"The potential for the saxophone is unlimited." - Steve Lacy



Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Ten (10) Ways You Can Support the Music



Sheila Jordan
Jazz vocalist Sheila Jordan once said that at a certain point she decided to support the music, instead of worrying about it supporting her. I assume it was during a time when she was frustrated with the precariousness of the business. In some ways this takes the biblical verse “give and you shall receive,” a step further. She’s actually saying, “Don’t worry about receiving, just give.” This is a great a remedy if you've come down with a bad case of the me, me, measles. As artists we don’t always get in return what we give—at least what we think we should be getting back. 

And I imagine John F. Kennedy in the spirit of Sheila Jordan would have said, “Ask not what the music can do for you, but what you can do for the music."

Global Unity, Columbia/Sony 1999
I have to say, the times that I was the most focused on my career, trying to be competitive by maintaining a strong presence on the jazz scene, I was without a doubt, the most unhappy. I always felt I should be getting more. I worried about why my record company was supporting this person more than me, why the other person’s record got a better review than mine, why a particular group was booked on a festival and not mine. I had the me, me, measles and  the me, mebola virus. It was a downward spiral.  I was on Columbia/Sony records, mind you, I should have been on top of the world. And I was, for the first few months. But then the greed monster set in, and it was nothing but agony and frustration from that point on. 



The great thing about teaching is that I’m not spending every awaken moment thinking about myself and my career—which is a much healthier way to live life. If anything, it's just the opposite. I'm usually trying to find ways to squeeze some "me" time into my day. If you can imagine that.

So if you find yourself falling into this bottomless pit of always needing more from the music, here are some empowering ways by which you can pull yourself up by supporting the music, instead of worrying about it supporting you.


  1. Buy a friend’s CD. You can even buy it to give as a present.
  2. Go and check out other people’s gigs. And if you can't personally attend, tell others about it. 
  3. Write a costumer review of a CD that you like, instead of worrying about someone reviewing yours.
  4. Offer some words of encouragement to an aspiring young player. A few kind words can alter lives.
  5. Pay the cover charge at a jazz club instead of always trying to get on the guest list.
  6. Offer your services for a benefit. There’s always some type of fundraising effort going on to offset the medical costs for a musician who has taken ill.
  7. Give a free lesson to a young player who’s interested in what you do. It's not always about milking each encounter for it's financial potential.
  8. Produce a concert giving others a chance to present their music. There are plenty of granting organizations such as the Brooklyn Arts Council (BAC), Lower Manhattan Cultural Center (LMCC), and New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA), which funds these types of events.
  9. Form a support group of like-minded people.  It could be something as undemanding as getting together once a month to listen to some new CDs that you bought.
  10. And the best thing you can do to support the music, is to make sure everything you do is the best that you can do. If you’re adding something great to the pool, it will only enhance it.

Sam Newsome & Global Unity
featuring:
Elisabeth Kontomanou, voice
Natalie Cushman, voice percussion
Amos Hoffman, oud
Ugonna Okewgo, bass
Leon Parker, percussion
Gilad, percussion



Sunday, May 20, 2012

Are You Making Music or Art? The Litmus Test


As jazz musicians, sometimes it's good to remind ourselves that just because we play jazz, doesn’t automatically make us artists. That’s a misconception. I call this “great by association.” And it’s understandable why one would make this assumption.

You figure jazz is a musical art form; therefore, if one plays it, then he or she must be an artist. This is not necessarily so.

First of all, to understand my position, you must view jazz as a language. And as with any language, speaking it does not automatically make you a poet. Why? Because poets don't just converse, they take everyday words of a language, expressing them with a certain style, originality, and emotion, which turns these ordinary words into works of art--just as certain musicians do with the jazz language.

Throughout history, there have always been musical practitioners of the language, and musical poets. And simply put: practitioners use it to make music, and poets use it to make art.  And here’s a litmus test that I have put together which helps me to determine which one I’m making:

1.  Is the Music I’m Making Music I Want to Share? 
Artists have not only a burning desire to create their art, but an even bigger desire to share it. Whenever I discover something new, I’m always very excited and eager to share it with others. It’s great to be able to say, “Hey, check out this cool thing I came up with.” Not to mention, the process of discovery is a lot more fun.

And  I've noticed that CDs that I've made that were very artistic, and not necessarily great, mind you, I had no problems giving them away. And it wasn't me seeking peer approval, even though there's always some element of that in everything that we do, it was merely me saying, "Listen to this. I think you might find it interesting."

