Tell us a bit about the trio that you’re bringing to the UK for Love Supreme Festival.
It’s actually a new configuration. Yasushi Nakamura on bass, I’ve played with him a number of times and people who have seen us in Europe know us. He’s not new but the drummer, for this tour, is Clarence Penn. He’s an absolutely amazing drummer, composer, arranger. He’s originally from Detroit, Michigan and he’s played with so many different people throughout the years, so he’s no stranger to Europe and the tour life. He’s worked with Ellis Marsalis, Diana Krall, Cyrus Chestnut to name just a few. He’s a wonderful musician and I’m really excited having him play my music and to be touring with him.
In terms of the music, will it be new material, or from your last two albums?
It’ll be a mixture. I’m currently writing some new music. I’m trying to go into the studio in the fall, so I’m just coming up with some more material, and then hopefully by the European tour we’ll start to play some of that, test it out and see what people think, along with music from my last few records. Wherever the music leads us, really.
You’ve toured Europe quite a bit in the past few years. Have you found any differences between American audiences and European ones?
American audiences have a different appreciation for the music. It’s music that they’re sort of familiar with, because it’s American music, and the way that I play it, it’s from American roots, so a lot of things are familiar to American audiences. But European audiences absolutely love it, because it’s fairly new. It’s old but new, it’s a different experience, it’s fun. It’s fun all around. I don’t really think there’s a major difference for me. My thing is that if you love music then you enjoy yourself, you just have a good time. And no matter where we play, we’re always having a good time.
I don’t know if you read Downbeat’s recent interview with Branford Marsalis. He talks about a lot of improvisers regurgitating. As an improviser, how do you break away from doing that?
I haven’t seen that interview but, you know, it’s like learning words. The more languages you speak, the more different ways in which you can express yourself. The more music you know, the more you get away from playing the same old licks and vocabulary, because now you’ve developed vocabulary. I believe that’s what Branford is saying, which is something that I’m always striving to do. I’m always listening to so many different things, to broaden my vocabulary, broaden my language in music, so that way, when I do improvise and play, it’s coming from so many different sources. But also it’s coming from sources that I’ve experienced so it’s all, ultimately, me.
What Branford said reminded me of something that Chick Corea said, “Only play what you hear, if you don’t hear it, don’t play it”.
Exactly, exactly. It’s all vocabulary. It’s all a language, so there’s going to be some similarities. There’s going to be some of the lines or rhythms or certain things that we’ve heard throughout jazz’s history, that’s just because of how the language has developed. And that’s ok. That’s what I tell my students. It is okay to regurgitate at one point because you have to learn the language, you have to learn how to speak and greet people in order to have a conversation. So in order to do that you have to learn the language. In the learning process, learn the language, learn the way to greet each musician, to greet the music. And then once you learn how to do that, then you can develop how you want to greet the music in your own way. So I think it takes both.
In terms of your own playing. How do you manage to express who you are, through the music?
I just get up there and play! I express myself the way anybody does. You just start talking. You just start playing from the heart, and playing from the soul. As long as it’s honest, that’s the best policy.
How does someone get to be as good as you?
I don’t think it’s how to get as good as me. I think it’s how do you express yourself. I’m a very expressive person on stage. I’ve been doing it for so long. The real answer is just practice. Do practice, but also be yourself. I don’t think that anyone is better than anyone else, I think it’s just how you express yourself, and the vibrations between people. I resonate with certain people, and then certain people I don’t resonate with, which is okay. I think that’s true with everybody, whether you’re a musician or not. Every person in the world has certain frequencies that we resonate with, and some things that we really, really feel, and some things that we really don’t. I’m just lucky enough that people feel my frequency…and I practice.
Tell us a bit about how the future is lining up, in terms of what you’ve got planned.
I’m doing a lot of touring, a lot of producing this year. A lot of different records for people. I’m doing a lot of writing. I write music for all different types of artists, so I’m doing a lot of different collaborations this year, continued from last year to this year. Not only in the jazz genre, but different genres. Some hip hop, country and western, some EDM, it’s a lot. I’m also working with some fashion designers this year. I’ve been sponsored by a few companies this year. Oxyfresh, the toothpaste company and Amazon. I’m doing a lot of work with different corporations, different brands. It’s a lot of stuff that’s happening, a lot of really positive things happening.
Are you looking forward to returning to Love Supreme?
Yes. I haven’t been since the last time I performed there with Christian McBride. I remember that it was raining and there was a big tent and there was dirt on the ground. And I think this was the first time that Kris Bowers was performing there. He’d just finished a record and he was touring it and I remember seeing him with his group at Love Supreme.
Are there any piano players around at the moment that you like to check out?
Yeah, there are tons. Sullivan Fortner I absolutely love. Alfredo Rodriguez I’m a big fan of. These are people that I love to play with as well. I haven’t played with Alfredo yet, but we’re talking about it, which will be a lot of fun. Theo Hill. I love Theo Hill, he’s great, a really excellent pianist. There’s a whole bunch of musicians that I’m really checking out. I know there are a few people in the UK coming out of the Royal Academy. I try to keep my ear close to what’s happening, so I can watch my job! But there’s a few people. There’s always someone new coming up and they always have something interesting to say. So I always like to pay attention to what’s going on.
So what are you up to for the rest of today?
A bit of writing, and a bit of reading. You should always expand your mind in order to write. I have a couple of meetings later on. I’m meeting with Lincoln Center, and I have a meeting with another company that wants to do a collaboration. And a meeting with the Errol Garner Project. That’s a new project that we’re working on. We’re doing the music of Errol Garner. It’s all music that he’s written, or 90%. But most of the music that we’re playing has never been recorded or even released before. It’s with Terreon Gully on drums and Luques Curtis on bass. A very fun group. We’ve done a few shows in the States and we’re going to be doing a European tour later this year as well. So it’s really exciting. And it’s going
to be a multimedia concert too, we’re doing a whole bunch of different stuff. So that’s what we’re talking about today, getting all the details. Stay tuned to the music, follow me on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter! Can’t wait to see everybody.
Christian Sands Trio
Love Supreme Festival
The Arena Sunday, 5:30pm
Interview by Charlie Anderson
Photo by Anna Webber