Interview with Ryan Raziano: The feeling or soul behind the music is obviously important: Video

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Jazz interview with jazz saxophonist Ryan Raziano. An interview by email in writing. 

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

Ryan Raziano: – I grew up in South Mississippi, where I’m still currently living. My grandparents were in a Southern Gospel singing group that I’m sure piqued my interest in music in general, but I didn’t consider playing until deciding to take band in middle school.

JBN.S: – What got you interested in picking up the saxophone? What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today? What made you choose the saxophone?

RR: – I heard the saxophone on the radio riding in the car with my parents a lot. I didn’t particularly care which instrument I started on, but my dad encouraged me to try saxophone because he was most familiar with it. Nobody in my family played any musical instruments, so it was purely based on what they’d heard before. The most influential teachers were my middle school director Sean Keady, then later Jerry Ball, Larry Panella, Luigi Zaninelli, Lawrence Gwozdz, and since the time of the recording I’ve had a few lessons with Tim Price that are helping a bit.

Sean Keady, though a trombone player, was the guy who saw initial talent and pushed me to learn all of my scales and even attempt the altissimo register, although nobody else in my class was expected to know these things. He also bought me my first saxophone cds during my 8th grade year that I obsessed over. Jerry Ball was a local saxophone legend who started me on the whole jazz/rock thing – at the time I had gotten good at the r&b/rock thing. He played with a lot of the old Motown groups every time they came into town, so I got that from him.  Larry Panella and Lawrence Gwozdz were my teachers when I started college. I studied jazz and classical saxophone very seriously  at the time – and I enjoyed and learned a ton from both areas. Mr. Panella’s main focus over my time with him was in “playing what you hear” and “telling a story.” When I started with him I had the technical chops, but didn’t say so much with them. I’m grateful for his teaching and still have a lot to learn from those topics. I think the most impactful thing I learned from Dr. Gwozdz on the classical side was the importance of phrasing and shaping melodies. I think the material I studied with him was tremendously impactful in teaching me to extracting the beauty from an entire line at a time, as opposed to one note at a time.  I studied composition with Mr. Zaninelli for a couple of years. He has a completely unique way at looking at tonal, but nonfunctional harmony that really challenged me. Tim Price has simply introduced me to some things that I had not focused on previously. Whereas before I had not been focused on patterns, transcriptions, scale studies, or anything similar, Tim is making me go back and work on those things. A different approach than what I studied with Mr. Panella, so it’s very interesting to look at both approaches.

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

RR: – A lot of what I mentioned above is a direct influence on my sound. I will say that I don’t necessarily believe in “finding” or “developing” my own sound – I think your personality and personal choices of what you listen to have already done that for you. I do think it definitely evolves over time. There are qualities in very early memories of my playing that directly led to the next “version” of it. The guys who I naturally gravitated towards were, at first Kenny G., then Warren Hill, then Charlie Parker, and Eugene Rousseau from the classical side. Later on I become obsessed with Michael Brecker and Kirk Whalum’s playing. Over the past few years I’ve dug Coltrane, Potter, Kenny Garrett, and Ravi Coltrane quite a bit, but it seems I always find myself going back to Brecker.

JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?

RR: – I don’t think I’ve focused solely on rhythm as much as I should have, but I will say that during my time in college I played with a group that bassist Raymond Bradford, myself, and some friends formed called Friends Fly South. It was more of a mixture of gospel and funk that made me focus on “pocket” playing more, and I’m sure that helped with rhythm. I’ve also done a ton of R&B and Soul work where the natural focus was on rhythm. Recently Tim has kind of made me go back and focus on keeping an internal time, by imagining playing with my favorite drummer (and doing this without a metronome as to force my own internal pulse).

JBN.S: – Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now? You’re playing is very sensitive, deft, it’s smooth, and I’d say you drift more toward harmony than dissonance. There is some dissonance there, but you use it judiciously. Is that a conscious decision or again, is it just an output of what goes in?

RR: – Thanks, I’m sure my choices are a mixture of unconscious and conscious decisions. I think the music I have listened to the most is imbedded with how I will hear a line, and on this record most of the music seemed to ask for a bit more consonance. I am focusing on different shapes within the given harmony, and I’d rather try to pull these shapes out while still fitting the harmony, as opposed to trying to force harmonies that don’t work. I think it’s as you mentioned – mainly an output of what I listen to and have worked on.

JBN.S: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?

