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Improvijazzation Nation - Issue # 58

INTERVIEW with Dan Blunck

(Dan Blunck is an aggressive and experienced musical performer who has performed at Bumbershoot, The Earshot Jazz Festival, du Maurier International Jazz Festival, Victoria Jazz Festival, Montreaux Jazz Festival, North Sea Jazz Festival, Mt. Hood Festival of Jazz and the Seattle Improvised Music Festival.)


Zzaj:  I remember that you were in the Navy... how long were you in there?  Did you travel as a part of that gig?  

Dan: I was a full-time musician in the Navy from '89 to '98, stationed in Norfolk, VA, then Seattle and Silverdale, WA. It was a pretty good gig in many respects, usually pretty non-military. We played all kinds of music, from Sousa marches to modern big-band jazz charts, jazz quartets to Tower of Power stuff. It's a real good way to get your chops together if you want to be a versatile,  working musician and pay the bills (not to mention  decent medical benefits, which is a rare thing for musicians). After 9 years, though, I had had enough of the gig and decided to get out. No regrets.  

Zzaj: Do you play improvised music exclusively?  Or are there other styles you play in, too?

Dan:  Jazz has been my focus for 25 out of my 26 years playing, but I've always been very versatile which is essential if you want to be a working musician. I've always liked many kinds of music and I've played in a lot of settings, but more and more I'm working towards the goal of only playing what really resounds for me. 

Zzaj:  Since much of the music you produce is improvised, please expound (a bit) on how you get in th' right "frame of mind" for improvisation? 

Dan:  For many years, it's just been about being relaxed and confident, with a feeling of Zen-like detachment. Right now I'm working on many things to take me to the next level of freedom as an improviser; freedom from limitations, that is. That means working on my craft as a musician and growing as a human being. Ideally, one should be playing music for the right reasons which is conducive to the right frame of mind; I'm working on the right frame of mind full-time these days. 

Zzaj:  If you had the chance to play (live or in-studio) with any musician, who would it be & why?

Dan:  Since you didn't say "living musician,"  my first and foremost choice would be the Master John Coltrane. He lived an incredible life, worked through his addictions, worked on his Soul ,never stopped practicing, and played his ass off until he left his physical body. As an artist, saxophonist and human being, there is no one greater than Trane.

Zzaj:  How important is airplay for the music you turn out?  Press?   Which is more important, press or airplay?

Dan:  The thing is, if you're not playing pop music, does it make much difference? It's such a miniscule slice of the pie out there for jazz and improvisation. I don't know, I suppose that for people to find out about you, your music has to get out there somehow. It's a whole other part of the world of music. I've got so much work  to do musically, it's hard to even think about the promo side.  I'm no expert on this, but I'd say that airplay and press must be equally important for building an audience. Someday, I'll literally hire someone to do all my promo work. 

Zzaj:  Who (or what) has influenced your music the most? 

DanFamily support first and foremost. Without Mom and Dad buying me my first alto and encouraging me all the way to the present day, and my wife of 13 years putting up with all my B.S., well who knows where I'd be or what I'd be doing. Also, Gaylon Bledsoe, trombonist and retired band director extraordinaire who gave me my first lessons in jazz improvisation. Coltrane's "Live at the Village Vangaurd."

Zzaj:  Should musicians be "politically involved" - or are they, by virtue of the music they produce?

Dan: I think if you have something to say, say it in your music. However, sometimes you may need to speak out in a different forum. It's an individual choice, just like the right to vote. 

Zzaj:   I've noticed that a lot of your CD's seem to be "home produced"... am I correct there, or are they (in fact) large-runs?   If they ARE home-produced, how do you put them together?

Dan: None of my CDs so far are homemade from CD burners. "Flowers for the Living" (1996, my first solo CD) was done at Northwestern in Portland in a batch of 1,000 copies and I still have some for sale. It was funded by family efforts. My disc with Bisio, "Concerted," is on Cadence Jazz Records (CJR 1121), and some other  recordings I've done are on HipSync Records, a small label out of Seattle. So the only homemade projects of mine out there are a couple of demo tapes and CDs. If I had a CD burner I might do it that way a little, but I really prefer the real deal feel of a CD made at a big, cold factory. 

Zzaj:  How important (if at all) is "formal training" for musicians?   Were you formally trained?   

Dan There are some people who shun formal training completely and those that swear by it. I believe in a balance between the practice room and real-life playing. Inspiration and perspiration.  Somewhere between the streets and the conservatory. I've had formal training but learned most of what I know on my own. I have had a whole lot of experience in reading bands as well as ear bands and I know my instrument pretty well. I want to play with people who really know their instruments, have done their homework, and have open ears and minds. I'm not interested in playing with people who hide behind their lack of musicianship and call it creative. The bottom line is that true freedom as a musician comes from hard work, there's no shortcut. You don't have to go to a big music school. Just practice and learn how to play music on your own if you have to. Take some private lessons, listen to records, read books, go to concerts, play gigs, surround yourself with better players

Zzaj:  Since the focus of our 'zine is "indie", or "home-producers", what words of wisdom do you have for those just getting involved in music?

Dan: If you want to play music, really play it. Work hard on your musicianship. Never fake it

To find out MORE about Dan, his playing & his projects, visit the pages at:


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