School of Jazz: Nicolas Lofgren serves as guest DJ | KNKX

School of Jazz: Nicolas Lofgren serves as guest DJ

Mar 5, 2020

Multi-instrumentalist Nicolas Lofgren from Bainbridge High School on Bainbridge Island will take over Evening Jazz with Abe Beeson as guest DJ at 8 p.m. tonight (March 5). Nicolas is a senior and plays lead alto in the jazz band at his high school. He also plays clarinet, soprano and tenor saxophones. Listen to the show and read his Q&A. 

Which instrument do you play and why?
I play clarinet, bass clarinet, soprano sax, alto sax, and tenor sax. I started clarinet in the fourth grade, a decision that was largely influenced by my dad. He started playing the clarinet when he was 30, and was influenced by its rich and characteristic tone.

I took to the clarinet very well and started private lessons in sixth grade. By the end of seventh grade, I began playing the tenor sax because I had started playing jazz on clarinet, but wanted to be able to play in a traditional big-band setting once I got to high school. By sophomore year in high school, I was preparing pieces on both tenor sax and clarinet for solo and ensemble contest, and I was heavily involved in jazz on the tenor sax.

By junior year, I picked up the soprano sax, and ended up winning first place in the small woodwind ensembles at state solo and ensemble contest with my friend and fellow saxophone player, Thomas Wieland. This year, (senior year) I am playing lead alto in jazz band and have picked up bass clarinet. I have played in Jazz 1 for all four years, and decided to try alto sax this year after playing lead tenor last year. On bass clarinet, I perform with the Tacoma Youth Symphony (in which I am principal clarinet), I play in symphonic band at school, and I am preparing a piece for solo and ensemble contest.

What’s your all-time favorite jazz piece?
“All of Me” — a jazz standard from The Great American Songbook, written by Gerald Marks and Seymour Simons. For some reason, even though this tune is called so often, I am simply hooked by it. It has an outstanding melodic structure and an infectious chord progression, allowing for extensive flexibility and elaboration when jamming on this tune.

Who is your jazz hero?
Dexter Gordon would have to be my overall jazz hero, for all the many licks he has given us, his smoothness, his phrasing, and the amazing creativity of his numerous quotes. While I idolize all that Dexter Gordon has to offer, I take influence from many other artists. Classic players such as Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins, and John Coltrane (as well as many non-saxophone players); more recent players such as Michael Brecker; and contemporary players such as Chris Potter, Joshua Redman, Joel Frahm, and Anat Cohen (along with many other non-sax/clarinet players).

Why jazz?
Jazz has the ability to be one of the most beautifully expressive artforms. Improvisatory in nature, the players have the ability to communicate the music through what they choose to play, as well as the phrasing and expression with which they do it. Not only that, jazz takes the teamwork involved in music to another level. The players in an ensemble must be so mentally in-tune with each other’s playing that they are able to execute a musical idea together on the spot.


“Lullaby of Birdland” Dexter Gordon/Lionel Hampton (Cute)

“Vilia – Take 3” John Coltrane (Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album)

“All of Me” Oscar Peterson (Jazz Portrait of Frank Sinatra)

“Every Summer Night” Bob Curnow’s L.A. Big Band (Music of Metheny/Mays)

“Chega de Saudade” Graham Dechter (Takin’ It There)

“Us” Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra (Consummation)

“Hide and Seek” Joshua Redman (Freedom in the Groove)

“Manteca” Arturo Sandoval (For Love or Country: A. Sandoval Story OST)

Follow Nicolas on Instagram: @nicolas_lofgren