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Take Five With Daniel Ian Smith

AAJ Staff By

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Meet Daniel Ian Smith: Daniel Ian Smith is a saxophonist/flutist and an Associate Professor at the esteemed Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA, where he has taught for the past fifteen years. Daniel has had the privilege to perform in Japan, England, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Canada, and throughout the United States in major jazz festivals and venues including: Carnegie Hall, Newport Jazz Festival, The Pit Inn, Schlot, Ottawa International, JAZZUV in Mexico, Visiones, and many others.

Leader of the New World Jazz Composers Octet, the Big and Phat Jazz Orchestra, Daniel Ian Smith and a Collective Directive, artistic director of Jazz in the Sanctuary, independent jazz label Big and Phat Jazz Productions. I am currently a member of the Mark Walker's Rhythm of the America's octet, the Pablo Ablanedo Octet (fresh sound recording artist), Sergio Brandao and Manga Rosa, Fernando Brandao's Bohemia Carioca. Featured on over 20 recordings and am a guest artist and guest director/lecturer at the International JAZZUV Festival in Xalapa, Mexico. I currently endorse Alexander Superial Reeds.

Instrument(s):

Saxophones/flutes.

Teachers and/or influences?

Major teachers have included Jimmy Giuffre, Lee Konitz, Steve Brown, George Garzone, Steven Mauk, Pamela Gearhart, Charlie Banacos, and Hal Crook. The music of Joe Henderson, Duke Ellington, Karel Husa, Chico Buarque, John Coltrane, Thad Jones, Joyce Moreno, Ernesto Lecuona, and so many others that have touched and inspired me beyond words.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...

I always had an interest and love for all things musical. When it was time for college I had a choice between playing music and playing football, (quite a disparate choice!). But, I really knew that music was it when I heard one of my most influential teachers, Pamela Gearhart, pick up a student's violin to demonstrate a passage during an orchestra rehearsal and it moved me to tears. I knew then how beautiful and vital music was and how much I wanted it to be a part of my life.

Your sound and approach to music:

A difficult question. Given the situation I mentioned above, I think making a sound with presence, personality and integrity is an essential ingredient in any player's sound. Think of all the greatest players, most people can identify the greatest players within a few notes. Miles Davis, Joe Henderson, Lester Young, Isaac Stern, Vladimir Horowitz, Marshall Royal, Woody Shaw, Kenny Garrett, Steve Lacy. I could on and on. It's about personality. Music and life are parallels in my opinion. There is no art form that comes closer to imitating life than music. It's about honesty, integrity, community. I hope that is where my sound and approaches come from.

Your teaching approach:

I guess my approach or philosophy is about striking the balance between pedagogy and inspiration. This is a difficult endeavor at times. It's imperative to deal with basic musical elements and be clear in the delivery of that tacit information (Eb Major, II-V7-I, melodic development, three different fingerings for altissimo G on tenor, two of which don't work on alto! etc). A student needs to walk away from a class or lesson with information in hand. At the same time, we are all on a journey in our short lifetimes and I feel strongly that my role is also to shed light on the aesthetic and the importance of the journey itself. Inspire students to open doors they hadn't considered or have turned away from. I like to call music the "Tangible Intangible." It has elements that must be mastered but it also has a magic that must not be forgotten or taken for granted.

Your dream band:

My dream band. I like too many different genres and ensemble sizes to identify one but will try. Ideal "jazz quintet" would be: Steve Kuhn (piano), Scott LaFaro (bass), Roy Haynes (drums), Clark Terry (trumpet), myself (saxophones). I would love to work with Kenny Barron, he and Steve K are my two favorite contemporary piano players. Also, with Steve Swallow and Carla Bley's Big Band. I would love to play lead alto or baritone in the Vanguard band sometime. I'm a Brazilian music fan and would love to play with Joyce Moreno if Teco Cardoso needed a vacation! Maybe Hermeto Pascoal will put a big band together again and will call.

Road story: Your best or worst experience:

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