Profile: Jazz Musician
Education: Western Michigan University
Instruments: alto/bari sax, bass clarinet
Bands: WMU Jazz Orchestra (bari sax, big band), my own quartet “Sami B + 3” (also sax/composer, standard jazz quartet featuring original music and arrangements of standards), Retro Pop Shuffle (bari sax, doo-wop/swing arrangements of Top 40), MNOE (bass clarinet, 16-piece chamber/orchestral pop)
Goals: be a unique, successful jazz artist and have a social impact
KC: What/who are your main influences? Including but not limited to eras and musicians?
SB: Bunky Green, Sonny Rollins, Oliver Nelson, Hank Mobley, Charles Mingus, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Lennie Tristano, Ornette Coleman, to name just a few! I also listen to a lot of modern jazz, especially artists like Ben Monder, Bill Stewart, Ingred Jensen, Kurt Rosenwinkel, David Binney, Edward Simon, and Rudresh Mahanthappa.
KC: Who are your favorite traditional new-young jazz musicians and why?
SB: Melissa Aldana — not just because she’s a successful young woman saxophone player, but I also hear a lot of my own biggest influences in her playing (Sonny Rollins and Mark Turner), and Aaron Parks’ Invisible Cinema — it’s one of my dreams to play with him.
KC: What is your goal — say in 5 years — where do you want to be and doing what with music?
SB: Last month my friend and I promised each other we’d move to NYC in 5 years — it’s on my calendar for August 2021! Moving there has always been my dream, even before I knew I wanted to play music.
My main goal is to break into the scene there and play/compose until my fingers fall off. Mostly in the vein of modern jazz (whatever that means), but maybe dabbling in mainstream indie-ish songwriting?
I’d also like to get into music journalism — a lot of jazz critics today are not musicians (much less women), and a lot of reviews I read are somewhat vague. I’d love to add more specific musical depth to this realm.
KC: What youth culture-oriented things might be fueling jazz today?
SB: School is surely a major part of it. If you grow up in a community with a strong high school jazz program/good mentor/go to summer music camp, that influences a lot of people to continue into college, which is where the vast majority of young jazz musicians today get their music education. Jazz in popular music is a big thing now — Donny McCaslin and his band’s collaboration with David Bowie on Blackstar, Kamasi Washington’s work with Kendrick Lamar — these are both very profound and visible things in youth culture today, and that’s something driving jazz forward and gaining attention among people my age who would normally never listen to jazz.
KC: Any other thoughts you have following the Detroit Jazz Festival?
SB: Detroit is one of if not the coolest jazz festivals in the world, especially because it’s FREE. And it’s such a communal event.
I see almost everyone I know who’s young and active in jazz from across the state, and it’s so great to see so many members of the community coming out and keeping this thing thriving. As much as it’s our job as young people to keep it alive, we can’t do it without the help of older generations who are well off enough to support this art monetarily.
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