Lorne Lofsky is an artist in the truest sense of the word: unconcerned with fame or fortune, his goal has always been simple: to play and advance jazz music. His dynamic and smooth guitar sound can be heard on numerous recordings with Oscar Peterson, Ed Bickert and Kirk MacDonald among many others. You may also know him from his days backing the legendary Chet Baker on a recording titled Live At The Renaissance II. Lorne picked up the guitar as a teenager, starting out as a rock player, until he heard Miles Davis’ album Kind of Blue. After that he began to delve into the jazz world, eventually studying at York University in the late 1970’s. 42 years later, he’s still at it.
When it comes to playing, Lorne has made it his mission to find something fresh in even the most traditional of standards. No matter the material, when he approaches a classic, you are likely to hear something that you haven’t heard before - in part because Lorne hasn’t ever played it that way before.
Recently I got a chance to sit down with Lorne and talk to him about his upcoming shows at the TD Toronto Jazz Festival as well as his philosophy and approach to playing music.
DC: What types of things are you working on musically at the moment?
LL: I’m doing a lot of work on odd time signatures. Working on songs in different keys, re-harmonizing tunes. You know, trying to sort of push the envelope of what the standard jazz tradition is. I spend a lot of time practicing just improvising on the tunes with those concepts in mind. Just seeing where the wind kind of blows me, not having too many preconceived ideas, which can get in the way of what’s about to happen.
DC: As part of the festival you’re playing a duo gig at Mezzetta with Roddy Ellias. Tell me about playing with him.
LL: He’s a great guitar player from Ottawa. I’ve known him for almost forty years. His approach is a little different than mine. We play together once in a blue moon, so I thought it would be a great opportunity to do some playing with him.
DC: Your approach to the guitar is also quite rhythmically advanced. What is it like playing with Barry Romberg? What is the interaction like rhythmically?
LL: In jazz, ideally you don’t really know what’s around the corner. Anything that I play will be musically commented on, or there will be a reaction to it. Most of the people that I am fortunate to play with all have a very strong rhythmic sensibility. So when we play together, it’s almost like call and response. I play something, they elaborate on it and that gives me an idea, then I elaborate on that. From a rhythmic standpoint, it’s just like having a conversation.
DC: Over your career you have played with a lot of great people. Are there any currently active musicians who you would like to play with, but you might not have had a chance to yet?
LL: There are a lot of people who I would love to play with. It probably won’t happen, but I’d like to do more playing with Chris Potter and Dave Holland. I’d love to play with Herbie Hancock - who wouldn’t [laughs]? There are a lot of incredible players out there, and it would be wonderful to play with any of them, all of them. I don’t really think in those terms though. I think in day to day terms. I wake up, I pick up my guitar, I practice, I go to a gig occasionally, I teach and I’m on a mission to get better at what I do and just dig deeper. I’m loving what I do and I am fortunate to be able to work on my craft and get better. It’s got nothing to do with being in the public eye and playing, that’s not a concern of mine to be honest with you. My concern is to just get better at what I do, and that’s the bottom line. That’s what makes it fulfilling to me. No matter how many people I’m playing for, it doesn’t matter. For me it’s about the act of playing.
Be sure to catch Lorne Lofsky and Roddy Ellias June 24th at Mezzetta. For more about Lorne please visit www.lornelofsky.com.