May 18, 2024

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Interview with Jorge Sylvester: It’s the magic of Imagination that is the key in bringing the young into this art form: Videos

Jazz interview with jazz saxophonist Jorge Sylvester. An interview by email in writing. 

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

Jorge Sylvester: – I grew up in the country of Panama, on the Atlantic side, in the City of Colon, Republic of Panama. Colon is considered the First City. My first exposure, and introduction to music was at 7 years old, in Elementary School, when in my home town, the City of Colon, I was selected to participate, in the creation of the very first Music Band ever in that school, and city. My interest in music was almost accidental, because before I was selected, they had asked to all the students to raised their hand if they will like to be part of that school band, and at that point I did raised my hand without knowing what was going to be the outcome…Did I was going to like it or not?… It was a process that involved a lot of studying for a long questioner of music theory, and you had to study, and therefore past the test, before been selected. Consequently I did pass this test with very high points, because during the time I was studying for that test, I did realized how much I was likening, and enjoying all of the information about Music Theory. From that moment on, I new music was my calling.

JBN.S: – What got you interested in picking up the saxophone? What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today? What made you choose the saxophone?

JS: – After been in my school music band, I’ve always knew that I wanted to play the Alto Saxophone. In the beginning of Elementary school, my music teacher Mr. Santamaria had picked me to start on the Eb Clarinet, but listening to, and seen the Saxophone in my Elementary School had always made me think about playing that horn. I did played the Eb Clarinet all the way, but when I entered into High School and beyond, I started to play the Alto, Tenor, Soprano, and Baritone Saxophones.  I played the Tenor and Bari all the way until 1980, the Soprano until the year 2003, (and one month in 2006) when I decided to just focus only on the Alto Saxophone, wish I’ve always wanted to do, but because of different working situations I had to play those other horns….just like in 2006 when I was hired to go on tour with The World Saxophone Quartet, and they needed me to play Alto and Soprano Saxophones for the Music of Jimmy Hendrix. At that time I did not owned a Soprano, but I borrowed one from a good friend.

My very first Alto Saxophone teacher was a gentleman by the name of Euclides Hall. He taught me everything I know today about this instrument. He was my foundation for the years to come. I studied with him privately in my home town 3 times a week. He was also a Jazz performer, and could transport in any key. He used to take me on to some of his Cabaret gigs accompanying various International singers and shows, and he will sit me right next to him, and show me how to read Syncopated music. I will also go with him to local Jam Sessions in Colon, and listen to him cut other players down. He was very competitive, and knew Music Theory Inside Out. He loved the challenge. He taught me tone production, sound, all about grouping, in terms of reading music and improvisation … connecting each notes, be it 8th  notes all the way into 32nd notes. He thought me Voice leading, how to approach Rhythm, and very much importantly, having a Big sound on the Alto Saxophone. For him everything was about the Sound…If you didn’t have a sound, you had nothing. His model was “You have to know what You’re doing”. My second teacher was Efrain Castro, at the National Conservatory of Music in Panama. He was very much about Sound and Interpretation. He was the 1st Oboe at the National Symphonic Orchestra and he travel  all over the world as a guest Artist. He also had a Big Sound on the Alto Saxophone. I study Classical Saxophone with him. I also took some other classical Saxophone training in Spain at the Madrid Royal Conservatory of Music, during the time I was living there, (1978), and that was mostly about embouchure technique.

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

JS: – Development of sound comes within years of playing the horn. I think I was very lucky to have a decent sound, from the time I put my hands on the horn. That doesn’t  happen with everyone. I worked on it by putting in the work, and that means days and days, and moths of very slow long tones. I study a lot out of the Sigurd M. Rascher’s Top-Tone for the Saxophone book, the famous Klose Saxophone book,  and many  other Etudes for Saxophones. I used these In conjunction with my own made exercises. I think as an artist you have to know what kind of sound you want, what kind of sound you hear, what is Your Voice?…What does it sound like?……In this Art Form, to me It’s all about having your own voice It’s about Individuality, and Expression.

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

JS: – Rhythm is who I’m … It’s all about the Rhythm. Rhythm, Melody, and then Harmony … Mr. Euclides Hall used to say: Music Is just Scales, Chords, and Intervals.

When it comes to Improvisation, I will say It’s all about Rhythm. Because I grow up listening to Caribbean Music, for me, my Rhythmic approach comes very easy, and naturally, but I still work on it, by listening, and analyzing every situation when I’m composing or Improvising. The drum is my model, and practicing Intervals within a rhythmic framework has helped me focusing when I’m “In the zone” during any improvising situation.

