“I like to play, and I like to play hard. I like to be creative and impulsive. Sometimes that's not exactly what the job calls for. I add something new. Get in as much new and exciting as I can without rocking the boat too much.”
You may not know his face, but if you've attended any jazz concerts you've certainly heard him play. The sound of his keyboards can be heard backing some of the hottest smooth and contemporary jazz acts around.
Keyboard player Mitchel Forman has been making his mark on the jazz world for many years. Mitchel is a versatile player and does not confine himself to one type of music. His playing stretches in many directions within the jazz genre. In the smooth jazz world, he is a regular in the touring band of trumpeter Rick Braun. He has also played with Jeff Golub, Michael McDonald, and a recent gig with Al Jarreau. In addition, he and guitarist Chuck Loeb formed a fusion band called Metro, which has five albums to their credit and a devoted following both here and in Europe . He also recorded an album and toured with Pat Methany and Gary Burton. “I like everything. Lately I've been doing jazz gigs…more straight-ahead. For now, I enjoy that. Back to the roots for a minute.” Mitchel recently recorded a CD with local LA guitarist Jeff Richmond and their band Chatterbox. When asked about the genre, he describes it as “kind of jam band-ish. At least that was the concept when we began. Who knows? It's what the kids are doing.” (laugh) He's played with straight-ahead musicians including Gerry Mulligan, Phil Woods, Stan Getz, Wayne Shorter, John Scofield, and Max Stern.
Mitchel began his career in the New York jazz scene after attending the Manhattan School of Music. “I just kind of fell into the NY jazz scene and started working,” he recalls. His influences include Bill Evans, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, and McCoy Tyner, among others. Though his primary instruments of choice are the keyboards and the piano, Mitchel also dabbles in saxophone and guitar and enjoys playing the organ.
Mitchel finds that his role as a keyboard player is defined by the genre of music he's playing. To him, it's not a “one-size-fits-all” role. For example, in the world of smooth jazz he sees his role as providing “the glue and texture to hold it all together.” Although he stresses that in different bands he will have different roles.
He is currently working on a CD based on his favorite composers. It's not surprising that most of them turn out to be keyboard players. “I'm trying to play one song from each of my heroes and give it kind of my own treatment. I've been listening to a lot of music, some music that I used to listen to a long time ago. I'm kind of rediscovering what I grew up listening to, and finding tracks that I felt were the most moving to me and I could connect with.”
An on-going project of his is to make and produce CDs. He started a record label called Marsis Jazz, and has released several CDs. His goal is to release more of his own, as well as those of other musicians. “That's what I would like to do more of. I think there are some great musicians that are not able to get their product out. If I could help them, I would enjoy that.”
During his down time, he enjoys spending time with his wife and two children, ages six and nine. He also enjoys playing racquetball and would love to resume his windsurfing pastime. When not on tour, this transplanted New York native can often be found playing at L.A.'s legendary jazz club, The Baked Potato.
- Mary Bentley