RR: – I’m not really concerned with preventing any influences from coloring my playing. By not fighting against anything while playing, I’m letting the natural voice come out, whether or not it sounds majorly influenced by any particular musician.

JBN.S: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

RR: – Too often I’ve found myself in situations where only the “soul” part was important, and it left a large gap for me. Music has to be mentally stimulating to me in some type of way, whether it’s in harmony, in rhythm, or in texture/orchestration.  The feeling or soul behind the music is obviously important and is not to be underappreciated, so to me combining mental stimulation with the soul aspect is the perfect storm.

JBN.S: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?

RR: – To be honest, I’m not too into “pandering” as some people call it to an audience, at least in this situation. I definitely play some gigs where it’s more appropriate and important to play in a more relatable way, but I also seek out opportunities to explore in a more artistic way. My interpretation of the famous Coltrane quote “You can play a shoestring if you’re sincere” is that as long as the feeling behind what you are playing is sincere, then people will appreciate it. I’ve found that even if my quartet explores and goes somewhere extreme, the people at our shows are usually thrilled to go on the journey with us. There’s an excitement about showing them something new as opposed to giving them what they already know.

JBN.S: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

RR: – A couple that come to mind are just random small details – I remember playing a show in Harlem with Imraan Kahn and a few friends  – we played Donna Lee, and on my solo we started with just myself and Jack Redford on bass. With just the two of us, there was so much energy building and by the time the rest of the rhythm section kicked in, an absurd amount of energy was released. Another is of hearing Snarky Puppy while in college. They were touring in Hattiesburg before they blew up to worldwide fame, so I was lucky enough to hear them a lot. I guess it was around my third show of theirs that I was just petrified in the middle of the audience, knowing that exploring music on a high level is what I wanted to do. I don’t know if it was life-changing, or just life-confirming – regardless, that moment is pretty unforgettable.

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

RR: – I don’t know if I’m the right person to answer that – I’m still fairly young – but standards are not what drew me in. I was drawn in by the idea of being able to paint with notes of my own choosing, and I’m still excited to explore different ways to put these notes together. Standards allow me to musically interact with people all over the world, but I think the biggest appeal to jazz from my perspective is being able to express yourself and less about the historically proven repertoire.

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

RR: – I think things can be connected in a way that you can use and utilize them as tools for insight into the big picture. Music is my tool, and everything I learn outside of that can be a lesson in how I can apply the basic idea musically. Inversely, everything I learn about music can help me, from my own perspective and angle, view and learn more about life.

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

RR: – That’s a tough question, but I guess I’d change the appreciation for certain arts, and the ability to better succeed and work as a musician.

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

RR: – Recently, I’ve been listening to a lot of Ambrose Akinmusire’s music. I really love his composing and trumpet playing, and the way he puts his groups together for his vision. His recorded “The Imagined Savior is Far Easier to Paint” had a very profound effect on me, and I recently ran across a video of him with guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel that I really like. I’ve also been checking out a large scope of anything Jack DeJohnette worked on. Aside from that I always find myself returning to my favorite Michael Brecker and Brian Blade records.

JBN.S: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?

RR: – Though I would like to be in the future, I don’t believe I’m an ambassador of any message yet – I’m still finding my way through. For now, I suppose I could say that the message I want to bring is to follow your creative passions and being true to yourself, and to see what you can come up with.

JBN.S: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?

RR: – The time machine has multiple stops right? I’d definitely want to be a fly on the wall for the Claus Ogerman Cityscape sessions. Then I’d just like to experience Coltrane’s energy, though I was pretty sure I felt a similar energy when I heard Brandon Lewis and Lawrence Clark for the first time (that’s another memory I should have listed above. I’d never felt anything so powerful in my life than I did at 2 am on a super early Monday morning in the Village).

JBN.S: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself…

RR: – I’m ashamed to say I don’t know much of the Armenian culture, but I was positively affected by Tigran Hamasyan’s album “Luys I Luso.” I would like to know whatever you would care to share about the music from Armenia!

JBN.S: – Thanks for answers. I live in Boston, MA, but I know that in Armenia there are also jazz and good musicians and not only Tigran Hamasyan.

JBN.S: – So putting that all together, how are you able to harness that now?

RR: – Thanks so much for the questions! I’m just looking forward to continuing the work, and hopefully giving the world some more music in the future! Buddy, Pete, and myself have more compositions that so far fit the aesthetic of this record, so I’m sure there will be a continuation in some sort of way. Thanks so much for taking the time to listen to my record and present me with these questions!

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

Картинки по запросу Ryan Raziano

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