Video Interview: Saxophonist Jaleel Shaw

When you see or hear the work of amazing artists – those who have garnered acclaim from audiences, their peers and the cognoscenti that herald them – it can be hard to believe there is room or for that matter, desire to grow. Perhaps that is what makes a talented individual great. To harness a passion to pursue and to be humble enough to acknowledge that there is more to learn, more to explore and that there’s no ceiling on getting better seems to be a common characteristic of those who rise to renown and reverence. 

It’s clear saxophonist Jaleel Shaw fits that mold. The accomplished musician has been soaking up knowledge from influences and mentors alike since a kid coming up in the talent factory that is Philly, PA.  Over the years the formula of passion plus a thirst of knowledge and a desire to truly move people with his gift has hoisted him into the category of great players garnering amongst other distinctions, a Downbeat Magazine Critics Poll Award and being listed in JazzTimes Magazine’s Readers Poll for Alto Saxophonist of the Year.

It’s also made him a sought-after musician prompting work as a long-time member of the Roy Haynes Quartet, and performing with luminaries such as Christian McBride (when they were kids in Philly and older), Nate Smith’s Kinfolk, Jason Moran, the Mingus Big Band, Pat Metheny, Roy Hargrove, Chick Corea, Dave Holland, Jimmy Cobb and many, many others.  He even earned a nickname from the legendary Jimmy Heath, which is confirmation in and of itself that a musician has arrived. The one fittingly given to Shaw? “For Real.”

When the shutdown and challenges of 2020 came knocking at our doors for Jaleel Shaw, like the rest of us all, even with the accolades, well- earned respect and his tremendous ability, it unearthed an anxiety – Not knowing what the future would hold, how he’d handle it and who is the person he’d be on the side of it. But what kicked in for Shaw was the astute recognition that in this time was opportunity to learn more about himself. Something that would result in him being more. It was the kind of self-assessment that has made him the consummate player he is today. In the video interview done via Zoom, Jaleel Shaw offers great insight and candid observations that will inspire artists and non-artists alike. Check it out below. BC

For more about saxophonist Jaleel Shaw go to jaleelshaw.com

To stream and/or purchase the music you heard in the video interview and more go to /https://jaleelshaw.bandcamp.com/ or all other major music platforms.

And check out his Livestream performance with full band direct from The Jazz Gallery in NYC tomorrow October, 15th, two sets at 7:30 & 9:30. For more information and to purchase tickets go to https://www.jazzgallery.org/calendar/livestream-jaleel-shaw

THE SOUL SEEN: Cellist, arranger and producer, LARRY GOLD

The Soul Seen, I SPY SOUL retrospective revisits the 2003 interview feature with Larry Gold

The Midas Touch

The story of arranger, cellist, and composer Larry Gold is one that should serve as an example to many in the music business or for that matter, in any business. Why you ask? Because his success is a result of his sincere love for what he does, a desire to grow, the recognition of talent around him, and of course, his own outstanding ability.

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A LOOK BACK @ THE LEGENDARY CRUSADERS

One of the great joys of writing for I SPY SOUL throughout the years has been the opportunity to meet and interview some very talented musicians and artists — all of which, I have great respect and admiration for, but there are some I hold in even higher regard because they were major influences on me as a young, aspiring musician and artist. One of those artists was the legendary pianist, composer and producer, Joe Sample, who sadly passed in 2014 at the age of 75. Another was also the renowned saxophonist and bassist Wilton Felder who passed almost exactly a year later at the same age of 75. As founding members, along with drummer, “Stix” Hooper, and trombonist, Wayne Henderson of famed jazz/soul group first known as The Jazz Crusaders and then just The Crusaders, their music was part of a soundtrack for me as a kid that included the likes of Herbie Hancock, Al Jarreau, Weather Report, David Sanborn, Miles Davis, George Benson and others that I listened to over and over again and that undoubtedly shaped my musical palette. I had the great opportunity to interview Sample, Felder and “Stix “ Hooper upon the release of their then new reunion project, Rural Renewal.

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Marlon Saunders sees things clearly on “Dark Day”

promotional video provided by Ense

The belief or even assertion by many artists that their job is to speak to the times in which they live is being vehemently backed up and on display these days. Needless to say, there is much to say, challenge and chronicle in the face of the grand adversity 2020 has unearthed or unmasked, as is the case with the habitual racial injustice and heinous killings experienced by people of color in America. What artists have produced has taken on many forms – rage, sorrow, frustration, confusion and more. When accomplished vocalist and songwriter Marlon Saunders was last interviewed here in 2016, his track, “The People Are Ready To Dance Again,” in true artist form, was a much needed lift of spirits and hope in response to the abundance of “hate, anger and fear” that he then maintained lives amongst us.  It was also an astute suggestion to get your good times in especially since the track dropped Nov. 10th 2016, the day after the presidential election. Let that marinate for a moment.

Saunders has returned again, reflecting times that unfortunately haven’t changed much for the better or for many at all, with the haunting track, “Dark Day.” Far from the jubilant groove of “The People Are Ready To Dance Again,” “Dark Day” is a true, soul-stirring, and stark rendering of what’s happening to black lives at the hands of racial hatred and discrimination, helmed by Saunders with an assembly of voices capable of evoking church-like fervor.

So grave a place our society is in by Saunders account that he poignantly submits in the track, “Wonder if Jesus sang the blues.” As he explains in the release for the track, “The idea of Jesus singing the blues, for me is a very powerful image. It allows the mind to imagine Jesus having a dark hue that is not European. The senseless killings of black bodies, hoping conversations could be shared with the idea of honoring life…all black lives.”

In the wake of recent tragedies – those that serve as reminders of the change that is overdue – the protests, outcry and conversations suggests awareness is heightened and change will begin. We’ll see. However, It’s good to know those like Marlon Saunders are on the job continuing to shine light on the need. B.C.

Listen to the track “Dark Day” here

Learn more about Marlon Saunders at http://www.marlonsaunders.com/