May 27, 2024

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Interview with Rudresh Mahanthappa: We’ve been waiting for the dust to settle for a long time now: Video

Jazz interview with jazz alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa. An interview by email in writing.

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

Rudresh Mahanthappa: – I grew up in Boulder, Colorado.  My brothers and I were always encouraged to try everything.  We played recorder in elementary school music class.  I loved it and asked my mother for private lessons.

JBN.S: – What got you interested in picking up the saxophon?

RM: – My older brother played clarinet.  He always said that the guys in the jazz band looked like they were having more fun than the orchestra.  He also said that the baritone saxophone could shake the entire room.  I was sold! I was also only 9 or 10 years old. The figners for the saxophone are essentially the same as those of recorder so it was an easy transition.

JBN.S: – What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today? What made you choose the saxophon?

RM: – The greatest teacher I ever had was my first teacher Mark Harris.  He always emphasized having a unique voice and music personality.  Much of the way I think about music with regard to both aesthetics and practice comes from him.

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

RM: – With Charlie Parker as the exception, I was always more fascinated by tenor players.  I never wanted to play tenor but I wanted to have tenor sort of quality to my sound and approach.  I was also very much influenced by the sounds of the double reeds instruments of North and South India.

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

RM: – I wish I had one.  I do a lot of work away from the instrument.  WE can work on music anywhere.  Riding the bus, standing in line at the grocery store, etc.

The reality is that I rarely have time to practice between marinating my career, running the jazz program at Princeton, and chasing two small children.

JBN.S: – Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now?

RM: – That’s a strange question.  I have no idea.

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?

RM: – Always be kind and humane.  Always strive to be unique and completely original.  Possessing all of these qualities will not go unrecognized.

JBN.S: – Аnd furthermore, can jazz be a business today or someday?

RM: – I’m not sure what you mean.  Jazz is a business.  I wish more musicians treated it that way.  We often put ourselves in difficult situations and undersell wht we to have offer in ways no “business person” ever would.

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

RM: – I don’t think the issue is the age of standards. The issue is the way in which this music is being presented.  Standards can be presented in contemporary and captivating ways.  It just required more thought.

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

RM: – I just try to get up each day and be the best person I can be.  That’s plenty hard enough.  That’s what is conveyed at the core of my music.

JBN.S: – What are your expectations of the future? What brings you fear or anxiety?

RM: – I’m hoping that there is a better understanding and clearer way forward regarding how music will be bought, sold, and transmitted.  We’ve been waiting for the dust to settle for a long time now.

I’m also excited to see what being at Princeton yields as time marches forward.  It’s been an exciting 1 ½ years so far.

Fears and anxieties? I guess I’m always worried having a 5 year old boy and a 1 ½ year old girl.  I’m also afraid of elevators.

JBN.S: – What’s the next musical frontier for you?

RM: – I’m not sure yet.  It would be fun to make a live trio album with bass, drums, and myself.

JBN.S: – Are there any similarities between jazz and world music, including folk music?

RM: – Lyricism and improvisation are universal.  Anything more requires writing a doctoral thesis.

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

RM: – Children’s movie soundtracks.

Happy Holidays! Best Wishes, Rudresh: Merry Christmas and Happy New year 2018 !!!

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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