We are fortunate to live in a time where sharing our music and ideas is so much easier than at any other time during our history—especially with the accessibility of the internet, social networks, and technological advances that have made recording music so much easier and economical. A lot of what we struggle with today is just giving ourselves permission. Now that we don’t have the old record company paradigm with their gatekeepers deciding who gets picked and who doesn’t, we can now pick ourselves and take our ideas straight to the people.

2.  Is it Original? 
When music is art, it’s usually is. Which happens when artists challenge the status quo. Musicians who are artists have the unique ability to take disparate sounds and influences and human experiences and synthesize them into a unique form of musical expression--something that’s very specific to them. In some ways, they create a type of artistic brand; the more original the art, the stronger the brand.

If you look at all the great jazz musicians (and to borrow from marketing guru Seth Godin), “the only thing that they have in common, is that they have nothing in common.” Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, and Woody Shaw—the only thing that they have in common, is that they have nothing in common. Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, John Coltrane, and Dewey Redman—the only thing that they have in common is that they have nothing in common. Art Tatum, Bobby Timmons, McCoy Tyner, and Cecil Taylor--the only thing that they have in common, is that they have nothing in common.

Barry Harris once said in an interview that Thelonious Monk was someone who decided from day one he wasn’t going to sound like anybody else. Which reiterates what I said earlier. He simply gave himself permission to be an original.

3.  Does the Music Change People’s Perception of the Status Quo? 
Music that’s art changes people’s perception of what they thought was once the norm. Keith Jarrett's music changed our perception of the concept of solo piano. Ornette Coleman's music changed our perception of the importance of harmony. Larry Young's music changed our perception of the way that the Hammond B3 organ can be used. Bobby McFerrin's music changed our perception of the ways in which the voice can be used. Paul Desmond's music changed our perception of how the alto saxophone should sound. And the list goes on and on. This type of music has the inherent quality of making us say, "Oh, I never looked at it that way before."


Now it would be presumptuous for me to insinuate that only innovation is considered art, and everything else is not. That stringent sort of weaning process would eliminate a lot of greatness. This litmus test is just something I use to inspire fresh ideas and to help me think outside of the box. It keeps me from becoming artistically lazy. Who knows, maybe you have your own litmus test? Whatever methods you use to inspire yourself, just make sure the end result is,  yourself.

.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Kenny G and Wynton Marsalis: What Do They Have in Common?


Two of the most controversial musicians today, in my opinion, are Kenny G and Wynton Marsalis. If you ever want to form an alliance with someone in the jazz community, just start bad mouthing either one of these two guys and you’ll have several eager participants willing to join in on the bashing. Performers who are on top, at least as far as public perception, are always easy prey for this sort of thing.

And popular beliefs are that Wynton Marsalis is ruining jazz with his conservative agenda, and Kenny G is ruining it with his commercial one. Of course, both could not be further from the truth. However, besides being easy targets for critics, they actually have more in common than one might think. Hear me out.



1. They both have an affinity for blues.
You won't hear either one of these guys perform without constantly referencing the blues. The blues is the aesthetic fabric which lines everything that they do. Kenny G drawing more from R & B, which grew out of the loud and raucous electric blues period of the 1950s, whereas Wynton's influences stems from the softer, more sophisticated classic blues period of early 1900s--both being blues, nonetheless.


2. They both bring a sensuous quality to their music.
When you hear both of these guys play ballads, it's very obvious that they're playing for the ladies. Kenny G approaches slow songs like a balladeer, where it's all about romance and enticement--which is pretty commonplace in smooth jazz; however, in straight ahead jazz it has become sort of a lost art. Modern day musicians tend to be too preoccupied with complexity to play music in such a sensuous manner. Wynton differs from his contemporaries in this way. He's not afraid to go to that corny place where you sometimes have to go to woo them over.

3. They both have very recognizable sounds on their instruments. 
Even with all of the candy coating and reverb packed on to Kenny G’s sound, it is still, nonetheless, very recognizable. If I heard him on the radio, or in the elevator, for the matter, I have to say, I would probably recognize him after hearing only a few notes. Which is no easy feat. There are many straight-ahead players for whom I cannot say the same.

The same holds true for Wynton. For someone who's a big proponent of preservation over innovation, he has a pretty original and recognizable sound on the trumpet.  Even when he’s trying to play like Louis Armstrong, he sounds like Wynton playing Louis Armstrong. I imagine that’s why he has the confidence to do what he does.

