JazzPianoSkills welcomes Martin Listabarth, a Vienna, Austria-based jazz pianist and composer.
Welcome to JazzPianoSkills, I'm Dr. Bob Lawrence. It’s time to Discover, Learn, and Play jazz piano!
I am happy to share my interview with jazz pianist and composer Martin Listabarth - an up-and-coming young lion in the jazz world.
Martin resides in Vienna, Austria, and has just released his second solo album called “Dedicated” in which he dives deep into the topic of personal inspirations, resulting in an album that combines tonal elegance and musical ingenuity with playfulness, wit, and a heavy dose of storytelling.
Now, of course, It’s not unusual for a musician to dedicate an album or song to someone that has been influential in their life but Martin takes it a step further, using the story of 10 people who’ve fascinated or inspired him as the basis of 10 highly original compositions. It’s fantastic and I’m telling you right now - you will be captivated when listening!
Musically speaking, one jazz critic rightfully notates Martin Listabarth's album Dedicated, “it’s a treasure trove of solo piano technique, running the full spectrum from soft and melancholic to dramatic and bold. Shimmering, classical-inspired ballads give way to blues-infused vamps and high-octane swing”.
Martin Listabarth's debut solo album “Short Stories” is another collection of compositions that you need to check out as well. After spending time with Martin I could go on and on about his playing and bright future but let's get on with the interview. You can listen to the audio version of the Martin Listbarth episode through any of the popular podcast directories (iHeart Radio, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Pandora) OR directly on the JazzPianoSkills Podcast Website (jazzpianoskillspodcast.com) where you can also watch the video of the show as well (which I strongly recommend).
Now, It is my great pleasure and honor to welcome to JazzPianoSkills, Mr. Martin Listabarth.
Links of Interest:
Martin Listbarth Website (https://www.martinlistabarth.at/?mscl...)
Artist Portrait, Martin Listabarth, Piano Addict (https://pianoaddict.com/2022/03/artis...)
Jazzfuel, Martin Listabarth (https://www.bing.com/search?q=martin+...)
Dr. Bob Lawrence 0:36
Martin, I am so thrilled to have you on jazz piano skills. Man, we have been trying now for a couple of months to get this, you know, arranged and set up. And you know, it's exciting because jazz fuel reached out to me several months ago and introduced me to you. And I was immediately blown away by your plane. Thank you. Oh, my gosh, you are you are one of the young lions up and coming superstars in the music world in the jazz world. And so I was so very grateful that jazz fuel connected me and introduced me to you. And it was just a natural fit to have you on jazz piano skills, because I love introducing new artists, new musicians, new jazz pianists, to the jazz panel skills community. And, man, you're in Vienna, Austria, is that correct?
Martin Listabarth 1:37
I'm in Vienna, Austria.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 1:40
So we're doing a little international work here on jazz piano skills. That's fantastic. Yeah. Okay, so listen, we have a lot to talk about today, a ton. And there's no better place to start than at the very beginning. So I want to, I just want to turn the microphone over to you right now. And let you introduce yourself to the jazz panel skills community. Tell us about Martin, tell us about your childhood, how you got into music, your education, your background, what you're doing today, and so forth. So give us all the scoop on you.
Martin Listabarth 2:16
I grew up in Vienna in a family where both of my parents play piano just for fun. But this was the first time I was immediately drawn to this instrument. And so I my biggest wish was to start learning the piano very early. And so I received classical piano lessons at the age of five. And, but from the very beginning on I was also very interested in playing around with bits and bytes of the pieces I was supposed to learn. So this was my natural way to go into improvising even if I didn't know the term for this.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 3:00
Right? So So you were you were taking bits and pieces of classical music, classical music, right? And you were messing around with it.
Martin Listabarth 3:08
I was messing around with them and changing the rhythm changing the harmonies, and oh, man. To me.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 3:16
I'm shocked you didn't get kicked out of the classical world, man, you're not supposed to do that. Good for you. And I'm proud of you. That's awesome. So okay, go ahead.
Martin Listabarth 3:28
And my, my parents were also listening to a lot of classical music. So this was of course my first big influence surrounded by music. And so I've I've listened to a lot of Bach and Brahms and yeah, that's, that's the still one of my favorite composers up to up to now. And I was also singing in the choir, which was also very supporting for doing music with others. And you have all your training and this stuff going going along with going along naturally with this. And I have also three brothers, they are triplets. Oh, all three of them are playing and we are playing instruments, cello trumpet and drums. So very weird combination whatever my first victims and they had my compositions to play I want little pieces for this crazy, crazy ensemble. And yeah, they had to play them.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 4:50
So it was cello women cello trumpet, drums, and you Yes, correctly. Yeah, that's that's an interesting. That's an interesting combo. There, my friend.
Martin Listabarth 5:03
We have some recordings, but I'm not sure if I want to listen back to them.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 5:08
Yeah, right, exactly. So okay, so you grew up your parents are musicians then right? Your parents
Martin Listabarth 5:15
are not professional musicians. They're both teachers but for different subjects.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 5:20
Okay, got it. But they have obviously they have a love for the arts, they have a love for music got you in the music at a very young age. It's, you know, you're playing it's it's quite obvious in your playing that you have a strong classical background, your technique and your whole approach to the instrument. It's wonderful. It sounds fabulous. So okay, so where did you go to school? Did you did you know, you studied academically? Where did you Where did you study music?
