison, where he is also an educator. Dietrich is a devoted Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks fan, which is not merely a way for the professional musician to show his home state team loyalty, but also provides an unintentional way for him to connect jazz with his leisure time.
"I remember an interview I saw once with Phil Jackson, who is a jazz fan. He compared the two in a way I thought was cool; in both jazz and in basketball; you have a group of people who all know a particular system and they all work together and improvise to create something out of that system that is more successful than any of the individuals," he says. "So there's a bit of a team aspect to it, I guess."
It’s that cohesive ordering of seeming chaos that it is so impressive about jazz. Perhaps that sense of chaos is because of a current mainstream unfamiliarity with the genre, at least within a certain demographic. There is of course, an intense precision to a successful jazz composition, no doubt from the immense education and intuition required for the improvisational aspect within each piece. Jazz ain’t no easy three-chord animal. At it’s most heightened state it’s complex and emotional like a painting that needs to be taken in close up to appreciate every stroke that realized it.
So, what drives a young man to devote his life to jazz, when the radio is blaring bro country and hip-hop?
Reared by musician parents, Dietrich’s home was filled with music. His mother taught piano lessons out of the home and his father directed The Ripon College Wind Ensemble and Jazz Band. His parents have continued these endeavors to this day. Early memories of these concerts followed by the opportunity to hang with his father’s college band members at the local pizza joint shaped Dietrich’s desire to play. He began on violin at age three, then moved to piano and eventually took up the trumpet.
"We Always Get There" is available for streaming on his website and Dietrich also created a public playlist on Spotify to get OnMilwaukee readers in the mood for his upcoming performance at The Jazz Estate on Friday, Feb. 20 that is part of a regional tour.
Although "it's missing a couple of kind of crucial things that aren't on Spotify, like most of Kenny Wheeler's library and all of Maria Schneider's" – two of his biggest influences – it will give those unfamiliar with the genre a taste of what to expect and give jazz enthusiasts a push button opportunity to connect with what makes Dietrich tick.
Listen to Paul Dietrich here.
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.
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