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Noah Howard: High Density

By Kriti Gupta | December 16, 2009

Noah Howard is world renowned for his freestyle jazz renditions. He is an American alto saxophonist who has been playing since the 1960s. He started his career in New Orleans, America, and since then, Howard has travelled and performed across the world in places like Italy, France, Belgium, India, Indonesia, and so on. We caught up with him for a quick interview.

Split Magazine: Noah HowardOn his first gig… Back in New York City in 1962, I played at the world famous Slug’s Jazz Club on the Lower East Side of the city.

Influence… The genius of so many young talented artists of that time. The 1960s were one of the most creative periods of growth for the performing arts in New York City. Jazz was at its peak with creative greats such as Coltrane, Duke Ellington, William “Count” Basie, Sun Ra, Albert Ayler, Charlie Mingus, and so on. These were musicians of my generation — each more inspiring than the next.

Instrument of choice… I tried several different instruments before settling on the jazz alto saxophone. I eventually realised that the alto sound was the closest to the human voice. And to me, this expression was of utmost importance.

Improvisation… is a challenge for me. It is a musical form that keeps you in a state where you are constantly pushing the boundaries of your skills to new limits. It gives a musician the opportunity to express emotion. The chance to be yourself. I feel like I have been most true to this musical expression in the Black Ark recordings. These have allowed me to explore and discover myself.

Best music sessions… The Black Ark recordings are especially close to my heart. Besides that, I have enjoyed the many live performances I have given all over the world.

Favourite musicians… John Coltrane and Ravi Shankar are masters of the art. They created some of the most inspirational music of all times.

On touring all over the world… My travels have definitely contributed to the evolution and creation of my music. Each culture I visited led to my growth as a musician. Wherever I played my music, I worked with the local musicians of that region. These collaborations enriched my musical journey further.

On the jazz scene in India… There is tremendous potential for Jazz in India, and young people are at the forefront of this new wave. They can bring more attention to improvisational musicians by being supportive audiences.

Biggest faux pas on stage… I had an attack and began to hyperventilate during a live performance. Somehow, I quickly recovered and continued with the show.

Thing you have to carry when on tour… Various reeds and mouthpieces for my sax.

Favourite self-composition… “Lovers”, a ballad on my album titled ‘Red Star’.

Famous last words… Life is a journey and music is the perfect vehicle for it!

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