The Rhythm is an incredibly cool mix of contemporary sounds that don't push what some might consider the smooth jazz card. Was that intentional and can you give us some insight into how the release came to be?
A.S. - "Thank you very much Brent. I took a 12 year hiatus from working in this genre; the explicit goal on my return was to create something atmospheric and textural, something that would sound good in a modern cocktail lounge setting, without straying too far from the genre or alienating my core audience. 2011's Traveler was the result of that effort. I love how Traveler turned out, and it was quite successful, but I did get feedback that there wasn't enough "shredding" on my part, enough full bore improvising, etc. I understood that perspective, and The Rhythm was an attempt to keep the stylish atmospherics while giving the saxophone players in the crowd more to sink their teeth into. I'm very happy to hear that my efforts were successful, from your perspective."
In speaking with numerous contemporary artists, "smooth jazz" is a label they seem to universally shun. What are your thoughts on this label when contemporary instrumental music actually covers to rather significant ground?
A.S. - "The "smooth jazz" thing is delicate ground, so let me preface my thoughts by saying that I think everyone (musicians) should do the work they like to do, and if a large audience likes a particular person's work, it's not for me or anyone else to invalidate that successful pairing. I think the worry is that the "smooth" moniker implies that the music is light or inconsequential, in artistic terms. Having said that, contemporary jazz is a bigger tent than it was in 1985, and it now includes artists who come to the game with as much or more focus on being a great entertainer (a deep difficult skill of its own), as opposed to a primary focus on musical/instrumental virtuosity."
In terms of saxophonists - who are your personal influences and favorites and where else to you draw your harmonic color palette from?
A.S. - "Well look, it's Trane, Mike Brecker, Sanborn, Cannonball, Stanley Turrentine. With a ton of other guys thrown in the mix, to lesser degrees. The 20th century history of the saxophone improviser, It's so awesome, so deep, such a gift; I'm so lucky to be on the tail end of all that incredible work."
I love beautiful, sonorous, complicated harmony, and I love the earthy grit of the blues. That's the marriage. I love all kinds of music, Debussy and D'Angelo, Stan Getz and Nirvana. So much great stuff. I wish I had more free time to actually just listen, for pure enjoyment and for no other reason...
Can you give us some insight into the differences between say session work and some of the extensive touring you have done with artists like Paul Simon and Billy Joel?
A.S. - "Session work, especially for a horn player, is usually short form, time specific work. Most of the time you won't even see the artist, you'll work with the producer only. I've done a lot of this type of work; it was my original focus as a kid and the reason I moved to NYC. I find it very rewarding, but it is a specific experience. Touring with stars is another thing. You're in their band, and to one extent or another you'll see and interact with them every show day. It's an ongoing relationship, much more personal, much more substantial x really. Obviously, I've done a ton of touring of the type, and it's an incredible experience in so many ways. Although it wasn't in my initial plan, I wouldn't change it for the world."
Finally - the music business is still behind the economic eight ball. How bad do you feel it and will that have any bearing on a new release coming soon?
A.S. - "I'm working on a new record. Yes, the economics are tougher than ever, and if I can break even or see a small profit from all the different sources combined, I consider that a win. Recording music is as much long, hard work as it is joyous, powerful, and moving. I'll keep doing it as long as I can. It's not about the demands of touring or anything else, it just takes a long time to get it right; detailed, interesting, polished, compelling, to the extent you even achieve those goals."
Special thanks to Andy and please check out www.andysnitzer.com