Featured Musician - April 2006

Name: Dusty York

Instrument: Tenor Saxophone

Early Years/Education: I really started paying attention to music seriously at age fourteen. By my late teens I realized I wanted to play professionally; prior to that my Dad, tenor saxophonist Michael York, really didn't encourage it.

I, of course, grew up listening to my Dad's jazz as well as his extensive record collection. And my Mom, Susan Linn, sang a lot of country stuff with her sisters, Margaret, Mary and Diane.

The Linn sisters were like the von Trapps, always singing when they got together. After I decided to play, my Dad helped me get a tenor.

I began playing every day, really working on it. I guess I really loved listening to the music so much I wanted to be apart of it. In the beginning I'd figure things out by myself and once in a while I'd check in with my Dad for help. Later on, I trained with John Gross.

I've had my own trio now for three years. I started writing immediately, I feel strongly about having a working group. It takes time to work in original tunes especially for some thing that's a little bit looser like a piano-less quartet...it requires more imagination to really pull the stuff off.

My group is serious. There's some stuff we kind of play "free" but it's all based on something. We're trying to do something distinct so my group is not interchangeable with anybody else.

Portland is a very straight-ahead town and oddly enough the only harsh criticism I've gotten was locally...the people in New York liked my stuff better then here. I believe that boldness is the most important quality to have in jazz. The more head strong and bold you are to jump into things the better. My "day job" is as a bartender. I worked at the Brasserie for years and got to listen to and meet a lot of musicians.

Currently, I'm working at Bluehour and at a martini bar in the Pearl called Olivor Twist.

Record producer: I have an independent record label called Diatic Records. My two CD's are on it as well as the 20th anniversary edition of Gordon Bleu, (The Mel Brown Sextet), Gordon Lee's "One, Two Three", and the Farnell Newton-Marcus Reynolds Quintet, "Sense of Direction."

I make it a point to invest time and money into the people I'm producing because I believe in what they're doing, I think that's the way record labels should operate. I look for all original material or something that's really unique. Like, my current Dave Frishberg CD. It'll be released this month and features Dave along with tenor saxist John Gross and drummer Charlie Doggett. They play some of the most obscure standards and some rare Al Cohn material.

This is a unique trio, strong personalities, and it's nice to have Frishberg highlighted for his piano work. I'm also trying to put out a solo CD of my Dad. We record at Randy Porter's studio.

Musical Influences: Early swing stuff ...Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins. I remember Lester's "Ghost of a Chance;"the avant guys like Ornette Coleman, I appreciate what he did with the music. There's George Adams, locally John Gross, Rob Davis, Lee Wuthenow, or nationally, Rick Marcitza.

I remember Coltrane's "India" struck me as a young child. Then there's Monk, Mingus ...every period had an impact on me in some way. Sonny Rollins, Joe Henderson, Stan Getz (I can only listen to him for so long before I start feeling bad about myself!) Wardell Gray, Paul Gonsalves, Duke Ellington and of course my Dad, Michael York. I've had the privilege of hearing him more than anybody. There have been moments when he was so "on" he's played some of the best tenor I've ever heard in my life.

Most Satisfying Experience: Probably my first paying gig. I was so nervous! I still have the play sub. It turned out to be one of my most memorable musical experiences. I remember being elated in thinking, I can do this!

Favorite Recordings: Anything by Duke Ellington, Mingus, Monk, Art Tatum and Sonny Rollins. From Mingus: "Pithecanthropus Erectus" and "Black Saint & the Sinner Lady," Sonny's "Freedom Suite." I like other genres like rock and classical... Shostakovich, Oliver Messiaen. Thank God for Ipods! Lately, I'm listening to a lot of Lee Konitz recordings, taking them apart and really studying them.

Discography: I have two CDs on my Diatic label: "June Diva" by the Dusty York Trio with Keith Brush on bass and Ken Paine on drums. This has all my original material and was released in 2004. Then there's "A State of Secession, Volume One" by the Dusty York Trio w/ Michael York. This has all my compositions except one by Sam Burton. I'm planning a second album with my Dad, "A State of Session, Volume Two." Soon after that we'll do another trio album called "Bella."

Gigs Coming Up: April 22nd, The Blue Monk, 9pm, $5, Dusty York Trio w/ Michael York (my father) and myself, tenor, Andrea Niemiec, bass, Ken Paine drums. Fri. May 12, Abou Karim, 8:30 - 12:00, no cover, Dusty York Trio
with Andrea and Ken.

Future Gigs: July 13, The Old Church, 8pm, $12; this is a Diatic Records Showcase, with my trio playing the first set, (same personnel as the Abou Karim date), and then a set by Gordon Lee. (Should be a blast.)

Future Plans: I want to put out my own albums, produce a body of work. We hope to capture a national/international audience.

Other: I think the decline of the popularity of jazz is partly the musician's fault; they don't give the listener enough that's fresh and different to listen to. Jazz is a very hard music to listen to but what the audience picks up on is the energy of it As the story goes... an old Russian theater director once told Shostakovich if your work receives all praise consider it a failure . . . if you get mixed reviews then you know you're doing something substantial. I really believe in that.

-- Interviewed by Rita Rega

Copyright 2007, Jazz Society of Oregon