May 23, 2024

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Interview with Kyle James: It feels like the next few years will be revolutionary in a lot of ways

Interview with saxophonist Kyle James. An interview by email in writing.

Dear readers, get to know more about our US/EU Jazz – Blues Festivals and the activities of our US/EU Jazz – Blues Association in the capitals of Europe, we will soon publish program for 2024, enjoy in the July – August – Brussels, Berlin, Prague, Warsaw, Sofia, new addreses this year, also in Amsterdam, Budapest and Liverpool.

JazzBluesNews.com: – First, let’s start out with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music. How exactly did your adventure take off? When did you realize that this was a passion you could make a living out of?

Kyle James: – I grew up in Des Moines, IA and have been interested in music ever since I could remember. My parents always had lots of different music playing in the house and were always very encouraging of my brother and I’s curiosity in it. It’s always been my main passion and something I wanted to pursue as a career.

OUR US/EU Jazz and Blues Festivals 2024

Our US/EU Jazz-Blues Association Festivals 2024 with performances by international musicians

OUR US/EU Jazz and Blues Festivals 2023

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

KJ: – Over the years I’ve taken lessons from a lot of amazing players and teachers who have helped me develop my sound from the beginning. Especially during my time at Western Michigan University, being able to play and collaborate with other hungry jazz students was vital to my development over the last few years.

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

KJ: – I try to stay consistent in what I practice, making sure to hit on all the things I need to improve on and develop. One thing I’ve done more recently is practising my long tones with drones instead of staring at a tuner. It helps me to train my ears just as much as my embouchure. Listening to records with intention is something I do often and helps me a lot.

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

KJ: – I’ve absolutely changed through the years. Especially during COVID my mental health went through a lot of different stages that affected my playing and my artistry greatly. There were times where I questioned if this path and lifestyle was for me, but eventually the flame was sort of rekindled which helped inspire my latest record and the work I’m doing now.

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

KJ: – My last year at Western was very compositionally focused. My teacher Dr. Andrew Rathbun is a phenomenal player and writer and helped me cultivate my writing style. I had a good amount of songwriting experience going into this project which helped me to base these tunes in emotion and feeling which I think resonates to the listener. The more intellectual aspects of the music for me were used to elevate that emotion.

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

KJ: – At this point in my artistry I’ve very much focused on my perception of the art. It’s not until I bring to a live performance when I take the audience’s perspective into greater account. The way I see it, the more personal my writing is, the more the listeners will be able to relate. So I try to bring as much honesty to my writing and playing as I can.

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

KJ: – I don’t think the age of the music is the reason why young people may tend to be disinterested in jazz, I think it’s all about the way we present it. Getting kids more involved with the music from an earlier age can be very beneficial, as well as providing the context and history of the music. Jazz is black american music and should be taught as such.

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

KJ: – That’s an intense question, and one I think we all try to answer everyday as we live our lives. I think music has the potential to heal a lot of wounds, and create a lot of joy and peace in the world unlike anything else.

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

KJ: – More respect to the actual musicians and composers who create so much of the music in the world. Monetarily as well as socially. It’s getting harder and harder for musicians to make a living solely on releasing and performing music, mainly due to the way the system is set up.

OUR US/EU Jazz and Blues Association 2023

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

KJ: – Immanuel Wilkins is a constant inspiration on my instrument. Recently I’ve been listening to Samora Pinderhughes, Joel Ross, Cecile McLorin Salvant and Roy Hargrove. I’ve also been listening to a lot of 90’s music ranging from trip hop to new wave.

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

KJ: – I would go ten years into the future to see how we as a species have coexisted or conflicted, how we have hopefully worked to deal with climate change, and what roles music is playing in those processes. It feels like the next few years will be revolutionary in a lot of ways and I’m very intrigued to see how we’ll deal with it.

 

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Interview by Simon Sarg

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