April 12, 2021

Aaron Weinstein, The Groucho of the Violin


1. What genre of music do you perform?

I play what’s commonly called, “Mainstream Jazz” or “Swing” or “Classic Jazz.  Basically, it’s the kind of Jazz your grandmother can understand which, I feel, is a good thing.  The repertoire mostly comes from the Great American Songbook which is an umbrella term for songs by composers like Gershwin and Cole Porter.

2.     When did you start performing?

I gave my first concert at the age of 3.  I played a plastic Fisher Price guitar and sang, “Baby Beluga” in my family’s living room.  But even at that age I understood the importance of reinvention as a path to artistic growth.  So, I retired the guitar around the time I was potty trained.  And, after floundering for a few years I resurfaced as a fiddler playing for square dances.

Then, I heard a record of [jazz violinist] Joe Venuti and it changed my life.  Venuti played jazz on the violin with such authority and his playing was so exciting, I became obsessed with trying to do what he did on the instrument.  In other words, I stayed in my bedroom practicing and listening to LP’s until I was about 16 which is when I started playing jazz professionally.  Some of my first gigs were with the guitarist, Bucky Pizzarelli who’d actually worked with Joe Venuti.  Had Bucky played a plastic Fisher Price guitar, it would have been full circle.

3.     What city and state are you based out of?

New York City

4.     What about playing music makes you happy?

Well, it’s nice just knowing that playing music
can make me happy–that the potential for happiness exists when I pick up my instrument.  And music has given me a lot of pleasure.  But to be completely honest, making music isn’t always a happy activity for me.  I mean, when I’m playing and I feel like I’m not making the grade so to speak, it’s depressing.  In fact, even when I do feel like I’m play well, sometimes I’m kind of indifferent about it.  And for a long time I didn’t understand why.  ButI heard [Truman] Capote say something about this that made a certain kind of sense to me.He said something like, if you want to move someone with your work then you yourself must have been deeply moved by what it is you’re doing.  But you have to keep exploiting that emotion in yourself over and over until you become pretty cold about it.  So, for instance, you no longer laugh at what it is that made you laugh or cry at what made you cry.  Instead, you see it as thisamazing thing.  But you know that it has that effect on you.  So, you know that if you can reproduce it, it might have that same effect on someone else.

Now, Capote’s bringing an audience into the equation here.  And
playing for an audience is very different than playing for myself.  Because with an audience, it’s really about their happiness, not mine.  The brilliant actor, Frank Langella summed it up really well when he said, “Whatever discomfort the performer might be feeling should mean nothing to the audience.  The audience has paid money, and they haven’t paid to see you wallow in your own pain.  Take it and make it art.”
5.     What are your hopes for your future in live music?

My hope for the future of live music is that jazz violinists will host television specials sponsored by Texaco and Timex.  But my more immediate hope for live music is that the concert I’m playing with Christine Ebersole on August 9th to kick off the Litchfield Jazz Festival will be a wonderful success.

6.     What other acts/musicians do you regularly play with?

Well, things seem to come in waves.  So, I might work a lot with someone for a period and then not work with them again for a few months.  But I do regularly work with a miraculous vocalist and multiple Tony award-winner named Christine Ebersole.  Did I mention we’re playing the Litchfield Jazz Festival on August 9th?I‘m trying to meet my gig-plugging quota early on here.
Aaron Weinstein, enjoy ct live
7.     Are you currently working on any projects? If so, what are they?

Well, I’m a bow tie rights activist which is very time consuming.  Oh, and there’s a project I’m doing called, “Strings Attached.”  It’s
with Christine Ebersole and my trio.   We’ll be at the Litchfield Jazz Festival in August.  Ok, ok.  I’m done plugging.

8.     What has been your favorite performance so far?

Gosh.  That’s a “Sophie’s Choice question” if I’ve ever heard one.

9.     Who are some of your favorite musicians?

Another “Sophie’s Choice question”.