Here is the second half of my interview with veteran contemporary jazz saxophonist Jeff Kashiwa. The Sax Pack, which also features saxmen Steve Cole and Kim Waters, performs June 6 at the Red Lion Hotel Woodlake in Sacramento.
Question: You have worked in the contemporary jazz for more than 25 years and lived through its remarkable expansion in the ‘90s and just as remarkable contraction since, with the format disappearing from commercial radio, fewer live venues, etc. What was it like to be part of the genre’s boom years and what is your take on its present and future?
Kashiwa: The ‘90s was a very busy decade for us in contemporary jazz. I remember sleeping on a lot of tour busses. It was always worth losing a little sleep as you could anticipate that the fans were ready and waiting in the next town. Even though the format has diminished in terms of radio stations and venues promoting contemporary jazz, the fans are still out there. I am thankful for XM Sirius radio as the whole nation can stay tuned to what’s happening in our format.
Through it all my own personal mission statement hasn’t changed. Make the best music I can. Play the best in every moment. This tempered with not taking everything too seriously. Relax, it’s just music.
Question: Like many people, my gateway to contemporary jazz was the Rippingtons and in particular that run of classics from the early ‘90s (“St. James Club,” “Curves Ahead,” “Weekend in Monaco,” among others). What was it about those musicians and those songs that made those albums so indelible?
Kashiwa: I would have to say it’s the combination of great song played with a lot of heart. Russ Freeman remains high on my list of great composers – in any genre. He has an incredible sense of melody and harmony that happens to sit so nicely on the saxophone – even though he plays guitar. I remember recording all those songs and getting goosebumps in the studio as we tracked those melodies. I’m glad it translates to the listener.
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