Interview with Dayna Stephens: I love the energy that was felt that whole week … Video, new CD cover

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Dayna Stephens.

Jazz interview with jazz saxophonist Dayna Stephens. An interview by email in writing. 

JazzBluesNews.com: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?

Dayna Stephens: – I grew up in the San Francisco Bay area and my father and grandfather both had a love for music and from as long as I can remember jazz and blues and even some rock and obviously Motown and R&B were always played in the house. My grandfather played the saxophone and although I didn’t hear him play unIl I started playing at age 12 just the presence of it in house probably added to the importance that music has play in my life.

JBN: – How did your sound evolve over Ime? What did you do to find and develop your sound?

DS: – I started off with a brighter sound than I have now, but my biggest influences were first hearing my grandfather’s sound, and then Sonny Rollins, Gerry Mulligan and Charlie Rouse were the big prominent sounds I heard when I first picked up the saxophone and despite my flirtaIons with aa brighter sound that warm saxophone style is sIll the sound im more comfortable with. At least from where I stand my sound is always changing but always hovers around that warm theme.

JBN: – What pracIce rouIne or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?

DS: – I pracIce with a metronome and I try to make it swing (although it never will). I challenge myself by puVng the click on different beat or just one beat of a measure. I also pracIce different polyrhythms of either 3/4/ or 4/4 and alway revisit pracIcing just simple note values like quarter notes and half notes.

JBN: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?

DS: – I love the uniqueness of what everyone does with our limited 12 notes. I also realize that I can never BE anyone but myself and the same for everyone, so competition, although has naturally reared its head, seems pointless in light of these facts, as does level when one really sinks into it that perspective.

JBN: – How do you prepare before your performances to help you maintain both spiritual and musical stamina?

DS: – There’s not preparaIon for me aside from from choosing the songs and musicians. Im always struggling to live in the moment in general and I feel that state of being makes creaIng music a lot more pure and honest and playful when it called for. My album the Timeless Now, Today Is Tomorrow, New Day, and Right Now are al Itles to remind me of the importance of remembering the present moment which created and will created everything that has ever existed whether by us or naturals forces.

JBN: – What do you love most about your new album 2020: <Right Now! Live at the Village Vanguard>, how it was formed and what you are working on today.

DS: – I love the energy that was felt that whole week, but especially those two nights that we recorded. Its hard to describe the focus and freedom that was felt playing with this band, it felt like a constant state of shared anIcipaIon for everyone within earshot, including us. Aaron’ song PlanIng Flowers is always the one I tend to gravitate to if I were to pick a favorite.

JBN: – Ism is culled from a variety of lives dates with various performers over the course of a few years. Did your sound evolve during that Ime? And how did you select the musicians who play on the album?

DS: – Im sorry im not sure what you mean by ISM, but in general im always trying to find different fresh new ways to create music and textures. In general when picking band mates I ask myself who do I love playing a ballad with. The Bass comes first because the are in the driver seat and responsible for how a band feels and interprets the harmony. Then comes drums usually although that’s not always the case, followed by other instruments. My goal oben is to create a fresh music situaIon that I feel would be engaging musically and on an interacIve level. In the beginning of my Ime living close to NYC I was unable to schedule that exact same personnel because of busy schedules etc. My soon began to enjoy have fresh new music situaIons when I would perform my music and have since leaned into the constant refreshing of perspecIve on my composiIons and just conversaIonal sound in general.

JBN: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

DS: – I haven’t thought of that precise quesIon before but my first insInct is to say that when it comes to music being performed and shared with audiences outside of the pracIce room the soul is where the connecIve energy flows from the deepest and the intellect should be mostly informed by the soul. Perhaps when it comes to pracIcal problem solving the soul should inform the intellect. Im not sure though, thats just my insInct in this moment.

JBN: – There’s a two-way relaIonship between audience and arIst; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?

DS: – My goal has always been to give all of us what we want or perhaps even that which we didn’t know we wanted. If someone visibly isn’t enjoying any shared acIvity I tend to insInctually enjoy it less, That could even be lisIng to a song with someone that you would love otherwise. It can be a struggle to let go of that imagined audience when composing though when your the iniIal goal feels more natural when its come from the pure love of being, playing with and creaIng music.

JBN: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

DS: – Ive always been in love with Ron Carter’s playing and there was a gig at Smoke in NYC a couple years back when he came and set in with Al Foster’s Quartet, what a filling I can never forget. His pulse and harmonic wizardry is just pure heaven for the soul.

JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?

DS: – I think its important for young people to understand how a deep yet playful conversaIon is happening when you listen to improvised music. I also think having access to instruments and welcoming them Ime to join the conversaIon would help quite a lot whether its their goal in life or not. A lot of lover of jazz and blues dabbled in the art in their youth. Also exposing youth to a variety of arIst through the history of this music may give various different on-ramps into the language.

JBN: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?

DS: – I don’t know how to define spirit because I have yet to find a clear definiIon that everyone coalesces around but at this moment the meaning our lives comes from the meaning we give it by what we do and what we feel is most important, that varies from person to person depending on where when and who they were born to. I don’t feel I can be any more specific than that. For me its being inspired by fresh perspecIves and new truths about this weird existence and hopefully contribuIng those values to others who want to hear my current but ever changing perspecIve either musically or otherwise.

JBN: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

DS: – A vast willingness to create art and music in cross-genre unlikely grouping and parings based in a widely musically diverse and open educaIonal system.

JBN: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?

DS: – Arvo Part, Are Henriksen, various different electronic inspired music like Deadelus, Keifer and really a bit all over the place.

JBN: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?

DS: – Only broad messages like the importance of realizing that Now is the only moment, and perhaps appreciaIng the importance of recognizing our shared existence and the feeling being grateful for just the gib of awareness in general. A lot of my song are about thing and people that help me live that.

JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a Ime machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?

DS: – Hard to be specific but a Ime before march 12 1955 where I can here Bird and Pres and Train and Glenn Gould etc…, those I will never be able to experience live.

JBN: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a quesIon from yourself…

DS: – Where do you see Jazz in 2050, how do you imagine its prevalence and importance in music educaIon? Codifying even more like classical music or…

JBN: – So putting that all together, how are you able to harness that?

DS: – Always looking to stop Ime by the creaIve process of making fresh new music.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

An Improviser Learns The Art Of Patience : A Blog Supreme : NPR

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