4. They both really value connecting with the audience.
This would explain why they both like to present music in a way that’s very assessable—but in very different ways, mind you.

Kenny G’s music is very controlled, with his musicians having very defined roles. You don’t find a lot of the long improvised solos and chaotic band interaction typically heard in instrumental lead bands. It’s very similar to what you’d hear when musicians are backing up R & B or pop singers. I’m sure he picked up a thing or two playing with singers like  Celine Dion, Luther Vandross, and Michael Bolton. Also, atypical of an instrumental lead group, his recordings have little to do with documenting band chemistry, but are more about production. It’s all about taking popish sounding melodies and producing them as though the were being recorded by a pop singer. Hence, why he’s considered an adult contemporary saxophonist and not a jazz guy.  

Wynton's approach to making his music assessable is a lot more organic, of course. His band members, like Kenny G's, also have very defined roles. Swinging, however, is the main focus of his band--avoiding the post-modern complexity heard in most New York jazz clubs. Bass players are encouraged to walk quarter notes, instead breaking up the time; drummers are made to make lay down the groove with simplicity and mid-range volume, mainly focusing on the high-hat and ride cymbal, contrary to the loud rock influences you hear in a lot of modern players; and the soloists, no matter how virtuosic are encouraged to be economical with their language and facility, leaving more space for the music to breath and swing. Which of course, is not a bad thing.

5. They both became successful back in the eighties.
Kenny G and Wynton both reached levels of success back in the eighties in their respective genres that have gone unsurpassed. Since Kenny signed as a solo artist with Arista Records back in 1982, his recordings have consistently gone platinum. He's sold more records than pop singers--over 75 million, worldwide. Never mind worrying about another saxophonist trying to dethrone him.

Wynton's success, however, is not measured by multi-paltinum record sales, but historical significance and critical acclaim--even though at his commercial height, his records sales did give some of the smooth jazz guys a run for their money. Nonetheless, since winning Grammys in both jazz and classical categories in 1983, he has continued to reach a status level that none of his contemporaries have come close to.  And like Kenny G, the gap between them and their contemporaries widens as time goes on—which is rare with commercial success.


6. They both are unswayed by the opinions of other musicians.
Not caring what other musicians think is probably the admirable quality that these two share. I've never known either one of them to make decisions about their music to impress other musicians—which is a actually a good quality. Hell, Kenny G made a video with him performing beside Louis Armstrong. To many this was considered blasphemy; however, he seemed to care less. And he never made a straight ahead record with jazz all stars just to prove he can play. If he had, I’m not sure how good it would have sounded, but I imagine he would have scored big points for trying.

And many musicians would love to hear Wynton play more modern music. I’ve known plenty of musicians who’d wish he’d come to his senses and start playing music from Black Codes (From The Underground). But he could care less. That way of playing and writing is just not in compliance with his current artistic agenda. He’s traveling a different path, now.

After examining everything that these two have in common, let's remember the one major way that they differ is that Kenny G is a master entertainer, and Wynton is a master musician. Both being masters of their own domains.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Ask the Straighthornist: What Kind of Soprano Should I Buy?


Occasionally, I get asked questions about what type of soprano to get if you're just starting out. Here's one I recently received from pianist D C DowDell.

Pianist D C DowDell
"I'm thinking of buying a soprano sax. I'm a pianist and I play C flute. And although I taught myself the clarinet a few years back (then abandoned it) I have never played sax. I'm very interested in soprano sax and will teach myself, asking technique questions from those willing to share.

I thought you'd be a good person to ask - In your opinion, what is a good, pro model (not student model) to buy and where is a good place to buy it either new or used. I'm thinking I want a straight body and a bent neck."

- D C DowDell







          Hi D C, 
One of the reasons the soprano is so difficult to play is that most of them are so horribly made. The most consistent model is the Yamaha YSS-62 Soprano, which can be found online or at any high end music store that sells band instruments. But I recommend getting a saxophone player friend to try it out for you. You need someone who understands the idiosyncrasies of the instrument. And its really important to have a skilled saxophone technician give it a good look over. It could save you hours of unnecessary frustration.

As far as mouthpieces, I would start with either a Selmer, Vandoren, or Bari--they, too, are the most consistent. Just make sure the tip opening is not too wide. Reeds could be anything, as long as they are of moderate strength. Ones that are too soft and too hard makes the pitch go sharp.  I play RW reeds, which might be good for beginners, since they come in micro-sizes, which enables you to find something to tailor fit your needs. But reeds can be non-entity in the beginning stages. Find something that will vibrate and get it on with it,  I always say. Right now, the focus should be getting a sound that can be controlled.

