Jazz interview with jazz saxophonist Alexis Avakian. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?
Alexis Avakian: – I grew up in Marseille, in the south of France.
My parents and grand parents were from different countries but armenians.
My mother used to play the Canun and she gave me the passion of the music very soon.
JBN.S: – What got you interested in picking up the saxophon? What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today? What made you choose the saxophon?
AA: – I began with the piano a the age of 9 and then i played guitar.
When i tried the saxophon i felt a very special feeling, maybe the fact of breathing.
I loved also to touch the instrument.
You know its completly different.
My first teacher was an armenian sax player from Marseille, Edmond Hosdikian. I think he gave me the freedom of the improvisation, because he used to play more free jazz… after that I took lessons with a very famous french saxophonist Eric Barret, he played with Roy Haynes. He teaches me standards and more blues forms, jazz licks and paterns.
Then I took few lessons with different guys like Sylvain Beuf, Grant Stewart … and with the great master Jerry Bergonzi from Boston, who is a good friend now and very good person.
JBN.S: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?
AA: – You know I practice every day, I play the flute also.
To me its very important to listen the masters John Coltrane, Dexter Gordon, Sonny Stitt, Charlie Parker, Lester Young and many more.
And to compose music.
Then maybe you can find your own sound.
JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?
AA: – I play tunes, in different metrics.
I practice and transcribe master ´s solos.
I practice Triads, Paterns, Scales … Blues in different keys, tunes in different keys.
JBN.S: – Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now?You’re playing is very sensitive, deft, it’s smooth, and I’d say you drift more toward harmony than dissonance. There is some dissonance there, but you use it judiciously. Is that a conscious decision or again, is it just an output of what goes in?
AA: – I love Coltrane changes minor 6 chords and diminished.
But also a mix of 2 triads over 1 chord.
I use that to play dissonances.
JBN.S: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?
AA: – I try to recreate those emotions that I feel when I listen the Armenian Folk music.
The Melancoly, the deep sadness sometime, the joy.
And something very serious, like Beethoven maybe, not like entertaining music.
And I try to give the color of this folk music but with the modern sound of these jazz instruments.
JBN.S: – What do you love most about your new album 2019: <Miasin>, how it was formed and what you are working on today.
AA: – I love the compositions with 3 different voices and sounds.
The duduk the Tar with Sax.
The traditional instruments with jazz instruments.
I write my music on piano and i m singing.
Now i have in mind to make an album with an armenian traditional big ensemble and play the Coltrane ´s music.
JBN.S: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
AA: – I really dont know the balance but When i play I dont like to think, i prefer to let me feel the sound and the rythm, the energy of the music.
JBN.S: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?
AA: – No I give to the people what I can do, what im able to give.
JBN.S: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
AA: – What can I say …
Haha maybe that ! when we are touring my bassist and I practicing boxe together, running.
But I dont really have funny thing to share.
JBN.S: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?
AA: – To the better thing its to see live music, because its completly different with an album.
JBN.S: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?
AA: – I think he was a very special man, very deep and soulfull.
But to me its a real lifestyle and passion.
JBN.S: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
AA: – Make programators more able to respond …
And clean those dirty radios.
JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?
AA: – Walter Smith III, Aaron Parks, Mark Turner, Ben Wendel, Kurt Rosenwinkel … Joe Lovano, Bergonzi…
JBN.S: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?
AA: – Cultures, Emotions, Spirit.
JBN.S: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?
AA: – In the 50’, to listen Charlie Parker, Monk and many more.
And maybe meet Bach in 18 century.
JBN.S: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself…
AA: – If I come in Boston can i meet you?
JBN.S: – Thanks for answers. Yes, of course, to Worchester, MA – 10.04. 01.06. 2019.
JBN.S: – So putting that all together, how are you able to harness that now?
AA: – You mean your questions?
Interview by Simon Sargsyan