Meet Shirantha Beddage: Baritone saxophonist Shirantha Beddage is the Director of Jazz Studies at Columbus State University in Columbus, GA, and a Doctoral candidate at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY. Shirantha's new release, Roots and Branches (Jazz Excursion Records, 2007), features a collection of his original works for quartet featuring piano, bass and drums. The works contained within are often tributes to composers that influenced Beddage as a saxophonist and pianist, in addition to other compositions that incorporate open forms and structures into the quartet environment. The release features Michael Stryker (piano), Ryan Kotler (bass), and Jared Schonig (drums).
Instrument: baritone saxophone.
Teachers and/or influences? Teachers: Pat LaBarbera, Alex Dean, Brian Dickinson, James Williams, Gary Smulyan, Richard Derosa, Ramon Ricker, Harold Danko, Bill Dobbins.
Influences: John Coltrane, Stanley Turrentine, Joe Henderson, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Bill Evans, Sonny Stitt, Lee Konitz.
I knew I wanted to be a musician when... I figured out how to play the Mission Impossible theme on the piano.
Your sound and approach to music: My sound on the baritone has developed from a childhood of listening to the tenor saxophone; consequently, I try and access the extended upper range of the baritone wherever possible, using the low end for effect. As a composer, I try and surround myself with encouraging and risk-taking players, so that I can write for specific personalities in my band, rather than always creating "concept pieces" or contrafacts.
Your teaching approach: Jazz is an oral tradition, therefore we as teachers must endeavor to approach all teaching methods from the standpoint of the recordings rather than use the numerous texts and method books as a primary resource. We, as students of jazz, must understand how the music sounds before we attempt to interpret it on paper; only after a thorough understanding of jazz from the recorded literature and historical perspective will the student gain from examining the written jazz teaching aids available today.
What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically? A unique voice on my instrument, and the desire to share my music with those who do not have the ability to experience music on a daily basis.
Did you know... I have worked in voice-over production for radio and television in Canada.
Desert Island picks: John Coltrane, A Love Supreme (Impulse!); Stan Getz, [i[Focus (Verve); Cannonball Adderley, The Cannonball Adderley Quintet in San Fransisco (Riverside/OJC); Chick Corea and Return to Forever, Light as a Feather; Bill Evans, Conversations With Myself (Verve).
By Day (if you have a day job) I am the Director of Jazz Studies and Assistant Professor of Theory at the Schwob School of Music at Columbus State University in Columbus, GA.
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone. Feet in the dirt, or barefoot on a stage with sequins--it's soul beats in my chest.
I was first exposed to jazz while others listened to surf music in the '50s and '60s, it was Monk, Miles, Satchmo and Ella, Rosemary Clooney and Julie London followed. Margaret Whiting, Les McCann, Willie Bobo, Andy Simpkins, Snooky Young, Bill Basie and Helen Humes. The first time I heard Topsy, Take 2, I about passed out at the age of ten.
I've hung with Les McCann who more than 30 years after our first meeting became my duet partner on my CD, Don't Go To Strangers. Karen Hernandez from the start, Jack Le Compte on drums, Lou Shoch on bass, Steve Rawlins as my arranger and pianist, Grant Geissman - guitar genius, Nolan Shaheed, Richard Simon, and more. The big boys. My Red Hot Papas. The best show I ever attended was...
I met Helen Humes first back in 1981 and helped turn one Playboy Jazz Festival night into her tribute, bring the Basie Band to stage, her joy boys. Before she took the stage for the last time to sing, If I could Be With You One Hour Tonight thousands of copies of the newspaper I wrote for carried her story. It was kismet, her being held by Joe Williams backstage. Soon in my life were the great Linda Hopkins who told me I sang the song she wrote better than her, which floored me of course, the energizing Barbara Morrison and the stellar Marilyn Maye who guided me professionally.
My advice to new listeners... let your backbone slip and feel your body stripping back the barriers that prevent us from being one with the music.
Remember none of us are strangers, we just haven't met yet.