Like most jazz fans, I love Brazilian music. Why the marriage between jazz and Brasilian music works so well is hard to put into words. Perhaps it is the deeply moving sense of melody, or the adventurous sense of harmony, or the driving rhythmic core, or perhaps it is just the profound joy that both musics bring to this world. Regardless, in my personal collection of recordings and in my trips out to see live music, I have often sought out artists who have deep interests in jazz and Brazilian music. One such artist is Laura Dreyer.
I have had her album “Mysterious Encounter” on constant rotation in my stereo over the past few years. The album is a wonderful example of the grace of Brazilian jazz. Having played a few cuts from the album on the radio show in the past, I was very excited and hopeful to convince Laura to do an interview with me. Luckily, she agreed to do so. I am very pleased to share this wonderful and insightful interview with you here.
Aidan Plank: Is there anything you would like the WOBC audience to know about your music?
Laura Dreyer: Although I am a saxophonist, I think of myself as a composer first. I have always tried to write compositions that are melodically and rhythmically strong, with improvisation sections that are interesting and make sense harmonically. I think that is why I am attracted to Brazilian music. I have spent many years researching Brazilian musical styles and try to be as true to those styles as possible (When composing in the Brazilian jazz idiom, of course), but I also like to apply those principles to other styles of music.
AP: How would you describe your own music?
LD: Well currently, Brazilian jazz as well as jazz fusion. Again, I like strong melodies, interesting harmony, and rhythmic syncopation. Some of my music is more funky, some more traditional. I also like to interact with the band when I improvise. I think interaction is THE most important element in “Jazz.” I have deep roots in be-bop!
AP: Who influenced you as you were learning this music?
LD: As a writer, I started out being very influenced by musicians such as Bobby Hutcherson, Herbie Hancock, Joe Henderson, Wayne Shorter, Tom Harrell, Lyle Mays, Pat Metheny, and then later became so immersed in Brazilian composers like Egberto Gismonti, Dori Caymmi, Jobim, João Bosco, Gilberto Gil (The list goes on and on…).
I have also had some great saxophone teachers who influenced me a lot. I studied with Joe Henderson for a year before I moved to New York. He was a profound influence. I also studied with Joe Lovano briefly and he helped me with phrasing and rhythm. I had 2 great composition teachers, Jim McNeely, and Lyle Mays. I studied with Lyle for 5 years. He really transformed me as a composer. When I was learning jazz, I went to every jam session that would let me in the door. I went out to hear jazz almost every night of the week when I first moved to New York, and when I was in San Francisco. I think I absorbed a lot by osmosis!