Martin Listabarth 5:49
And yes, it's on the University of Performing Arts in Music and Performing Arts in Vienna. And I am really grateful for my for my great chess piano teacher. Really, really cool guy.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 6:08
Who was who was he who taught you? Yes,
Martin Listabarth 6:11
his name is Harry bit hippie coolish
Dr. Bob Lawrence 6:16
rolls off the tongue.
Martin Listabarth 6:18
He's in. He's an Austrian Austrian guy. But he's, but he has played with some of the of the great American jazz musicians as well, for example, with odd Pharma. Guys like that. So there was really a lot I could learn from him. And I'm really thankful for this opportunity. And he was there at the university. And he was teaching at the university in Vienna. Oh, wow. That's
Dr. Bob Lawrence 6:47
fantastic. You know, before we go any further I want to I want to let the jazz piano skills listeners know, you had mentioned to me right before we we started this the show and started recording. This is your first interview in English. Is that right?
Martin Listabarth 7:01
Yes, that's right. And I'm really excited about it.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 7:05
Oh, my gosh, you're doing fantastic, man. It's just awesome. It's unbelievable. So okay, so before you got to the university, where you were you exposed, you had to be right, you were exposed to jazz before you got to the university, you didn't get to the university and all of a sudden get into the jazz. Right? Okay. So when did you get introduced to jazz? You were doing classical music as a young child? When did the jazz when did the jazz influence start to happen?
Martin Listabarth 7:31
I think it started at my teenage age, when I was when I was listening to a lot of pop and rock music and to Radiohead, for example. And then I found out that there was a guy, Brad Mehldau, who was yeah, we was doing cover versions of Radiohead songs. And this really hooked me. So this was my first introduction to chess, and then a great first introduction. And then, of course, I was hooked. And I tried to find, try to find everything out about Brad Mehldau, his music, his recordings. And yes, that was my starting point.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 8:13
Oh, that is fantastic. You know, so it's interesting, you know, as a child than you were doing classical music. And you just kind of instinctually without really knowing anything about jazz. You were just kind of instinctually manipulating the music and kind of improvising and recreating. And that was happening before you actually formally got introduced the jazz.
Martin Listabarth 8:37
That's true. Yeah. But and then it was like, a revelation to see that chess is the art form where you can bring, we can do this, and where do you have this playful approach to music? And that's what I love about this so much.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 8:54
All right, right. So okay, so you get to the university, you get introduced to jazz? Is your degree is that a degree in jazz? Like a bachelor's degree in jazz that you as a university degree? Wow, that's fantastic. Okay, so at some point, you went to the University started studying jazz. Was it at that point, then that you kind of made this shift from classical music to leaning more toward the jazz or are you doing both equally at the same time?
Martin Listabarth 9:29
No, if this was at this time, where it shifted more to the chair side, okay. And I wouldn't consider myself myself as a classical pianist. But, uh, but of course, I still have a huge love for this for this music. That's, that's for sure.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 9:46
Yeah. So talk to us a little bit about talk to us a little bit about the jazz scene in Vienna, Austria. Obviously, it must be pretty significant, right? That They're offering a degree there at the university. So I'm thinking that there must be a demand an interest. What What's the jazz scene like in Vienna, Austria.
Martin Listabarth 10:12
I think there's, there's a lot of things changing and a lot of things going on in the last couple of years. And that's a good development because there are more and more more players. And we have this one big chess club in town, which is called Porgy and Bess, which is really, which is really, really great one where you can see all the great guys from America and, and elsewhere playing there. So and there are a lot of young, young bands playing, playing their own version of jazz music, and which is quite interesting. And a lot of interesting guys around
Dr. Bob Lawrence 10:56
you. Wow. That's, that's wonderful. So have you been to the United States?
Martin Listabarth 11:01
No, not yet. But of course, it's a dream for me to visit the states. And yes,
Dr. Bob Lawrence 11:06
yeah, bet your first stop is going to be New York City, right?
Martin Listabarth 11:09
That's true. Yeah.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 11:12
Birdland go into the jazz clubs, and yeah, yeah, of course. Right. Alright, so you got let's talk a little bit about a couple of projects that you've done. You've got a couple albums that you've recorded. Most recently, this second, your second one debt called dedicated? Yeah, right. And your your first album was called short stories in my correct, yeah, let's talk about these two projects, because they're fascinating, your that your, you're playing on these recordings on these albums are just tremendous. It's very captivating. You know, I, when I was first introduced to it by jazz fuel, you know, I clicked on and started listening to you. And I gotta be honest, man, a lot of times, I start listening. And maybe somebody might hold my attention for a few minutes. And then I'm like, Okay, I got, I got it right. For you. But for you. But for you, your music is so unique in your plane and your sound, I hit the play button, and I kind of settled back into my chair here in the office. And I literally just kept listening and kept listening and kept listening. So that's a, you know, it's a great compliment.
Martin Listabarth 12:28
Dr. Bob Lawrence 12:30
You suck me in, man. So I really enjoy your plane. So let's talk about those projects. Short, short stories and dedicated talk about those four.
Martin Listabarth 12:43
Yeah, starting with my miss my first solo album, short stories, that was the idea of transferring my autobiographical experiences into music. So that's why the title is short stories. And it was influenced by, by experiences people I've met, at, there's one song from my grandma, for my grandmother, who I didn't, we didn't know in person, because she died at very young age. So everything you know about her is from pictures and stories about her. And from this stories, I've tried to, I've tried to figure out my musical picture of of her. And so this was one way of when, which were pieces developed. And I've always loved to have some out of music, inspiration for my pieces, and then trying to figure out how I could. Yeah, how could that transfer this to music?
