Jazz interview with jazz saxophonist Doug Stone. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.com: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?
Doug Stone: – I grew up in Peoria, IL. My mother was an elementary school general music teacher, vocalist, and pianist. My dad loved playing the trumpet and was an avid jazz fan. At an early age I was fascinated by Buddy Rich and Maynard Ferguson records. When I was 9 years old my dad took me to a Maynard Ferguson concert. I loved the concert and asked to begin taking saxophone lessons. The rest is history!
JBN: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?
DS: – I strive to have a sound rooted in the jazz saxophone tradition. I listen to and study the greats, Dexter Gordon, Hank Mobley, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, and the list goes on and on. Of course you can listen, study, and transcribe many great saxophonists, but there is only one you. Over time, your own way of hearing music, reflected through the lens of the great players you have studied, creates your sound. As you hear new things, play new tunes, meet new people, have new musical experiences, your sound is developed. And, that development continues throughout your lifetime! This is one of the joys of studying jazz improvisation.
JBN: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?
DS: – Sound development, long tone exercises (30-second exercise, The Hinge, others). Scales (learning scale types and intervals on those scales, books like “Around the Horn” and “Beyond the Horn” by Walt Weiskopf). Vocabulary development (“licks” and phrases in all keys and through chord progressions to tunes). Transcription (internalizing and studying solos by the greats). Detailed tune learning. When I don’t have time to cover it all, I have a very specific long tone routine and then I play a tune or two in all keys.
JBN: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?
DS: – I want disparate influences to color what I do! People, music, places, situations, family life – each day is filled with myriad disparate influences and I want to embrace them in my music, spirituality, and life. Of course, you have to have discernment to stay away from negative influences.
JBN: – How do you prepare before your performances to help you maintain both spiritual and musical stamina?
DS: – I try to do my long tone routine everyday. I strive to meditate, read, study, and pray everyday (usually unsuccessfully). I wish I ate well, but I tend to pursue my interest in junk food frequently. I have a wonderful wife, 4 young children, a demanding teaching career, and some other responsibilities. So, just getting to performances is sometimes a feat in and of itself! I just have to hope for the best once I am there!
JBN: – Ism is culled from a variety of lives dates with various performers over the course of a few years. Did your sound evolve during that time? And how did you select the musicians who play on the album?
DS: – I think a group’s sound always evolves while on the road. That is the entire purpose for touring. I am so thankful we captured the results of that evolution on tape! Bob Sneider, Mike Melito, Danny Ziemann and I played together a lot between 2009-2018 in Western New York. We where able to receive funding for a tour through Louisiana State University, where I currently teach, and the Eastman Community Music School, where I previously taught with Bob, Mike, and Danny. This band came together out of mutual respect for each other’s playing, a very neat thing!
JBN: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
DS: – This takes continual practice, thought, faith (in yourself and your fellow musicians), and luck. When the balance is right, everyone can feel it!
JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?
DS: – I want people to enjoy the music I play, but I can only play what I love and what speaks to me. I know many people who like the music I play. But I will never know the mind and heart of every single person, so I just try best to create an enjoyable experience with the skills and sensibilities I have.
JBN: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
DS: – I have played with thousands of amazing musicians in thousands of different contexts. I love playing music with and for people. Every day provides great musical opportunities. I teach a lot, so I have had some very profound teaching experiences. I have a Podcast called “Tenor Talk” in which I have conversations with tenor saxophonists who I know and admire. I would suggest listening to one of the Podcasts to get the feel of the types of experiences I enjoy with other musicians.
JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?
DS: – Everyday I teach young people who love jazz. Jazz can speak to all of us and is the foundation for so much music. This musical genre includes, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Horace Silver, Weather Report, Snarky Puppy, and Robert Glasper. If you can’t find something in there that suits your musical tastes, you may want to check your pulse!
JBN: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?
DS: – I love everything about John Coltrane. Before we came to earth, we were spirits. When we were born we received a body. The spirit and the body are the soul of a man or a woman. We are here on earth for the purpose of contributing to and creating families, we are here on earth to serve others, we are here on earth to develop our God-given attributes and talents, we are here on earth to be tried and challenged and to grow and be refined. When we have finished that work, we move onward and upward! And playing music is a really fun thing to do too!
Interview by Simon Sargsyan