Jazz interview with jazz saxophonist, fluteist and claritenist Alexa Tarantino. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.com: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?
Alexa Tarantino: – I grew up in West Hartford, Connecticut and became very interested in music because the local school system excelled in jazz education. I had great teachers, mentors, and peers who inspired me at that young age.
JBN: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?
AT: – I first fell in love with Phil Woods’ sound, along with Charlie Parker and Cannonball Adderley. I then became enthralled with the sounds of Dexter Gordon, Joe Henderson, Wayne Shorter, Dick Oatts, and Kenny Garrett. I played along with their records, transcribed their solos, did lots of long tones (I still do all of these things!). I will always be working on my sound but the above influences played a huge part in my inflections, colors, and tone.
JBN: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?
AT: – I make sure to practice long tones, overtones, altissimo/range, scales, patterns, and vocabulary/repertoire in all 12 keys. In terms of rhythm, I like to give myself different parameters/challenges when I’m working on a tune to try to expand my rhythmic approach.
JBN: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?
AT: – It’s amazing to see/hear all the different approaches to music and jazz. When I’m focusing on sound/composition/improvisational approach, I listen to and transcribe those who I gravitate towards most. Otherwise, I’ll listen to new music/unfamiliar music on a walk/car ride/etc, not necessarily in a practice session.
JBN: – How do you prepare before your performances to help you maintain both spiritual and musical stamina?
AT: – I try to be well-rested, prepare to the best of my ability, to meditate, drink tea, and just take a few breaths beforehand.
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JBN: – And how did you select the musicians who play on the album?
AT: – Posi-Tone actually selected the band. They had the opportunity to record a few albums safely at Acoustic Recording in Brooklyn NY, but it required limited personnel changes. So they offered me a session with the band already set. I was grateful I had worked with most of them before and am big fans of all of them.
JBN: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
AT: – It depends on what mood you’re in! I think it’s always better to emote, sing, etc and tend to lean towards melodic/lyrical playing.
JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?
AT: – It’s important to me that audiences have an experience, and that they feel that we are all in this together. I love to hear that my music moved someone or made their day. You can’t please everybody but I do love to interact with the audience.
JBN: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
AT: – The recording session was very fun because it was my first time performing with a group like that in several months, due to the pandemic. Each time we did a take I would cheer and the guys would laugh 🙂 We had many hilarious moments of coming up with little jokes, songs, quotes, etc and were very happy to reunite in the studio.
JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?
AT: – Give them an instrument 🙂
JBN: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?
AT: – I think many, if not all of us, who create music/art would say that it is their purpose in life, and the reason that they are on this planet. It is a beautiful thing. John Coltrane is someone that I greatly admire for his commitment to his craft.
JBN: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
AT: – Hmmm if we could teleport from place to place that would assist greatly with touring and travel delays!
JBN: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?
AT: – Bird
JBN: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?
AT: – To encourage others to stay positive, come together as a community, and appreciate life!
JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?
AT: – Italy. Two summers ago I was able to travel for a month with some of my favorite people. I miss that! And I would love to time travel back to watch my heroes perform.
JBN: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself…
AT: – Question for your readers/listeners: how has the pandemic changed your view or appreciation of music? How will you choose to enjoy/experience music moving forward (live, streamed, audio recordings, etc)?
JBN: – So putting that all together, how are you able to harness that now?
AT: – I just try my best each day to move things forward. Sending good vibes to all and thanks for reading!
Interview by Simon Sargsyan