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Greg Fishman Interview

Part 8

by Ed Svoboda
Greg Fishman

Ed Svoboda:
One major manufacturer of saxophone mouthpieces, which will go nameless at this point, doesn't actually employ anyone who plays the saxophone. That may in fact be a slight issue. Whereas Vandoren actually employs a number of people who actually play clarinet and or saxophone and get feedback from artists about their pieces.

Greg Fishman:
Right. They are making an effort. In fact they just sent me an e-mail saying that they want me to try a prototype for new piece that's supposed to be modeled after the old slant-signature Otto Link hard rubber mouthpiece. I think that's great. I'm glad to see that they're making an attempt to put a mouthpiece on the market that will fit the needs of the pro level player. I feel that many players gravitate towards the old Otto Links and MK VI horns because they have a transparency to them. In other words, they don't get in the way of your musical intentions.

The same goes for mouthpieces. I usually play an early Babbit Otto Link 6 with a Vandoren V16 #3 reed, but once in a while, I like to switch to a metal link or a more modern type of mouthpiece. I also have an Oleg metal tenor mouthpiece, a #7 that I really like, and I've been playing it lately.

Ed Svoboda:
They don't apply their will upon you.

Greg Fishman:
That's right. And that, to me, is a very important characteristic. We were talking before about playing and the use of technique. I feel that if your technique is good, it is transparent. It disappears and lets the music come through. Technique should not distract the listener from the music itself. I try to only play what I hear. Right now, as I'm speaking, I am saying the exact words that I am hearing in my head, no more and no fewer words than I think are necessary to get my point across. If I hear a lot of words I'll say a lot of words, but only if I think they're needed. If I think just one word is needed, I'll say the word and then I'll be silent until you respond, or until I think of the next thing I want to say. This is exactly how I like to solo-it is interactive and of the moment, just like a good conversation. The notes you play and the words you say are all a matter of intent. Hopefully, my technique is good enough that it doesn't get in the way of the music. When I think of some of my favorite players, like Getz or Desmond, the music is just flowing out of them, and it appears to be completely natural and effortless.

Ed Svoboda:
And that seems to be one of the hallmarks of your playing. Your playing appears effortless, which really speaks more to the fact that you have spent the time in the shed. You've put the work in and yet nothing appears to be forced. It's very natural as it comes out. It has that organic nature. That next level of playing that differentiates players.

Greg Fishman:
Finally it is to the point where it's like that, but it's been a long process, and I'm still working to improve my playing. For my basic training, from about the age of fourteen through twenty-four, I practiced about eight hours a day. Some weeks I would do sixty or seventy hours a week of practice. I went through periods where I would practice long tones for four hours a day. I went through periods where I would transcribe solos for weeks on end, and then spend the next month or two playing and analyzing the solos, trying to get into the heads of my jazz idols, so I could figure out how they did what they did. I loved practicing. It was a time of self discovery. I wanted to see just how much further I could get on the horn, and how much better of a musician I could become. There was no limit on it, which just thrilled me. I remember sometimes just laughing out loud, because I was having so much fun. When you're just a kid in high school, you're kind of powerless. When I first started getting into playing, I was 14. I was too young to drive a car. I had all of the usual responsibilities teenagers have; go to school, do my homework, don't stay out late, don't get into trouble…Yet when I would get home from school and get my horn out in my own room, (which has always been in the basement,) I realized I could do whatever I wanted. I could figure something out off a record and no one could stop me. I could practice as long as I wanted. I could try to get as good as I wanted to play and I would just be laughing sometimes because it was such freedom. It was all my choice - I feel like playing fast stuff today in the key of E. No one could say "You can't do that because you're not old enough or because you're not allowed". For me it was a great escape. I'd ride my bike to a used record store and find an old Sonny Stitt album, take it home and listen to it, and immediately try to figure out the notes by playing along with the record. It was a very liberating experience. Interview Part 7Fishman Interview Part 9
Greg Fishman:Biography
Created: September 19, 2005.
Update: October 3, 2005
©2005, HarriRautiainen and respectiveauthors

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