Take Five With B.D. Lenz

AAJ Staff By

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B.D. Lenz Instrument(s):
Grew up playing saxophone, but now only play guitar.

Teachers and/or influences?
I'm influenced by so many different styles of music from Stravinsky, to Miles, to U2, to Squarepusher, to Rush. Of course there were many guitar players who have directly influenced my own playing/writing, namely, Pat Metheny, Mike Stern, John Scofield, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jimi Hendrix, and Joe Satriani, to name a few.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...
I would fall asleep night after night with the guitar in my hands.

Your sound and approach to music.
My tastes are so eclectic that I try to filter all the things I listen to into something of my own. I work very hard to be a great guitarist but I take much more pride in writing a great composition. I think there's nothing that showcases musicianship more than great writing.

Your dream band:
I love the people I play with—I just wish we had more opportunities to play the way we like to play.

Road story: Your best or worst experience:
Ahhh—bad experience: probably the time (many years ago) we were playing a fair put on by some company. We were in this big tent and nobody was in there—playing to a bunch of empty benches except for this clown who was in there goofing on us the whole time—humiliating—haha!

Favorite venue

Any place that feeds us!

Your favorite recording in your discography and why?
I think each one gets better and better so I'm always partial to my latest recording, which is currently Hit It and Quit.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?
I think the land of contemporary jazz or fusion has gotten a bad reputation for good reason. It veered off into bad directions, i.e. bland fuzak and smooth jazz or unlistenable chop fests. It's coming back, there are some amazing guys in New York City and I'm working hard to make music that's virtuosic yet listenable. I'm making some real great music that blends the best of old and new.

Did you know...

I was a "stand-in" for one of the New Kids on the Block in their 1991 Coca Cola commercial? I also love Mexican food.

The first jazz album I bought was:

Pat Metheny, Still Life (Talking). I still love that album

Music you are listening to now:

Kanye West, 808's & Heartbreak (Roc-a-fella Records);
Lelica Calleremi, Lelica Calleremi (Independent), because I'm playing in her band!;
Mike Stern, Upside Downside (Atlantic);
Peter Gabriel, Secret World Live (Geffen);
B.D. Lenz, Hit It and Quit (Apria).

Desert Island picks:

Stravinsky, Firebird Suite;

Pat Metheny, Still Life (Talking) (Geffen);
John Scofield, A Go Go (Polygram);
Gabe Dixon Band, On a Rolling Ball (Warner Bros.);
U2, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb (Interscope).

How would you describe the state of jazz today?
It seems to always be struggling but now the rest of the music industry is too! But in talking to, and reading about, jazz musicians from earlier times it seems that the scene was much more communal back then—late night jam sessions—guys always sitting in—bands living together. I don't know if that community is as strong today, although I wish it was. There's nothing I love more than musician friends stopping by my gig to sit in or vice versa.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?
It has to evolve with the times. I'm put off by purists who demand that jazz has to sound like it's from somewhere between 1955 and 1965. I love playing standards and do many straight-ahead gigs but it has to reach new audiences or it will only become musician's music. I could play "All the Things You Are" every night of the week, but nine out of ten people have never heard of that song. I don't want to ignore the past by any means but the repertoire has to also keep up as well.

What is in the near future?

Already writing a new record (I'm always writing); third UK tour in the fall; more sideman gigs; trying to get better at this every day.

If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a:

A pilot.

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