Dr. Bob Lawrence 13:55
Yeah, that's fascinating, right? We always think about music having an influence on culture, it but you know, culture and, and relationships and people have influence on our music. And that's what you're trying to bring to the surface, the influences the important influences in your life, from the people that you have known, or you've experienced through literature, the influence that they have had on you personally, and then expressing that influence through your music.
Martin Listabarth 14:26
And the fascinating thing about is that it makes life so more exciting, because everything could be could be a source for the next piece.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 14:36
Wow. Yeah, that's yeah, it's fantastic. It's really it's quite fascinating. So, okay, so what dedicated you know, you have several influences there. Talk to us a little bit about some of the influences in width dedicated, that you've wrote your compositions, because you're, you're very much a very accomplished composer. composer, right? We're talking about jazz piano, but you're, you're, you're a composer as well and very accomplished. So, right, so talk about the compositions in dedicated, and how all that came about. Yeah,
Martin Listabarth 15:12
the idea of dedicated was to dedicate each piece to one one person. And, and I've ended that are all persons I, I really admire because they, yeah, they they live or the work they've done has fascinated me very much. So for example, there's one piece dedicated to Diego Maradona, the famous soccer player. And I noticed that that was great. And of course, Diego Maradona is famous for his for his ability to have very strong left foot. And so I thought, on piano, we have also left and right. So I want to find the piece where I can give the left hand a lot to do. So I tried to find a pattern, which is going through the whole piece in the left hand, and that was the idea for this piece.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 16:10
Yeah, that's fantastic. So, okay, so what do you have in the works? What do you have in the works right now? Are you do you have a third album that you're currently working on a third project? And if so, how are you approaching that one?
Martin Listabarth 16:27
At the moment, I'm I'm working a lot with my with my current three year classic jazz piano trio with drums and bass. And we were playing a lot of my compositions from my two oven shots. Jerison dedicated, but I'm also trying to write some some new stuff for for this trio. Yes. And that's probably the next
Dr. Bob Lawrence 16:55
Yeah, I listened to your trio. In fact, last night, I listened I was sitting down listening to your trio. You have some I think videos
Martin Listabarth 17:02
on your Yeah, some videos.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 17:05
Yeah, I really enjoyed that through the whole trio approach is very unique. It's very unique. I like it a lot. It's a great sound. So I'm anxious to hear when you finally with your trio, maybe do a do an album do a do a recording with the trio. That would be great.
Martin Listabarth 17:22
Yeah, that's, that's probably my next steps and plans. Yeah.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 17:26
Yeah, that's tremendous. So okay, so I just want to let all the, you know, all your listeners, jazz piano skills, listeners, you have to check out Martin's, you know, dedicated and short stories, performing. And they can do that right at your website, also at YouTube, correct,
Martin Listabarth 17:44
as in Dell, and you'll find it on Spotify and all the streaming platforms. Right.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 17:49
Okay, awesome. So now let's talk about, let's talk a little bit about jazz piano. Okay. And then we'll talk about composing and composition here a little bit too, but but I want to start with jazz piano. And I want to talk about, I want you to share a little bit about how you practice, you know, some of the, you know, everybody, every student, every everyone who is getting into the art form of jazz, and trying to develop their skills as a jazz pianist. I think everyone is quite aware of the importance of technical skills, you know, learning scales and learning arpeggios, those seem to be some of the first skills right out of the box that that every aspiring jazz piano has to confront and has to deal with. So let's talk a little bit about how you have approached the study of scales and arpeggios and the application of those skills in your own plane. Can you share a little bit about that?
Martin Listabarth 18:53
I think and you to my classical background, I'm I was quite familiar with, with this kind of scale practicing and the pitch you're practicing from a very young age. And this, this probably helped me a lot when when being introduced to chess music because, yes, I was still familiar to this kind of practicing. And, but but with all the great music of classical computer poses, you always have the opportunity to see where this great composers put this arpeggios and scales, use it right, and make them sound good. Right? And that's what we need as jazz musicians as well, of course,
Dr. Bob Lawrence 19:44
right? So do you in from a jazz perspective? Do you practice the scales the same way as you do from a classical perspective? I mean, do you practice Are you do you have very various ways in which you approach practicing the scales or, or do you kind of do Bring the classical your classical training, you know, in the classical world, we're always taught, you know, practice scales, one octave to octave, three octave four octave, right? We're doing like scales and quarter notes and eighth notes and triplets and 16th. You know, you know, the routine, right? I mean, this is what we're taught in, in our classical piano lessons. But is that, is that how you practice the scales? Or did you start adding variations to the way in which you practice scales that deviated from that traditional classical approach?
Martin Listabarth 20:30
I think the most important aspect is, which I want to want to practice when I practice scales is the rhythmic aspect that I'm, I always practice with metronome when I'm playing when we're playing some scale stuff. And I try to play patterns within the scale. And, yes. Put them to put them through the whole scale, but always with a metronome and trying to be steady in written.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 21:02
Yeah, that's, that's fascinating, right? Because we get stuck in a rut playing the scale the same way just going up and going down. And yeah, we don't we typically do not spend time creating variations within the scale rhythmically. Right? Yeah. So that's, that's very good. You know, one of the things I'm curious, one of the things that I do, that I practice, and I have students practices, I always have students practice scales from different entry points. So they're never, you know, they become route independent. So we're not always starting to scale on, you're not always starting to C major scale on C. Yeah. Right, starting it from different points, like the third or the fifth or the seventh, and having a different entry point and a different destination point. So you're actually kind of rotating that scale, you know, seeing it from different angles, do you? Do you do any of that kind of practice.
