Interview with Detroit Gary Wiggins: The standards should serve as a foundation of a springboard … Video

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Jazz interview with jazz saxophonist Detroit Gary Wiggins. An interview by email in writing.

JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?

Detroit Gary Wiggins: – I grew up on the westside of Detroit, Michigan USA during the 1950’s and 1960’s. In those days there was music everywhere as I attended church with my family every Sunday I can remember at least five different Hammond B3 players, 3 or 4 piano players, a saxophonist, and a trombone player. Plus there were many small night clubs and Bars that featured live music within walking distance of my home. The famous Bluebird Lounge where Miles Davis often played when in Detroit was across the street from my middle school and The Motown recording studio was next door to my high school. The city of Detroit was full of musicians that were changing music for the world. My friends and my schoolmates played musical instruments and we would build a band and play together. I was 14 when I first played in the band of Bobo Jenkins.

JBN.S: – What got you interested in picking up the saxophon?

DGW: – After watching the man I knew as Brother Lawhorn play saxophone in church every Sunday I was 9 years old when I said to my mother that I want to be a sax player. Brother Lawhorn was always dapper with pinstrip suit, tie, his hair was slick back to the side. With that information the next thing I knew is that I was enrolled in the music class of my elementary school. My saxophone life began 4. September 1962 and my first music teacher was Mr. Wilson. My first private lessons came from my first cousin Saxophonist Bill Wiggins who was also the main teacher of Kenny Garret and musical director for Motown Records.

JBN.S: – What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today? What made you choose the saxophon?

DGW: – The times I spent with Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson, Arnett Cobb, Stanley Turrentine, Big Jay McNeely, Jack Perkins, Q Martin and more have all been helpful in learning to play the saxophone. To me the saxman was always the coolest cat in the band.

JBN.S: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?

DGW: – Many years ago a friend of mine told me that a senior musician told him “you have got to find your thing that thing that you naturally feel and lay in it. Don’t give up”. in the liner notes of the album “Honkers and Screamers” begins with a quote from Ornett Coleman: “The tenor sax is the closest instrument to the human voice”. With that in mind I began to pay attention to the rhythm, tembre and cadence of preachers of the Black church and sought my attempt to translate this emotion to the tenor saxophone. One line that has always stuck in my mind was said to me during lunch in Tokyo, Japan by the late great Stanley Turrentine-he said “When I was growing up it was a sin to sound like anyone else”. From that time on I paid attention to my sound and always trying to improve and expand. Even though my brand and strength of reed change from time to time my main mouthpiece the past 25 years is a Peter Ponzol 110 with SaxSax ligature. The last 2 years I play a Lupifaro Platinum Tenor sax. I am very happy with this set up.

JBN.S: – Many aspiring musicians are always looking for advice when navigating thru the music business. Is there any piece of advice you can offer to aspiring students or even your peers that you believe will help them succeed and stay positive in this business?

DGW: – Yes there is a little piece of advice I could offer. In one word I say “Appearance”. This is something I believe they do not teach in music school and it is just as important as one’s ability. I will quote the late great James Brown “Appearance 75% Performance 25%”. I will share a life’s experience ca. 1974 from the late great (comedian) Wildman Steve “Always look better than your audience”.

JBN.S: – Аnd furthermore, can jazz be a business today or someday?

DGW: – From what I can recollect Jazz has been in business for more than a hundred years with no signs of being completely eradicated. How much one can earn in this business is another question.

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

DGW: – When these standards were first presented, they were presented by young people, that was, innovative in their approach. The standards should serve as a foundation of a springboard to find ones own expression.

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

DGW: – My understanding of spirits will be quite different from anyone else on this planet. In my mind I am possessed with an army of guardian angels born of my family and friends that spiritually watch over me and provide me with the power to make it thru each day.

JBN.S: – What are your expectations of the future? What brings you fear or anxiety?

DGW: – That my telephone continues to ring and when I move thru the gift of a day with guardian angels in tow why would I ever have fear or anxiety?

JBN.S: – What’s the next musical frontier for you?

DGW: – In these days I am content with trying to keep a certain art of saxophone alive. I believe that the next frontier lies within the growth of my son Patrick who is now producing at 4:4 Music for his generation.

JBN.S: – Are there any similarities between jazz and world music, including folk music?

DGW: – Yes. They are all music with expression. It just depends on your community or environment

JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?

DGW: – On my ipod is plenty of Arnett Cobb. Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis and Ben Webster. My radio station of choice is Swiss Jazz Radio and a Detroit station Educational Arts, Music and Talk hosted by my lifelong friend saxophonist Duane Parham.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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