Good luck and keep me posted!


If you have any soprano-related questions that I could possibly feature on my blog, please send them to samnewsome@aol.com

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Soprano de Africana: The Art of Slap Tonguing

One of the great things about the soprano saxophone is its ability sound like instruments from disparate parts of the world, mainly Asia and Africa. This is something I didn't discover until I started to explore inner layers of the instrument's sound.

My favorite sound to emulate, using the slap tongue technique, is that of a high-pitched balafon (a West African xylophone). Saxophonists often ask me how to slap tongue, but I never have a good answer--at least not one that enables  them to do it.

A great chapter about slap tonguing can be found in a book by Jay C. Easton: Writing for Saxophones: A Guide to the Tonal Palette of the Saxophone Family for Composers.  It's pretty thorough. I highly recommend it.

Here are the the four kinds of slap tonging techniques that he discusses in the book.

1. “melodic” slap or pizzicato (clearly pitched): melodic “plucking” sound entire keyed range of horn (but not altissimo) Maximum tempo: 240 beats per minute Possible from p to f dynamics

2. “slap tone” (clearly pitched): melodic slap attack followed by normal tone 
Maximum tempo: 200 beats per minute. Possible from p to f dynamics

3. “woodblock” slap (unpitched): soft, dry percussive sound
Maximum tempo: 200 beats per minute. Possible from p to mf dynamics

4. “explosive” slap or “open” slap (unpitched): loud percussive sound
Maximum tempo: 70 beats per minute Possible from mf to ff dynamics

In this clip from a duo gig I did with pianist Ethan Iverson at Cornelia Street Cafe back in March of 2012, I'm doing a cross between what Jay describes as a melodic slap and a woodblock slap.



Friday, May 11, 2012

Three (3) Things to Do When We're Not Feeling at Our Musical Best



1. Play beneath your comfort zone:
One of the things that make us feel insecure when we’re not at our best musically—speaking, is that we can’t play what we want to play and how we want to play. Our minds and bodies are at odds. And for this I prescribe playing beneath your comfort zone--playing things that typically would not be challenging if your were on top of your game. When you haven’t been playing or practicing as much as you'd like, that zone in your mind is no longer your comfort zone, and you have to adjust accordingly. I often use the analogy of someone having to drive at 55 mph when they're used to doing 70 mph. It may not be as exciting, but they're likely to get to where they need to go without any major collisions. The important thing is that they're moving. 



2. Don't shun your past.
Often times when we feel that our chops are down, we become fixated on the most recent thing we’ve been working on, or the most recently acquired skill. Which makes us even more frustrated since we can’t get to those things at the moment. This is why I suggest digging deeper into your past. You don’t want to ignore the things you’ve already gotten together, just because your ego wants to play the latest “hip shit.” If you are able to tap into those past musical experiences you’ll find that you are not lacking at all. It’s just a matter of shifting your focus.


3. View each performance as a baby step in the walk of life.
We tend to become uptight about not being in good musical shape because we place too high a value on the here and now. We pretend as though this one performance is going to somehow have a huge impact on our careers and how others perceive us. This is only marginally true. It has to be about journey and the experiences you have along the way. For every musical experience I have, good or bad, I ask myself the question, "What can I learn from this situation?" This way all experiences are equally viable.

As I like to say, "Art is like a big stew, and any experience we can throw into the pot is only going to make it that much more delicious."

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Early Paradigm Syndrome (EPS)



When I reflect back on my earlier years as a tenor saxophonist, I realize that the best thing that came out of me switching to the soprano saxophone, mid-career, was that it prevented me from getting caught in a paradigm.  By this I mean that my way of playing and artistic path weren’t etched in stone at age 24. I call this Early Paradigm Syndrome (EPS)

When I came on to scene in the early nineties, that type of thing happened to musicians quite often. The 1990s was a special period of when many jazz musicians obtained success very early in their careers--often times while in they were still in early to mid-twenties. Which often meant that they were not very developed.



The danger of being picked while you’re still green, so to speak, is that you feel pressured to continue doing whatever it was that made you successful. You don't have the vision nor the courage to break out of that paradigm.  If you rose to popularity playing Dexter Gordon, it’s going to be difficult to venture into the realm of Albert Iyler, no matter what your artistic instincts are telling you.

