Up and coming saxophonist Dan Cartwright has recently appeared in Terry Pack’s Trees ensemble and been a guest at The Bristol Bar in Brighton. Here he talks to SJM about how he started out and who his influences are.
How did you first get into jazz?
“Well, I always knew it was there. I think I was about 22 years old. I’d just quit a job that I couldn’t stand and I wasn’t really playing much music at all at that point. But I really wanted to get good at the saxophone so I deliberately chose to start practicing jazz and getting into jazz and then my passion for it developed as I kept practicing it. So, funnily enough, I didn’t have that much of a passion for it at the beginning but the passion came quite quickly after I’d decided to do it. The players at the beginning that I really liked were Sonny Rollins. I transcribed a couple of his solos and was trying to sound like him. But later came Stan Getz and then I just purely listened to him for a period of about six months, or maybe a bit more. And then I started sounding very much like that.”
Why did you choose the saxophone?
“I was in school and the music teachers knew I was ‘musical’ and they wanted me to learn the tenor saxophone because they didn’t have any of those instruments in the school band. So they gave me one and I had lessons and sort of went through the grades, but classically. I didn’t have a clue about jazz then, didn’t practice much. Like I said, the passion for it came at a later age.”
Tell us about what you’ve been doing recently.
“I’m in the process of starting a quartet, maybe a quintet. I’m also ‘depping' in a few different bands. But I’ve just started a day job so I don’t have as much time. I’ve been offered a slot at The Verdict but only when I’ve got a group together so I’m in the process of choosing people for a quartet or quintet.”
Tell us a bit about your practice routine.
“It was good. I used to get about two hours in a day. Some weeks I’d have an average of three hours a day, other weeks about two hours.When I first started I was doing about 6-8 hours a day at the beginning. Now I only do an average of half an hour. The plan will be to leave work earlier and start work earlier and be able to practice more.”
Who are your favourite players at the moment? Who do you listen to?
“Sonny Rollins. Sometimes it’s good to listen to bebop players, to add more bebop language to your playing. My language of improvising at the moment is in the period of late 1950s to the early 1960s. But I still like to go back to bebop players and transcribe them and take little bits of language from their playing. Because that period was early forties onwards, it’s earlier than what my language is at the moment. I just find bebop players can be more lyrical in their approach and I really want to emphasise that, to be a really tasteful player rather than loads of random notes that are in the scale but aren’t particularly telling a story. I like that approach which comes from Stan Getz, although now I’ve realised that his language was slightly limited, but you can tell that he really did everything by ear and he wasn’t actually thinking much about the chord sequence of what he was playing, which is a massive ability and talent but it also means that he was ignoring (and probably too pissed or high to think about) the chord sequence. So that’s why I’ve sort of moved on from Stan Getz’s language but I’ll never move on from his concept of thought while soloing, in other words being extremely lyrical and forming phrases like a conversation (which comes from Lester Young, his biggest influence).”
“The main players that represent my playing at the moment are Sonny Rollins, Hank Mobley, saxophonist Harold Land who is on a lot of Clifford Brown’s albums, Dexter Gordon. Cannonball Adderley is more of a recent one, and more representative of me at the moment. And of course Charlie Parker and Sonny Stitt. Joe Henderson is kind of pushing me towards more modern sounds, which I’m not all that keen on at the moment so that’s why I’m choosing not to progress, because I haven’t found a player yet that I like enough to really want to start sounding like them. There’s also an alto sax player called John Park who never was a mainstream player. I found him on YouTube. He was in Stan Kenton’s band and he refused to release any big albums, even though some people would have said he was the best of his time, and he was around at the time of Cannonball.”
“Chris Potter is the only modern player that I like at the moment, because he’s old school. What I hear in his playing is 80% (or maybe even more) of old school language, the kind of language that I’m playing, which is up to the 1960s. And then sometimes he goes outside and really explores the harmony but in a really tasteful way, like a player from that period would do.”
Dan Cartwright can be seen performing at gigs and jam sessions across Sussex.
For more information on Dan Cartwright visit his website: www.dancartwrightsax.com
For saxophone lessons you can contact him here.