Take Five With Alexi David
Cypriot-American composer and bassist Alexi David grew up in Brooklyn's Park Slope neighborhood. His group, Alexi David's Patriot Act, has created the first fusion with jazz and the Greek sounds of rembetika. David is also adept on bouzouki, baglama and piano. He is a scholar on the music of the late Charles Mingus, and has worked extensively with Terry Waldo, Jose James, The Fat Cat Big Band, Junior Mance and many others. Being Nellie McKay's regular bassist, he naturally lives with two cats. He is currently hard at work researching for forgotten and never performed Mingus compositions, to perform at upcoming shows.
Double bass, electric bass, bouzouki.
Teachers and/or influences?
My double bass teachers are Henry Grimes, Kurt Muroki, Andy McKee, John Arbo, and Mark Helias.
Influences include Paul Chambers, Slam Stewart, Charles Mingus, Richard Davis, Jimmy Garrison, Red Mitchell, Oscar Pettiford, Wellman Braud, Omer Avital.
I knew I wanted to be a musician when...
Girls suddenly paid attention to me! Playing helped me raise my self-esteem.
Your sound and approach to music:
Be limitless, honest, and take risks. As my bro Stacy Dillard said, "Practice life and the music will follow."
Your teaching approach:
What do you want to achieve? Why do you want to play music? Take things slow because nothing good comes fast and easy.
Your dream band:
I'm not a big fan of these kinds of questions, but I wouldn't mind having Jaki Byard on piano, Elvin Jones or Max Roach on drums, and cats like Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Johnny Hodges, Clifford Jordan, and Joe Farrell in the reeds section.
At the end of the day, it would have to be Fat Cat. Despite the madness, any place where I can get paid decently and have women dancing to swingin' music. Unless I'm in a concert hall, I hate dead silent comatose atmospheres; you gotta bring the dance back into music. That's why Cabaret Laws were enacted: to keep interracial dancing at bay.
Your favorite recording in your discography and why?
I don't have one. I do like how my double bass was recorded for Jose James' The Dreamer (Brownswood, 2008), though.
What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?
That's not for me to judge. These things are usually realized long after they've happened Within a context. I've made some new sounds like using bozouki to play a Fats Waller Tune, or fitting a blues form inside a Greek zembekiko rhythm. But being new sounds don't necessarily make them important.
CDs you are listening to now:
These days, Parliament-Funkadelic.
How would you describe the state of jazz today?
This question... I know many musicians that are doing truly incredible swingin' things; I'll leave it at that.
What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?
Same things that can repair society like less self-centeredness, more openness, less fear, and respect for wise elders, etc.
What's your greatest fear when you perform?
That the audience or sidemen won't enjoy the show and that my chops or my brain may not be in great shape that day.
What song would you like played at your funeral?
"Angels Praying," aka "Number 13" in the Fat Cat Big Band book, written by Jade Synstelien.
Besides playing, I enjoy restoring vacuum tube audio equipmentsmostly Hammond organs and Leslie speakers. I also do live sound and repairs at Fat Cat. Good backups when gigs are scarce.
If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a:
Dead man. Music was my motivation to get clean from heroin.