02:12PM, Friday 08 September 2017
Michael Kanan was already one of New York’s best jazz pianists when he teamed up with London upstart saxophonist Sam Braysher. As they begin a tour to promote their new album, Golden Earrings, Kanan took some time out to speak about their partnership and his own background.
Q. What drew you to jazz and what made you stick with it?
A. There was a piano in my home when I was growing up. When I was around seven I made up songs and I learned to play little improvised solos. When I heard my first jazz record a couple of years later through my aunt, who loved jazz, the light bulb immediately came on. I couldn't technically understand what these adults were doing, but I related to the fact that they were improvising and it was amazing. From that moment on, I never wanted to do anything else
Q. What was it like growing up in Boston? What’s the music scene like there?
A. Boston was great for me as I kid. There were several clubs were I could go to hear music – most of them are gone now.
Q. What took you to New York?
A. New York is always the destination. I made a list of everyone I knew in Boston, and everyone I knew in New York. The New York list was longer. How could I not go? It's the best decision I've ever made.
Q. Who’s the best musician you’ve played or performed with?
A. So many people have taught, influenced, and inspired me. If I'm forced to only cite one, I'd have to say Jimmy Scott. I was in his group for almost five years. The energy in the room changed the moment he walked on stage, even before he sang. Besides all of this, he was one of the kindest, most generous, and inclusive people I've ever meet.
Q. Do you have a favourite city or venue?
A. New York. Even in 2017, there are living links to the great tradition of jazz. Whatever sound or style you might like, there are musicians in NY that have been doing it longer, and with great depth.
Q. How did you end up working with Sam Braysher?
A. I first met Sam when he was visiting New York. He approached me for a lesson but I don't think I had too much to offer him – he had it already. His rate of growth has been phenomenal. He's got so much control and ability, but he never throws it around wastefully. I admire that. He's also a very gracious person who doesn't try to call attention to himself. That maturity shows in his playing.
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