April 2018

Time flies!  Spring is here and things are moving with great speed.

Performance Highlights:

In early March I had the pleasure of playing at Turtle Bay Music School’s annual benefit dinner and fundraiser.  Joining me for the event were bassist Dean Torrey and the wonderful pianist Eden Ladin.

In mid-March I participated in Turtle Bay’s Artist Series concert, where every month the school features a different member or members of the faculty in a feature performance.  The concert we put on was a first of its kind, a New Music festival.  The audiences at TBMS are more attuned to the classics, Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart, etc.   So I, along with cellist Chris Irvine and guitarist Jay Sorce (and his ensemble, Hypercube), devised an evening of 20th and 21st century music (both written and improvisatory).  I performed Luciano Berio’s Sequenza IXb for alto saxophone as well as an improvisation for saxophone, tape and electronics.  This was a first for me on both fronts, the idea of doing the improvisation was particularly daunting but I think overall it was a success and I learned a lot in the process.  You can see a clip of the improvisation here.

For the past two weeks I have been filling in for my friend Idan Morim on Sundays for his regular gig at Injera, NYC’s premiere Ethiopian restaurant.  Injera is my home-away-from-home in NYC.  I’ve been playing there off and on with Idan for 4 years, it’s where I met my wife Maria.  I’ve been bringing trios, first with Rick Rosato & Aaron Seeber, then with Rick Rosato & JK Kim, and this Sunday I’ll be there with Simon Wilson & Aaron Seeber.  We play from 730p-10p, hope to see you there!

Records & Shows:

Some records I’ve been listening to lately:

Mary Halvorson Code Girl
Freddie Redd Shades of Redd
Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra  Bach: Coffee Cantata/Peasant Cantata
Sphere (Charlie Rouse, Kenny Barron, Buster Williams, Ben Riley) Live On Tour
Orchestra and Chorus of the Academy of St. Cecilia of Rome Puccini: Turandot (1955)
Sonny Clark Leapin’ and Lopin’ | My Conception | Cool Struttin’
John Eliot Gardiner & The Monteverdi Choir Bach: St. Matthew Passio:n

Some great concerts I’ve seen lately:

Bach Collegium of St. Peters performing Bach’s St. Matthew Passion on Good Friday in the liturgical setting
Jason Rigby Detroit-Cleveland Trio at Cornelia St. Cafe (review for DTG coming soon!)
Charles McPherson Quintet at Dizzy’s (read my review for Ethan Iverson’s Do The Gig here)
Orpheus Chamber Orchestra w. Lisa Batiashvili at Carnegie Hall

Teaching & Playing Updates:

Like I mentioned before, I’ve been busier than ever before with teaching.  At Turtle Bay I have 2 saxophone and 2 flute students.  Through the school I teach an after school flute program twice a week to 2nd & 3rd graders at P.S. 123 in Bushwick.  This is going very well, and has proved to be both a challenge and a learning experience (Joe Allard often said, “To teach is to learn a  second time”).  The kids are great and absolutely hilarious.  The challenge has been to keep them engaged and interested throughout a long program where pretty much every concept is new to them.  I’m learning to keep it fun, light and engaging through games, listening, trivia, etc.  I’ll keep you posted on that.  I also have 2 private saxophone students outside of TBMS that keep me busy, one who is exceptional.  As always, if you’re interested in taking a lesson on saxophone, flute or clarinet go to the contact page.

As for my own practicing and learning, it’s been an unusually fruitful period.  Since leaving my day job in November 2017, I’ve had a lot more time to practice, which is all I’ve ever wanted, really.  My approach has always been to make the instrument as easy to play as possible, focusing on sound production through the teachings of pedagogue Joe Allard that I have gotten from former students of his (Jon Gordon, Dave Liebman, Mark Vinci and others).  For nearly 10 years, sound and tone have been my main focus and I think it is starting pay off.  A lot of getting better at the instrument has been correcting old unnecessary habits.  Some players put the horn in their mouth and naturally do everything right from the beginning (I’m looking at you Phil Woods).  My story has been one of hard work to get the sound.

