Interview with Joe Dyson: Intellectual elements are always there for analysation: Video

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Jazz interview with jazz drummer Joe Dyson. An interview by email in writing. 

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

Joe Dyson: – I was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. At an early age, music surrounded my life. My family is heavily involved in church. My Grandparents, Father, uncles, aunts, sister, and cousins, all grew up playing, and singing in the church. My father played organ for many churches. Some of my earliest memories are sitting next to him on the organ just watching in amazement as he moved around the keys with such style and ease. He would glide up and down the organ all while singing and directing the choir.

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

JD: – I don’t necessarily think my sound has changed. Moreso, through experience, my approach has evolved. I’ve learned that each band brings a different set of artistic nuance. As a drummer, my job is to embody these characteristics, and help them orchestrate their vision. The bands I have played, toured and recorded with, have all expanded my approach to music. Sound is such a personal thing. However, sound, with no vision, will always be relegated to another’s vision.

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

JD: – My practice routine consists of critical listening. With limited space and time to physically touch the instrument(s), I spend most of my time listening to music. Every vantage point is imperative. “I ask the great questions; how, why, what, when, & where.” – Alvin Batiste. This allows me to get closer to what the players and artists are constructing and creating. It’s almost like reading a book, or studying recipes. You develop a collection of vocabulary, phrases, stories, and tools you can use.

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

JD: – As an artist, when you have great love for something, it shows. It is the combination of our influences that help develop our sense of sound or style. The more information you have, the more diverse your output will be. If you limit the amount of information you have, you won’t have the option available. The great Clark Terry described the creative process best; Imitate, Emulate, Innovate.

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

JD: – “Everything starts with a breath.” – Nick Payton.

Becoming aware of my breath, finding a quiet place, and stretching has always worked for me. It helps heighten my senses yet remain calm and in control of my spiritual, mental, and physical output.

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

JD: – For me, I think the balance comes from how one aligns the pairing. No matter how rigorous a song may be, it is important that it still feels natural as watching the sun rise and set. Intellectual elements are always there for analysation. It’s important that our music doesn’t always come across as complex equations waiting to be solved by our listeners. If we can manage the macro view of how the music is being received, and the micro view of detail, then our music will have a healthy balance.

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

JD: – I am okay with making sure my audience is enjoying their experience. There is a healthy balance that exists where audiences are given an unique experience by the artist that enlightens, enlivens, and renews their spirits. I’ve been blessed to apprentice under great band leaders that are highly capable of intuiting the audience needs and wants. From Donald Harrison, Dr Lonnie Smith, Christian Atunde Adjuah, and Nicholas Payton, they all hold the key of “reading the room”, taking in the energy, and manipulating it to yield successful results. This is a lost art.

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

JD: – One of the fondest memories that comes to mind is an invigorating night of music at Snug Harbor Jazz Club in New Orleans, July 2017. I stood on the bandstand with all of my bandleaders! The bill was Dr Lonnie Smith Quartet Featuring Donald Harrison, Detroit Brooks, and myself. That night, Dr Lonnie was a river of creative brilliance. Every note flowed with such intensity that it poured over the whole band baptisting us in the soul of music. Donald would spew out sheer brilliance every song, right after Doc would create powerful masterpieces. It got so heavy, Nicholas Payton showed up to dive in! I had to pinch myself and take a mental snapshot of all of the incredible artists that were standing on stage. I have been blessed to be influenced by all of them. Nights like this don’t come often, when they do, you have to bathe in the moment, and hide it close to your heart.

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

JD: – I think part of the way we can get young people interested in the music is to make it relevant to their experience. There are plenty of artists who are writing music that are speaking to this social period of time. Without the connection between young audiences and artists that are creating now, there could be no future. The nature of this music is to incorporate social elements into the music. Even though there are some facets of the music that require preserving sounds and canons of music of our yesteryears, we must continue to create, and have our creations resonate with the people today.

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

JD: – My current understanding is that our spirit is forever. As we are only here in this physical world for an allotted time, we are here to show our love, passions, and joy, heartbreak, upsets, failures, triumphs, and vision. Whether it’s documented or not, the mere action of living out these human experiences, and sharing them, will help inspire others here now, and beyond.

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

JD: – I would like the context of Black American Music taught at the primary and secondary school level. This would help educate and highlight the contributions of Blacks in America to American Music, and the world over. Having this level of enrichment, initiates young minds to critically think for themselves; bring more value to their ideas, teach them to have respect for others; and remain open and curious.

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

JD: – I really appreciate the music that my peers and leaders are creating these days. There is a new renaissance of artists of all mediums that are putting out great work. Some names include: Joel Ross, Marquis Hill, Godwin Louis, Mike King, Marcus Gilmore Actions Speak, Sullivan Fortner, Javier Santiago, Mono Neon, Keyond Harold, Jennah Bell, Morgan Guerin, Gerald Clayton, Ben Williams, Braxton Cook, Cory Henry, Tayron Lockett, Christie Dashiell, Justin Brown Nyeusi, Linda Oh, Georgia Ann Muldrow, Melanie Charles, Helen Sung, Jazzmeia Horn, Brenda Nicole Moore, John Key Jr., L.E., Freelance, King Klave, Butcher Brown, Victor Gould, Nicholas Payton, Pedrito Martinez, Ralph Peterson, Zaccai Curtis, Edward Jackson, and many more.

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

JD: – The main message I want audiences to take away is learning the importance of self reflection. If one takes the spiritual conquest, they will come to know that you are worthy of your wildest dreams and ambitions.

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

JD: – I would like to travel to my hometown, New Orleans, LA between 1819- 1838. It would be fascinating to witness some of the moments that helped spawn American Music.

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

JD: – Is it all worth it?

JBN: – Yes, of course!!!

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

JD: – I stay on my path, and keep going through the process. A great lesson I learned from my mentor Donald Harrison, music is the gift that keeps on giving. When I was younger, I never understood the sentiment, but as I began to work, and discover more, I realized the blessing in the statement. As artists, on our journey, it is great joy that we are continuously after the inconceivable art of life.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

Roberto Cifarelli - Joe Dyson

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