And in some cases that might be fine, if you are one of those rare people who developed at an early age—like Charlie Parker, per say; however, that sort of thing is very rare.

It’s understandable why someone would consciously choose not to free themselves from the paradigm of their youth.  One, you’ll have find new people to play with, new places to play, and create entirely new support system, all together. Who would want to go through that? Except, of course, people who feel they have no choice.

As a matter of fact, I know plenty of musicians from that nineties period who play almost the same now, while in their forties, that they did while in the early twenties. Perfect examples, mind you, of what I call being stuck in a paradigm. 

Miles Davis, on the other hand, was the perfect example of an artist who refused to get stuck in a paradigm. He was at the forefront of almost every jazz movement, except for New Orleans jazz. Which I imagine wasn't easy--especially when consider that he was very successful at every style of music he decided to pursue.

Had Coltrane remained the John Coltrane from Blue Train until his death, he still would have gone down in history as one of the greatest tenor players ever. 

So why do artists like Miles and  Coltrane keep pushing themselves, even though by many standards, they have already arrived?

One reason, I imagine, is they’ve conquered their fear of failing. To get to any level of competence, never mind mastery, takes a lot of trial and error. In other words, a lot failing. But not failing to the point that it’s so catastrophic that you’re out of the game.  But the level of failing that allows you to go back to the drawing board, over and over gain, until you get right.

So it’s understandable if you’ve gotten to a certain level artistically and career-wise, why you would say “enough with the failing, it’s time to ride the wave.”  Or least milk your winning formula for all it’s worth.

Even on the fringes there are clich├ęs and comfort zones. Even someone who has made a career of playing improvised music, still isn't immune from this type of artistic entrapment. Because now your paradigm is that you only play free.

Another reason I imagine that musicians keep pushing themselves is that music is just a drop in the bucket of life. For them, being a musician is not about career plateaus or being perceived by others in certain way, but more about ones spiritual journey.  When you are answering to a higher power, you tend not to get caught up in the small things, such as thinking too much about what other people think, or making non music-related decisions about music. All of these can give a bad case of EPS.

Of course, you can’t just keep re-inventing yourself until you’re eighty years old. Or you’ll end looking like one of those ridiculous looking old guys walking around wearing hip hop clothing. Not a pretty sight, I might add. 

As artists we have to ask ourselves the difficult question of whether our current paradigm is the one we wish to follow for life. Because after a certain point in our lives and careers, extenuating circumstances prevent any type of change from happening—except, of course, decline.

So if you're going to do it, the time is now!


Saturday, May 5, 2012

An Interview with Soprano Saxophonist Michel Doneda


French soprano saxophonist Michel Doneda is a master of navigating musical extremes: chaos and subtle nuances, obtrusive noise and beautiful melodies, layered textures and open space--all through the scope of a singular musical vision.  "Free" is not just a musical approach for Mr. Doneda, it is the philosophy by which he lives and embraces life. And he was gracious enough the grant me this interview sharing his insight and dealings with the soprano and improvised music.

Your musical concept seems to extend beyond you just being an improviser. You’re also a performance artist, where the visual component is just as important as the aural. Do feel this is true?

Since early in my career, I have played and collaborated with artists from other disciplines. First it was actors and poets; then I began collaborating with dancers, painters and filmmakers. It is suffice to say that those experiences are fully integrated into my life and career as an improviser. I’ve also found that playing outdoors in an open space is just as important as playing indoors in enclosed spaces.

Do you feel that being self -taught has enabled you to develop an approach that’s more personal than if you had served an apprenticeship under someone?

Yes, my approach is very personal. Fortunately, I never needed to try and find myself. And even though I’m self-taught, I do not absolutely reject music education. I regard it as a precious treasure in our society. However, for personal reasons it was not for me. It goes without saying that others often revealed themselves as teachers to me, even though I did not realize it at the time. As a result, there are some things I lack. For example, I would have liked to of spent more time studying and playing contemporary music, especially the Giorgio Netti pieces for soprano sax. But I'm constantly learning and moving forward, even though on the horizon I do not always see the finish line. Let me just add that no matter how personal ones approach is, you should always look to play and communicate with others. And this requires reflection, musical exchanges, and personal and inter-personal confrontations.


Have you always played free/improvised music, for lack of a better term? For some players it’s more of a gradual progression.

I still remember the first sound that I played on the soprano in April of 1968. It was the discovery of this sound that made me want to continue exploring the instrument. There were attempts to play more conventional music. But I never really had the desire and strength to pursue it. Admittedly, each style requires a lifetime.

