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Jaleel Shaw: Philly Soul

Jaleel Shaw: Philly Soul
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[ Editor's Note: The following interview is reprinted from George Colligan
George Colligan
George Colligan
b.1969
keyboard
's blog, Jazztruth ]

Jaleel Shaw has been one of my favorite young alto players for about a decade. We first played together with the Charles Mingus
Charles Mingus
Charles Mingus
1922 - 1979
bass, acoustic
Band, and we kept in touch over the years. I've worked a few times in his band and he's worked with me a number of times. You might know him from the Roy Haynes
Roy Haynes
Roy Haynes
b.1926
drums
group, which he has been working with for a long time. Shaw has that amazing balance of depth and innovation in his sound and his improvisation. He's on my latest CD on the Steeplechase label, entitled The Facts (2013) and we just finished a great weekend with a quintet at the famed Smalls Jazz Club in New York City. I was glad to catch up with him and get an interview with one of the baddest cats on the New York jazz scene.

George Colligan: OK. What's your earliest memory of music?

Jaleel Shaw: Wow! My mom told one of the first movies she took me to see was The Muppet Movie and that I came home and was singing the music a few days later. I guess that impressed her! She had me in these music theory classes for children around five or six. My mother always had lots of recordings laying around. She checked out a lot of late John Coltrane
John Coltrane
John Coltrane
1926 - 1967
saxophone
, Alice Coltrane
Alice Coltrane
Alice Coltrane
1937 - 2007
piano
, Yusef Lateef
Yusef Lateef
Yusef Lateef
1920 - 2013
reeds
, Pharoah Sanders
Pharoah Sanders
Pharoah Sanders
b.1940
saxophone
, Ornette Coleman
Ornette Coleman
Ornette Coleman
b.1930
sax, alto
, Bob Marley, Michael Jackson, [and] Prince. So I heard a lot of that as a kid.

GC: Do you believe that alto is your instrument, and if so, why? Some guys double or triple, but other focus on one. And when did you know that alto was the one?

JS: I originally wanted to play drums and trumpet. I think my mother thought both were too loud! So I ended up picking the saxophone. Maybe she secretly wanted me to play saxophone now that I think of it. There were no saxophones available when I signed up, and I had to start off on clarinet. But a year later, I got an alto sax.

I honestly didn't think of playing anything else for a while. I don't really remember having the opportunity to switch, but I think the alto stuck to me like a glove. I really got into it and started checking out as many alto saxophonists as I could almost immediately.

Today, I play soprano as well and I'm really into it. I've been thinking about baritone too. There's something in that sound that I like. But ultimately, I think that alto is a very difficult instrument and I'm still working out my sound and I feel like I'm always trying to find better set ups, better mouthpieces, etc.

GC: Who are your saxophone heroes? Who are your non- saxophone playing musical heroes?

JS: I could be here all day with this one! My first alto saxophone hero was Bobby Watson
Bobby Watson
Bobby Watson
b.1953
sax, alto
. I was really into his playing and compositions and I got to meet him. When he came to Philadelphia, he became a close mentor and I still consider him a very close friend. Then, I started checking out lots of Julian "Cannonball" Adderley
Julian
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley
1928 - 1975
saxophone
, then Sonny Stitt
Sonny Stitt
Sonny Stitt
1924 - 1982
saxophone
, Johnny Hodges
Johnny Hodges
Johnny Hodges
1907 - 1970
sax, alto
, Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker
1920 - 1955
sax, alto
, and Lee Konitz
Lee Konitz
Lee Konitz
b.1927
sax, alto
. Of the younger alto saxophonists I was checking out Antonio Hart
Antonio Hart
Antonio Hart
b.1968
saxophone
, Kenny Garrett
Kenny Garrett
Kenny Garrett
b.1960
sax, alto
, [and] Myron Walden
Myron Walden
Myron Walden
b.1972
saxophone
.

Since I'm a Philly native, I got to be around Grover Washington, Jr.
Grover Washington, Jr.
Grover Washington, Jr.
1943 - 1999
saxophone
, and a man named Byard Lancaster
Byard Lancaster
Byard Lancaster
1942 - 2012
saxophone
. I was studying with a lot of great saxophonists [like] Robert Landham and Rayburn Wright. I also checked out lots of Maceo Parker
Maceo Parker
Maceo Parker
b.1943
saxophone
.

In terms of non-alto players, I'm a huge fan of Mark Turner
Mark Turner
Mark Turner
b.1965
sax, tenor
and Chris Potter
Chris Potter
Chris Potter
b.1971
reeds
. I also came up under the wing of Tim Warfield
Tim Warfield
Tim Warfield

sax, tenor
and got to play with him in Philly. Of course Trane, Sonny Rollins
Sonny Rollins
Sonny Rollins
b.1930
saxophone
, Dexter Gordon
Dexter Gordon
Dexter Gordon
1923 - 1990
sax, tenor
, Stan Getz
Stan Getz
Stan Getz
1927 - 1991
sax, tenor
, Branford Marsalis
Branford Marsalis
Branford Marsalis
b.1960
saxophone
, Joe Lovano
Joe Lovano
Joe Lovano
b.1952
saxophone
, Steve Wilson
Steve Wilson
Steve Wilson
b.1961
sax, alto
for alto and soprano, and I'm really into Sam Newsome
Sam Newsome
Sam Newsome

saxophone
on soprano.

GC: Ok, maybe a few guys who aren't saxophone players who are really big influences?

JS: Oh right! Mulgrew Miller
Mulgrew Miller
Mulgrew Miller
1955 - 2013
piano
, Kurt Rosenwinkel
Kurt Rosenwinkel
Kurt Rosenwinkel
b.1970
guitar
, McCoy Tyner
McCoy Tyner
McCoy Tyner
b.1938
piano
, Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock
b.1940
piano
, Dave Holland
Dave Holland
Dave Holland
b.1946
bass
, Roy Haynes and Elvin Jones
Elvin Jones
Elvin Jones
1927 - 2004
drums
, Lennie Tristano
Lennie Tristano
Lennie Tristano
1919 - 1978
piano
, Freddie Hubbard
Freddie Hubbard
Freddie Hubbard
1938 - 2008
trumpet
, and Lee Morgan
Lee Morgan
Lee Morgan
1938 - 1972
trumpet
were all big influences.

GC: When did you know that you wanted music to be your life?

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