Seth Finch

May 21, 2019

Journey to Jazz


Pianist, Seth Finch, is a junior at Baton Rouge Magnet High School. Seth toured Europe as part of the National Youth Orchestra (NYO) for Jazz at Carnegie Hall. Led by jazz trumpeter, Sean Jones, Seth and 21 talented young musicians from around the country had the opportunity to work with Diane Reeves, Gerald Clayton, and Wycliffe Gordon.  Seth will join NYO for a second time this summer touring with Kurt Elling in five cities in Asia.  Earlier this year, he was awarded Honorable Mention in the National Young Arts competition and performed in Miami.

When did you fall in love with jazz music?

I fell in love with jazz music during seventh grade. I had mostly been listening to rock, RnB, and pop music before I discovered the music of Herbie Hancock. His funk/jazz fusion works were a gateway to the world of jazz for me because they sounded like the RnB music I was listening to at the time, but with a little extra something. So as I kept searching, I found that the secret ingredient was jazz harmony, which was more interesting to me because of its richness and complexity. From there, I knew I needed to take jazz piano lessons. I started taking with Mike Esneault, and he got me into the straight-ahead music of Oscar Peterson and Wynton Kelly. After that, I started exploring music on my own until I found myself completely engulfed in the world of jazz music.

Who are your musical influences?

I have way too many to list here, but I'll try my best to pick my top influences. Some of my favorite jazz piano players are Wynton Kelly, Thelonious Monk, Benny Green, Oscar Peterson, Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Paul Bley, and Robert Glasper. I also love the music of D'angelo, Erykah Badu, Kendrick Lamar, Cecil Mclore Salvant, and Moonchild,

If you could play with any jazz artist who would it be, dead or alive?

If I could play with any jazz artist, it would definitely be Ray Brown. His work with Oscar Peterson and Benny Green is some of my all-time favorite music on Earth, just because it sounds like so much fun to play! Ray Brown's bass always exudes this beautiful energy of love, positivity, and intimacy that is rare to find nowadays. Plus, playing with someone who was such an integral part of the history of jazz would be absolutely inspiring.

What are your thoughts on the music opportunities in Baton Rouge?

I think that there are lots of music opportunities for musicians in Baton Rouge, thanks to venues like Mid City Ballroom, Dyson House Listening Room, and Chorum Hall. Especially for rock/indie bands, there is a pretty active scene and lots of restaurants and venues to book. Also, The Arts Council has done an amazing job of attracting tons of world-class jazz artists to play at the Manship Theatre and Chorum Hall. There are always opportunities to see great jazz music in Baton Rouge, which is rare in most cities, and it is a very nice luxury. I have been lucky enough to play some gigs through the Arts Council myself, actually. Of course, there could always be more opportunities for musicians everywhere, and I'm looking forward to seeing how the scene continues to develop and grow over the next few years.

What is your greatest memory when playing jazz music?

My greatest memory when playing jazz is from a concert in Berlin with NYO Jazz last summer. This was the last show of the entire 4-week-long program, so it was a pretty emotional performance for the band. We were playing Isfahan, the great Duke Ellington ballad, which happened to feature our lead alto saxophonist, Kevin Oliver Jr. There was supposed to be a bar of silence in the melody at the end of the piece, but our drummer, Domo Branch, hit the bell of his ride cymbal and let it ring out. Kevin looked back at Domo, and the band started to laugh, along with the audience. It was just a very tender, playful moment that I know the audience took home with them that night because it showed how much everyone on the stage loved each other.

What are your plans this summer?

I have lots of trips booked this summer. I'll be staying in New Orleans for a week at the Loyola Jazz Camp, then I'll be going to Portland for a couple of days to play a gig up there with Domo in June. After that, I'll briefly be home for my birthday on the 25th. But from June 29th to July 13th, I'll be participating in the Skidmore Jazz Institute, which is a wonderful jazz camp in Saratoga Springs. Right after that, I will be participating in NYO Jazz for the second time from July 13th to early August. NYO Jazz is a program through Carnegie Hall, where 22 jazz musicians aged 16 to 19 are selected from across the nation to learn a broad repertoire of big band music under the direction of Sean Jones and a world-class faculty of musicians. After the two week rehearsal period, the band plays a show at Carnegie Hall before embarking on a tour of China and South Korea, where we will play six shows.

Do you have any upcoming performances?

Unfortunately, because I'll be out of town so much this summer, I don't have anything planned soon. In the fall, though, I'll be playing at Chorum Hall again with the Simon Lott Trio.