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Since 2005, KNKX's School of Jazz has provided mentorship, learning and performance opportunities to Western Washington middle school, high school and college jazz students. A cornerstone of the station's signature community outreach program, it has directly impacted thousands of jazz students, band directors and professional musicians. School of Jazz is sponsored by BECU.

School of Jazz guest DJ for February: Nicholas Chesemore

A young man in a plaid shirt sits at a microphone in a radio studio.
Abe Beeson
Nicholas Chesemore

Saxophonist Nicholas Chesemore from Interlake High School in Bellevue will join Abe Beeson as guest DJ on Feb. 3 during Evening Jazz at 7 p.m. Get to know him in this Q&A, and check out his playlist.

Which instrument do you play and why?
I primarily play tenor saxophone and bass clarinet. I began playing tenor in sixth grade with the hopes of joining our jazz band. At the time, the darker sound and lower range of the tenor as well as the big sound of players like Dexter Gordon and John Coltrane helped me feel confident tenor was the instrument for me. I began on bass clarinet in ninth grade and very quickly after discovering Eric Dolphy and Michael Lowenstern fell in love with the range and versatility of the instrument. Playing bass clarinet and tenor is just indescribably fun, and both just feel like an extension of my personal voice.

What’s your all-time favorite jazz piece?
Man, that’s a difficult question. I am not sure I really have one favorite but one that I can’t help coming back to regularly is Duke Ellington’s "The Single Petal of a Rose" off the album Queen’s Suite and Joe Temperly’s version on bass clarinet. The tenderness and care that goes into Ellington’s playing as well as the beautiful melody and harmony which create such a beautiful piece that pulls your emotions out of you, whether it is happiness, sadness or something else, is something I have only experienced with select few other pieces in my life. It constantly keeps me coming back to have another listen.

Who is your jazz hero?
I have had many major influences in my musicianship and playing since I began. Most notably, on and off the bandstand, my fellow bandmates have been the largest influence in my musicianship. Eric Dolphy, Stan Getz and Charles Mingus have definitely had large influences on my playing, but for sure, Dexter Gordon is my No. 1. His big sound and great ability to play melodically, swing and lay back hard, and have some the best jazz vocabulary, in my opinion, make it no competition at all.

Why jazz?
Jazz is just fun to listen to and play. A lot of the harmonies you find are distinct from other genres and are not afraid to have crunch and dissonance. For me, there is nothing comparable to jamming and playing with other musicians. Every time you play you get to create something with others that is unique to that performance and not just solo and listen but interact with each other and have a conversation. Jazz also has a lot of variety in its subgenres and styles like big band, combos, Afro-Cuban, Latin, swing and more. This variety is also quite appealing since there is so much to listen to and discover as well as play.

"On Green Dolphin Street," Eric Dolphy (Outward Bound)

"Cruisin' for a Bluessin'," Maynard Ferguson (Big Bop Nouveau)

"I Remember Clifford," Lee Morgan (Lee Morgan Vol. 3)

"Blue Moose," Seamus Blake/Chris Cheek (Reeds Ramble)

"Single Petal of a Rose," Duke Ellington (The Queen's Suite)

"In My Room," Jacob Collier (In My Room)

"Three In One," Thad Jones-Mel Lewis (Presenting the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra)

Subscribe to Nicholas Chesemore's channel on YouTube.