Saxophonist Darius Jones explains why jazz is far from dead

Darius Jones is passionate about music. The alto saxophonist has received rave reviews from publications such as The New York Times and All About Jazz for his rich, soulful musical approach.That approach is rooted in his love for expression and his respect for history.

“I pretty much got my start in music because of the church. I was born into it,” Jones recalls. “Both of my grandfathers were preachers. I probably heard gospel music; that was my first introduction into music. Jazz wasn’t a part of that until much later.

“Getting into jazz music, I had to embrace the intellectual side of it,” he adds. “For me, for a long time music had a purpose. The purpose was to heal and to save. There were a multitude of reasons [beyond] making your booty shake!” he says with a laugh.

As Jones got older, he realized that those seemingly disparate strains of music (gospel, jazz, blues) were more related than it seemed. His roots are Southern and he honed his musical gifts in Richmond, Va., before moving to New York City in 2005. He signed to AUM Fidelity Records in 2009 and released his debut,  Man’ish Boy (A Raw and Beautiful Thing) as a bandleader, that same year. He’s since released more ambitious projects, including work with pianist Matthew Shipp and the collective Little Women. Jones has worked in a variety of disciplines, from traditional jazz, to electro-acoustic fusions and multi-media presentations and events. All the while, he’s sought to push the genre forward while celebrating its legacy.

“We’re all looking for that thing to take us away from this thing we are tethered to in life,” he says. “There’s something powerful about that. We have to really understand that.”

“If you want to be a jazz musician, you have to know the history,” Jones explains. “Jazz music is not entertainment per se; it’s a lifestyle. When we look at jazz, it’s telling stories from one moment to the next moment. That’s what’s happening.”

Stereo Williams
Stereo Williams

Todd "Stereo" Williams, entertainment writer based in New York City. He co-founded Thirty 2 Oh 1 Productions, an indie film company.

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