Jazz Interview with Jazz contrabassist Joe Sanders. interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music? How did you start playing?
Joe Sanders: – I was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I always had music in the house which happened to be blues music, especially on Saturdays when my grandmother would clean the house. In addition to blues my family frequented the church; there, the only instruments were drums and organ. One day I had an epiphany, what would the bass sound like here? That Christmas, after many months of asking, I was gifted an electric bass and started soaking up all the bass sounds I could, seeking out help everywhere I could find it.
JBN.S: – What interested you in picking up the jazz contrabass?
JS: – After starting the electric bass that Christmas, I was soon off to Arts Middle school. In the orientation they asked which major and minors we would like to choose; my first choice of course was music and the bass. That week after being introduced to the music teacher, he told me to go downstairs and choose a bass. My first thought was “I have a bass already, why do I need to choose one?”, my question was soon answered as I arrived in the orchestra room and saw at least seven String Basses on a large stand. After many years of orchestral training in school and the local youth symphony orchestra, I discovered jazz through a fellow bassist in the orchestra who showed me records, sheet music and also got me into the jazz band at school.
JBN.S: – What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the bassist You are today?
JS: – I feel all my teachers have contributed to my progress. I’m a firm believer of the “drop it in the bucket method”-with everything that someone teaches you, never disregard it as unusable, but to use and perfect it, as it may arise in the future as a building block to new learning. But the most influential were; Katherine McGinn, my very first classical bass teacher, who taught me the foundation of the instrument, Christian McBride, whom contributed not only to my bass development but the training of my ears as to prepare me for the NYC Jazz scene and John Clayton, he was one of those guides that I see myself emulating most, there was always an email in my inbox when I got home from the lesson telling me what we did in the lesson and what is due for the next weeks lesson, talk about preparedness and organization!
JBN.S: – How has the Blues and Jazz culture influenced your views of the world?
JS: – In many ways it brought me back to family values. The people whom you spend a lot of time with on the road become your brothers and sisters, and uncles and aunts to your children which makes the music even more familiar or even familial. This music has taken me all around the world and I’ve had so many opportunities to travel and see different cultures that have influenced my perception of music and our society.
JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability?
JS: – Being a husband and father doesn’t allow for much practicing these days, but I still do mental practices. As with my household growing up, we are listening to music, A LOT of music. But instead of listening like my wife or son would, I put an analytical cap on and investigate what’s happening, what makes this music unique? Whether it be the Blues, Samba, Classical or Jazz, it keeps my musical muscle working analyzing what key, tempo, rhythm, instrumentation or orchestration is being used in a certain piece of music.
JBN.S: – Many aspiring musicians are always looking for advice when navigating thru the music business. Is there any piece of advice you can offer to aspiring students or even your peers that you believe will help them succeed and stay positive in this business?
JS: – ALWAYS ASK QUESTIONS! Never feel bad or think that a question that you have is “stupid”. In my experience people love to share information of any kind and of any type. But the most important thing is what you do with the information. Do you learn and grow from it or does it lay dormant? Being an artist means that you are aware of the environment around you, in turn trying to adapt that awareness into knowledge and transforming that into your given art form.
JBN.S: – Аnd finally jazz can be a business today and someday?
JS: – Jazz has always had a business element associated with the music, but it’s one of those subjects that have never been widely discussed in a public forum. That’s why asking questions is an essential part of being a successful jazz musician.
JBN.S: – What do you miss most nowadays from the music of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?
JS: – I was born in 1984 so I really can’t really actually speak to the music of the past, I just try and listen and learn what came before me, as history always influences the future. I fear that the people running our worlds governments are going to further abuse their political agenda and not address the public need. I hope for an enlightened society, one which cares about others more than themselves. I also hope in some small way the music that me and my peers and others around the world use our music to help bring along enlightenment with our platform. This James Baldwin quote sums it up: Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.’
JBN.S: – What’s the next musical frontier for you?
JS: – This month, September 2017, I will be releasing a new album called ‘Humanity’ which features John Ellis on Saxophones and Bass Clarinet, Aaron Parks on piano and Eric Harland on Drums. This is my second release as a leader and am so happy to finally get new music out to everyone to hear and experience it. All the while continuing my sideman projects with the Gerald Clayton trio, the Ben Wendel Quartet and Logan Richardson’s Shift band, and delving into new projects and tours with the Dhafer Yousef quartet and the Lage Lund trio.
JBN.S: – Are there any similarities between the blues/jazz and the genres of local folk music and traditional forms?
JS: – The one similarity I can distinguish not being fully involved in a particular “folk music” is that all these musical forms come from a tradition, ideas and ideals passed down from generation to generation, not only for the musicians but also the listener.
JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?
JS: – Now I’m listening to as many different genres as much as I can. But am actually focusing my energies to checking out as many new releases from artists I’ve never heard of before and also of my peers. Outside of music I listen to a lot of podcasts, ranging from philosophy to sports which help keep me informed of subjects outside of music and to keep me entertained during all the flights.
Conversation led: Simon Sargsyan