David Sanchez: A Candid Look at Music and Business Part 2-2

Matt Merewitz By

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They see numbers, unfortunately. They don't see art. That's the truth. —David Sanchez
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 , which blends the straight-ahead jazz idea with different modern classical textures.

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: You've been with Columbia since 1995.

David Sanchez: Yeah. {laughs}. It's almost 10 years.

AAJ: That's crazy. They've kept you longer than any other young jazz artist...except Wynton and Branford...

DS: Well, Branford, but then he left and...

AAJ: Right. What do you think it is about you - I mean obviously you're a great player... Has there ever been a time when you wanted to leave? Obviously there are benefits advantages and...

DS: Yeah especially now - especially now, a lot of disadvantages. Yeah, I'm not gonna lie to you. There are times, when for one reason or the other, I'm like, "Man I would like to experiment and do other kinds of things too." The past three years have been pretty rough for the music industry in general and especially for the major labels it has been a major blow. Why? Because their emphasis, their focus all these years has been pop music and what's happening in the charts.

And you know what's been happening all these years with scams, and Napster, and etc. etc. And all of a sudden they're losing millions of dollars. They see numbers, unfortunately. They don't see art. That's the truth. I mean there might be some people who are interested in art, but the infrastructure of the company has been - what's it's all about - is a system that has worked for them and they will not change and unfortunately yeah it's ironic because we make the business. We're the reason. But, we're completely second when it comes to priorities and art and stuff like that. Business is first and that is pop.

The reason I... to go back to your question...I've been in contract ( laughs to himself ). I was pretty young. And my lawyer made this long contract, pretty long contract, and you know, it had extentions...Basically it's up to them.

But I feel comfortable saying about the major labels, the problem is that (interrupts himself). I'm a believer, first of all, that art can be...

AAJ: Mass consumed?

DS: I believe art can be mass consumed and it can sell.

AAJ: Especially this record that you just made.

DS: Yeah. But no. I'm talkin' about in general. Art can - definitely sell. There's an audience out there. There are people willing to give it a try. It doesn't matter if it's abstract. It doesn't matter if it's Melaza , for instance - a little harder, harsher for some people. The audience is out there. For me - this is my opinion - the major labels have not made a real commitment to what it takes to sell this particular style of music. They have made a commitment for the other one, which is the easier one. The one-hit, you know, break-the-charts thing. And everything is configured to deal with that kind of thing. But not to like, find out who is out there? "Who are the students?" "Who are the teachers?" "You know what? We need to have the product in this setting."

Life , is what jazz is all about - in the moment. Therefore, the way you sell it is in the moment. Life - while things are taking place. It's not like doing the little marketing plan, old school methods that they utilized for pop music before. There's many other ways that you can get the product out there. But as far as I'm concerned, they have to seriously reconfigure their priorities.


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