In a now famous quote, saxophonist Michael Brecker said, "I'm not the master of the sax, George Garzone is." To be lauded as such by your peers speaks louder than any and all hyperbole, and the list of musicians that have played and studied with George is just as storied, including Joe Lovano, Joshua Redman, Kenny Barron, Chick Corea, Danilo Perez, Branford Marsalis and Mark Turner, to name just a handful. George is here for a one-off London appearance and we were delighted that he was able to do a brief email interview to promote the gig:
Q: John Coltrane has been cited as one of your primary musical influences. What is it about Coltrane’s music that you most identified with and/or responded to? In your opinion, what was it about Coltrane that made his style unique?
A: Coltrane was a strong influence on not only me but every other musician that plays jazz...He was and always will be the strongest voice and force in this music. You cannot deny the path that he has put forth for all of us to follow.
Q: Talking about you as a player now, if you had to describe your style to someone who had not heard you before, what would you say?
A: My style of improvisation is both free and traditional at the same time - I like to balance both styles together because this gives both the avante listener and the traditional listener a chance to understand what I am doing musically.
Q: What are some of your favourite recordings?
A: Stan Getz, Reflections; Coltrane's Ballads album; Sonny Rollins, The Bridge; Elvin Jones, Live at the Lighthouse and Miles, Four & More
Q: As an artist and musician, what are your values?
A: My values as a musician are the same as all the people that I play with...to play good honest music, that is real and alive and from my heart. All of my idols - Joe Lovano, Frank Tiberi, Jerry Bergonzi and Dave Liebman feel the same way.
Q: There’s a debate among some in the jazz world about what “real” jazz is, how far outside the lines one can go before the result is no longer consistent with existing definitions. What is your position on the spectrum? Does this topic come up for discussion with your students at Berklee or at other schools where you’ve taught?
A: Real jazz to me is music that is not pre conceived or pre meditated..this kind of music is hard to find these days..!
Q: The world we live in today has changed considerably since you started out as an emerging player in the 70’s. Do you think it’s easier or harder now to develop as an artist and particularly, to have a sustainable career? What kind of impact do you think these changes in culture and the broader society have had on the music itself?
A: It is harder to persue a career in music now than it was years ago because there are no gigs or jobs for young musicians to play. The clubs make the young players pay to play - this is negative. The economy is bad, so the music situation suffers greatly. I hope that this situation turns itself around...SOON.
Q: What music are you listening to these days, are there particular artists/recordings that have captured your attention that you’d like to mention?
A: I listen to everything...I am not just a "jazzhead". I grew up with James Brown, and all of the soul guys...of course Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Wayne Shorter, Herbie and Chick, Sun Ra, Ornette Coleman but I also like Sade, Madonna and Michael Jackson. I don't think there's anything wrong with that combination!