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Interviews

Sean Jones: Progress and Passion

By Published: September 5, 2011
AAJ: Your playing is so strong, your chops. Is the instrument still unforgiving at times, or are you able to tame it more? It demands a lot but your playing is so strong.

SJ: I think my pedagogical approach has become pretty solid. The issues I may have encountered with the trumpet years ago—I wouldn't say they are non-issues, but I'm able to address them a little easier now. The horn isn't necessarily a problem anymore. At the end of the day what I had to do is realize that all of the lessons I internalized in college and in my studies, I had to bring them together and make them mean something to me. I had to create the Sean Jones method of playing, versus the Arban method of playing or the Alan Vizzuti method of playing or any of those great trumpet pedagogues. I had to take those great philosophies and roll them together and put my spin on it and create Sean Jones' way of playing. Ultimately, I think that served me well.

AAJ: You don't live in New York City anymore.

SJ: No, I live in Pittsburgh. I love New York, but I think New York will be just fine without me. I wanted to go to a community that I felt had a vibrant jazz scene and I wanted to be able to contribute to that. I think it's important to get some of that New York energy, some of that New York verve, but bring it back to the rest of the country. There are some places in the country where you just don't see a lot of jazz anymore. You don't see it out in the Midwest or the mountain regions or any of that. As we all know, in the '20s and '30s there were regional bands. Jazz was vibrant all over the country people were swinging. Partially because it was the music of the day. But also because everybody wasn't trying to get to New York right away.

Nowadays there's a big push to go to New York because that's where it is and everybody wants to play with the great jazz network or be a star or whatever. That's good, but at the end of the day when I felt I got what I needed to get from New York, the experiences I needed, I wanted to bring that back to my community and develop jazz in my community a little bit better. That's one of the things I'm trying to do with the jazz orchestra. I'm working on creating an alliance of jazz orchestras around the country.

That's one of the ideas I have. Over the next couple of years I'm going to begin working on trying to get a network of jazz orchestras together. So there's a database of music, a database of resources to raise money. How to become a non-profit. How to raise funds for your organization, etc. So that America can celebrate its indigenous music in an orchestral format in every major city. Instead of celebrating a type of music that's not ours and dumping money into that. Let's dump money into our own identity and celebrate our own culture.

AAJ: Are you happy with the state of jazz in general right now?

SJ: Yeah. I think it's great. As far as the musicians go, I think there are a lot of great young musicians putting out great records. There's a lot of personality out there and we're all getting along. As far as I know there isn't any major beef between guys. We all work together. We're each other's sidemen. As far as the musicians go, I think it's pretty vibrant.

I think some record labels could potentially help, or allow musicians to be who they are. That part of it is a little worrisome. But record labels have to do what they have to do to survive. But if there was more support for the artist and the art form from the higher ups, that would be great. But the music scene in general is alive and well.

Not just the record labels, but a lot of these festivals hire the same people every year. You might see a couple new artists. But a lot of the festivals give huge dollars to the main artists and they don't want to pay developing artists hardly anything. The performance venues, in order to get people in the seats, have to support the emerging artists as much as they do the established artists.

AAJ: Some do support new acts, but a lot don't.

SJ: Yeah, there's a few that do. But not the vast majority.

AAJ::Are you touring with this new music?

SJ: I just finished (July) a little tour with the band and I'm on the road this summer with the Miles Davis Tribute Band with Herbie Hancock and Marcus Miller. We're doing all the European festivals this summer.

AAJ: How did that come about?



SJ: I've been working with Marcus for the last year and a half. We were doing the Tutu Revisited music. Somewhere around that time, Marcus got the idea to do a Miles Davis tribute band with some alumni. It's the 20th anniversary of Miles Davis' death. So they got together the band. Herbie Hancock agreed to do it. Wayne Shorter agreed to do it. They needed a trumpet player. They all pow-wowed and I was the guy they chose.

It's kind of funny. They probably chose me because I sound the least like Miles of any of the young trumpet players (laughs). I don't know if that's a compliment or not. [chuckles]. We're doing material from the beginning to the end, all the different periods. During rehearsal Herbie brought in the complete Columbia recordings of Miles Davis and we went through all of them, [chuckles] trying to figure out what we could do. We came up with a pretty good repertoire. I'm excited.


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