ARTS AND CULTURE: Cynthia Sayer – La Tribune


Internationally renowned banjoist CYNTHIA SAYER will lead her trio in Cynthia Sayer: Hot Banjo at the Paramount Arts Center on Saturday, July 24 at 8 p.m.

Gender style: Hot Jazz, Swing and more

Location: New York City

How did the project get started?
I have performed with many groups over the years, both as an accompanist and conductor, most notably as a founding member of Woody Allen’s New Orleans Jazz Band, co-leader of the New Spike Jones Orchestra. , leader of Women Of The World. Jazz Band (all the best musicians) and leader of an all-banjo quartet, The New York Banjo Ensemble, which was my very first concert band. I founded my current project, The Joyride Band, in order to bring the joy and excitement of live hot jazz and banjo jazz to audiences around the world.

What are the three adjectives to describe your style?
Exciting, unexpected and fun!

Tell us about your creative process. Does it vary, if so, how?
As a conductor, I set up a new schedule for each appearance, so we never play the exact same show twice. I balance the familiar with the new material in order to keep things fresh for my band, myself and our audience. Improvisation is not only a part of playing jazz, but also an approach or a point of view. I will often create an arrangement on the spot based on the mood or reaction of the audience, or follow some kind of evolving path, sometimes causing me to change the concert program as I go. My goal is to be musically engaging and fun for us and the audience, while also fulfilling my long-standing mission of displaying the range and versatility of my instrument, the four-string banjo.

How has your art evolved since you started?
Unlike the majority of young artists playing hot jazz and swing today, I never went to music school. I majored in English and assumed I would continue my law studies, but instead opted for music. I was probably the last generation to learn my trade by doing, much like being an apprentice in a guild and learning from my elders. In jazz, our elders are highly respected. And the more experienced musicians are very supportive of the young musicians who keep this music alive and flourishing. Certainly, as a young player, when I showed up at a concert there was often an obvious hesitation or a double take, as most musicians back then weren’t used to seeing female players, even less a jazz banjoist. . But once I started playing, they recognized that I was a serious musician. I have been fortunate to have benefited from the support and guidance of many leading artists.

I believe in always learning and growing, it never stops.

I started my career more narrowly focused on traditional jazz, and over time I have expanded to anything that appeals to me and can take me and my audience on a banjo ride for the evening. .

What is your favorite creative tool and why?My brain is my favorite creative tool, but I guess everyone in the arts is. Of course, my brain connects to the parts of my heart and soul where creative juices live and infiltrate. From there it all translates into the many different aspects of playing and creating music.

What if being an artist filled your cup? Why should others care about the arts?
I feel like I have the best job I can – bringing joy to others through music! I believe the arts are of paramount importance, allowing us to connect with each other as human beings, transcending cultures and politics. The arts nourish the soul. The arts are an integral part of our humanity, inspiring us to expand our worldview, compassion and creativity in every way possible. The arts matter in the same way that love counts, giving deeper meaning and support to our lives.

Any advice for beginner or struggling artists?
I believe it is important to make a commitment not only to learning and developing your art, but also to learning and growing the business that you develop with your art. You can be creative on both. When I first started I didn’t know how much time I would need to devote to the business side of things as my career developed. Learn your craft, yes, and try to keep enough creative space, and also learn the ins and outs of doing business in the music industry.

What upcoming project should we be looking for and where can we look for it?
As things reopen, my concert and festival work, my tours, etc., pick up. Thank God! I am currently deciding on my next project, without rushing into anything. In the meantime, you can listen to my music on Spotify and other streaming platforms, and on my website you can find my albums, as well as my hot jazz accompaniment book for all instruments, “You’re IN The Band “. I also invite you to watch my clip “Sunshine For The World” on YouTube, which I made during the Covid lockdown. Creating it definitely helped me stay positive during this dark time.

As we move forward and begin to put this pandemic behind us, it feels like a very precious moment – a new beginning. But for now, I just appreciate being able to do live performances again!

What question have you never asked you that you would like to be asked? How would you respond?
How is your banjo different?

When people hear the word “banjo” they usually associate it with bluegrass, roots music, etc. It’s a five-string banjo. My instrument is a whole different type of banjo that many are less familiar with – the four-string banjo. Although the two are called banjos, they are actually quite different, with different technical and tuning skills required for each. The four strings evolved from the five strings, but created a distinct musical trajectory and a history of its own. There are also two types of four-string banjos: the tenor and the plectrum. I play the banjo with a pick. But I’m not going to put all the banjo-nerdy to you! Come to our show and I’ll show you what a four-string banjo can do!


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