Artist Of The Week: Saxophonist Stephen Richard Debunks 5 Jazz Stereotypes
Each Wednesday, Rocks Off arbitrarily appoints one lucky local performer or group "Artist of the Week," bestowing upon them all the fame and grandeur such a lofty title implies. Know a band or artist that isn't awful? Email their particulars to firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are two reasons that jazz saxophonist Stephen Richard was selected as this week's Artist of the Week. First, he sent us an email that scoffed at the notion of being simply Artist of the Week, instead offering in all caps that he should be named our "ARTIST OF THE YEAR." He basically disregarded everything we've written about this past year and a half in 18 characters. You have to appreciate the efficiency of his moxie. Second, jazz musicians have to be one of the most obscure, most misunderstood groups of people on the planet, and we've heard a ton of stereotypes about them that we wanted cleared up. He obliged in answering the most pressing five. Hit the jump to read about, among other things, whether or not jazz musicians really are all perpetually high, if they hate Jesus, and if black jazz musicians are inherently more natural than white jazz musicians. Rocks Off: Let's do something a little different for this interview. Seeing as how you are a bona fide jazz musician and would know this better than anybody, we're going to throw some stereotypes about jazz musicians the public has out there, and you tell us how true they actually are. Give us a percentage as well as a quick explanation. Got it? Cool.
Stereotype No. 1: Jazz musicians are druggies. Isn't there a "Live fast, die young" mantra or something?
Stephen Richard: Ten percent are, if that. I understand where that thinking comes from, but now education is the key. Once guys see the effects drugs can have on them and their favorite musician of the past, they tend to think twice. It's funny, I had to take a drug test at Enron, I guess it doesn't matter where you work. I've never dabbled with any drugs. I hate taking Tylenol. As far as the "live fast die young" mantra, rarely do I see that to be the case. As a matter of fact, the jazz musicians I know are trying to hang around as long as they can to collect royalties and play their steady Friday/Saturday gig. Another thing jazz musicians realize is there is longevity in this music. It's OK to come out with a CD at 60, 70, 80. Unlike other genres, older jazz musicians are viewed and treated like vintage wine.
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RO: Stereotype No. 2: Jazz musicians love porkpie hats. SR: I'd say you might have 15-20 percent who rock porkpie hats. I personally prefer a stingy brim, that's what I own. However, the ensemble has to fit the hat, I just don't where a hat for the sake of being that Jazz musician with the hat on. RO: Stereotype No. 3: Jazz musicians love peppering scat into conversations, as in, "I'll have a gin and tonic... biddily-bap." SL: Zero percent. I've been in the presence of quite a few older jazz cats and, needless to say, younger ones too, and I've never heard that phrase used. Maybe we should switch it around and say, "What's the number one way to tell if someone is a jazz imposter?" Answer: They use the phrase "biddily-bap." RO: [laughs] SR: As a matter of fact, I just created rule 2,679 in the Handbook for jazz musicians. It reads: You CANNOT be considered a jazz musician if you use the phrase "biddily-bap" in conversation or even while scatting. If this type of language is heard your jazz card will be revoked. The reason: it's corny.
RO: Stereotype No. 4: All black jazz musicians are raw and natural and all white jazz musicians are too technical and bookish. SL: Zero percent. There is truth in that stereotype but it's not for the reasons listed. I know black jazz musicians who are technical wizards but have no soul, and I know some white jazz musicians full of soul and vice versa. In my opinion, it's all about your influences, your upbringing, how you hear things, where you live. All that impacts your sound no matter what color you are. I'm not going to sound like a sax player in Brooklyn, New York. He has subways where he lives and where I'm from I see people riding horses on the median. RO [laughs]: Last one. Stereotype No. 5: Jazz musicians hate Jesus. SR: One percent. I guess it's always room for that type of thinking, but most jazz musicians are deeply spiritual people. I recognize Jesus as the son of God and my worship to Jehovah God comes first before anything else. If you want a higher percentage, see Rock musician (now who's doing the stereotyping?). Purchase Richard's current album, Introducing Stephen Richard, Because of You, at www.stephenrichards.com or on iTunes. He will release two new CDs April 10, and perform as part of the entertainment at the release party for said CDs that night at the Red Cat Jazz Cafe (924 Congress). Be there. Biddily-bap.
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