Sunday, October 9, 2011

Musicians on Musicians#3: Jennifer Anderson and 5 tenor

Jennifer Anderson is a saxophone player from Glenview, Illinois, and currently based in L.A. In addition to being a musician and painter, Mrs Anderson is a grade school music teacher. She is still doing her "big band thing," as well as working in the recording studios. I interviewed her via email, and here she talks about her influences and tenor saxophonists who have inspired her through the years. Like other interviewees, it was impossible for her to just stick to five names, and at one point she quoted from a friend, Chuck Johnson, to point how different players feel close to different sounds and musical personalities. "The attraction to Dexter Gordon for me is immediate because of his sound…big, robust, clear and warm," Jennifer quoted Chuck Johnson, "he has the ability to place every note he plays clearly and distinctly no matter the tempo of the tune.  But delve beyond his sound and you find a musician with a fertile aptitude to create improvisations that build logically, melodically and with intensity, chorus after chorus after chorus. And he masterfully and cleverly injects song quotes within any song he is performing. Dexter was also able to synthesize the cool, lyricism and storytelling of Lester Young with the harmonic advancement and fluidity of Charlie Parker and create his own personality." Well, not only we learn from people we love, but also we learn from the way people love other people. That's the main point of these interviews.

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Sonny Rollins: One of my first jazz music lessons actually came from a Sonny Rollins record. My first saxophone was a tenor. I didn't know much about the saxophone or sax players at the time, so I went to the local record store and picked up some records with pictures of guys with a saxophones one the front. One of them way Sonny Rollins' Way Out West with drummer Shelly Manne and bass player Ray Brown. I loved the cover--he looked so bad-ass slinging the sax and wearing a ten gallon hat out in the desert. When I heard I'm an Old Cowhand I realized the song was him! Never mind that it was a hokey old song. The music sounded as serious as it was fun--and swung like crazy! You could transcribe Sonny's solo and study it in a college classroom, but I really heard his personality coming through. That really got my imagination because Sonny made me see potential and possibility. Throughout his career, he has really dug into that potential and possibility and amazed us all with his interesting use of harmony, fluidity, spontaneity, and wit. There probably are people out there jamming on his tunes right now as well as studying him in college classrooms!

Ben Webster: Like Duke Ellington said said "I've always had a yen for Ben". The distinctive sound of Ben Webster is one that you can recognize is a few notes. Whether he is playing sweet or growly sexy, you could never confuse his sound with anyone else. That sound always seems to go right to my gut somehow. He was a big sensation in the Duke Ellington band in the 40's. Many musicians have paid tribute to him by playing his Cottontail solo, which was a big hit for the Ellington band. My recomendation would be Poutin'!

Coleman Hawkins: I know that historically Coleman Hawkins is a very important innovator. He took an instrument that was more of a novelty and band instrument before the 30's and really wowed the world with his playing. This drew lots of attention to the sax and made it a much more popular as a "legitimate" instrument. But even so, I feel like he would be awesome during any time period, and he was! His career was amazing even through the bop era. His beautiful, strong, colorful, lyrical sound is one I could never tire of. I love how his lines are seamless and ornamental at the same time. What a brain he must have had. Maybe that's why his nickname was Bean.

Lester Young: Lester Young was one of the first people to inspire me to play the saxophone. What I heard made so much sense to me. He seemed to speak in complete musical sentences. I loved his light sound. The problem was that he influenced me so much that I was always playing too laid back, and not in a good way! I finally realized it and stopped trying to be Lester Young. There definitely was only one of him. He is also famous for playing and and recording with his friend Billy Holiday.

Stan Getz: He is probably most known for his work with Antonio Carlos Jobim, which created the Bossa Nova craze in the 60's. But during his career he played it all--big band, cool jazz, bop and more. I heard that he was inspired by Lester Young. He has always been a huge inspiration to me because of the pure magic he created with his sound. When I first heard The Girl From Ipenema I was absolutely spellbound. His magical sound hooked me. I am currently enjoying his recordings that he made with guitarist Johnny Smith.

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