Take Five with Tom Lagana
Your teaching approach:
Being on faculty at two universities, I get to interact with students quite a bit. It seems with students that issues of time are always the most obvious. Schools tend to teach what note as to when to play it. I think this is a gaping oversight. Schools make drummers learn harmony, equally important, all melodic instruments should learn how to play a drum. In the last year, I have been really focusing on the study of time. It has opened a whole new world to me. The best players don't play the hippest notes, we all have the same 12, they put them in the hippest places!! I always start my guitar students with voice leading. This is where the influence of Mick Goodrick is the greatest. His books on voice leading are a true treasure.
Your dream band:
I am working with my dream band. Todd Harrison and I have played for over 15 years. Tom Baldwin joined the band 4 years ago. I have never been a big fan of trumpet but I am a fan of Dave Ballou. His approach is so unique, from his sound to phrasing. It really is a dream know that Garzone is playing in the band.
Road story: Your best or worst experience:
A gentleman had a heart attack during one of my solos. I didn't know to be flattered or insulted. Ha! The paramedics came rushing in and grabbed the drummers' sticks, which I thought was going to get him killed. I remember we were playing Alice in Wonderland and I told the guys to remember where we stopped. When the medics left we took it right from that measure and the house came down!
Favorite concert venue is the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington DC. Performing with the National Symphony Orchestra is always challenging and rewarding.
Many favorite clubsZanzibar Blue in Philadelphia, King of France Tavern (first gig with Charlie Byrd), Blues Alley, Rams Head Mainstage in Annapolis
Your favorite recording in your discography and why?
Schematicprovides the blueprint for what the band will sound like.
The first Jazz album I bought was:
Cannot remember, but I think it was Incredible Jazz Guitar by Wes Montgomery and it still is aptly titled!
What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?
Just staying with it, helping this music survive. Contributing original compositions. Always trying to push forward.
Did you know...
I am a huge soccer fan and I collect jerseys. I have close to 40. I would have been a chef had I not gone into music.
CDs you are listening to now:
Jerry Bergonzi, Three For All (Savant)
Jerry Bergonzi, Tenorist (Savant)
David Hazeltine, Perambulation (Criss Cross)
George Garzone, One Two Three Four (Stunt)
Djavan, Ao Vivo (Sony)
Lionel Loueke, Karibu (Blue Note)
Desert Island picks:
Wayne Shorter, Speak No Evil (Blue Note)
Wes Montgomery, Incredible Jazz Guitar (Prestige)
Pat Metheny, Bright Size Life
Van Halen, Fair Warning (Warner Brothers)
Miles Davis, Nefertiti (CBS)
How would you describe the state of jazz today?
I will divide this into two sectionsthe good and the bad. Let's start with the positive:
- There are incredible players all over the world. You don't have to go to NYC to hear incredible musicians play
- The music is still moving forward. Playes are finding new ways to improvise and compose
Now the negative:
- I recently had a great conversation with Jerry Bergonzi and we both talked about the lack of government support of this artform.
- No clubs to play the music. We have been forced into restaurant/background work.
- Lack of funds. Clubs now make you work for the door. If you don't bring in the people, you don't get paid. Its not enough you spend your life honing your craft, but now you are responsible to bring people into a place that more and likely has secondary service and food. The clubs have no skin in the game so their loss is minimalized. Make this places a desirable destination. I have a huge problem with this model.
- We are bombarded with music. Everywhere, in the bank, grocery story, when we are on hold. Music has become the backing track to people's lives, not something they seek out. It is expected to be there.
- The economy has affected the scene. People are willing to pay $100 for a football ticket, $20 for a beer and hot dog, $20 to park your car...but god forbid you pay a $10 cover to hear a great band perform.
Proper education of the artform. Awareness in the primary and secondary schools by keeping music programs alive and raising the awareness to children at a young age about this artform. IT IS THE ONLY TRUELY AMERICAN ARTFORM! Gov't support would help, REAL SUPPORT!
What is in the near future?
CD release party in Philadelphia and Baltimore. Concerts with George Garzone.
I teach about 15 hours a week at Towson University and University of MD Balt Co. I lecture the history of jazz, coach ensemblesboth classical and jazz and teach some private students