Interview with David Larsen: Music should make you feel good: Video, New CD cover

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Jazz interview with jazz saxophonist David Larsen. An interview by email in writing. 

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

David Larsen: – I grew up in the small town of Hood River, Oregon. I was always interested in music, but I did not have any formal lessons until I got to college. As a kid I used to experiment with lots of different instruments, but I had no one to guide me.

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

DL: – My sound came from lots of work on embouchure and equipment. It took me 10 years to find a bari sax that works for me, and about 15 years to find a mouthpiece. I have always modeled my sound after Cool Jazz players like Gerry Mulligan, Stan Getz, and Zoot Sims. I want it to be dark and round with just a touch of edge. My first sax teacher always told me that “your sound will get you the gig” which is how I feel about it too.

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

DL: – My practice is pretty regimented. I do a lot of scales, arpeggios, and exercises with the metronome. I always practice against backing tracks or recordings, so I know I am in time. I don’t think people are born with good rhythm, it is something you have to learn, and it is something you have to practice a lot.

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

DL: – I don’t believe that influences are a bad thing. I welcome new challenges and new music to shape what I do. Having said that, I don’t listen to music I don’t like, and I don’t play in groups where I don’t respect the music, so I don’t have a lot of influences that get into my playing that I don’t put there on purpose. I remain pretty focused on what I am doing.

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

DL: – To prepare for a performance or recording I just try to make space. I eat right, I exercise, I get out and see the world. The worst thing I can think of would be to have a cluttered head full of stress and negative feelings. I just need a minute to sip a cup of coffee and relax into the music.

JBN: – What do you love most about your new album 2021: The Mulligan Chronicles, how it was formed and what you are working on today.

DL: – The Mulligan Chronicles was just such a fun project. It was a chance to record and perform with some world class players and play material I had been working on for years. I have done tons of study into Mulligan’s Music and getting the chance to play it with his sidemen has been a real treat.

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 time? And how did you select the musicians who play on the album?

DL: – The album was all recorded on the same 2 day session. I had done a tour with the players prior to the recording. These players all worked with Gerry Mulligan for years and I wanted to record his music with these musicians.

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

DL: – I am very much on the intellectual side of things. Music should make you feel good, but I like how the parts all work together to form a whole. I like talking theory and equipment with people, and really digging in on how the music works.

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

DL: – I have a motto that you have to give people something or they won’t listen. For me that means crafting music that people will like and that I like. I don’t need to impress anyone; I just want to play. So, in my music, I try and strike that balance between art and popularity. However, I do believe you have to love what you do, so I don’t play music I don’t like. I would rather be a teacher or work in an office that have to play music I don’t like to make money.

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

DL: – I did an outdoor gig once that got caught in a rainstorm. The stage was being overrun by water so we went inside a nearby grange hall and set up to play again. After a short time the power went out so we played a gig, all acoustic, with fans using cell phones as flashlights for about 3 hours. Everyone loved it.

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

DL: – Exposure, education, and not being afraid to give them a taste of quality. Kids are just trying to identify what they like so you need to offer them quality music. As a teach, I try and program music for my students that connects with them, but also challenges them to reach out and try new music. Everyone deserves to play Basie, Ellington, Mulligan, Jerome Kern, and all the other greats. Looking for what is new and hip is just a chore, give them something time tested so they know how great the music is.

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

DL: – I am not really a spiritual person. To me music is community. It is friends getting together to make art, share stories, make memories, put people in the right place. I just like being around musicians and working with them. That is what gives me energy to play.

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

DL: – I wish folks would seek the best in music, not just what is popular. I don’t look down on any form of music, but highly repetitive music and samples are just lazy. If you like someone’s music, hire a drummer and recreate it. If you want to play someone’s song, don’t do a “Cover,” make your own arrangement and pay ohmage to them. Put more work into the music.

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

DL: – I have been checking out a few new cats, Cory Weeds is one. I actually try and listen to random things a lot just to keep fresh. I don’t have tons of time to listen to music so I want to get a feel for what is going on in the wider world.

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

DL: – Fun. Pure and simple. Enjoy yourself. Breath. Party. Relax. Just be free.

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

DL: – 1947 New York. I want to be there as “Modern Jazz” took off and hop on that train.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

Take Five with David Larsen article @ All About Jazz

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