By: Estefanía Romero
Photographer: Mónica García
You are an excellent saxophone player, a composer, an arranger, but you also care a lot about education. Tell me about today’s jazz education. We only have one century and part of a century of knowing what jazz means. Education is something that we are still working on, right?
I think jazz education is pretty developed by now. In the US, most Colleges have a jazz program, which is fairly common. Here in Mexico I see quite a few schools. So I think it’s great, it’s a double edged sword because there is more education opportunity for people but it has a risk. I see young students who care more about going to school than going to concerts. I always say “go to concerts, you will learn more in one concert than in one semester in school”. It is important to see live concerts because this is how you feel the music, not with a teacher. As much as your teacher is good, he can only give you some points or some directions, this is what he is for. I tell my students: “if you don’t have the money to go to concerts, don’t take lessons with me, I’d rather you to spend your money in a live concert than with a lesson with me”.
I love teaching, I love sharing and I try to motivate them and give them ideas and directions about how to improve.
You created an education jazz platform, right? Can you talk to us about it?
It’s called jazzvideolessons.net and it’s basically a school online. It’s like taking private lessons with me. I have hundreds of different lessons, I have different programs and it’s like going through a course in school. It wouldn’t substitute a real teacher, but it’s good… I know a lot of people who can’t have a private teacher because of where they live or they don’t have enough money to pay a teacher. And I have a lot of interaction with the students. It’s like an online community, people can interact with each other, I meet people in the real world. I’m constantly updating new content.
You’ve developed a million sounds. You’ve found so many timbres on your instrument. How did you find your personality as a musician?
I listen to a lot of music all the time. Obviously when I was in my formative years I was listening to all kinds of music, mostly jazz and classical. I studied a lot of classical composition and then I tried to copy my idols on the saxophone: Coltrane, Parker, Sonny Rollins, Cannonball Adderley. I mean, I would simply try to copy their sound and then I tried to be as expressive as possible. When I was a teenager I would play one long note and try to make it sad or joyful. You have to put your mind into certain state sometimes and hopefully get creative. I put a lot of effort into my sound, a lot of thought of having a good sound because… I actually know that something that people appreciates in me it’s my sound and I’m glad. It’s the most important. It’s my voice. I don’t need to say something extraordinary, if I have a nice voice it will be entertaining.
France has been a close country to jazz since its beginnings. But I want your own history, how did you get so close to jazz?
That’s funny. The day I heard jazz for the first time I knew I wanted to play that music. I was playing piano but classical. I was attracted by the piano at my grandparent’s house, for me it was something magical. So I was attracted by music, and then the day I heard jazz I was in a festival, I said “I like this instrument better”. The saxophone was talking to me. From that day I never end discovering, I started listening to Duke Ellington, Johnny Hodges, Memphis Slim, Fats Domino and Sidney Bechet, those were actually the first LP’s I had in my dad’s home office.
You’ve also composed music for some movies. Right?
A couple of times. I would love to do it again. That’s a very different challenge, but it’s really great to have a picture that has to inspire you and write music that goes also within the timeframe. But it’s really interesting.
I heard your music and loved it. I would love you to tell me about your projects right now and what’s coming for you on music.
I’m touring with Charles Mingus Big Band, it’s a great band I’m really happy to be playing with them in Europe and New York, we have tours a couple of times a year. I’m about to record a new album in Mexico, in Monterrey, with my Afrocuban band, I have Cuban Musicians: Felipe Carrera on bass, Lukmil Pérez on drums, Leo Montana on piano and Roberto Vizcaino in percussion, who actually live in Mexico, in Morelia. And… you know… keep on keeping on.
Is there anything that you would like to add?
Thank you and congratulations to everyone who has been working for the Festival Internacional de Jazz y Músicas Improvisadas de Ajijic, and all the concerts here. It’s a great initiative and I wish you guys a lot of success!
Thank you, dear Alex. Hearing your music has been a beautiful adventure.