Martin Listabarth 21:57
And it's so important, because that's hopefully the way you you will put them into music when you're finally playing, and not starting on on one all the time. And also rhythmically, not always starting on page one with your scale or your scale pattern.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 22:13
Fantastic. That's right. That is very, that's very, very good. Not starting on one we do that.
Martin Listabarth 22:20
What it what it sounds if you start on b two, and B three on beat four, or even one ENT or something like this,
Dr. Bob Lawrence 22:27
correct. On the, on the on the back of it, right? Yeah. Yeah, that's really, really good. And the same thing with our arpeggios, right? You know, we, we tend to get in this rut of practicing from the root to the root, but we don't hear music from the root to the root Night Music is not that's not how music, right? So you know, I like practicing arpeggios to the ninth or to the 11th, or to the 13th. So I'm hearing those, I'm hearing those sounds, you do that kind of practicing as well.
Martin Listabarth 22:59
But I'm probably more more into practicing certain certain phrases I like. Maybe we come to this point later, but and transcribing is, of course, very important for me. And if I transcribe and found one phrase, which, for example, introduces a pitch in a very clever way, then I want to keep this phrase and practice this phrase, because so I have a natural natural entry point, how something some one of the great masters put these arpeggios into music.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 23:39
Yeah, that's, that's interesting. No transcribing. Let's talk about that a little bit. Because everybody, you know, every jazz musician has a little different approach to transcribe. In fact, I just did an interview recently with John DiMartino, who he actually said he doesn't transcribe. He just doesn't transcribe, you know. And then you have other musicians, you know, like, like, Michael Brecker, who used to say that he kind of I think, from what I'm hearing you say he, he would like, if he heard something that he liked, he would transcribe that he wouldn't necessarily transcribe the entire, the entire solo or the entire composition. And then, and then other jazz musicians do sit down and say, You know what, I'm going to take this Art Tatum version of t for two, and I'm going to transcribe it from the beginning to the end. Yeah. Holy cow. So where do you where do you fall in that spectrum? Do you are you kind of listening and then kind of go like, wait a minute, what is that and then you and then you go transcribe that and then apply it? Is that what I'm hearing?
Martin Listabarth 24:39
I think that certainly changed over the years that when I was at the very beginning of my journey to chess, and I was also the transcribing whole complete solos because I wanted to get everything at once. And this was just too much information from
Dr. Bob Lawrence 24:59
your time I got Oh, right. It's like overload.
Martin Listabarth 25:02
It's like overload and you can't you can't you can't use it. You have to complete this. So complete transcribe soon it was a load of work. But you Yeah, there's nothing you can do with this at this stage at least. And yeah,
Dr. Bob Lawrence 25:19
right. Well, and you know, would you agree with this I, you know, I've always told students that, you know, the whole point of transcribing is to discover you, that's really what transcribing is about a lot of times we think that, Oh, I'm going to take a Bill Evans solo, I'm going to transcribe this Bill Evans solo and somehow make that solo kind of my own that I can replicate it or play chunks of it whenever I want to another piece of music. And I go like, well, that's not really what transcribing is about transcribing really is about allowing, you know, allowing Bill Evans to help you find you.
Martin Listabarth 25:57
Yeah. And I totally agree with you. And it's also the reason why I don't like it. If people ask, for example, what should I transcribe? Because you should transcribe what you love most and what you write. Yeah. And then you feel it what what this is, and that you should transcribe from Darius suit shirt search. And yeah, trying to find the things in musically you love most?
Dr. Bob Lawrence 26:22
Right, right. Fascinating. Okay. So along those lines, because transcribing obviously, is important for ear training, and helps us develop our ears. But what what other ways in which, what are some other ways that you worked on developing your ears? To be, you know, jazz ears? What are some other ways in which you approach the ear training?
Martin Listabarth 26:49
I tried to learn jazz standards by by ear by listening to my favorite versions of, of jazz standards. That's my go to way to learn new jazz standards. And yes, and yeah, through this, you you learn a lot about your training as well, not just the songs, but also about your training.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 27:14
Yeah, I try to stress the students all the time. You know, if you want to learn a jazz standard, well first, learn the melody by ear, just go to the piano and start picking up just play the melody by ear do not go to a fake book or real book or whatever and try to and read it, just go play it by ear. Now. Martin, I this may shock you, but I have some students who Who who'd rather go to the fake book or to go to the real book and just learn the melody out of the out of the off the piece of paper, but I think it's I think it's great ear training just to sit down and poke out melodies.
Martin Listabarth 27:45
Yeah. And at the beginning, you don't have to be too shy to just do small portions. Maybe it's just the first eight bars and that's okay. And that's a nice.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 27:58
That's a correct. That's correct.
Martin Listabarth 28:00
Yeah. Just looking up, it's in the fake book.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 28:05
You are absolutely 100% Correct, my friend. That is exactly right. And you know, what's funny is you start playing by your here's what's really funny, you start playing, picking out melodies by ear and you start getting good at it. You'll never go back to reading again. You don't want to go you don't want to try to read it. You'll just play it by ear. Yeah. Right. That's a great. Right. So okay, so improvisation, right? There's a lot in your plane. And you're playing obviously, you know, I know you're a composer, but and you have compositions, but in your compositions, obviously, when you listen to you, there is a lot of improvisation going on. So how this is an interesting question. And I want you to kind of reflect upon this and try to articulate it the best you possibly can hear, but how do you practice improvisation? And see, and that's kind of a funny question, right? Because I think most people think that Well, wait a minute. Isn't that a contradiction? I mean, practicing improvisation shouldn't improvisation be improvised? But you right, but that's not that's not it? Right. That's, we know, that's a fallacy. So how do you practice improvisation?
