David Sanchez: A Candid Look at Music and Business, Part 1 of 2

Matt Merewitz By

Sign in to view read count
I did this record because I actually admire and appreciate that other feel - more subtle; something that's not being able to come up with 300,000 notes. —David Sanchez on his release Coral
Part 1 | Part 2

It's hard to gauge what the jazz community knows about saxophonist David Sanchez. If you have BET Jazz, you may have seen him on those corny interludes - "How did you discover your sense of jazz?" Albeit, a lot of people I've talked to, know very little about Sanchez. "Go look at the records - then you'll see I've been around for quite a while," says Sanchez in the lobby of the Sheraton Hotel in the Steel City.

Most people don't realize it, but Sanchez has been on the New York scene since 1988 when he came to complete his studies at Rutgers. I defer to R.J. DeLuke's previous interview to fill you in on the particulars up to the time preceding Sanchez' 2000 release Travesia.

Since then, the tenorist has continued touring fairly regularly. He has been doing university performances and clinics frequently as those venues today are consistently interested in hosting major recording artists - whom many of their jazz students are listening to. Just in the past few weeks since we spoke, Sanchez performed at the University of Indiana in Bloomington, IN and at University of California, Berkeley following a three-night stint at Yoshi's.

His quintet has stayed the same since Travesia - with bassist Hans Glawischnig, pianist Edsel Gomez, drummer Antonio Sanchez, and percussionist Pernell Saturnino. Since introducing the jazz world to altoist and fellow Puerto Rican Miguel Zenon, the two saxophonists have continued to work together including on Sanchez' most recent and musically diverse album to date, Coral.

I caught up with Davíd in Pittsburgh, where he was speaking at a conference called the Performing Arts Exchange. He had flown in that morning from New York where he'd been at the Blue Note the previous two nights celebrating the centennial of Coleman Hawkins birth along with an all-star line-up including Frank Wess, Jimmy Heath, David 'Fathead' Newman, and James Carter; and a rhythm section of Eric Reed on piano, Carl Allen on drums and Ray Drummond on bass.

We discussed a wide variety of topics; from the current record to the state of the record industry to his attitude on how young people today are listening and sounding to cyberspace as a marketing medium.

All About Jazz: Is this your first time in Pittsburgh?

David Sanchez: Oh no. Not at all. I was here with Slide Hampton as part of the "Jazz Masters" band which was made up of former Dizzy Gillespie alumni.

AAJ: Yeah. I think they're calling that the Dizzy Gillespie Alumni band now.

DS: I think you're right. I was here with Ray Drummond, with Charlie Haden, with my own band. So no, I've been here many times. I don't remember the years but yeah, I've been to Pittsburgh in many different situations. (I didn't realize until after I sat down to write this interview that I had planned to attend the Haden concert, which occurred at Manchester Craftsmen's Guild in February of 2003, but was not able to make it due to school obligations. I recall several of my friends going and noting that Haden soloed very little and that Sanchez's improvisations were the highlight of the performance. Many of them had never heard of Sanchez prior to the concert.).

AAJ: What's going on this weekend?

DS: Well, this is a whole different thing. This is like... a convention. Honestly, I'm not exactly sure what's goin' on, but I know that a part of it, is that we're playing. I think it's a whole bunch of different bands and we'll all be playing for different agents.

AAJ: So it's like for performing arts presenters?

DS: Yeah. Basically, that's what it is. It's not like before when we played the Cultural Center, the...Marty Ashby?

AAJ: Manchester Craftsmen's Guild.

DS: Exactly. Manchester. That was with the group. Obviously you were not there. Otherwise you would remember. That was the sextet. I brought my whole group.

AAJ:How did you meet Miguel Zenon. I know you're both from Puerto Rico. Did you grow up together? I get the impression that he's a bit younger than you.

DS: Yeah he's definitely younger than me. I first met Miguel when he was starting at Berklee in the mid 90s. He came to see my group when we were playing there. That's how I met him. We didn't grow up together. There's a difference of maybe seven or eight years between us.

AAJ: My bad.

DS: Yeah a lot of people don't know. But if they go back to the records, they'll realize that I was doing this thing since way back so... you know...but he just happened to be interested in some of the stuff that I was working on already. So we happened to be from the same place and actually he knew all my stuff. That's why I was so impressed, cause he knew all my stuff when I came to Boston.

AAJ: He knew all your charts?

DS: Yeah. By heart.

AAJ: Wow.

DS: So when he came to New York, I had this idea. There were not many groups lately at that time, in 2000, that had the front line of just tenor and alto. Basically the configuration of the sextet with percussion and two horns [in relation to] this concept that I had been working on - of making a real combination or a hybrid of playing Latin American music and jazz - I didn't really see or hear this combination. On Meláza I was working with very cutting edge material, in the sense that it was advanced material - a lot of counterpoint and a lot of advanced harmonies. And I though another horn would give it a whole different vibe so that's when Miguel and I started working together.

AAJ: Yeah. It gives a different timbre. Alto and tenor.

DS: Exactly. It was just a new idea that I had.

AAJ: Switching topics. Going back a few years. I have this record. It's a Ryan Kisor date on Columbia called On the One. Do you remember that record?

DS: {Jaw drops} Yeah. Wow. That's a long time ago.

AAJ: Yeah. I just picked it up. It's absolutely killin'. Chris Potter on alto...

DS: Mark Turner on tenor, Christian McBride on bass...Yeah, yeah I remember {smiles).

AAJ: This is before you guys were big. What was it like to make that record? Did you know all those cats before the recording session?

DS: I knew Mulgrew [Miller]. Actually I knew the whole rhythm section. Why? Because we had been working together on the Philip Morris Superband tour. Mulgrew I knew from another place. Lewis [Nash], Ryan and Chris - Christian McBride too was on that record. Wow. So yeah I knew those guys already. We had been on tour together for two months I think. I've been around.

You know people see me in concert and they think...'Hmm this guy is a new cat. He's a young guy.' But you know I've been around for a while now. Part of it is that I have a "baby face," so people think I'm younger than I am. I'm 35. And that brings me to the question of why I'm changing paths and trying to do different things. Sometimes...you know...I have been pretty consistent in the concept I'm trying to bring. It's one thing. Whether you like it or not - it is what it is. But as I get older and time goes by, you wanna be doing different kinds of things.

I was working with a lot of originals on Melaza and Travesía. But then as time goes by I want to be working on different things. Like the Coral project - it's really about focusing on simplicity - aside from my originals - but specifically with the other songs I found that it was very simple -simple material and it was short pieces. I wanted to just change them around a little bit and be able to create something new while focusing on playing with beauty and simplicity.

About David Sanchez
Articles | Calendar | Discography | Photos | More...


Shop for Music

Start your music shopping from All About Jazz and you'll support us in the process. Learn how.