Tyshawn Sorey is a NY based composer and drummer. He first came to my attention as the drummer in pianist Vijay Iyer’s Quartet on the “Blood Sutra” album. He still plays with Iyer in the trio Fieldwork, with Steve Lehman rounding out the trio on sax. When Sorey’s debut as a leader came out on Firehouse 12 Records, I kind of freaked out about it here. It was so unlike anything I expected after hearing him in other contexts, and pretty much blew me away.
Tyshawn stays busy writing and performing, and in August, he’ll be curating the shows at The Stone in New York so you will be able to see him in a wide variety of settings.
1: What got you into creative/improvised music making, and what keeps you there?
During my formative years in Newark (N.J.), I was always interested in creating things… I drew a lot, painted, wrote short stories, etc. But it’s nothing important, really. My father, in particular, exposed me to many different types of music growing up. Since around the age of 2 or 3, I knew I wanted to be some kind of musician. I was never the type to associate myself with any genre of music,
2: Breakthrough album(s) and Why?
3: How do other art disciplines affect your work?
Well, besides art disciplines…Zen Buddhism, literature, and painting has had a very profound affect on my work in many ways as well as the way I listen to music, which is really no way at all – positively speaking. Those two things are the primary generators for my work, as well as the experience of everyday life…which, for me, is improvisation in all senses. As far as favorites in these fields: Robert Rauschenberg, Alan Watts, and Charles Bukowski are among my favorites.
4: Favorite Film(s)?
5: Favorite Film Score(s)?
No specific film scores come to mind, although I have a fond appreciation of the work of film score composer Bernard Herrmann, as well as all of the scoring for Sherlock Holmes and Perry Mason.
6: Favorite Fiction Reading?
Right now I’ve been getting into the works by Phillip Pullman – His Dark Materials; Henry Miller – Tropic of Cancer; Samuel Beckett – Krapp’s Last Tape, Not I, and a bunch of other stuff; J.D. Salinger – The Catcher In The Rye; Charles Bukowski – Burning In Water Drowning In Flames; Arthur Miller – The Crucible, and a few others.
7: Favorite Non-Fiction Reading?
8: Favorite Guilty Pleasure Music?
None I could think of…for me, there is no such thing. I have been checking out a lot of stand-up comedy recordings of the following artists in particular: Richard Pryor, Andrew Dice Clay, Eddie Murphy (his early stuff), Lenny Bruce, some Redd Foxx, Lewis Black, George Carlin, Paul Mooney, and a few others. But I don’t see any qualitative difference in their work and how it has also been influential to me. The same goes for listening to Joni Mitchell, Tupac, D’Angelo, Blondie, Wu-Tang Clan, Elliot Smith, Autechre, Meshuggah, or any other type of music. I mean, I can listen to anything I want and to simply let it come to me…if it doesn’t come to me then I’ll go to it. But then, if I don’t like the music, the fault is on me – I create the problem with listening to it… I have to know this for myself, as a human being, that I am not interested in creating a “guilty pleasure” music that has the potential of being brought down to its’ lowest common denominator to sell a lot of CD’s and all. However, it should also be clear that I do respect it for what it is and for the effort these people put in to express themselves as they wish. As far as feeling guilty of listening to this is concerned, I don’t.
9: Favorite Under Rated Musician(s)?
I’ll go out on a limb with this one…since this is something that has been bothering me for some time. There are so many people I wish to list, but the underrated COMPOSERS who I want to discuss are also percussionists that we all know. Susie Ibarra is my favorite percussionist/composer around right now, and I find that it’s a shame that not many people know that she has a lot to offer as a composer, not to mention the amazing work she is doing. The same should go for Paul Motian, Mark Guiliana, Gerald Cleaver, Andrew Greenwald, Dan Weiss, Billy Martin, Joey Baron, Marcus Gilmore, Milford Graves, Tommy Crane, among others… I personally believe that these drummers who are also composers and/or play other instruments should be recognized for all of how they express themselves, as opposed to only being credited for their sideman work and/or for their drumming abilities. It’s interestingly ironic because what these drummers contribute to the music of their respective bandleaders is so strong and powerful that what they create becomes an essential part of the music itself; they MAKE the composition, as far as I’m concerned.
10: Recommended Artist(s)/Shout Outs?
All of the above, as well as Aaron Stewart, Todd Neufeld, Otis Brown III, Jesse Elder, Steven Ruel, Sara Serpa, Thomas Morgan, Fay Victor, Carlos Homs, Eric McPherson, Ingrid Laubrock, Nate Wooley, Russ Lossing, Greg Scrulloni, Steve Lehman, Kris Davis, Randy Peterson, Jacob Sacks, Meilana Gillard, Frank Rosaly, Jen Shyu, Darius Jones, Andre Matos, Matana Roberts, Ben Gerstein, Okkyung Lee, Terrence McManus, Joe Albano, Michele Rosewoman, Carl Maguire, Rich Woodson, Mat Maneri, Billy Mintz, Aaron Burnett, Nasheet Waits, Jeff Parker, John Hebert, Loren Stillman, Vardan Opsevian, Pete Robbins, Taylor Ho Bynum, Judith Berkson, John Escreet, Adam Niewood, and many others…this will take forever to finish.