The first time I was introduced to the music of Aaron Weinstein was during one of Linda Lavin's concerts. To say I was blown away by Aaron's talent would be an understatement. What he can do with a violin is unreal! I've now seen Aaron perform numerous times, so to be given the opportunity to interview this virtuoso is a real honor and to get to talk with him about his appearance and association with one of our country's most celebrated singers is even a bigger thrill.
Aaron will be partaking in Piaf 100: A Centennial Celebration, celebrating the life and music of French songstress Edith Piaf on her actual 100th birthday! Produced by Daniel Nardicio and Andy Brattain, Piaf 100, will be hosted by Turner Classic Movies' Robert Osborne and feature stars from Broadway, London’s West End, Jazz, Cabaret, and Rock ‘n’ Roll including Elaine Paige, Marilyn Maye, Vivian Reed, Little Annie, Gay Marshall, Molly Pope, Amber Martin, and Meow Meow.
Piaf 100 will be taking place on December 19 (Edith's actual 100th birthday) at Town Hall in New York City (123 West 43rd Street). Click here for tickets!
1. After seeing you in concerts for a few years now, it’s so wonderful to finally get the chance to interview you! So, let’s start at the beginning. When did you realize you wanted to be a violinist? Who or what inspired you? When I was about six I started asking for a fiddle but really, I wanted a flute--I was just mistakenly calling it a fiddle. And the only reason I even wanted the flute is cause I thought it'd be cool to use as a sword. So finally, (when I was about nine) I got a fiddle--a violin. I opened the case and it was a total disappointment.
2. On December 19, you are performing in Piaf 100, a concert celebrating the 100th birthday of Edith Piaf, alongside Elaine Paige, Marilyn Maye, Gay Marshall, Molly Pope, Meow Meow, and many others. What goes through your head when you see you are performing with so many legendary performers? Well, ever since my teens, I've been so lucky to play with amazing jazz musicians...people whose records I'd practice along with in my childhood bedroom. And I found that, for the most part, these luminary jazz instrumentalists didn't really care about credentials--the focus was always on the music being made at the moment. And my experience is that, with most really great musicians and vocalists, everyone has the same goal--which is to make the best music possible. So, whether someone on stage has a Tony or Grammy or worked with Charlie Parker or whatever doesn't really have anything to do with the actual performance in the moment.
3. What excites you about being part of this concert? This concert has a lot of performers with distinct musical personalities. And I'm really interested to see the way everyone handles this material.
4. Of the song or songs you are performing in, how are you making your mark on them? You mean, how will I distinguish myself from all the other jazz violinists playing at Edith Piaf tribute concerts? Well, I will be playing the violin in French.
5. Since this concert is celebrating Edith Piaf, how has her music influenced you and your career? She was a singular talent--as non-cookie cutter as it gets. And it's always inspiring and often interesting for me to see how those kind of artists make things work.
7. If you were to give Edith Piaf a gift for her 100th birthday, what would you give her? Fixodent.
8. You have performed all over the world in jazz festivals as well as Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center, Birdland, Jazz at Lincoln Center, and Blue Note. What is the best part about traveling and what is the hardest part? How do you protect your violin during travel? I think the best part is the people I get to meet. The hardest part about travel for me is the food.I'm lactose intolerant and have all sorts of other psychosomatic intolerances. So, it can be tough. I mean, I've been to places where EVERYTHING was fried and topped with cream sauce. Even the cream sauce was topped with cream sauce. And then there are places where, like, tater tots are the vegetable du jour. I always carry a bag of cashews with me.
9. Tony Bennett has called you "The Groucho of the violin" and Linda Lavin won’t do a concert without you! They are not the only ones who think the world of you! At such a young age, what’s it like to be held in such high regard? How do you stay grounded when so many people speak so highly of you? How do I stay grounded? Well, Adam, I'm a jazz violinist in the year 2015. That's about a half step less antiquated than being a type setter in the year 2015. And I get a lot of comments like, "Oh, you know who would have loved you?" And then, insert name of dead person. I mean, I often feel like Sisyphus. Staying grounded isn't really an issue.
10. When you are not playing your violin, what are you doing with your free time? Worrying that the next time I pick up the violin, I won't be able to play. It makes vacations kind of hard.
Aaron Weinstein was called "the Groucho of the violin" by Tony Bennett and "a perfect musician" by jazz guitar legend Bucky Pizzarelli. Aaron Weinstein "is rapidly establishing himself as one of his instrument’s rare jazz masters," according to Don Heckman in the International Review of Music. As a featured soloist, Aaron has performed at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Birdland, Blue Note, and abroad at jazz festivals in England, France, Switzerland, Iceland, and Israel. Aaron has performed and recorded with an array of jazz icons including: Les Paul, Bucky Pizzarelli, John Pizzarelli, Dick Hyman, Dave Frishberg, Jon Hendricks, and Annie Ross, as well as musicians as varied as New York Pops conductor, Skitch Henderson and rock guitarist, Jay Geils. He has written arrangements for vocalists including Christine Ebersole, Linda Lavin, and the Manhattan Transfer’s Janis Siegel. Additionally, Aaron is a respected mandolinist, widely regarded as one of the instrument’s leading exponents in the jazz idiom.