April 23, 2010

Cherokee jazz saxophonist

MUSIC:  Jazz sax in a Native keyCherokee saxophone player and bandleader Sharel Cassity has a trademark lick. It sounds like the wavering falsetto that starts a powwow song.

“I believe that jazz comes from the powwow drum,” said Cassity, who lives in New York. “There are elements from Africa. The harmonic consistency comes from Europe. But you don’t get that thump, that boom, boom, boom in the bass and drums without the powwow.”

Jade Synstelien, the first bandleader to hire Cassity, says she brings a Native sensibility to all her work, including her new CD, “Relentless.”

Cassity performed with the Tony Lujan Septet at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian earlier this month. The concert was a tribute to bebop pioneers Dizzy Gillespie and Oscar Pettiford, who was Choctaw and Cherokee.
Comment:  For more on Natives and jazz, see Mildred Bailey's Tribal Roots and Harjo's Wild Theatrical Ride.

Below:  "Sharel Cassity plays the alto saxophone in front of a mural of jazz greats. The Cherokee musician recently performed at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian." (Photo by Michelle Watt)

No comments: