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I think we have to focus on how we present ourselves as jazz artists and think about our listeners more. If someone chooses to go to a concert in their scarce free time and pay good money for it, then we shouldn't present some sort of ego-driven musical ivory tower pursuit that completely alienates the consumer. I'm all for having idealistic and art-focused musical goals, but if we completely lose our audience then who are we going to play for and how will we survive? While it's difficult to accept for some, I think it is really important to keep in mind that we are on some level entertainers. Striking the fine balance between art and entertainment is an added complexity of our job, but one that we cannot neglect. I also think that artists have to figure out a way to monetize the recording sector again. I see this as the major challenge of this and the next generations of musicians.
What is in the near future?
I'm doing a lecture recital about the Great American Songbook and how it has influenced jazz composers of today. The lecture recital will be held/performed at Elebash Hall at the CUNY Graduate Center in Manhattan in late April. In May I'm flying to Mongolia, South Korea and China for performances and workshops. After my five weeks in Asia I'm going to Europe to teach at a workshop in the south of Austria in early July, followed by a tour in Germany. My stay in Europe in July concludes with the saxophone competition I organize in Austria and a big band feature performance at Porgy and Bess in Vienna. After all that I'm returning to NY to teach at a summer camp and judge an international competition before the academic year starts up again. To sum up, a lot of playing and teaching. I'd like to record another album this year but I'm just in the very early planning stages.
I had an amazing biology professor in high school who inspired me so much that I would have taken up his field if I hadn't been set on music already at that point.
If I could have dinner with anyone from history, who would it be and why?
The first person that comes to mind right now is Freddy Mercury. I think he would be a lot of fun to hang out with and he strikes me as one of the most confident and uncompromising people ever in entertainment.
As a songwriter and vocalist, I love jazz for the experience of being in the center of intense creativity. It is the most potent form of music for keeping the artist and the audience in the 'now. Being in the moment is essential for humans, and we need help in learning how to do that. As a songwriter, I need the depth of musicality that jazz voicings can give my stories. My songs seem light and whimsical, but the message is not.
I met my main collaborator, Mark Fitzgibbon, at one of his gigs. I needed to do my first original album, and his playing was masterful, robust, and beautiful. At the time, I didn't realize how suited we were as a team. We're onto our 4rth album together.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to a really clear and simple version of a song so you can then hear what the musicians are doing and enjoy their creativity and musicality. Also, you have to see jazz live to appreciate it fully. You'll never feel it the same way listening to a CD or online. You need the vibration to go through your body to really get it!
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