Martin Listabarth 29:24
Yeah, that's a hard question. Because yeah, it's so hard to find a good solution how to how to practice improvisation and to make steps forward in this. And I think you what's the most dangerous thing is to not practice improvisation, because then you will always play the same things over and over again. I of course, every one of us have our favorite patterns. Of course, And then that's also okay. Because yeah, that's, that's kind of what your sound is. And that that's, that's absolutely fine. But if I want to grow, I have to, I have to kick myself out of my comfort zone. And that's, yeah, maybe I can do this while my practice sessions. And one way I try is to I'll try this to start a solo and have have a different concept in mind every time I play one chorus, for example, and I say, and I say, Okay, I'm playing this chorus, and I play as less notes as possible. And right, and the next course I'd say, Okay, let's do another one. I just want to do a very a solo with much chords in it, and heavy voicings and stuff like that. And then it's next turn, and I say, Okay, what's about playing some fast lands now?
Dr. Bob Lawrence 31:07
Right, right. Yeah, you know, that's interesting, because what you're saying, I totally concur with I agree with you 100%, what you're doing is you're actually establishing a criteria for that chorus, right? You're saying, here's what I'm going to do during this course. And then you stick to that criteria. For instance, what I like to do and I have students do is like, when I might have them, like, take just a simple progression, like a 251 progression, right? And I'll have them I set up some criteria, saying that, you're going to use ascending motion on the two chord, descending motion on the five chord, ascending motion on the one chord. So we create this kind of ascending descending ascending line, is that right? The shape, right? And then and then I'll even go further and say, You're going to ascend using scale motion, you're going to descend using arpeggio motion, and you're gonna ascend using scale motion, right? So so I set up this criteria that we go, this is what we're going to do as we improvise over this 251. And then we might go from one key to another key to another key to do that, right. So I think that's a I think that's really important when practicing improvisation to actually have some very rigid parameters put in place in order that you can develop improvisational skills. Let's see. And that's a kind of a dichotomy as well, we all eat
Martin Listabarth 32:35
ducks as well, yeah. Because you have to be very strict and very, very strict. And then you can and then freedom could come within this respect.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 32:46
Right? That's right. That's right. You know, there's an old expression, you know, there's an old expression, what do you call a river? Without banks? Well, the answer is, it's a swamp. It's a swamp. Right? It's out of control. And so in music and improvisation, we have to practice with these banks. Yeah, correct. That's right. And
Martin Listabarth 33:11
you reminded me and on, for example, you can practice motivic development in this way important, you just you described it, for example, just take one small motif, M could be three notes, could be four notes, and try to try to put it to different chords and make it make it work for different courts. In your profession.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 33:39
Yeah, that's a great idea. That's very powerful. That's very powerful approach. So do you do that? Do you do like a lot of where you extract like a harmonic motion? Like a 251? You know, 1625 ones, some kind of turn around? And then focus on that and practice improvisation that way? Or is it always in the context of a song?
Martin Listabarth 34:02
No, it's not always in the context of the song. I. I always love to play around with just little little parts of chord progressions, and, and trying to do to do some improvisation with this. Because it's easier to Yeah, it's easier to have the have everything in one place and not on
Dr. Bob Lawrence 34:30
right. Yeah. Well, it goes back to what you were saying about ear training, you know, just playing eight measures, learning eight measures, right? I think it's the same kind of approach and that you go like, Look, I'm just going to take some kind of harmonic motion, common motion that I see in all these tunes. I'm going to take that common motion and I'm going to explore that and maybe move it around to different keys. I think that's a very effective and efficient way to do it. Yeah. Yeah. So okay, so now let's talk about you know, another thing that's really striking when I listened to you play is your approach to voicing. So how do you as a composer, obviously, your compositional skills have a great influence on this and vice versa? How do you approach the study of in the practice of voicings on the piano?
Martin Listabarth 35:24
I think I, my mum, my first jazz piano teacher gave me at the university. It was before university it was okay. Okay, my teenage years, and he gave them a book of the Mantooth voicings. I don't know, Frank,
Dr. Bob Lawrence 35:41
man, the Frank Mantooth voicings Yeah, we're with the chordal the fourth the shapes. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, this one? Yeah. That's a great, that's a great book. So that was your Was that your first book? first introduction to voicings
Martin Listabarth 35:57
that was my first introduction to why things Yeah.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 36:01
Tell your piano teacher he did really good because that's a great, that's a great book. Man. That was, that's awesome. That's a great book to sink your teeth into.
Martin Listabarth 36:09
And he really helped me to, to practice every voicings in every key and every progression in every key and every week. We we do some stuff out of this book.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 36:21
Yeah, Frank. Frank Mantooth is a fellow University of North Texas North Texas State graduate. That's where I did my that's where I did my masters and my doctorate degree, it was at North Texas and Frank Mantooth was a graduate of UNT as well.
Martin Listabarth 36:38
Wow. That's amazing. It
Dr. Bob Lawrence 36:41
is great. So okay, so So from there then what happened? That's a great introduction to voicing How did you How have you shaped it? Shaped voicing to become personal to become yours?
