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Dan White and his New York Sessions - Interview

Photo courtesy of Dan White

blog by Kathryn Przybyla  • 

Not many 20-somethings have accomplished what Buffalo native, jazz musician and composer Dan White has already checked off his bucket list.

Following up on his first album, “Between the Lines,” White has embarked on a new project—The New York Sessions. Recorded and filmed live on December 19 of 2011 at Supr Dupr Sound Studios in Brooklyn, New York, this new project is rapidly catching the eyes of the music world. Even Wyclef Jean re-tweeted a message from current Dan White Sextet bandmate, Jon Lampley.

I got a chance to catch up with White and find out a little more about the man behind the sax. Here is what he had to say.

Tell us a little bit about how you first got started in music

Dan White: I started taking piano lessons when I was eight, then I started band when I was nine on the saxophone. I had wonderful teachers as I grew up. They inspired me to challenge myself and write music. I was blown away by a Joshua Redman Concert at the Tralf when I was 13. After going to that show with my dad, I was hooked. I wanted to write and perform music.

When one thinks of jazz, they don’t always envision a 20-something on saxophone. Why this genre?

DW: I decided to get into it because I like the constant search of new things. I am constantly looking for new ways to improvise and compose. I am a student of the tradition, so I am constantly searching for recordings and players from the past. I am also searching for new music today because I like to listen, but also to inform my composing, and to potentially cover the music in my own way.

How do you feel about the jazz scene in Buffalo?

DW: There are a few problems with the scene in Buffalo. I think that a big factor of why there is not a thriving jazz scene in Buffalo is that there are not highly developed college programs in and around the city. Another issue is that there is no institution in place outside of academia. In Columbus, there are two major universities with jazz programs. 

On top of that there is the Jazz Arts Group, and the Columbus Jazz Orchestra. Every classical institution in Columbus has a jazz counterpart. There is a youth orchestra and a youth jazz orchestra, a symphony orchestra and a jazz orchestra. Buffalo would be a wonderful place to have all of these things.

By no means am I saying that a thriving jazz scene is dependent on academic institutions alone. The heart of a music scene is the working and evolving musicians who collaborate constantly.

Where did you meet your bandmates from the Dan White Sextet?

DW: The members of the group met while taking music courses at Ohio State. Chris Ott and I became very close, sharing classes and rooming together. During that time we started to write and arrange music for our band. Then our friend Jon Lampley began getting serious about the trumpet; he was primarily a sousaphone player in the marching band.

We asked Jon to join the group we started writing more and more original music. The three of us clicked right away, each feeding off the other during shows.  The powerful sound of having a rhythm section and three horns became the canvas for new, more ambitious compositions.

What kinds of projects are you guys working on now?

DW: We are currently working on two projects simultaneously. We are finishing up a project that we recorded this past December called New York Sessions. It is an eight video Youtube series professionally filmed live, during a two day recording session in Brooklyn, New York.

We are releasing two videos four fridays in a row and then releasing the music on iTunes. We are also currently planning out summer schedule and next recording project.

Where do you personally draw inspiration for composing and writing new songs?

DW: The biggest inspiration for me to write is definitely the thrill of playing new music with the whole band. There is no feeling in the world like performing one of your charts for the first time in front of an audience. Sometimes I write so that the band can stretch out and we can all improvise over a groove.

A lot of the music that I write is inspired by events in my life, but sometimes music pops into my head and I complete the entire thing without having an external inspiration. Other times, music that I listen to inspires me to write. I like to blend and mash up music in my own unique way.

Sometimes the original music is recognizable, other times it is a completely new product. The music that this band plays is very eclectic. Some is very structured and complicated, while sometimes it is very loose and simple. 

Who have been some of your biggest musical influences?

DW: My first musical influences were my teachers who inspired me to improvise and compose at a young age: Dave Digiacomo, Dave Schiavone, Wayne Moose, and Stephen Shewan. As I grew up, I was a big fan of Bobby McFerrin, Dave Matthews, and Bela Fleck. I remember being blown away by a Sonny Rollins Album my dad showed me when I was 12. 

Joshua Redman has always been a big influence on me, I saw him when I was 13 and that really did it for me. After that show I was determined to perform and compose. Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra really inspired to study the tradition.

As I studied music, I was inspired by many of the jazz greats, Louis Armstrong, Oscar Peterson, The Jazz Messengers, John Coltrane, Ben Webster, Lester Young, and Charlie Parker, to name a few. As I continued to explore outside of jazz I was moved by Radiohead, Nick Drake, Stevie Wonder, and many other groups.

It sounds like 2011 was a big year. What are you looking to accomplish in 2012?

DW: This year my sextet will be preforming many more shows that before. We are beefing up our book of tunes and experimenting new covers and instrument combinations…vocals, beat box, sousaphone, effects pedals.

Jon and I are working on a duo recording project ‘Fight The Team’ too. It will feature all Ohio State songs and will be released early this summer.

Although White mostly has booked gigs in Ohio, he will be in the Western New York area for a couple shows. You can catch him at the Rochester Jazz Festival on June 25 and the Lewiston Jazz Festival on August 24.

Make a Man Out of You

Heart of Gold/Two Step from The New York Sessions

Photo courtesy of Dan White

TAGGED: jazz, new york sessions, osu, wyclef jean

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