Take Five With Benjamin Drazen

Take Five With Benjamin Drazen
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Meet Benjamin Drazen:
Benjamin Drazen is a native New Yorker, and grew up in Roslyn, NY. He got his frist great jazz saxophone education from the late great Dave Burns. (Dave was a master trumpeter with the Dizzy Gillespie
Dizzy Gillespie
Dizzy Gillespie
1917 - 1993
trumpet
and Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
1899 - 1974
piano
Orchestras as well as leading his own groups) A graduate of the prestigious New England Conservatory of Music, Drazen studied with such legends as Jimmy Giuffre
Jimmy Giuffre
Jimmy Giuffre
1921 - 2008
clarinet
, George Garzone
George Garzone
George Garzone
b.1950
sax, tenor
, John McNeil
John McNeil
John McNeil

trumpet
, and Cecil McBee
Cecil McBee
Cecil McBee
b.1935
bass, acoustic
. He also studied with the great Dave Liebman
Dave Liebman
Dave Liebman
b.1946
saxophone
, just before returning to NYC. From these influences Benjamin has crafted his own jazz style coming out of the traditions of Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker
1920 - 1955
sax, alto
, Julian "Cannonball" Adderley
Julian
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley
1928 - 1975
saxophone
, Sonny Rollins
Sonny Rollins
Sonny Rollins
b.1930
saxophone
and John Coltrane
John Coltrane
John Coltrane
1926 - 1967
saxophone
.

Instrument(s):
Alto, tenor and soprano saxophone.

Teachers and/or influences?
Teachers: Dave Burns, Danny Bank, George Garzone.

Influences: Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Sonny Rollins, Johnny Griffin
Johnny Griffin
Johnny Griffin
1928 - 2008
sax, tenor
, Clifford Brown
Clifford Brown
Clifford Brown
1930 - 1956
trumpet
, George Garzone, Ornette Coleman
Ornette Coleman
Ornette Coleman
b.1930
sax, alto
.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...
I heard my first Charlie Parker record. It blew my mind wide open, and I knew I wanted to express something similarly to Bird.

Your sound and approach to music:
As Bird once said, "There are many stories to be told in music." This has always been my approach. I want to tell a story, and leave the audience with a feeling that they experienced some aspect of my life, in a way that is common to their own experience.

Your teaching approach:
I try to focus on a student's sound. I believe once the student hears his or her own voice, they will more quickly be able to identify their own personal concept. Many players play similar ideas, but the ones who truly have their own sound and style are the ones we remember most.

Your dream band:
Jack DeJohnette
Jack DeJohnette
Jack DeJohnette
b.1942
drums
, McCoy Tyner
McCoy Tyner
McCoy Tyner
b.1938
piano
, Robert Hurst.

Favorite venue:
55 Bar, in New York City.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why?
My debut CD, Inner Flights. I think I am able to express myself in my playing the most freely using my own music and band.

The first Jazz album I bought was:
Miles and Coltrane Live in Newport.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?
Sense of freedom and emotional connection that I believe the audience can truly feel.

How would you describe the state of jazz today?
Jazz has come a long way. We are now in a phase of rhythmic exploration that is wonderful, however I would like to see a greater exploration of melody in today's jazz and compositions.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?
In some way it must relate to our time. That doesn't mean playing covers of hip-hop or playing back beats, but rather creating music that is new and fresh. It's always a tricky balance since the past has such a huge influence on most of our playing.

What is in the near future?
I will be teaching at Poland's oldest jazz workshop, in Plway, this July. I am currently working on putting a tour together of Europe this fall as well.


Photo Credit
Courtesy of Benjamin Drazen
Benjamin Drazen
Benjamin Drazen
b.1972
saxophone

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