Take Five with Kenney Polson

Kenney Polson By

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I approach music from a melodic sense. There is nothing better than the ability to have a strong melody over nice grooves with great chord structure. Moreover, I like a saxophone sound with a rich tone. I have problems with a thin piercing sound. A warm tone is very important to me.

Your teaching approach

First, I would like all students to have a fun relaxing time with music. I would like all of my students to learn the basic mechanics of music so they can get around playing jazz standards. For example: mechanics like scales, ii V I chord changes, arpeggios, articulation, etc.

Your dream band

My dream band would look like this: Herbie Hancock: piano / keyboard; Mike Stern: guitar; Marcus Miller: bass; Dennis Chambers: drums.

Road story: Your best or worst experience

I have a friend, whom I hired to perform with my high school band as special guest. I asked him to come up and get down for a fundraiser that we were having. The economy was not at it's best at the time and schools were cutting music funds left and right all over the country. Regardless of our dire situation this friend whom I had known for 30 years (Fred Wesley) took time out of his busy schedule to participate in our fundraiser. We were able to raise money to help the band program because of his good name. 

After the high school band performance was over, we had a gig in a local club called Jimmy Mak's and many of the towns top musicians were attending because they knew Fred would be there. Some of them performed with us in the band at the club. Other sat in and jammed on a few selections. It was a great feeling and experience when Fred Wesley introduced me to the local musicians as his good friend of many years. We had a lot of fun that playing both funk and jazz tunes, trading solos, and sharing stories throughout the night. Just like old times. It was a great experience for me!     

Favorite venue

Jimmy Maks in Portland, Oregon had great acoustics, treats musicians really well, has a nice intimate setting and gets a great crowd. The venue was also very gracious when I needed a venue for a high school jazz band I directed. They were a good group with a very good following and Jimmy always accommodated us when we were seeking a venue for a fundraiser or just wanted to perform.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why?

My favorite recording is on the Paradise CD, called "Only With You." I really like the melody and the chord changes to that selection. In addition, I enjoyed the production of that song. I remember my composition teacher at Howard University, Dr. Reppard Stone who constantly told me to make sure to do something special with the melody when it comes back around a second time, because it keeps the listener engaged. I applied that theory when I recorded "Only With You." If you take a listen you will find that the melody comes around three times. The first time I play it on Alto with as much feelings as I can, the second time I add an octave higher to the melody, and the last time around I add five saxophone parts to it. I don't know about anybody else but it certainly keeps me in engaged when I hear it, not to mention giving me a great sense of satisfaction and accomplishment!      

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?

I believe the most important thing I am contributing are interesting and well-constructed smooth jazz compositions. I believe I write selections that are memorable with singable melodies. I don't particularly care for selections with just a groove and no real structure. That type of tune gets old to me very quickly, so I make it a point not to do the same with my own smooth jazz compositions. I'm sure my training at Howard University has a lot to do with that!

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