Mark Guiliana gives a very simple piece of advice to budding and established musicians out there: just keep playing with other musicians.

"It might be easier to get distracted and play alone. I've grown more as a musician by playing with others rather than through individual practice. For me, the joy comes with playing with others, improvising, reacting," the world-renowned drummer tells Times of Malta ahead of his performance at the Malta Jazz Festival tonight.

Guiliana is the epitome of a musician who could have erased his dreams at a young age after he was rejected from a jazz college. Unfazed by the snub, he went on to form the duo Mehliana with Brad Mehldau, spawned an award-winning album, created an independent record label, recorded with some of the world's biggest stars and was recently chosen as Best Jazz Drummer in the Modern Drummer Readers Poll 2017.

Aware of the frequent discomfort of many, he says jazz need not be accessible to the untrained ear.

"Sometimes by trying to make it accessible, I might not be true to itself. I hope they can react to the emotion of the music. I think by being honest and really give everything we have then I believe people could relate to it. That's why I love all kinds of art."

His versatility was noticed in spring of 2014, when David Bowie walked into 55 Bar in New York where he was performing in a quartet led by saxophonist Donny McCaslin. Bowie grabbed a table near the stage and took in a set of exploratory jazz, then left without speaking to the band. 

Ten days later, McCaslin got an email: Bowie wanted him and Mark Guiliana to join him in the studio. The sessions led to Bowie's final critically-acclaimed album Black Star.

"They were incredible memories. I can't say enough great things about Bowie. He was incredibly kind, smart, funny, generous. I'm so grateful to have been part of the recording. Sometimes I still pinch myself whether it's real."

Guiliana and his quartet will be the second act in tonight's second night of the Malta Jazz Festival. Tickets from the venue at Ta' Liesse in Valletta will be available at the door. 


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