I recently had the opportunity to take a lesson with a hero of mine, the alto saxophonist Charles McPherson.  I think it’s safe to say Charles is underrated in general and possesses one of the greatest sounds on the alto in history.  I’ve been wanting to meet and get a lesson with Charles for a few years now.  He’s lived in San Diego for years and comes to NYC about two or three times a years.  I finally nailed him down in early March while he was in town to play a weekend at Dizzy’s.  The lesson was a lot of fun, we got together at the Beacon Hotel and due to that were forced to play as quietly as possible for the lesson.  I actually enjoyed this because Charles’ sound is enormous in any dynamic register.  I was struck to hear him talk about how he thinks about harmony, it’s indicative of older masters who learned by rote from the masters before them- in my opinion a more effective method of learning that requires one to figure a lot of things out by trial and error and self-reflection long before the codification of jazz by the institutions (not knocking jazz education by any means, just a contrasting point).

Upcoming Projects & Performances:

I have a couple of exciting projects in the works, including a collaboration with my friend the composer Frank Spigner.  He is writing another piece for me for solo alto saxophone.  We have been doing a lot of research into multiphonics and other ways of manipulating sound.  Stay tuned.

I’m happy to announce I am officially doing my first film scoring project!  A friend of mine recently made an incredible short episode (about an hour in length) and I will be scoring a good amount of it for a quartet.  The project is called “A Beard Grows in Brooklyn” and was filmed in one continuous shot.  I’ve never done anything like this before but I am really excited to begin working on this.   Look out for more updates about this project.

Shows upcoming include:

4/7  The Cotton Club Saturday with Tim Williams
4/8  Injera with my trio of Simon Wilson, Aaron Seeber
4/15  Immanuel UCC (Shillington, PA) solo saxophone

AND

Last but not least, Maria and I did a photoshoot last week and had a lot of fun.  She took some great photos of me and I’ll be posting a few of those here soon.

Thanks again for reading!

Nathan

January 2018

2018 is off to a great start!  I have been teaching a lot this year and have some exciting education projects coming up.  Earlier in January I traveled back to Pennsylvania where I grew up to take part in the Berks Arts Council’s “getjazzED” educational event.   It was a great day, the students were eager to hear me talk about the saxophone, warmups, sight reading, the blues and improvisation with my esteemed colleagues that included the great John Swana, Tom Hamilton, Marco Marcinko, Bill Washer and many more.

I’ve got a growing studio happening at Turtle Bay Music School as well as privately in Brooklyn.  This month alone I’ve added 4-5 new students, so it’s getting busy.  I’m also starting an educational outreach program through TBMS at P.S. 123 in Bushwick teaching flute to 2nd graders twice a week.

Upcoming performances include Feb. 1st at Swing 46 with David Berger’s Sultans of Swing, a great band.  Since I’m not as busy right now with performing I am taking the time to practice more and you can expect some new music in the spring.  It’s been a while since I recorded/wrote for a new project so I’m excited to see where that goes.

This month I started contributing critical reviews to Ethan Iverson’s new website, Do the G!G .  The site is dedicated to the NYC Jazz scene as it stands right now, and is focused on providing visibility to younger artists.  I’ve written a few reviews for them which you can read on my “writings” page.  I also compile the weekly gig listings on the website.

Some other things I’m currently up to: subbing in rehearsals with Ed Palermo’s Big Band, recording overdubs for a movie about a saxophonist, practicing a piece my friend Frank Spigner is writing for me,  practicing the Berio Saxophone Sequenza for a March concert.

A special concert I saw recently- the master tenor saxophonist Houston Person at Mezzrow with Ethan Iverson & Chris Smith…stunning.

Thanks for reading, feel free to email me with comments, questions, or about lessons.  This site is under construction, hoping to improve every week.

Nate