Jazz pianist Jesus Molina is performing with Branford Marsalis and the Boston Pops on May 22nd and 23rd at Symphony Hall, right before releasing his new album Selah. He and Jazz on 89.7 host Al Davis caught up before the show.

Al Davis: We're talking with Jesus Molina. He's a pianist. He's also a singer, and plays saxophone! Let's start with piano, when did you start playing piano?

Jesus Molina: When I was four years old. My grandmother got a little tiny keyboard and she put it on my table while it was my birthday. And I started playing “Happy Birthday”! I am the result of two supportive parents. My mother and father really supported starting lessons early.

Davis: And, you attended Berklee!

Molina: Yes, I won a scholarship with the Latin Grammy Cultural Foundation, which was a complete blessing. I came to Boston and I did my four years and learned a lot of things.

Davis: I also noticed that you listen to the heavyweights in terms of pianists, like Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Erroll Garner and Bill Evans. Those are heavyweights, man.

Molina: Oh yeah, they are great influences, especially if you want to be a jazz piano player.

Jazz is the voice of freedom, and that's exactly what we're trying to do.
Jesus Molina

Davis: So tell us a little bit about your style of playing. Give us an idea of how you perform.

Molina: I try to bring joy with music, because that's how I've been taught from the very beginning by my mother. Whatever you do, bring joy to the people. That's what I felt Oscar Peterson did when he was performing, always bringing joy, even in his complex music. I try to put together a performance where I combine a lot of things. I don't play just jazz. My show is more fusion. We have Middle Eastern music, American jazz, of course, but also Indian, and sometimes Colombian music, Latin music. It's trying to put all of them together.

Davis: There's a lot of diversity and world music all kind of combined together. Now tell us a little bit about your new album.

Molina: It's coming on May 24th. It's called Selah. Right now there's two singles: “Pichi” and “Quintuplets.” You can hear how they sound, and the entire album drops on May 24th.

Davis: That'll be exciting. And you're working your way in to Boston, to perform at Symphony Hall here!

Molina: Yeah! What an honor. This always was one of my dreams when I was studying at Berklee. I would always pass Symphony Hall, and say, “One day I'm going to play there.” I have no words to describe playing with the Pops.

Davis: Symphony Hall, finally! And the shows are on May 22nd and 23rd, correct?

Molina: Yes.

Davis: And you're going to join Branford Marsalis! 

Molina: It's the very first time we're gonna to work together. And I'm so looking forward to doing that.

Davis: So, what should we expect when we come to that concert? What kind of sound? 

Jesus Molina: It's gonna be a universe of sounds at the same time. All the improvisation is going to happen differently each night. Jazz is the voice of freedom and that's exactly what we're trying to do. I'm also doing a lot of tributes. I'm gonna do an Oscar Peterson tribute, and a Chick Corea tribute. And I have a song for my beautiful daughter. We perform that one with the full orchestra, which is a complete dream. 

Davis: That's going to be exciting. A lot of energy, man.

Molina: I get a lot of energy back. See all of you guys in Boston!

Jesus Molina will perform at Symphony Hall on May 22nd and 23rd, part of the BSO's Roots of Jazz Series. You can also hear the concert at 7pm on Sunday June 2nd, on WCRB In Concert.