Are there any recordings of Michel Doneda playing standards?

I have not made any recordings playing jazz standards, but I have recorded two projects playing traditional music. The first was on the Nato record label, a collective album called Flight Sidney. I recorded a theme of Sydney Bechet’s called "Egyptian Fantasy" with drummer Elvin Jones. I had never played that song before and I never played it again.

The second was a record called General Gramophone, which I co-lead with saxophonist Daunik Lazro. We played melodies from India, Eastern Europe, a Lee Konitz tune, and a choro piece. All of this happened back in the late 80s and still remains a rarity for me in my career. However, I do continue to play and study choros (a style of Brazilian popular music from the 1940s), but this only for my pleasure.

Having recorded close to 50 CDs, do you ever worry about repetition? If not, how do you keep it fresh?

My improvisations and recordings are collective processes. By collective process I mean: the decision (making up my mind to do something), the process (the act of doing it), and the organization (the logistics of doing). Even my solo recordings have never been only me making my own decisions.

And I don't talk about the music. I hope this is clear. I just always record music that I want to record. And I’ve never had any producer.

Why did you decided to make the soprano your main instrument? Or as some musicians say, maybe it chose?

I cannot say why I chose the soprano. There may be reasons--perhaps some unconscious influences. But so far I do not know. However, I do know that the soprano saxophone resonates a particular feeling in my body that I like—both tension and calmness. These are two qualities I cannot separate. I don’t know if this is reason enough to pursue a lifetime of learning. But I do feel that the demand of the soprano is perfect for me.

You have a pretty vast vocabulary of extended techniques. Do you, or did you at one time, spend several hours a day exploring new sonic possibilities on the instrument? And where do you get you inspiration for new sounds?

I spend time with the soprano everyday--as a discipline and for pleasure. My musical inspiration comes from the instrument itself. My musical language results from the dialogue between the instrument and myself. This is why I have no a preconceived notions about "my" music as such. My perception can change with my understanding of the instrument.

And I do not like the term “ extended techniques” because it standardizes an approach that is very personal. In fact, the instrument processes both cerebral and organic musical terrains. And I’m constantly going back and forth between these two poles. Of course, there are technical things to master, but one’s state of mind also grows with this research.

I should also mention this excellent book on “multiphonics” written by Marcus Weiss and Giorgio Netti: Techniques of Saxophone Playing.

Most of the music I’ve heard you play is often sound based and textural. Do you find yourself ever having to balance working on more conventional things like playing chord changes, scales, and line oriented ideas, along with you sonic approach?

I do so much with improvisational music that I find that I have to be fully dedicated to that style of playing. Let me also add that I am fortunate to have many musical partners who inspire me as well as keep me satisfied musically. What I do takes a lot of practice, time and effort. You might say that I have made a commitment to dedicate my life to being a contemporary improviser.

I am not talking only about musical things, but also the organization of my professional life—which means looking for concerts as well as organizing them. Everyday I have to spend time for these kinds of things. It is always a struggle to play this music.

Who are some of your influences on the soprano?

I listen to Sidney Bechet, Bhob Rainey, Steve Lacy, Evan Parker, Lol Coxhill, Alesandro Bosetti, Marcus Weis, and many others. All these wonderful artists have influenced me throughout my career, and it’s been a pleasure to listen to as well as play with many of them. And let me give you the name of a Japanese shakuachi player, Watatsumi Do, whose musical expression touches me deeply.

Myself, being someone who has a pretty straight ahead past, I know that most straight ahead players care a lot about pleasing the audience and presenting a well-balanced, varied performance. However, free players, tend to only care about creating an experience for the listener—whether good or bad. Do you agree? If so, do find this to be more liberating or a hindrance?

I see improvisation as a listening experience--an experience that takes place at a certain moment, at a particular place, with a specific group of listeners. For me, all these components are equally important. I'm not trying to control what happens. I just try to make sure to be focused and present so I can make the best of my opportunities. Again, discipline and pleasure.

Even in a free context, do you ever put limits on yourself just to inspire different kinds of ideas?

I am under no mental suggestions before playing. I am prepared to be in attendance at whatever is there in that moment. This way there is always potential, limits, accidents, and most of all, discoveries!



Michel Doneda’s equipment:
· Instrument: Yamaha YSS 675
· Mouthpiece: Nicolas Trefeil (facing tip opening:1.70 mm or 7 stars)
· Ligature: Rico
· Reed: Vandoren ZZ-3.5






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