This week, COREnered swings with the soulful notes of Myron Walden, an artist who began learning his craft on an old alto saxophone from the storage closet of his elementary school, which lacked a music department. Not a one-instrument man, Walden explores stories and emotions through the notes of his soprano, alto, and tenor saxophones, and bass clarinet. Walden proves there are no limitations to his musical expression, as his many musical projects and compositions bring out jazz, blues, soul, and everything in between.
What is your first musical memory?
My grandmother had an old piano in the garage, an upright that hadn't seen
the light of day in forever, but I found it. I remember plunking the keys
and being pleased with the sounds. I had no idea that that sound on the
radio came from anything related to this box in the garage. It wasn't clear
to me at that time that you could play more than one key at a time and end
up making music. I just liked that when I hit one key it made a sound, and
when I hit another it made a different sound.
What was the first concert you ever went to?
The first jazz performance I saw was Jesse Davis at Augie's (now Smoke). I
was in high school and practicing out of a Charlie Parker book when a friend
of mine said he wanted to take me to hear somebody who sounded like Bird. I
didn't believe him. I'd heard the older kids at school play and, yes, they
were better than I was, but they were no Bird. So I was in. We got there
early and saw the band loading in, and from the very first notes my fate was
solidified. Every Friday and Saturday for as long as I can remember I was
there at Augie's checking Jesse out. I was struck by the level of
commitment he had to what he was doing and that he did it with such
What or whom do you go to for musical inspiration?
I get inspiration from everyone and everything I encounter. I am both very
sensitive and analytical, so I am constantly relating experiences and
observations to my art. Some of the inspiration is personal: my wife, for
example. Some inspiration comes from my musician friends: Ron Blake has
been particularly important in encouraging my tenor saxophone voice, and
Brian Blade opened me up to a very broad range of musical expression.
Barack Obama, Muhammad Ali, birds, books, movies, scenes on the street…are
all examples of where I find inspiration. I am fortunate that I have
learned to translate life's inspirations into my music.
Without using the words "alternative," "pop,” or "rock," describe your
I've been trying to get my sound to be a sonic representation of my life.
Life doesn't come at you just one way. Each of the instruments I choose to
play and each of the bands that I lead is distinct, reflecting different
aspects of me and different voices within me. There is great compositional
variation among my bands' sounds and personalities–Momentum (jazz, harmonic
movement), In This World (meditative and sensual) and Countryfied (bluesy
and earthy). And the instruments themselves (soprano, alto and tenor
saxophones and bass clarinet) have their own idiosyncrasies. As I explore
them I'm able to further expand upon and widen my range of expression, but
the sound I try to bring forth on every instrument is the same: open, broad,
lush, emotional and honest.
Stones or Beatles?
Challenging question. I didn't grow up with either band's music in the
atmosphere, so I know them through their recorded music and not through
their public images. I like both of them but for different reasons. The
Stones straight forward, bluesy, raunchy feel appeals to me while I like the
Beatles for their clean and well arranged songs, with twists, turns and
refined presentation. Forced to pick one, I would choose the Stones for the
less adorned sound.
What's your dream collaboration?
My dream collaboration is to play with artists who strive to paint pictures
through their instruments. What I am looking for is beyond technique,
wizardry, acrobatics and a peacock-like display. I love to be with artists
who bring life through their instruments, and who are more concerned with
the feeling and intent of the sound that emanates from their instrument than
with impressing other musicians with fanfare. With that being said there is
a lot of history to digest and as a professional musician it is also
imperative that one spends time listening. After listening and being
informed about the various era's/styles of music that coexisted and evolved
from one to another and what gave them their character you are better able
to share and participate in fruitful and creative collaborations. Perhaps
then one could play a ballad about a "lost love" and have an audience all
weeping by mid song envisioning the pain that a lover feels when they're
left alone. I believe, as a musician when your abilities and intentions are
in line one can convey sentiments and paint pictures more convincingly.
Whatever artists share this vision would be my dream collaboration.
Do you find the song or does the song find you?
The song finds me, it comes when it's ready and when it comes, I've learned
to submit to it's will. There have been times when it comes like an
avalanche and I can barely stay ahead of the flow. In those times I have to
rely on notation shorthand and musical memory to get it all. In recent
years I've been listening to a more varied selection of music. At one time
my sound had a singular feel, and the compositions were such that they
allowed for a way of improvising based solely on the chords. I made a
conscious decision to do so. Recently, though, I realized I wanted my sound
to be fuller and more of a sonic representation of my life, based more on
what I lived and how I felt than on what I studied. So yes, the song finds
me, but it is not without a certain amount of prepping and attentiveness.