May 21, 2024

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Interview with Lewis Jordan: We often lose sight of what we actually long for …

Interview with jazz saxophonist Lewis Jordan. 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 of? When did you realize that this was a passion you could make a living out of?

Lewis Jordan: – I grew up in Chicago and listened to a range of good music that my parents were into— blues, folk music, “jazz” and popular music—from Leadbelly to Woody Guthrie to Dinah Washington to the Platters; from Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry to Count Basie and Jimmy Rushing to Carmen McRae.

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We listened to music, but none of us could sing. I was steeped in music, but I grew up thinking music was what other people could do. The first “jazz” record I bought was Ahmad Jamal at the Pershing. The first “jazz” album that lit my fire, so to speak, was Charles Mingus’ The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady. The first performer that I realized was doing something that I needed in my life was Ornette Coleman. Listening to him, I grew to understand that there was a way to be honest in the world.

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

LJ: – I think my sound has evolved over time, just from playing, practicing and developing the craft through the years. What I listen for and what I want to play has not changed very much. Honesty in the music remains the priority. Although there are and have been many musicians whose playing I look/listen up to, I’ve never wanted to sound like anyone else. I’ve approached compositions as structures for expression, and I’ve approached improvisation as a call to explore.

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

LJ: – A long time ago it was impressed on me that playing long tones was fundamental to learning the saxophones. So, I am somewhat religious about that in my routine practices. Different exercises for developing and maintaining proficiency come and go. An exercise is a type of composition, and I am always interested in new compositions that get me to listen in fresh ways.

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

LJ: – I have changed my perspective. I used to avoid certain types of practicing that I thought at the time was only connected with certain types of musical performance which I wasn’t involved with. Over the years, though, I’ve become aware of how everything I hear and have heard is liable to present itself in an improvisational context. So, even if it’s just a passing gesture in reference to a certain style, I want to play that reference with clarity and authority.

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

LJ: – That is of course a very interesting question. I think I tend to want to discover and rediscover that relationship and balance time and time again.

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

LJ: – That is a hard question. I would first want to speak to the distinction between what people may want, emotionally or otherwise, and what people might long for. I think we often lose sight of what we actually long for and often settle for what might be more accessible. So, as a musician, yes, I want people to connect with the music I present, and I also want to feel free to present musical approaches that invite people to feel more deeply in the world. Sometimes, on a path to feeling more deeply we access emotions we have lost touch with.

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

LJ: – I don’t play standard tunes often. I do see it as a challenge to bring in young people when standard tunes are a major part of your repertoire as a musician. In general, I’m more interested in working with original material. In the sets I help craft, I want to find a combination of elements that keep all of our ears as fresh as possible. Sometimes a standard tune in the right context can be just the right element, but the emphasis isn’t on the standard tune being “the standard” for what the music is about.

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

LJ: – That is of course an enormous question. I think the best way I can answer it is to say that I strive everyday to perceive the spirit of life better. As for life’s meaning, on the one hand, I think that life itself is not about meaning, and on the other hand, living my life with honesty and love is the most meaningful to me.

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

LJ: – Because musical approaches evolve, there is some sense to speaking about modern music or older music. I don’t believe, though, that music itself changes. The way music touches so thoroughly deep inside of us has not changed and will not. So, one thing I would change in the musical world is to rid ourselves of the impression that music itself—not approaches to it—can be more or less modern.

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

LJ: – I continue to listen to whomever, and often whatever, I run into. Sometimes, I have an idea about something or somebody and go listening to check it or them out. I always want to listen fully. The music comes in that process.

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

LJ: – There are probably many trips I would want to take. Thinking about it at the moment, the most interesting to me would be to take a trip back to my younger self when I first heard and started listening to Ornette Coleman. His sound stood out to me because I felt that he had the bravery to stand naked in the world. The books I had been reading and the ways of relating to the world that I was developing were profoundly repositioned by realizing that someone, I for instance, could choose to be in the world more deeply.

JBN: – Do You like our questions?

LJ: – I like your questions because they invite me to say what I honestly think and feel. Often people ask questions only expecting superficial answers.

Interview by Simon Sarg

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.

Lewis Jordan & Music at Large — Musiquito Media

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