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Take Five With Benjamin Drazen

Benjamin Drazen By

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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 and Duke Ellington 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, George Garzone, John McNeil, and Cecil McBee. He also studied with the great Dave Liebman, just before returning to NYC. From these influences Benjamin has crafted his own jazz style coming out of the traditions of Charlie Parker, Cannonball Adderley, Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane.

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, Clifford Brown, George Garzone, Ornette Coleman.

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, McCoy Tyner, 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

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