T.K. Blue on his nourishing journey
Music is spiritual nourishment for the soul. It’s a sacred art that brings all people together, regardless of race, religion, color, sex, or ethnic background.
There were several factors that influenced my early attraction to the saxophone. I used to listen to James Brown as a teenager and I love Maceo Parker on alto sax. I used to pretend that I was playing those sax solos with the “Godfather of Soul”. Tenor sax man Billy Mitchell, who played with Count Basie, lived down the street from where I grew up. Once he saw my interest in jazz and the saxophone, he gave me lessons very early in my career. He was my teacher at the Henry Street Settlement on the lower eastside in NYC. Conrad Buckner, a famous tap dancer, inspired me as well. He also lived down the street from where I grew up in Lakeview, Long island. He loved jazz and played many albums for me. In fact, he played a recording, which featured Ray Charles on alto sax with Milt Jackson on piano. I never knew Ray played alto sax. John Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders were huge influences. There is a fantastic organization in Harlem called Jazzmobile. They have a Saturday jazz program for young musicians. I was quite fortunate to study with Jimmy Owens, Frank Foster, Ernie Wilkins, Chris Woods, and Jimmy Heath.
New York means a lot to me. Many great musicians come to NYC to live and perform. It’s a cultural center and a magnet. It gives me motivation and keeps me humble, as there are so many excellent musicians who play on a very high level. It motivates me to practice, practice, and practice!!!!!
In my studies I doubled in psychology and that probably means something to my musicianship on an esoteric level. I have thought about combining the two, of healing people with music instead of chemical drugs. Music therapy is a very viable avenue that I hope to explore one day.
I lived in Paris for some years and it was a fantastic experience. It allowed me to play with people from many countries and experience many different musical styles. The lines demarcating different styles of music can be less rigid in Paris than New York. I find Europe a little easier to cross musical boundaries without being pigeonholed into one particular style.
I teach a lot, and what I look for in students are discipline and consistency. I look for seriousness, perseverance, and a strong work ethic. There are a lot of distractions in life and a student must be disciplined to keep their practice regiment intact.
When recording a new project, I try to keep things as natural as possible in the studio. Eye contact is essential as well as a relaxed atmosphere. It’s really all about love and communication. When musicians love and respect each other, great beauty is created!!!
The latest album A Warm Embrace (2014)
TK Blue is a saxophonist and flutist from New York. His many collaborations include work with Don Cherry, Abdullah Ibrahim, Randy Weston, Benny Powell, Jayne Cortez, Jimmy Scott and Randy Brecker. Blue has released nine solo albums and devoted himself extensively to teaching. He is currently full-time professor and director of jazz studies at Long Island University. Find out more HERE