Martin Listabarth 36:56
I have to say this is probably from from from listening, listening to music, I love because I am okay, then I had this. I had this concept of Mantooth voicings and you can find much music where pianists use this voicings. But then there are other stuff. Probably more modern chess, more contemporary chess, where you find a lot of different sounds. And I was always curious. Okay, what about these sounds? Where did they come from? For example, right mailouts voicings are completely different I don't think she uses many things why things?
Dr. Bob Lawrence 37:43
I'm sure he studied on though.
Martin Listabarth 37:46
Maybe. Yes, but then I tried to figure out okay, what what kind of voicings he is using and right and, and that's influenced me a lot trying to figure out what why things my heroes are using.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 38:05
Right. So that's, that's fascinating. So compositionally then when you sit down to compose your your pieces and and and you would you would describe your compositions as jazz compositions.
Martin Listabarth 38:23
I would describe them as jazz compositions because there's there are always parts where there is improvisation and that's what I love about this compositions because I went when I played him live, I don't want him to play every time the same so I really grateful about that. I have the opportunity to have this improvisation parts in it.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 38:48
Right. So how do you approach your comp? How do you approach your composition as a as a jazz pianist? Do you start with? Do you start melodically? Do you start harmonically? Do you start rhythmically? How do you when you sit down like you're gonna sit down this afternoon and you're gonna start composing a jazz a jazz piece? i How do you Martin, how do you approach that?
Martin Listabarth 39:13
There's a lot of ideas coming from just playing and messing around at the piano. And maybe I'll find some some went some chord progression I like and and maybe some maybe some groove or kind of context, I want to play this chord progression in and then I'll take this as a starting point. Because you're asked what is the first thing and it's mostly harmony and rhythm I would say
Dr. Bob Lawrence 39:47
yet right. So use Yeah. You start kind of with a harmonic motion a pat a groove. Yeah. And then and then and then from there. Melody will come to you from that. Ruben from that harmonic progression. Yeah. Yeah. You know, because that's always fascinating, right? Everybody, it's kind of like the chicken and egg with, you know, which came first the chicken or the egg. Right? I get that question all the time, you know, when I sit when composers, right? Do they start with a melody? Or do they start with harmony or start with rhythm? And I always I always tend to answer that question that it's not an either or because it's, it's a both and right, because you may find that all of a sudden, a melody pops in your head and you and you start from that perspective, one one time. And then another time, it may be the harmonic motion is what triggers it? Or it could be another time the rhythm that triggers it, right? So it's, it's kind of, you know, it's not one way or the other. It's a combination of all,
Martin Listabarth 40:49
what's your approach? I'm always curious, what's your approach to, to competition?
Dr. Bob Lawrence 40:55
Well, I tend to because I think as piano players, we tend to approach things typically most of the time harmonically. Right? We tend to start with harmony, harmony, and a groove like what you're talking about. We're kind of conditioned that way, right? We're kind of trained that
Martin Listabarth 41:14
way. That's a
Dr. Bob Lawrence 41:17
it's a piano player thing, right? So I would tend to agree with you I lean more that way than the other. However, what's really important, what's really ironic about that, it's when it's all said and done, the most important thing that always surfaces is Melody, is Melody. So if you have a strong melodic line, I always tell students, and I tell them this too, with regards to improvisation, Harmony will always bow to melody. Yeah, if you have a strong melodic idea, you can have all kinds of weird harmonic stuff under underneath that, and that's exactly right. If you have a strong melodic idea. On the other hand, though, if you're if your melodic idea is weak, like if you're improvising and you have really weak melodic ideas, Harmony will expose you harmony will, Harmony will devour you, because it will just show that you're you're you're wandering, right, so So if your melodies strong, your Harmony bows, and if your melody is weak, your Harmony will dominate and exposure with that.
Martin Listabarth 42:32
I absolutely agree. Yeah.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 42:34
Yeah. So all right. So talk, talk a little bit about your influences, because when I listened to you play, I sit there, one of the questions I asked myself when I was listening, you play me? Who does he sound like? Who who does? Who are his influence? Right? Because I'm what? Oh, my gosh, read it. You know, I'm going to tell you one piano play that popped into my mind and I'm sure you're aware of him. I Joe sample Are you a root were of Joe Santa? Yeah. I thought last night I was listening to so many sounds, there's here's some Joe's sample in there. I hear influences from Keith Jarrett in your plane. So but But it's interesting, because I was trying to figure out who would be your most influential artists and musicians. So share with us who who influenced and inspired who inspires you?
Martin Listabarth 43:45
Yeah, as I said before, Brad Mehldau is of course one of my biggest influences because
Dr. Bob Lawrence 43:52
and it's obvious that's obvious, too. I hear that and you're playing as well. Yes.
Martin Listabarth 43:57
And and I think this comes from from his his love for classical music as well and he combines of such a great way the chess world with classical harmony sometimes which I and that's what I really love about his music and what I'm what I'm trying to do as well. And so of course, bread mela is a big influence keys chariot his solo concerts in this in the saddle
Dr. Bob Lawrence 44:29
that's yeah, that's what I was picking that picking up on that as well. Yeah.
