Jazz interview with jazz drummer Jae Sinnett. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.com: – When you improvise, you know where you’re going. It’s a matter of taking certain paths and certain directions?
Jae Sinnett: – I grew up near Pittsburgh Pennsylvania in a small town called Donora. About 30 miles south of the city. Great small community. I found a photo or me a few years back holding drum sticks and banging away on a drum pad while watching the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show as a very young boy back in February of 1963 so drumming was definitely on the menu that far back. Of course, I couldn’t intellectualize the seriousness of it at that age but that’s when this passion started.
JBN: – What got you interested in picking up the jazz drumming? What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today? What made you choose the jazz drumming?
JS: – I’ve always been interested in and felt rhythm. It’s in all our souls. How we walk, chew our food, breath, etc. I just followed my natural instincts and developed those sensibilities…with sticks. The sound of the drums too I found appealing. So primal and organic. I didn’t have formal teachers until I was an adult and in college. Studied with the great John Linberg at Norfolk State University. I learned from other young drummers growing up. I was in the high school band and we had some great drummers there. They would show me technical things, but they weren’t formal lessons. I started out playing rock and old school funk and soul but over time I wanted more creative possibilities with the instrument and was introduced to jazz. That changed everything for me because I then realized the true possibilities of where you could take the instrument. Over the years I’ve been able to get incredibly beneficial pointers from greats like Tony Williams, Steve Smith, Jack DeJohnette, Jim Chapin, Vinnie Colaiuta and more.
JBN: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?
JS: – Your sound is developed over years. I got to a point where I stopped listening to other great drummers from the position of learning and emulating them. I listened to enjoy them and that’s when my focus became creating my ideas and concepts. You have to separate yourself from many of the artists you love. Their sound and ideas are so beautiful and addicting to you that it’s like kicking a habit. It must be done though because you’ll never figure out who you are as an artist if you don’t. Find your way of doing it.
JBN: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?
JS: – I play along with other records. That’s a great way to practice but by myself I like creating rhythmic or melodic themes to build around. Using different textures of the instrument. Movement. Different and challenging configurations in time and out of time. I practice playing in different meters, tempos, styles. Techniques, etc. You must vary your practice sessions because otherwise you become repetitive and your ideas don’t expand. I constantly challenge myself and listen to as much variety as I can in music. Not one style.
JBN: – How do you prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?
JS: – You simply have to trust and believe in what you’re doing and the people you’re working with. When you practice every day you gain perspective as to what’s inside of you. Practicing also teaches you how to manage what you’re developing. You’ll soon know if it’s you or if you’re playing ideas from your subconsciousness. It’s all about process.
JBN: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
JS: – About 70% soul and 30% intellectual. Always more from the heard than the mind.
JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?
JS: – We play first and foremost to our desires and muses. If we do this to the best of our abilities, then the listeners will be musically fulfilled.
JBN: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
JS: – I remember playing on a gig in Texas and all the power went out. We ended up play an entire acoustic set in an outdoor setting. The audience was so quiet you could hear the proverbial pin drop. That’s was an amazing experience but very challenging to pull off. Particularly outside.
JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?
JS: – Through education channels and networking. Communication. Those of us that play and teach the music must make the effort to share what we know about this music in non-music circles. The general listener. Too often we’re preaching to the choir. We must find a way to reach the millennials and make them believe jazz is something worth their time and money. Give them a reason to believe that supporting jazz is cool. It’s hip. It’s enlightening and fulfilling. Fun too. It’s all in the messaging and where it’s directed. Social media can play a profoundly significant roll in bringing this transformative message to their reach.
JBN: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?
JS: – It all comes down to how it makes you feel. I’m emotionally and spiritually empty without music in my life. Music performance is my purpose I believe. That has been defined to me in unique ways over time. A thought can make us happy or sad. The spirit of that thought is what shapes our souls in that moment. When you have a positive outlook on life and how you see yourself and are comfortable and prepare with your musical objectives, your spirit will uplift you.
JBN: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
JS: – That creativity could be better understood and embraced so artist wouldn’t have to think about what would be too advanced or artistically adventurous for an audience.
JBN: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?
JS: – I listen to a plethora of music…styles…artists. Not a few. I love to experience sophisticated creativity. The artist that perform for the art…not commerce as front and center. I love what Snarky Puppy is doing. The versatility. I love Vince Mendoza. Artists that swing. Yellowjackets. Classics. Classical. Opera.
JBN: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?
JS: – They we’re having a great time. That we’re serious artists that have put much time into perfecting our craft. We want others to enjoy what they hear in our music as much as we enjoyed creating it.
JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?
JS: – Electric Ladyland Studios to hear Jimi Hendrix. The vibe in that studio was probably amazing. Being in the studio experiencing the John Coltrane Quartet recording A Love Supreme. Can you imagine what that must have felt like being in there? They had no clue what it would become. They lived completely in that moment and that moment became timeless.
JBN: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself…
JS: – How do you determine what artists you want to feature or interview?
JBN: – We do interviews with those musicians who have released a new CD, but it depends on the musician – this interview is for him to crawl, or our.
JBN: – So putting that all together, how are you able to harness that now?
JS: – I’m blessed that I have the musicians I do working with me. They are incredible artists but most importantly, they are my best friends. We’re like a family. Making music together is what we do and what makes us happy. We want to continue to grow and showcase our abilities and keep the craft moving forward.
Interview by Simon Sargsyan