Larry Roy performs with Erin Propp at The Park Theatre on Oct. 27 (Lucia Madariaga-Vignudo)
I basically got my ass handed to me on a platter on several occasions, but that just drove me to work and practice.
—Larry Roy, jazz guitarist
Larry Roy is one of the fixtures of the Winnipeg music scene. He's the first-call jazz guitarist in the city, he's a busy recording engineer with his own studio, and now that he's completed a Master's Degree in Jazz, he's formally joined the faculty of the Jazz Studies program at the University of Manitoba. I asked him to talk about the way these different aspects of his musical life connect...
I see performing and teaching as one thing. I love jazz, and to me it's really an honour to be part of the tradition both as a performer and as a person who supports young musicians in their learning.
Different people will have different ideas about the path of developing and learning. The fine line jazz musicians travel is how to further the tradition and still develop your own approach, your own voice. For me, the fundamentals of the tradition allow us to further the music. You have to develop strong harmonic and rhythmic skills, and a solid grasp of what's come before us.
The sea of musicians keeps shifting as new faces are added, but I never stray far from McCoy Tyner, Herbie Hancock, John Coltrane, Keith Jarrett, Sonny Rollins, and early Marsalis. I also count on the students to bring me new stuff--fortunately they seemingly have more time to research! I'm thinking about Chris Potter and Brad Mehldau, for instance, but also musicians like Nicolas Payton and Stefon Harris we were lucky enough to host here.
Being part of the network of people at the University of Manitoba? Well, as I've said repeatedly, I feel like the luckiest guy in Winnipeg. Once I knew I would be working with Steve Kirby and the people he'd bring, it was just so inspirational. In the beginning, I basically got my ass handed to me on a platter on several occasions, but that just drove me to work and practice. I always want to learn and develop, and I feel very fortunate to have had so many opportunities.
As a writer, I'm really fired up about working with Erin Propp. I've written literally thousands of melodies for various film and television projects, but I've always had a phobia about collaborating as a writer. We started writing together when she was still a student, and it just clicked. It takes leaving your ego at the door and allowing creativity and ideas to flow. We have seven originals on our upcoming recording and several more in the works. I'm really proud of the work and looking forward to sharing it!
The studio is like my personal playground. I'm not gonna create anything in there by myself, but it's my sanctuary, and it's open to whoever wants to come in there. I'm doing a lot of recording right now--I probably have six different projects in various stages of completion. Several are actually by students and recent graduates, so there's an extra level of pride in their accomplishments. I've been thinking about the legendary studios, and realizing it's not the walls that made them famous but a core group of really talented writers and musicians who went on a roll. That's my vision for Winnipeg.
Larry Roy and Erin Propp open for the Mike Janzen Trio at The Park Theatre on October 27.
This article appeared in the Sept-Oct issue of dig! magazine, Winnipeg's bi-monthly jazz periodical and is reprinted with permission.