May 23, 2024

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Interview with Wayne Escoffery: Life is exploration, learning, experiencing joy, sadness, hate and surviving through it all: Video

Jazz interview with jazz saxophonist Wayne Escoffery. An interview by email in writing. 

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

Wayne Escoffery: – Born in London England. Lived in Montreal, Miami, Atlanta and was raised mostly in New Haven, CT. Mother played Reggae, Soul and Classical music in the house and that got me interested in music. At 11 I joined a professional boys choir.

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?

WE: – Heard the saxophone in elementary school. Found love for jazz through The Educational Center for the Arts and The Neighborhood Music School both in New Haven. My early teachers were local musicians, Malcom Dickenson, Chris Herbert, Gary Burton, Barry Marshal. In High-school I met saxophonist Jackie Mclean and he pushed my playing to new heights and gave me direction and an understanding of the history of the music. I consider him my main mentor.

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

WE: – My sound has matured and continues to mature over time. Transcription and trying to emulate other saxophonists is the way I developed my sound. I have played along with hundreds of saxophone solos. I have also spent much time doing long-tones using Jackie McLean’s methods. I also do lots of listening and have a desired sound in my head and in my ears. You can’t have a sound unless you hear it in your head first.

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

WE: – I spend much time every day playing scales and arpeggios VERY slowly. I then spend an equal amount of time playing scales and arpeggios at a VERY fast tempo, but I always practice slowly for several hours first. I don’t have specific exercises for rhythm. My rhythmic concept is driven by my ears and having internalized the phrasing on Monk, Sonny Rollins, Charlie Parker, Gene Ammons, John Coltrane and others. Any specific rhythmic exercises I might devise are usually from newer compositions that I am learning from composers like Tom Harrell, Amina Figarova, Johnathan Blake or whomever else I might be working with at that time.

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

WE: – I don’t think in this way, I play music, not patterns. I don’t focus on certain harmonies or patterns. I try to maneuver through and around the harmony while creating melodies along the way with no preference as to what patterns I may or may not use.

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

WE: – Best?! No such thing. Billy Childs’ album “Rebirth” is really nice

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

WE: – Same as life, one should always complement the other. Ying and Yang.

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

WE: – Saxophonist Houston Person.

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?

WE: – Don’t focus too much on the business aspect, focus more on the content of the music. Be true to the art and your music. Have integrity and work hard to sound as good as you possibly can. If you play great, and have unwavering integrity in your art, the business side will fall into place and you will learn what you need as you excel.

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

WE: – EVERYTHING is a business.

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

WE: – Studying with Jackie McLean, being a member of the Mingus Big Band for 18 years and being a member of the Tom Harrell Quintet for 10 years have been the most important collaborations and experiences for me.

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

WE: – Expose young people to live versions of the music by bringing them to concerts and bringing live music to them. Play the standard tunes NOW with new arrangements. Make NEW songs … standards.

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

WE: – Life is exploration, learning, experiencing joy, sadness, hate and surviving through it all. Music and all art is supposed to tell that story of life and provide a gateway of spiritual awareness to the listener.

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

WE: – Not knowing if I will survive another day, week, month or year brings me some fear and anxiety, but that fear and anxiety is also a huge source of motivation.

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

WE: – Fees.

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

WE: – Expanding Black Art Jazz Collective and its contributions to music and society.

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

WE: – Jazz is world music and America’s folk music.

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

WE: – I listen to everyone, dead and alive.

JBN.S: – What’s your current setup?

WE: – Ted Klum mouthpiece. D’Addario Reeds 3 soft filed. Super Balanced Action Tenor.

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

WE: – 1960 NYC. I want to meet civil rights leaders, I want to hear John Coltrane, Miles, Sonny Stitt, live and have the opportunity to hear and play with my Jazz heroes.

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

WE: – Can you get my quartet and Black Art Jazz Collective booked on ALL major festivals globally for 2019 & 2019? Can you lend me 1,000,000 USD? I’ll give it back to you later.

JBN.S: – Thanks so much for answers. Yes, of course, but you answers about jazz: EVERYTHING is a business, but when we offered you to compose your new disc advertising our website, you answer: I don’t deal with promo. Then how do you know that jazz is a business? When at least for you specify jazz is art or business, then we will give you 1,000,000 USD and without return. Аnd if for you jazz is business, why advertise your new CD without money. And only for jazz business in 2019 nothing can be done!!! All the best 🙂 !!!

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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