May 24, 2024

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Interview with Steve Davis: The music always feels like a form of meditation: Video

Interview with jazz trombonist Steve Davis. An interview by email in writing. – First, let’s start out with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music.  How exactly did your adventure take off? 

Steve Davis: – I was born in Worcester, MA and raised in Massachusetts and Binghamton, NY. My family always enjoyed listening to music in the home, in the car. My Nana (grandmother) and Grandson (grandfather) each loved jazz and played instruments as a hobby. My nana was actually a very talented semi-professional pianist. My grandson played trumpet. My father had lots of jazz records… Blue Note records… Lee Morgan, Horace Silver, Art Blakey, Dexter Gordon, etc. I was lucky to grow up with many talented musicians in Binghamton, NY and had very supportive music teachers, as well. We played, jammed and listened a lot!!! Slam Stewart lived in our hometown toward the end of his life and played in the local schools. I then attended the Hartt School in Hartford, CT in the mid-late 1980’s and studied with Dr. Jackie McLean which was a hugely influential period in my musical development.

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JBN: – How has your sound evolved over time? What have you been doing to find and develop your own sound?

SD: – I love the trombone and listening t the great masters including JJ Johnson, Curtis Fuller, Slide Hampton and many others. Yet, I have never been limited to the instrument itself. I have been equally influenced by the great trumpeters, saxophonists, vibraphonists, pianists, bassists, drummers and singers. The music is a language and I enjoy finding my own way of expressing things, discovering my own musical voice.

JBN: – What routine practices or exercises have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical proficiency, in terms of both rhythm and harmony?

SD: – I try to be sure to play the trombone at least 30-45 min. every day… long tones, lip slurs & flexibilities, scales & arpeggios. Hopefully, there is time to practice a few hours each day? When I was younger and had fewer life responsibilities, I practiced for many hours each day. I’ll play a phrase and then move it through all twelve keys. Then play another variation or extension of that phrase… 12 keys… etc. Linear ideas, more arpeggiated ideas, inversions, different shapes through various chord qualities. I love playing chords on the piano, as well. Listening is always important. I spend time learning and revisiting standard tunes, as well as composing and arranging new ones. I also play classical repertoire sometimes… Rochut Etudes and Bach Cello Suites.

JBN: – Have you changed through the years? Any charges or overall evolution? And if so why?

SD: – Sure, I suppose we all develop and change somewhat over the years. In other ways, I play remarkably the same over the years! I think it’s more growth than change…. just adding to your musical vocabulary and discovering new techniques on the horn, as well as refining what you already have going. I’m trying to play with more economy and efficiency… more relaxed and focused intensity.

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JBN: – In your opinion, what’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

SD: – The music we play, as improvisors and creative musicians, is a balance between the mathematical/ scientific part of the brain and the creative/emotional part. There are many formulaic aspects to playing a solo, along with the spontaneous. Then there are one’s emotions which can very clearly be felt through the music. It’s all in woven together in our musical expression, each time we play.

JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; are you okay with delivering people the emotion they long for?

SD: – Absolutely! It’s important to always remember that although musicians enjoy and need to play music together, ultimately we play for the people. That’s our job. Without the audience listening… without their energy, it doesn’t much matter what we play?

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

SD: – We have to play all kinds of repertoire, classic jazz standards, American songbook standards… sure! Also, we must play new, original compositions. All of it… it’s all interesting to me as I’m sure it is to any young, developing jazz musician!

JBN: – John Coltrane once said that music was his spirit. How do you perceive the spirit and the meaning of life?

SD: – That’s a deep question. I would agree with the great John Coltrane in that music provides a spiritual means for us to communicate, to connect with and express our deepest, purist inner-self. The music always feels like a form of meditation, and when playing together for an audience, a communal, spiritual endeavor, for sure.

JBN: – If you could change one single thing in the musical world and that would become reality, what would that be?

SD: – All musicians would be considered, valued & supported more in every nation.

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

SD: – Lots of music… I tend to go back to many classic jazz recordings because there is always so much more to learn & enjoy from each of them. At the same time, I enjoy listening to new, recent recordings in jazz and any kind of music. Classical music. Blues & Soul R&B music. Latin & Afro-Cuban music. Hip-Hop… Almost anything, really. I do always LOVE Horace Silver & Lee Morgan records, though! Dexter Gordon! Cedar Walton & Hanks Jones Trios. Miles. Trane. Rollins. Stitt. JJ Johnson, Curtis Fuller & Slide Hampton records!

JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine: where and why would you really want to go?

SD: – 1959 in NYC would be pretty cool, huh? Late 50’s-early 60’s in NYC… at least musically!

JBN: – So far, it’s been me asking you questions, now may I have a question from yourself…

SD: – THANK YOU for your patience, Simon! I appreciate you asking me to do the interview!!! Best Wishes to you & your readers!!! – Stevie-D

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

Note: You can express your consent and join our association, which will give you the opportunity to perform at our Jazz and Blues festivals, naturally receiving an appropriate royalty. We cover all expenses. The objectives of the interview are: How to introduce yourself, your activities, thoughts and intellect, and make new discoveries for our US/EU Jazz & Blues Association, which organizes festivals, concerts and meetings in Boston and various European countries, why not for you too!! You can read more about the association here.

Steve Davis - JazzTimes

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