Martin Listabarth 44:33
I've listened a lot to his of all his solo records and I really love this stuff. And yes, from this then I've I wanted to find out okay, what were the guys who were very upset milled are listening to and I go backwards in chess. History to find out what what might be his influences. So I was in sort of on this way I was introduced to Bill Evans, and Wynton Kelly, Wynton Kelly, I really love for swinging, so amazing. And older, older grade chess solo piano players like fitzwalter, for example, his stride piano is so amazing. And yeah, I've checked some of this stuff out as well. And I really love this.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 45:36
Yes, yeah, that's great, right? We can't, you know, we can't ignore history, right, going back to like, the early players like James, James P. Johnson. Right, Bud Powell, you know, all these all these influential pianist from, from the early days of jazz to, you know, contemporary, and I always tell students, you just can't jump in at Chick Corea, you got to, you know, you have to, you have to study jazz history and be aware of, of the, of the, the evolution of the art form. And in fact, you know, I actually think that evolution is actually our blueprint of study on how to become an accomplished jazz pianist, I mean, that, that how jazz has evolved, is that is exactly how a student should evolve. When, when studying music, you know, I get, I gotta give a good example of that would be, you know, if you go back and listen to early jazz, it's obvious that the guys soloing, were thinking very vertically, right? It started, where, you know, if you have a C Dominant chord, they're messing around with the notes, C, E, G, and B flat. So they're thinking very vertically. And so I would I would encourage students to begin improvising to think very vertically, right? The think see if you got to see dominant chords, messed around with the notes, C, E, G, and B flat.
Martin Listabarth 46:59
Yeah. Right. And try to to make something musical out of this. Yeah.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 47:05
Right. And you can't, you can't
Martin Listabarth 47:08
Dr. Bob Lawrence 47:11
In fact, I can remember when I was doing transcriptions of, I did a lot of transcriptions of Red Garland, I was a big red. Right? I loved red Garland's playing, especially with miles and, and I can remember transcribing Red Garland, and it'd be like an F major chord and in the trance, I'd transcribe it and he'd play F, A, C, E, and a solo. And I'd go, and I'd say, that's impossible. That can't be right. And I would transcribe it again and it come out fac E, and I go, that's not right. It's got to be some, because it sounded so good. Yeah, it's it sounded so good that I thought there's no way that red garland could be playing f A, C, E, on an F major seven chord, there's no way it sounded too good.
Martin Listabarth 48:01
I had so many of these moments you've just described where you where you where you listen to something and just say, Wow, this is so great. And then you finally have the script transcribed, you say? And that's it. That's
Dr. Bob Lawrence 48:16
that might that actually my friend that actually might be the biggest benefit of transcribing? Because when you get done transcribing, you go that's it. That was it. Yeah. It's but
Martin Listabarth 48:27
then you listen back to it. Yeah. It's just just the right notes at the right moment.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 48:33
Right, with the right touch the right articulate the right articulation. Listen
Martin Listabarth 48:37
in the right context, then. Yeah, yeah,
Dr. Bob Lawrence 48:40
that's right. That's exactly right. Yeah. That's right. So, okay, so you've gone back, obviously, you've done your homework, and you've gone back and you've studied and listened to, you know, the, the old jazzers you've listened to contemporary jazzers. And so, who are some of the young pianists that you're listening to? I know you mentioned Brad Moldau. But guess Brad's like kind of an old guy now. You know?
Martin Listabarth 49:05
Yeah, nowadays. Yeah. Yeah. Right. So
Dr. Bob Lawrence 49:08
who are some of the who are there any young influences that you're listening to that are more your age? Because what are you like 12? What are you 14? You're You look so young man.
Martin Listabarth 49:23
Little get a little bit older than 12. I'm 31 now
Dr. Bob Lawrence 49:30
mad Yeah, you're you're a young lion. So who are some of the 30 year olds that you're that are influencing you?
Martin Listabarth 49:36
I really love the music of of Tigran Hamasyan, Armenian Armenian jazz pianist to tune in to you know, his music.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 49:45
Yes, yes. And that's awesome.
Martin Listabarth 49:49
And he's a really amazing player and he is Sower. Such a strong rhythmic idea and unique approach to written and See, which I
Dr. Bob Lawrence 50:01
always which I always like I love pianist who are who are strong, rhythmic, percussive, very passive.
Martin Listabarth 50:08
And he combines the chess language with the language of the traditional folk songs in his home country. I mean, yeah, right. It's really, really beautiful music. And one and one other player in in the in his serratus is shinai esto. He has played with the controversies and with the bass player Avishai, Cohen a lot.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 50:37
Right. Right. Right.
Martin Listabarth 50:40
And now he is on quartet. And yeah, that's, that's really, really beautiful stuff and I shot. This is a huge one for
Dr. Bob Lawrence 50:49
me. Yeah, there's so many. There's so many great players aren't there? There's so many great players. Yeah, young, young and old. There's so many great players. We're so blessed and so fortunate to have so many wonderful influences.
Martin Listabarth 51:01
And at the same time, I'm always afraid that there won't be enough time to listen to all the great stuff, which is out there. That's right.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 51:07
Yeah, that's that's, that's exactly right. So. So I'm curious. Are you doing any teaching? Are you teaching now? Do you have students that study and work with you?
Martin Listabarth 51:18
I have I have some students I teach, but, but not so many. And yet, but that's an interesting challenge as well.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 51:27
Yes, that's right. Right. I tend tend to
Martin Listabarth 51:30
learn a lot from that. Well, yeah,
Dr. Bob Lawrence 51:33
yeah. You know, because what teaching requires you to do forces you to do is to articulate verbally, your convictions, your musical convictions? And the better that you can articulate your musical convictions, the better you will be as a performer.
