"Luminous Lyricism .. the piano more caressed than played with subtlety, nuance, warmth, effortless swing, beauty of line, and sophistication of harmony and dynamics"
- Sydney Morning Herald
JAZZREVIEW: What is your earliest musical memory?
PEGGY STEM: I remember sitting beside my teacher Louise Greenfield (Sarasota), while she played some beautiful music for me; we both so enjoyed her `tour` of the repertoire, that it fired my young imagination.
JAZZREVIEW: Who were your early influences and which of the piano greats do you admire most?
PEGGY STEM: I was influenced by all the great composers, from Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, thru Ravel, Faure, and Stravinsky. Then I switched to jazz, via McCoy Tyner, Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, and Horace Silver.
JAZZREVIEW: How would you describe the relationship with your instrument?
PEGGY STEM: Love, hate, I am so picky about the sound I am making, that I get very unhappy if I can’t extract the right timbre-but, when I do, I am in love also, the fact that the piano is always waiting for me, has put pleasure on every moment in my life that I am NOT sitting at it! - Great question!
JAZZREVIEW: I really enjoy the freshness of your tunes, how do you approach composition?
PEGGY STEM: It’s like going fishing, I play free at the instrument, until a germ of an idea strikes my fancy, I play with it for awhile, write it down ( with pencil and paper, remember those?), and leave it alone. If it plays in my ear I go about other business, I know I’ve got something worth pursuing, and then starts the hard work of crafting a tune that suits me, as well as an improv section worth playing on.
JAZZREVIEW: What constitutes a good live performance in your opinion?
PEGGY STEM: Heartfelt, good concentration, not projecting too much in to the audience, but making myself available as a vessel through which the music can flow. Honestly.
JAZZREVIEW: What’s your approach to performing on stage?
PEGGY STEM: Some quiet time, plenty of sleep, a good game plan, and healthy case of nerves, all necessary to adrenalin flow.
JAZZREVIEW: Through your career you stretched both as a composer and a pianist in various settings, genres beyond the trends. Describe the balance between emotions and technology when you make music?
PEGGY STEM: I have noticed that my trajectory was always very, very individual-that could come from when I entered "Jazz"- I came into it as an answer to playing the music of other composers, which I had done all my life hitherto-so, my Trend was my own, and I do believe there are as many individual voices as there are people on the planet; it is always a choice whether to imitate or chart new waters My compositions reflect what I have heard and loved in my life, but I have always felt the uniqueness of my contribution, never on purpose, just simply what was given to me to do this time around!
JAZZREVIEW: The CD "The Estrella Trio" was well received with a blending of authentic Latin and Brazilian music, describe the approach you took when putting the CD together... My favorites are Bonobon, and Lemon Merengue.
PEGGY STEM: I have played a lot of salsa and Brazilian music in my life, it comes very easily to me, and people love it, so it was a no-brainer to have this approach for a trio CD; what I love about it, is that we managed to make it dance with just three of us playing-no horns, or voices. Fun! Bonobon is a Cumbia, and Lemon Merengue is a Merengue! Both traditional Cuban dances.
JAZZREVIEW: I saw a video on you-tube with you playing Bava di Lumaca, it was absolutely awesome, please tell me how did this come about? And where can we get the album or single?
PEGGY STEM: I don’t think I ever released Bava di Lumaca (which means snail trail, by the way!)-it was composed while traveling in Italy on tour with my Italian trio. Someone in the car said, Bava di Lumaca, and I opened my Italian/English dictionary-the definition was Snail Slime, which cracked us all up, because none of us could say it in English, it sounded so funny!
JAZZREVIEW: Throughout your career you have performed with many musicians, Can you tell us about some of the things you’ve done?
PEGGY STEM: I’ve performed with Lee Konitz, Diane Schuur, David " Fathead" Newman, Jay Clayton, Gary Peacock, Gene Bertoneini, Bud Shank, Red Hollaway, Thomas Chapin, Machito, Puck Fair to name a few.
JAZZREVIEW: You are scheduled to perform with Sue Terry in March at the Palladium in Saint Petersburg, Florida, I know you have played on a couple of concerts before, what are/was the most memorable moment for your on-stage performance together?
PEGGY STEM: Sue and I have a wonderful chemistry together; our music is very organized but very free, with lots of room for improvising. We also share a sense of history and humor, and get to laughing together and with the audience; it’s very fun and very musical and instructional. Playing with a sister is an excellent way to spend an evening!
JAZZREVIEW: What else can we expect from Peggy Stern?
PEGGY STEM: I am writing for larger ensembles; that’s where the technology comes in-I write for jazz choir, woodwind quintet, for brass quintet, for mixed orchestra-all of which is made very much easier with the midi program I use for arranging. The composition is still coming from my heart through the piano to pencil and paper, but the arranging is done on the computer. What an interesting world we live in; the compositions will be available on my site as well as new recordings, for download.
For those of you in Tampa that might also be in Sarasota that weekend, we are performing at The Racquet Club in The Landings with my teacher, Louise Greenfield on Friday night, March 19th, at 7 PM. The concert is to honor her especially. She is 92 years young, am amazing person and musician.
JAZZREVIEW: Thank you very much, Peggy, for the interview and I am looking forward to seeing you in the Women of Jazz concert.
The Women of Jazz concert will be held on Saturday, March 20, 2010 at the Palladium at St. Petersburg College. You will enjoy a night of great jazz featuring " Sweet" Sue Terry, on Sax, Peggy Stern, on piano , plus vocalists Rose Bilal and Theo Valentine, Anne Van Atta, bass, Sandi Grecco, drums and Patty Sanphy on guitar. Produced by the Palladium at St. Petersburg College, the Al Downing Tampa Bay Jazz Association and the Jazztorian.
This is a concert you don’t want to miss!