Saxophonist Erica Lindsay’s Love of the Moment

by Joshua Barnes    /  October 20, 2010  / No comments

Musicians of the 2010 Jazz Poetry Concert

Video production and editing by Glen Wood

Tenor saxophonist Erica Lindsay’s distinct sound comes in part from her training under experimental hard-bop composer Mal Waldron, whom she says taught her that compositionally “anything goes.” Both Waldron’s instruction and Lindsay’s involvement in Europe’s free jazz scene are the roots of her work’s poetic movement.

Writing pieces for big-band and other large ensembles (such as the Unique Munich Saxophone Choir) has also added a definitive structure to Lindsay’s unique style. Through a love of experimentation and a wealth of experience writing music, she has found a way to combine her talents as a composer with her skills as an improviser into something dramatic, yet instantly accessible.

As a result, her recent works have an undeniable flow. Carefully organized melodies move into improvisational passage so cleanly, you might assume that pieces like “Yes” and “Gotta Get To It” were laboriously composed in their entirety. Her tunes have been described as “soul-searching” and “coated with Trane-spirituality.” She is currently working on combining improvised saxophone with orchestral compositions influenced by Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg.

Lindsay is currently the only woman part of Oliver Lake’s Big Band Ensemble—a label she puts no stock in whatsoever. She plays with a natural authority and is constantly listening, turning to each of her band-mates as they soloed during City of Asylum/Pittsburgh‘s Jazz Poetry Concert. When her turn came, she spun a hypnotic line of variants on a theme that sometimes arced above the rest of the band, and other times seamlessly blended with the ensemble’s larger sound.

In person Lindsay is quiet and contemplative; she chooses her words carefully. Meanwhile her eyes sparkle with the same  spontaneous elements of the music she makes. In this video, Lindsay talks about composition, improvisation, poetry, and playing with a large band.

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About the Author

Joshua Barnes is Sampsonia Way's Associate Editor. In 2010 he earned a bachelor’s degree in Fiction Writing and Literature at the University of Pittsburgh. During his undergraduate career, he was awarded 2009′s Ossip Award in Critical Writing for Anna Kavan: A Critical Study. Josh is involved with several musical projects and working on a variety of multi-media narratives.

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