Jazz player Katisse Buckingham is the featured concert at this weekend’s 27th Annual San Joaquin Valley Jazz Festival.
The composer classifies his music as genre-free.
The one-time theater major says, “I need to love (or at least like) what I do.”
By his own words, Katisse Buckingham is a “pro musician.”
The woodwind player/MC/composer gets paid to perform and record with guys like Dr. Dre and Herbie Hancock, Lionel Richie, Pete Yorn and Prince. And his music has been in movies — the “jazz flute” scene in “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy,” for one. Buckingham plays regularly with close to 20 different groups, in fact, not counting his solo work. He is also adjunct faculty at California State University, Northridge.
Buckingham is in town this weekend as part of the 27th Annual San Joaquin Valley Jazz Festival. His band plays 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 28, as the featured concert. The Bee talked to him in advance of the show and found out that playing music is more than just a job.
What are you working on right now? Projects? Touring?
Answer: Starting to gather some new tunes for my next solo record. I encourage folks to check out my other records — “A World to the Wise” and “Lyrical Worker” — if you’d like to check me out. Aside from that, I’m staying busy playing with a bunch of creative projects (see http://www.katisse.com). A bit of touring and plenty of recording sessions as well.
Explain your music in one sentence or less?
How did you end up with the fusion of hip-hop, jazz and funk and with this particular instrumentation? The styles you draw from seem like an odd mix.
The mixture is not odd for me because it’s simply a mix of my influences. I have little desire to filter out different genres because they don’t seem to “fit” or play one genre because it’s clearly established. I’m a huge jazz nut and I have always been. That being said, for me, jazz is a genre, not the genre. I grew up exposed to many many styles.
And you started school as a theater major. Why the switch to music?
Although I loved theater I felt like it had run its course for me. Mainly because, as a teen, the professional work at the time was sitcoms and commercials and that didn’t work for me. The same can be said of the many musical opportunities that have come my way, which I declined for the same reasons. I need to love (or at least like) what I do. I don’t just wake up every morning trying to exploit what I do in order to make as much money as possible.
Has that theater background informed your music?
Without a doubt! On many levels, not the least of which is my great love for the spoken word. That is something I have front and center in my music. Combine that with my love of hip-hop and jazz and you get an idea of what I’m going for, really trying to tell a story and connect with an audience without silly antics and pandering. Bring them to you.
Of all the things that could describe you (composer, instrumentalist, lyricist, and MC), is there one that stands out?
Playing the flute is probably the thing with which I resonate most (and perhaps what I get most props for?), but I work my butt off in all the other areas as well — saxophones, composer, MC, lyricist. To sum up, I try to write music without a filter, but with a clear cohesiveness. Music for people with ears and hearts and imaginations. That’s it.