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Zhenya Strigalev (June 16)


Appearances at SoundCellar -

Zhenya Strigalev 'Never Group' - Thurs 7th July  2016


Question 1 - What made you want to become a musician?  

First it was a hobby inspired by jazz recordings. Then after about 2 years of "messing around" I understood that if I want to learn the instrument I can't "mess around with it". One of the reasons, I guess, that I am not skilled enough to mess around with it. I get things done not very easy, so if I don't do it properly (practice everyday etc), there won't be any result. But if I do it properly, there won't any more time to do anything else. At that stage, I got in love with the instrument and jazz already, so I decided to be a musician.


Question 2 - What was your practice routine when you decided to get serious about playing jazz?

From the moment when I decided to get serious about playing, I started to practice 3 hour per day after school. Of course, later, I realised that it's not enough.


Question 3 – What advice can you give to other musicians to get the most from their practice routine?

It's one of the difficult questions. That's one of the reasons I don't teach much because I don't know most of the answers. I am still searching...I think every person is different and requires a different schedule and type of practice depending on their strong and weak sides. I guess, you can do some progress if you trying to be honest with yourself and not close your eyes on your weak sides as well as try to develop your strong sides even more. Then listening to lots of classic jazz before 1970. Try to be self critical, and not upset about it, but work on it. Everybody (not everybody, of course) has something special, but unfortunately many people never even understand what special thing they have, because they are trying to follow the fashion or trends. The idea is to have lots of patience and not to expect to be able to be an amazing musicians in 5-10 years. It's a life process and if you actually decided at some point that you good enough and stop developing, that means you kind of dead. Jazz especially is about moving forward, time, progress...Do something new every day even if it's a very tiny bit. Repeat what you've done the day-month-year before. If you learning something, try to learn it properly otherwise it's a waste of time. You will forget it soon...


Question 4 - Can you recommend some books that helped you with your studies?

I haven't done any books really except the Real Book with which you have to be careful too because not all tunes are written the right way there. Check the original recordings too. I was doing my own books with transcriptions, so that's what I studied the most of the time.


Question 5 - Which recording, either as a leader or a sideman, do you think is the best example of your playing?

On every recording I've done, there's always some solo where I think that's the best I played and I will never be able to play like this again...And those solos vary depending on my mood...


Question 6 - Do you have a standard procedure for your compositional process?

Most of the time I do sketches when practicing saxophone. Writing down some phrases, which I think could be a tune. Then later come back to them and develop. But there are some tunes which I composed just on piano or on saxophone in one go (without sketches).


Question 7 - What qualities do you look for in your collaborators?

I guess the main one is a natural approach, the person not trying to be like somebody else. The other qualities depends on the project...


Question 8 - Name some of your favourite standards and tell me why you like them.

That changes from time to time. I like "Body and Soul". I like "Now's The Time". I like "What's New?". I like "On the Sunny Side Of the Street", "Oleo". Apart from that they are great tunes anyway, I like them for personal reasons. They may associated with some period of my life or specific musician whose versions of these tunes I liked.


Question 9 – What are some of your desert island discs?  

From jazz selection, I guess, it will be some Bill Evans, some Sonny Rollins, some Louis Armstrong and some Weather Report.


Question 10 - What music are you listening to at the moment?

At the moment I actually don't listen much. Need some rest after playing and listening to concerts. But I regularly check some tunes on youtube or other websites. It could be some contemporary or old things in any styles.


Question 11 - What motivates you to focus on creative music?

I don't really think about "creative music" when focusing on music. If the result of my focusing is creative that's great. I can't force the creativity really...But I try to practice, so to have more chances to be creative. I guess, the idea is not to be disturbed with (not to think about) anything else while focusing.


Question 12 – Tell me about some of the most memorable gigs you’ve played?

I think about the most challenging, I guess. I thing it was my first ever Jam Session I played in St Petersburg where I tried to play Dizzy Gillespie solo. The gig with Chris Dave Trio in London were also memorable where I had to learn music on the day of the gig from the record. This was also my first gig with high profile contemporary Americans.


Question 13 - Tell me about some of the most memorable gigs you’ve been to?

I don't remember much now but definitely Elvin Jones in Moscow, Joe Zawinul Sindicate in London...


Question 14 – Tell me about your current equipment set up?

At the moment I use Keilwerth saxophone and Nadir New Cresent mouthpiece. Reeds are either Vandoren Java 4 or LaVoz hard. Thats my very recent set up. I may change it at some point. Its good sometimes to change your set up so to refresh the feelings about playing  and get different ideas.  


Question 15 – Tell me about some musicians you think people should check out?

The list here is just too long and it depends to whom I am speaking to. If I talk to a person who never heard jazz, I would put him/her one classic ragtime, one classic dixieland, one classic swing, one classic Miles, one classic funk and then something like Weather Report. Then depending on if he/she likes some of it, I would recommend other things.  


Question 16 - What's your favourite cultural pursuit other than music?

I like reading. I haven't read much in school, so catching up on that now. Also, going to museums. Nature...


Question 17 - What do you think of the state of jazz in the UK?

It's a difficult question here. I think it's very good and it's always progressing and becoming more open and creative. I also think that it will progress even better if there will be less talks among musicians (not all do that, of course) and in music schools/colleges about how great British Jazz is. It's good but it will be better if instead of talking how great it is people practice more, do more interesting projects, collaborate more with American, European musicians or musicians from other countries. And that is going that way now, which is great.  


Question 18 - Have you got any tips for jazz promoters?

Hmm...Obviously the person has to be motivated, open minded and with some energy. Also, I guess, one of the main tip is to study jazz history and to know lots of important albums. And to be independent minded and not following trends. Start your own trends...


Question 19 - What was the last thing you heard that got you excited?

I think it was Peter Bernstein, Larry Goldings, Bill Stewart Trio at Ronnies.


Question 20 – Have you got anything you'd like to promote?

Go to youtube and listen to some of our music. Go to my website and come to our gigs. In July it's my first (after 13 years living in UK) UK/Irish Tour. I am very excited about it. 19 dates with the company of top American UK based bassist Michael Janisch and great Spanish drummer Marc Ayza.