Reached at his Brooklyn, N.Y., home last week, Nick Sanders was facing a rare stretch of time — a free week. Yet, this was no vacation.
“I’m still super busy,” said Sanders, an up-and-coming jazz pianist and composer, who, in addition to the two previously noted occupations, also teaches a handful of students and often hits the road to perform. “The good thing is, I love doing it.”
Sanders, who grew up in New Orleans, has long been drawn to music — he was learning beats on a drum as a toddler and piano by 8. Raised in a home with diverse musical tastes, it wasn’t long before Sanders found his own way at the keyboards, becoming a dedicated student of classical music.
“I had this strong classical upbringing … but my folks were good about exposing me to all different music,” he said.
Indeed, it was impossible not to have the rich stew of the New Orleans music scene seep into his work. This outward look, which gives his music a rich and layered sound, is a theme that continued throughout his musical training and has endured into his professional playing career.
“I remember being in high school and (the late) Alvin Batiste … told me to just take any influence I could and try to use it to the best of my abilities,” Sanders said. “I’m informed by so many influences.”
Sanders knows he has been fortunate to study with some jazz greats, such as Batiste, a legendary jazz clarinetist who was an instructor at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, the high school Sanders attended and graduated from in 2006. It was the same school where Sanders made the transition from classical piano studies to the jazz program under the encouragement of Grammy-winning pianistDanilo Perez, under whom Sanders would study after earning a scholarship to the New England Conservatory of Music.
The Boston-based conservatory not only helped him to hone his musical skills, but also put Sanders in contact with two musicians with whom he has been spending a bit of time — bassistHenry Fraser and drummer Connor Baker. All three, who are in their 20s, make up the nearly 4-year-old Nick Sanders Trio.
They drew praise for their performance at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival earlier this year, as well as their debut album, which was released by Sunnyside Records last year. For reviewers, it heralded a new voice in the jazz world.
The group will put on two performances at the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts at Fairfield University on Friday, Nov. 7. Sanders said the audience will likely hear some material from the album they just recently wrapped up — the follow-up to the group’s debut “Nameless Neighbors.” As with the first, the second is produced by American jazz pianist and composerFred Hersch, with whom Sanders studied while the New England Conservatory of Music. It is expected to be out early next year.
“We are really, really excited about this,” he said of the new record, which he said reflects an ever-evolving style of the group’s play. Such constant progression is a matter of the group’s ongoing bond as musicians, along with their distinct musical influences and styles.
“It’s all very free … and extremely loose,” he said, which leaves the trio the opportunity to adapt and incorporate those varied influences. “We’ve played long enough at this point … and we know each other’s play so well … that we often spontaneously come up with arrangements on the spot.
“It keeps it interesting for us, and it keeps us on our toes,” he said. “We never play a song the same way twice.”
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