School of Jazz: Rohan Wassink serves as guest DJ
Tenor saxophonist Rohan Wassink from Shorecrest High School will virtually join Abe Beeson as guest DJ tonight (Jan. 7) on Evening Jazz at 7 p.m. He is a junior and in the school's jazz band program. Listen to the show and read their Q&A.
Which instrument do you play and why?
Tenor saxophone is my main instrument. I play it partially because my father had one at the time I was choosing a band instrument, but over time I’ve come to love the sound of the tenor saxophone in its own right. I like the range it covers, from low to high; I like the variety of tone qualities it can produce, from dark to light; and, I love the instrument’s ability to fit into many styles, from powerful big band music to ballads to funk to Latin-American genres.
What’s your all-time favorite jazz piece?
I think my all-time favorite jazz piece would have to be "The Wiggle Walk" by Benny Carter. I have a strong personal connection to this piece, since I played it at the first jazz camp I ever attended. I was in an ensemble with students from the top bands of schools like Roosevelt, and that piece really opened my eyes to what jazz could truly be. After finishing the camp, I went home and listened to all of the different versions of the song I could find, from the Count Basie recording to the one done by the United States Army Field Band Jazz Ambassadors. To this day I still listen to the song almost every week.
Who is your jazz hero?
My jazz hero is probably Clifford Brown. Recently, I’ve really been inspired by his clean lifestyle and resistance to drugs and other things that damaged or sometimes ended the lives of many jazz musicians during that time period. Additionally, I really enjoy hearing the complex harmonic lines he uses in his improvisation, which to me never seem repetitive or overused. It’s also amazing that he reached such a high level before having his life taken by a car crash at a much too young age. I hope to transcribe some of his solos and play more of his tunes in the near future.
I love jazz partly because of the way it helps me connect to my African American history, and how it can teach me about events that were going on during the time not just in music but society as a whole. Additionally, I love how powerful jazz can be. For example, Charles Mingus used his music to express his political viewpoint, his opinion about the actions taken by Governor Faubus, and his perspective on race through his song entitled “Fables of Faubus.” Additionally, Dave Brubeck was able to do some diplomatic bridge building by travelling to Poland and other countries bordering the Soviet Union during the Cold War. He also made a statement about racial inclusivity by refusing to stop his African American bassist from appearing on stage at a concert. A third reason I love jazz is that it has such a large variety and continues to develop as a myriad of styles, both old and new, are combined and personalized by each musician. I love the fact that each player can have their own style, and that old songs can always be played in new ways. With jazz, it always seems like there is something to listen to that I have never heard before. It provides a creative space in which the individual can express themself, delve deep into the things they are experiencing at that moment, and discover more about their own identity as well as those of their fellow musicians.
ROHAN WASSINK'S PLAYLIST
“Soulful” Roy Hargrove (KNKX Studio Session 2009)
“The Wiggle Walk” Count Basie (Kansas City Suite)
“As This Moment Slips Away” The Bad Plus (The Bad Plus Joshua Redman)
“Lullaby of Birdland” Sarah Vaughan (Sarah Vaughan with Clifford Brown)
“Nardis” Bill Evans Trio (Explorations)
“Take Me to the Alley” Gregory Porter (Take Me to the Alley)
“Night in Tunisia” Charlie Parker (Complete Savoy & Dial Master Takes)
“Struttin’ with some Barbecue” Marsalis Family (A Jazz Celebration)