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

JS: – I work a lot on a Rhythmic-Melodic Intervallic Harmonic direction……At this point I don’t think “Changes”- I think “Textures, Sound and Rhythmic-Melodic Lines”= Harmony. I’ve practice your regular II V I patterns in every 12 keys. In 1980 when I first came to New York City, I took one lesson from Master Saxophonist George Coleman. It was a study of the blues, and a study of II V I saxophone patterns that serves me still today in terms of Ear Training and Technique. Very valuable information for Saxophone student.

JBN.S: – Which are the best jazz albums for you of 2017 year?

JS: – Unfortunately I haven’t listen to much of the 2017 CD releases, but I’ve played on a 2017 self produced, re-released CD by Vocal Artist Nora McCarthy entitle blesSINGS Nora McCarthy The People Of Peace Quintet, wish I’ll  definitely considered one of the best.

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

JS: – I personally think that It’s goes Hand In Hand. You have to have both. The balance has to do with everything, from Sound, Taste, Conception, and most of all: You have to Say something, It has to connect and It has to be meaningful, in other words you have to tell a story, you need to have your own voice. It’s like when you talk to someone, you have to be yourself, you don’t sound like anyone else.

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

JS: – One memory that comes to mind, was opening for a group in Sevilla, Spain: I was playing with a pianoless Quartet (Alto, Tenor, Bass and Drums) opening for The Timeless All Stars ( Alto Saxophonist Jackie McLean, Pianist Tete Montoliu, Vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, Bassist Herbie Lewis and Drummer Billy Higgins), and after Jackie McLean heard me, he said…. Man, you could work in New York City, you should go there…Now this was in 1983, right after I left New York, and went back to Spain, So I told him, man I was just there, and I left…He later said to me, man you have to go and stay..

My other memory, when I was at The Creative Music Studio in Woodstock, NY, was playing with drummer Ed Blackwell and Driving with him to the apartment where Charlie Packer Lived in Manhattan, NY.

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: – The only advice I can offer is to just stay focus on what you’ll like to accomplish as an artist, do all you can to be heard, and used all the possible promotional tools available to stay  current in the mix. This means going to all Jam Sessions, and keep on playing regardless.

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

JS: – In my opinion It is a Big Business, specially today much more than ever. Just the name “Jazz Education” makes it a Big Business. Furthermore all of the Institutions, and Corporations that are controlling this music today makes it a big business, but Jazz was first and foremost and always will be an Art Form….albeit and exploited Art Form, and wish some may think negatively in packs It’s essence.

JBN.S: – Which collaboration have been the most important experiences for you?

JS: – Working with Vocal Artist Nora McCarthy. We have a wide range of different projects from a Voice and Alto Saxophone Duet, to a 20 Piece Orchestra.

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

JS: – Great Works of Arts and Compositions never gets old…History endures the test of time, and so is art and music. Jazz Improvisation is in every aspect of our daily lives, even when It’s not noticeable by non musicians. It’s the magic of Imagination that is the key in bringing the young into this art form.

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

JS: – Creation … And that is they way I approach my music and life.

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

JS: – I expect to keep on creating, composing, and performing. At this point there’s no fear, but fear to not be able. Is the law of life and if we’re aware, they should be no fear or anxiety.

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

JS: – It would be guaranteed paid wages for Creative Jazz Musician, equal visibility in The Grammys for Jazz Musicians, and more Jazz Radio Stations that will play Avant-Garde Jazz on Prime Time.

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

JS: – The next frontier presents itself, when the time is right…

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

JS: – Yes there is. Jazz, World Music, and Folk Music are an entire family in many different ways. They’re all music coming from a common thread that is rhythmic pulse, and harmonic influence. What we called “world music “ and “folk music “ is nothing more than music developed by a people, coming from their cultural, and folkloric history. What we now called “jazz” is music that was developed by a people, coming from their cultural, and historical experiences. All of these similarities lies in the blues form, song forms and so on. In all different parts of the world there’s a similar aspect, or feeling of the blues.

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

JS: – Composer, and Multi Instrumentalist Eric Dolphy, Composer Ernst Toch String Quartets, and music by American Composer Charles Ives.

JBN.S: – What’s your current setup?

JS: – I play a Selmer Low A Alto Saxophone with an SR Technologies Mouthpiece Alto Legend L-85, a Vandoren V16 Read #4 with a Roberto’s Alto Sax wooden Ligature.

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

JS: – I’ll like to perform in Senegal, because of the richness of the cultural, and musical tradition, and also because of the direction that I’m taking with my music in experimenting with Afro Caribbean Music and Rhythms.

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

JS: – Do you play a musical instrument, if you do so, and what made you want to do a jazz interview of Jorge Sylvester?

JBN.S: – Thanks very much for answers. I don’t play musical instrument, with the musician wanted to do an interview when was his birthday and got acquainted with the musician and his music. Please see here: Jorge Sylvester

Interview by Simon Sargsyan


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