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Artist Profiles

David Hazeltine: Making it Mean Something

By Published: October 16, 2003

'By this time I wanted to be a major player in the New York and international scenes. I was frustrated in Milwaukee, and I felt that I owed it to myself to participate in the real world and not waste my talent in a place like Milwaukee. I'd invested too much of myself in jazz to do that, so what's why ultimately I came back to New York and I've stayed ever since.

'At first, I had a little gig at the Star Cafe at 23rd and Seventh, it's not there anymore, in fact they gutted the whole building, but at the time I was playing a lot with Junior Cook there. Also, I played with Curtis Fuller, and for a time I was on the road with Jon Hendricks.

'More recently, I have played with One For All. Besides playing collectively, I have a special individual relationship with each guy in the band. We've played a lot together; and we've all played and recorded a lot with each other. Eric Alexander and I have recorded and worked together many times, as have Steve Davis, Jim Rotondi, Joe Locke and I. Also, I have a funk band with Jim and we play at Smoke every Thursday when we're in town.

'Long-term musical relationships are very important and I feel blessed to have had so many, especially since coming to New York. Jazz is a communally made music, and I think that the stronger, more long term and meaningful the bonds between the players are, the more profound the communal approach will be.'

Teaching and learning ...

'There is a great thrill in sharing musical ideas with someone.'

From the early years of his career, David has had a deep interest in and an intense commitment to the advancement of jazz culture and awareness. This has been manifested by his involvement in education. In Milwaukee, he was co-founder and direct or of The Jazz School, and the Program Coordinator of Jazz Studies, and later Department Chairman at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music in Milwaukee. For a time, he was also an Associate Professor at Berklee College of Music. Latterly, he teaches privately in his own studio.

'I have been involved in music education since the first time I realized I didn't really know anything. That's when I got hip to Charlie Parker, and learned everything I could that he played. I was always itching to show it to somebody else because it was so exciting for me. I think that has been my motivation all along; the details of this music excite me so much I just want to share it with other people and that motivation comes before any financial consideration. There is a great thrill in sharing musical ideas with someone. In a way, it is kind of like when I'm performing. A similar kind of thing, although teaching is less emotional and more intellectually stimulating. And, of course, teaching is not just a one-way experience. When a student starts to get it, the challenge becomes trying to figure out how to make it better. I learn something from that. In fact I've learned things that I would apply to myself and my playing from figuring out how to make things better with students.'

Influences ...

'I like the things that they can do melodically and expressively ...'

Among many profound influences on David have been saxophonists, notably Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Joe Henderson, Sonny Rollins, Cannonball Adderley and Eddie Harris.

'Melody is very important to me and I like saxophone players more than piano players. Definitely. I prefer to listen to horns. Playing the piano is what I've done and obviously there are many things I like about it, but I really like the freedom of a horn. I like the things that they can do melodically and expressively, almost like a voice, that a piano just can't possibly do. They have profound melodic rhythmic shapings to their lines. Guys like Parker and Coltrane and Rollins are my main influences. I've sat down and studied and learned to p lay, to improvise in their styles. They are, I think the most original. You know, after Charlie Parker it becomes a matter of who is most original in his approach to what he laid down. Because everybody plays more or less the voicings of Charlie Parker. I t's just a matter of what's been done with it as far as I'm concerned.

'The pianists who have influenced me the most are Art Tatum, Barry Harris, Bill Evans, McCoy Tyner, Herbie Hancock, Cedar Walton, Buddy Montgomery. They are the top guys for me.

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