As the Sister Jazz Orchestra is poised to make its debut November 17th, headlining the West Coast Big Band Festival, I had the chance to catch up with some of the amazing musicians who will be making up the ensemble to talk about practice routines, gear, and why they chose their instrument. The first musician I have the pleasure of speaking to in this series is Geeta Das.
1. How did you get into playing your instrument? How did you get into playing jazz?
I started playing flute in my elementary school concert band, then added drums to join my high school jazz band, then trumpet happened just before I started college. Big band drumming was what really got me hooked on jazz!
2. What do you love about your instrument? (Let's talk shop - what gear/brands are you currently using? What do you like about your choices?)
I love the power and presence of the sound. My gear is pretty basic, but it works. I play on the standard silver Bach Stradivarius model 37 ML bore with a gold Bach 3C mouthpiece.
3. What's it like playing in a big band?
Playing in a big band feels like home. It’s where I was first introduced to jazz and it’s what got me excited about listening to and playing jazz. Truth be told, I prefer playing in big bands more than small jazz ensembles. Do you play in small ensembles as well? Not much any more. What's the difference between small and big ensembles for you? I love the contrast of tones and textures created in a big band, along with the combined energy of all the musicians, a little more than in a small ensemble. Having said that, I really love both.
4. As a professional musician, what are your biggest challenges?
Finding the time, and a good balance, for all the exciting projects that I am a part of.
5. What's your top 3 big band albums?
SO hard to choose... Basie Straight ahead (well really anything Basie), Ellington Nutcracker Suite, and Harry Connick Jr. Blue Light, Red Light.
6. What albums/artists are you digging right now (in any jazz genre!)?
Billie Holiday. Oscar Peterson & Clark Terry’s On a Slow Boat to China. And a few local musicians as well, of course!
7. The JUICIEST question --> Tell us about your PRACTICE ROUTINES PLEASE! Are they very structured, more free? How do you fit in practice sessions? Do you have a range of practice routines based on time allowance? What's the number one thing you work on during these sessions? Tell us ALL THE DETAILS!!!
My practice is like meditation for me. Very focused and humbling. I have different routines for all of my different instruments, but they all involve a good warm up. And I always try to have the best posture, breathing, and tone, possible.
8. What would you like to say to the young female musicians in jazz?
Do what you love. Stick to it. Be honest and play from the soul.
What would you like to say to all the young musicians in general?
Be sure to check out the Sister Jazz Orchestra's Debut featuring the legendary Sherrie Maricle November 17th at the Croatian Cultural Centre! Visit www.sisterjazzorchestra.com for more info!