Photo by Michael Wilderman/jazzvisionsphotos.com
Joel Futterman, Piano and Indian Flute
Determined to push the limits of the piano to techniques never heard in jazz, Joel began a 25-year regimen of practicing 8-10 hours a day. During this period, he developed a three-hand technique based on completely autonomous playing between the hands. With more than 70 recordings, he is considered one of the most innovative yet enigmatic new music pianists.
Known for his spirited, highly imaginative, and innovative piano technique, Joel Futterman is an internationally recognized veteran pioneer into the frontiers of spontaneous, improvised music. He is considered one of the foremost inventive and adventurous artists shaping the creative, progressive music scene today. Futterman continuously pushes the limits of the piano as he explores new musical horizons. He has performed across North America and Europe including at such noted music festivals as the Tampere Jazz Festival in Finland, the Vision Festival in New York, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, and the Guelph Festival in Canada. He has performed with such notable jazz innovators as Jimmy Lyons, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Paul Murphy, Joseph Jarman, Richard Davis, William Parker, Alvin Fielder, and Hal Russell; as well as Edward 'Kidd' Jordan, with whom he has had a highly productive association. For many years, Futterman has also played the Indian Wooden Flute.
Joel Futterman was born in Chicago, IL. He grew up and lived in Chicago until 1972. Joel had piano lessons from about age 9-11, then continued playing on his own, eventually studying theory and harmony with Alan Swain. Joel met Clarence (Gene) Shaw when he was 18 and studied with Clarence for two years. Clarence was an important influence at the time. One night Clarence invited Joel to his home for a party. He introduced Joel to Charles Mingus. Joel recalls that Mingus gripped his hand firmly and stared up at the ceiling.
Joel attended University of Illinois in Chicago obtaining a (B.S.). Herman Finer, professor of political science, was a profound influence and encouraged Joel to pursue his creative endeavors.
While Joel was in college, his mother passed away and he isolated himself and began practicing 12 to 16 hours a day. Practicing was the only comfort for him at this time.
Joel attended Northeastern University in Chicago and worked on an MS in Education. He was nine hours short of receiving the degree when he decided to leave Chicago. Joel did receive an MS in Education with an endorsement in Reading at Old Dominion University in 1975.
In 1972, Joel moved to Virginia, where he resides today, in a personal quest to develop his creative voice. His first album, CAFETERIA, was released in 1980 to considerable acclaim due to its originality. Since then, his recordings have included a number of jazz legends, such as Jimmy Lyons, Richard Davis, Hal Russell, William Parker and others. In 1994, photographer Michael Wilderman introduced Joel to Edward ‘Kidd’ Jordan, and since then Joel has enjoyed many rewarding musical collaborations with Kidd and drummer Alvin Fielder. Also, Joel Futterman has had a deep association with artist Ike Levin, founder of the Charles Lester Label.
A reflection from Joel:
Long distance swimmers and runners talk about hitting the wall. I found there was a wall in music, and if I could get through the wall, my mind and hands became as one. It was an incredible realization for me. The potential of the mind and hands becoming as one completely turned my life around. I found what I had been striving for and realized that I had to leave Chicago to develop the realization. In other words, I had to find a quiet place to practice.
Of course, it is much easier now, because after tens of thousands of hours, and 45 years of practice, my mind and my hands are one. I also still feel like a beginner. I don’t forget what I learn. I unlearn what I learn so something fresh comes out in any given moment.