Sunday, February 15, 2009

Behind the Scenes: Jacob Yoffee Interview

Last Monday I had the pleasure of interviewing Jacob Yoffee, a film scoring student at NYU who is also an accomplished jazz musician. Unfortunately, due to the length of the piece, I was forced to omit a lot of things we talked about. Here are a few of them:

After graduating from the Peabody Conservatory, Yoffee spent four years in Pittsburg entrenching himself in the Midwest's jazz scene. He became such a regular at one club, the owner approached him and asked him to assemble a house band for the club, a sequence of events Yoffee described as "unheard of."

His first piano lessons, which were his idea, not imposed by his parents, were at 8 a.m. Saturday mornings. He was eight years old and his teacher was less than ideal. “She was a chain smoker, she would just blow smoke in my face,” he explained with a shake of his head. “I don’t think she was a very patient, positive person, and I didn’t enjoy my lessons very much.” After enduring a few lessons with the smokestack, Yoffee quit piano, and didn't start again until middle school, when his family moved to a new town.

He also talked about how, especially in jazz, they say that to be a good musician you have to go crazy for a while, and he suspects that maybe he did, because he "woke up one day at 23 and was like 'I miss my family!'" Yoffee's family lived in Japan while he was studying music in the States, and during that period he only saw them once a year, but he says he was so focused on music that he barely realized he had become so isolated.

While studying at Peabody, Yoffee had the privilege to learn from famed jazz saxophonist Gary Thomas. At 18 years old and an ocean away from his family, Yoffee looked to Thomas as something of a father figure. “Gary Thomas was my mentor & idol for many years," Yoffee said. "He’s given me a shining example of how to carry yourself as an adult."

It was through Thomas that Yoffee was introduced to Greg Osby an accomplished musician on the Blue Note label, who signed Yoffee to his own label, Inner Circle Music.

Jacob Yoffee's first CD with Inner Circle Music, "Dead Reckoning," is available now at CD Baby. You can also listen to some tunes at Jacob Yoffee's Official MySpace, and keep up to date with his latest happenings via

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