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Artist Stories

Tenor Madness

A Conversation with Five Saxophonists

Here’s what the players had to say about their approach to music.

The Jazz Arts Initiative sat down with each of this weekend’s tenor players to talk about their music. They each have a variety of experience that give them a unique perspective and approach to their instrument. And yet they all had one interesting thing in common. They each see their music as a tool of expression and communication.

Juan Rollan is renowned in the music scene in Florida, with local family connections here, performing every style of music. “Saxophone is part of the heritage of jazz music, partly because many of the founding fathers of jazz, like Charlie Parker, were saxophonists. It’s very expressive. Tenor sax especially, closest in texture and timbre to the human voice. You can sing through it. There something about the way you can use vibrato and range of musical devices that lends it a lyrical and vocal quality. Smooth and soulful.”

Chad Eby, Associate Professor at UNC Greensboro reflects on the most important lessons he teaches his students. “When studying music, there’s nothing more important than relying on your ears, rather than a sheet of music notes. If Louis Armstrong played a certain string of notes, and you focus on that aurally, you here the twist that makes it his voice.”
Annalise Stalls compares composing music to her poetry. “You can feel the melody in the shape of a poem, and hear a poem in the music. They open each other up. “

Brian Miller, primarily a gospel musician with a love for jazz, approaches music as a conversation, “between you and the other players, and the audience wants to relate. Sometimes cats are talking at the same time. Sometimes you take the solo and they support you, and sometime somebody gets in your way. The greatest ballad player ever is Miles Davis. His silence could be longer than any note he played. You have to know when to get in and get out, when you’ve said enough.”

Phillip Whack travels internationally, playing in over 30 countries. “Music is universal. That why you can go to a jazz session in Brazil or France. You may not speak the same language, but you can speak music together. You create a conversation right there on the stage.”

What should we expect this weekend, at Tenor Madness?

“It’s gonna be raw and exciting.” Annalise Stalls
“With another of your instrument beside you, we’ll be come with our A game.” Brian Miller
“To get to play authentic jazz music with likeminded people is fleeting and rare.” Juan Rollan
“A jam session, with room for everybody to bring their own sound to the stand.” Phillip Whack
“The opportunity to play at a venue I like, do something I love doing, as a tribute to a cross section of my heroes, is an honor, with some folks I know and love, and some I’ve never met, is exciting. This show makes perfect sense. “ Chad Eby

Tenor Madness

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