June 21, 2024


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Interview with Patrick Brennan: Sound opens our imagination toward wonder & awe: Video

Jazz interview with jazz saxophonist Patrick Brennan. An interview by email in writing. 

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

Patrick Brennan: – Although I’ve lived almost my entire adult life in NYC, I”m  a Detroit native who got excited about the saxophone first by seeing Eddie Harris on television when I was very, very young. I was energized by the way he went after the sound. He showed a way I wanted be. I played trombone, guitar & bass viol in school & didn’t actually get to a saxophone until I was 17. Rahsaan, Dolphy, Coltrane, Monk & Ayler had opened my ears. Ornette demonstrated a social & compositional model that articulated a model of the human worth living. How I then became serious about doing music, what I found myself doing, & how I learned how to persist at it, are, however, much, much longer stories.

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

PB: – One’s sound is the aural face one presents to oneself & the world, & in practice, it’s also a specific physical sensation.  There have been sounds of other musicians (not all of them saxophonists by any means), who showed me aspects of the sound that I wanted to resonate to.  There are also sounds one absolutely does not want to identify with. Both shape direction. One’s own sound also derives from practical experience: what kind of sounds cut through to a presence to oneself & which best project a shaping force within an ensemble & speak to a listener. Compositional sound beyond one’s own instrument evolves similarly but is also more complicated in terms of sources.

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

PB: – Practicing is analogous in many ways to a painter’s studio.  Sound maintenance is like stretching the canvas from scratch each day. Air, the optimal positions & pressure, are permanent works in progress, as is intonation. For a good while now, I’ve used drones to fulcrum attention in this area.

Timing is complicated because there are so many perspectives from which this can be experienced, & not all of them are reliable.  There are gaps between impulse, reaction, measurement, articulation, anticipation, estimation, perception, coordination & actual realization. Attempting to maintain all of these modalities simultaneously best approaches the kind of integration of intuition & action that will allow for fluid & clear rhythmic articulation.

Practice is also the rehearsal of ideas.  This is like looking at the canvas to see more of what might be there.  The overall goal is absolute flexibility & readiness.

JBN: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?

PB: – Not even an issue.  Those other sound bodies are partners in a conversation against which we can define our specific point of view.

JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?

PB: – Audiences bring an expectancy that gives music an occasion to emerge.  Musicians’ responsibility is to the sound’s emergence, & that sound also has its own ideas & integrity.  There’s nothing wrong at all with instances of music exclusively playing entertainer.  However, music’s range also reaches beyond that particular role.  It’s no less a vehicle of research, discovery & revelation, which, in taking a listener into something yet undefined, would be more than what someone could want in advance. But, no matter what, you’re always fomenting a relationship.

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

PB: – Most standard tunes are already over 60 years old! It’s become really easy to forget that. But, finally, it’s young people’s own decision whether or not to be interested in jazz. Jazz is not a set of tunes, anyway, & it’s actually much more than just a musical style (something that keeps changing anyway). It’s an attitude & way of being, which happens to also have an indispensible history.  If that’s meaningful for people, they’ll listen. If that doesn’t interest them, they’ll do whatever else they’ll do. Whether young or old, this makes no difference.

To be heard, this music depends most on a particular way of listening.  It’s extemely person centered.  Each player acts as a composer, a specific voice, and then there’s the way all those players interact, which together assembles the music. It’s not a sonorous object per se that’s being produced, but a very particular kind of drama, a kind of non-verbal aural theater that isn’t completely unique to jazz at all, but it is more foregrounded here that just about anywhere else, because if you take that part out, it ain’t jazz no more.

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

PB: – Recently, traditional Ghanaian percussion & some Highlife, El Camaron de la Isla with Paco de Lucia, solo Cecil Taylor, Billie Holiday in the 50s — especially with Ben Webster, Hector Lavoe with Willie Colon, 60s Monk with Rouse, Dexter Gordon ballads, early Coltrane with Miles, Science Fiction period Ornette, Mingus’ Blues and Roots, some rumba cubano, a little Conlon Nancarrow…

JBN: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?

PB: – Sound opens our imagination toward wonder & awe.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

Patrick Brennan: Rhythms of Passion article @ All About Jazz

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