Smitty: Very cool. As far as the record itself, when you first put this whole record together, were you thinking about just playing the alto or the baritone or the tenor? What was your concept of putting this record together? Did you want to do just a straight alto sax record or were you thinking about mixing in soprano and some other saxophones in there?
SK: On the record I play alto sax, soprano sax, and flute, but initially all the songs that we recorded, they’re not all on the CD, but I play tenor, alto, soprano and the flute. I didn’t play bari sax yet. I actually only started about six months ago. So I played everything, but the tenor track I ended up not being happy with, so I just put the other stuff on it. And the arrangements on the songs I pretty much came up with the night before the first recording, just singing the melodies to the songs and thinking about how I would like to play each song and singing a drum beat feel.
And as far as picking the instrument, I pretty much chose the songs to the instrument. Like “Friends and Strangers” I did on flute, which Ronnie Laws did on saxophone, but I had heard other people play it live and I had only heard it on flute. I actually didn’t hear the Ronnie Laws version of the song until the first day of the recording. And I did “Maputo,” which David Sanborn recorded, and I did more of a rock feel rather than the more Smooth Jazz feel that he does. “Song for My Father,” which is a song that I’ve always played whenever I go to sit in….not anymore but at the time….and I’ve always played it on alto and Greg’s always played it on bari, so I thought it would be cool to do it on the album the same way. And “Infant Eyes,” which I play on soprano, we picked that song because we were trying to think of a ballad that would sound really good on alto or soprano, and we ended up picking that song and I played soprano, and that’s pretty much how I decided which instruments I was playing on which song.
Smitty: Very cool. You’ve drawn some serious inspirations from some great artists as far as your career is concerned. Who’s your greatest influence?
SK: I can’t really say I have one. I’ve been influenced by Kenny Garrett, Gerald Albright, Kirk Whalum, Joshua Redman, Chris Potter, Kurt Elling, Greg Vail, of course Michael Brecker, Vincent Herring, but I would have to say that if I had to pick one person, I would pick Greg Vail just because he’s the one who taught me how to play the saxophone, he’s always been around, he’s always supported me, he’s always helped me out as much as he could, he’s introduced me to people who have helped me out or who have worked with me, and he lets me play at all of his gigs and vice versa, and so he’s always just tried to push me out there and help me get as much exposure as I can, and he’s just also a great player, so he’s a really good person to be around and to listen to.
Smitty: Well, that’s cool. Well, we’ll have to give Greg a nice thumbs up. You have gotten off to a fast start with your career and you’ve crossed genres with your music. What would you say to other musicians your age about getting their career off to a good start? What advice would you give them?
SK: Well, something I notice with a lot of my friends or kids my age is that they sit around and wait for someone to call them, and it just doesn’t work that way. You have to get out there, go sit in wherever you can, play with as many people as you can, look at yourself as a leader because when you’re starting out people aren’t going hire you because there’s much better musicians out there, so you should get out there and book gigs and hire other people. It’s the easiest way to start working. And, you know, it’s just a matter of trying to do things yourself because no one’s going to do them for you.
Smitty: Excellent but very true and very well said. That’s excellent advice for all musicians, really, when you think about it. You’ve got, what, three or four Web sites.
SK: I have four Web sites.
Smitty: Let’s talk about Teen Jazz. Teen Jazz basically does what for the artist?
SK: Teen Jazz…I try to push it as a teen resource and networking Web site. It has helpful music-related articles of concert reviews, instrument/gear reviews, interviews with professional musicians Greg Adams, Mindi Abair, Carol Kaye, Terry Lyne Carrington, etc.; it’s got interviews with young musicians, very accomplished young musicians like Alex Han, Isaiah Morfin; and it offers a place for kids to go and kinda get their name out there. There’s an application they can apply to become a Teen Jazz artist, to get a feature on the page with a one-page bio, a photograph, contact information, whatever they want essentially.
Smitty: Very cool. And then there’s www.shannon-kennedy.com
SK: Yes, that’s my personal Web site. It’s been redesigned approximately ten times now. I think I’m happy with the way it looks right now finally. Well, that site’s pretty much my personal Web site. It talks about my CD, it talks about some of the things that I do and have done, it talks about what I’m planning on doing in the future, it has my press kit, my performance schedule, photographs, pretty much anything you’d want to know about me is on the site.
Smitty: Nice! And, now, talk about the other two you have.
SK: The other two…one is www.kenkasemusic.com, which is a reed case company that my dad and I started when I was 16. There are a lot of reed cases out on the market for woodwind players and they’re really expensive. So one day my dad, when I needed one, decided to start making them instead of having to spend the money to buy them, and it just….everyone started wanting them, so we started Ken Kase Music and that’s the Web site for that. And the other Web site is www.angeleyesmusic.com, which is my record label.
Smitty: So you have your own record label. You are some go-getter, you know that? All right. So, now, have you been able to advise some of your teen friends as far as starting the record label?