Martin Listabarth 51:54
Yeah. And there are always moments when I'm teaching, when I when I say something to my students. Check out this and this, practice this and this, then I think, oh, I should do this as well.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 52:09
Right. Yeah. Because so often, we're teaching the very things that we should do. Yeah. Right. Yeah, I totally. I totally get that. I totally get that. So. Okay, so what's next? I mean, I know you said you're working with your trio and maybe putting together a trio album. Do you have any, any engagements coming up concerts coming up? When do you plan on coming to the states and unleashing your music in the United States? When's that on the calendar?
Martin Listabarth 52:42
There we we have to we have to fix something. Or not? No, unfortunately, there are no plans at the moment to come into the states. But hopefully one day, maybe we'll see. Oh, that'd be great. That will be great. But there are some concerts, concerts in Europe coming up. And I'm really looking forward to this in May and June. I'm playing some concerts in Austria, in Germany, in Romania. And yes, that's the next month. And
Dr. Bob Lawrence 53:13
are those concerts notated on your website? Can listeners go to your website and see those dates?
Martin Listabarth 53:20
listeners can go to my website? And we'll find all these dates.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 53:23
Oh, that's wonderful. I'm hoping that maybe some of those concerts are have some live streaming that that people can tap into and maybe see. See you perform through through technology? That would be fantastic.
Martin Listabarth 53:37
Dr. Bob Lawrence 53:38
Yeah. So all right, well, really, I guess the way we want to kind of conclude and wrap things up, I would love for you just to take a few minutes and give some words of inspiration to all the jazz panel skills listeners who are now studying jazz and, and trying to improve their skills as jazz pianist. What are some words of encouragement, some words of inspiration that you can share with listeners to help them along their journey to becoming an accomplished jazz pianist?
Martin Listabarth 54:11
I think it's one of the most wonderful Journeys you can do. Because there's so so so many great things to discover along the way. And I would say just embrace this journey. And yeah, and don't end Yes, it's good to have goals and it's good to get to wanting to become better. But at the same time, you have to appreciate what what's already there and what not what you have the opportunity to discover through this music.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 54:46
Yeah, you know, you just touched on a really important point as well, right. So many times with students. They fail to celebrate where they already are musically. Yeah, right. You know, you do not have to have the technical skills of Oscar Peterson to play great jazz and the play great music. You just Yeah, yeah. And so I think what you've what you just said is so very important. You know, take the time to celebrate where you are in the process, your ability to enjoy and make music right now with the skills that you have. And just know that it only continues to get better as you continue to study and and as you continue to practice, right? Yeah. Yeah, that's awesome. Well, Martin, I can't thank you enough for taking time out of your day. What time is it? They're in Vienna, Austria. I'm just curious what time
Martin Listabarth 55:37
it's five o'clock. In the afternoon. The afternoon. Yes.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 55:42
five in the afternoon. That's nice. Right. It's it's early here in Dallas, Texas. But I'm glad that we I'm glad that we got. We've hooked up and we finally made it happen. We'd love to have you. Yeah, I'm so very thankful that jazz fuel reached out and introduced me to you. It's been a joy. I'm thankful for our friendship now and look forward to our continued friendship over the years. And, and I look forward to having you back on jazz piano skills soon as well.
Martin Listabarth 56:11
I'm looking forward to this too. Yes. So your invitation.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 56:16
Ah, it's been it's been my pleasure. And on behalf of all the listeners of jazz piano skills. Thank you, Martin, for sharing your expertise, your wisdom, your talent, your gifts with us today. It's so very much appreciate. Appreciate it. So I encourage all the listeners to go out and check out Martin. It's Martin list Abarth and Vienna, Austria and jazz, Austria, jazz pianist extraordinaire. Go check out his recordings on his website. He's got a lot of stuff posted at YouTube. And you can always reach out to them they can reach out to you through their through your website as
Martin Listabarth 56:54
well. Yeah, for sure. Yeah.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 56:57
So if you have any questions for Martin or want to reach out to him, feel free to do so he will get back to you. And Martin again. Thank you so much, and we look forward to having you back soon.
Martin Listabarth 57:07
Thank you so much. All the best
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
Jazz Pianist, Composer
On his sophomore solo release “Dedicated” (March 4th) Vienna-based jazz pianist and composer Martin Listabarth dives deep into the topic of personal inspirations, resulting in an album that combines tonal elegance and musical ingenuity with playfulness, wit, and a heavy dose of storytelling.
It’s not unusual for a musician to dedicate an album or song to someone that has been influential in their life. Austrian pianist Martin Listabarth takes this one step further, though, using the story of 10 people who’ve fascinated or inspired him as the basis of 10 highly original compositions.
Musically, it’s a treasure trove of solo piano technique, running the full spectrum from soft and melancholic to dramatic and bold. Shimmering, classical-inspired ballads give way to blues-infused vamps and high-octane swing. The resulting collection of music is both playful and challenging, accessible yet complex – something heightened by the narrative that inspires each song.
“Hercule Poirot” dedicated to the author Agatha Christie sits alongside tributes to an eclectic cast of characters including Michael Köhlmeier („Fairy Tales and Myths“), the soccer player Diego Maradona („The Hand of God“) and magician, showman and pub owner Basilio Calafati („Calafati’s Carousel“).
This concept of storytelling is not new to Listabarth; his well-received solo debut entitled ‘Short Stories’ (2019) also contemplated the idea of narrative in music and a passion for the character arc.
“Dedicated” takes this further, though, taking the listener on a captivating journey that stimulates the imagination.