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David Sancious: From Monk to Sting

Luca Muchetti By

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AAJ: Later on, you were involved in the recording of two masterpieces like The Soul Cages and Ten Summoner's Tales, with another pop artist that has a lot to share with the jazz heritage, Sting. Looking at the footage of the Lake House sessions—where Ten Summoner's Tales was recorded—there seems to have been a real inspiring atmosphere: what do you remember from those projects?

DS: I have very fond memories of the Soul Cages because it was my first time in the studio with Sting. Also Ten Summoner's Tales was an amazing project. The atmosphere at Lake House was great. We worked really hard, but we also had a great time making the record.

AAJ: Sting and Springsteen, faraway but so close: what do they have in common and what's the Sancious ingredient that connects them?

DS: What Sting and Bruce have in common is that they're both tremendously talented, they are both great songwriters and they both have a very strong work ethic. My studio experience with both of them is great, as they both give me a tremendous amount of freedom. And they really appreciate what happens.

AAJ: You joined Sting during a recent tour, and Springsteen for a surprise-reunion onstage at Asbury Park. Watching the videos on YouTube the mood doesn't seem so different from 40 or 20 years ago... How did those reunions go?

DS: It's always great to be on stage with Bruce or Sting. We've done a lot of work together over the years, and there's a lot of love between us. Time doesn't change that.

AAJ: With Peter Gabriel another great chapter of your career: he referred to you as the "musician's musician." Gabriel is a nomadic musician like you: your affinity therefore was no surprise...

DS: I agree. I have a lot of affinity with Peter Gabriel, both as a musician and a human being. He's another artist with whom I share a lot of history and a lot of love.

AAJ: A question addressed to David Sancious, the session man: how much of your art is influenced by the direct request of the band leader, and how much is under your complete control? Do studio sessions ever make you feel frustrated or constrained compared to your extremely free approach to music?

DS: My attitude towards session work is that I'm there to serve the person who wrote the song, and the song itself. Usually it's a mixture of direction and freedom. It all depends on the artist and the song. I don't personally feel constrained by that.

AAJ: Your last albums as a leader are 9 Piano Improvisations (2000) and Live in the Now (2006). Can we expect something new ahead?

DS: There are two new albums coming soon. One is a collection of compositions from several years back, with keyboards, guitars and vocals, and the other is an album of me playing guitar and no keyboards. Both are untitled at the moment.

AAJ: What do you think has been the most significant influence of jazz on popular music?

DS: I think one of the most significant influences of jazz music on popular music has been that of harmony. The sophisticated harmony of jazz has been incorporated into popular music with great success.

AAJ: Do you think that jazz has historically been a reactive or a proactive kind of music?

DS: I think jazz has historically been proactive, not reactive.

AAJ: According to Frank Zappa "Jazz is not dead; it just smells funny." How does jazz smell to you today?

DS: Frank Zappa was a genius, but jazz continues to smell good to me.

Photo credit: Michael Bloom

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