Composer/Saxophonist Lenny Pickett toured through the 70’s with the legendary R&B group Tower Of Power and worked in the 80’s as a saxophonist/arranger for David Bowie, The Talking Heads and Laurie Anderson, among others. Currently musical director for Saturday Night Live, Lenny continues his prolific output with music for dance, theater, and opera, including collaborations with choreographers Steven Petronio, Charles Moulton, filmaker Fred Wiseman, and poet David Slavitt. He also contributed compositions for Alan Ginsberg’s recording “The Lion For Real” and William Burroughs’ “Dead City Radio”. On May 24th at Roulette, Lenny will be joined by Michael Wolff (piano), James Genus (bass) and John Hadfield (percussion) for an evening exploring the intersection of composition and improvisation.
ROULETTE: Tell us as about the work you’ll be doing at Roulette.
LENNY PICKETT: This project came about because I wanted to improvise with these musicians. I met James Genus when I hired him to play with us at my job on tv 12 years ago. I met John Hadfield around 2004 at my job at the university where we both teach. Michael Wolff and I have known each other for about 42 years. We played together as teenagers.
R: How long have you been working on the project?
LP: This is the first concert. I started putting the program together a few months ago.
R: What are you exploring, either in terms of imagery behind the work or performance tools?
LP: I am exploring the interface between composition and improvisation.
R: Are there working artists today with whose work you identify, or rather, who do you consider to be your peers?
LP: I relate to all working artists. We are all peers by definition.
R: What are some defining characteristics of the musical scene you would fit yourself into ? / What elements of your scene differentiate it from what has come before, or what is happening now?
LP: I really don’t fit into any scene.
R: What was the last music you listened to?
LP: Something on the radio, or in the street, I’m not sure which. I’m always listening. I don’t know how to turn it off, unless I’m sleeping, and even then…
R: What is music?
LP: Air moving in time, I think…
R: Do you consider yourself more a composer or a performer?
LP: I’m both a composer and a performer. Composing usually takes longer than performing (performances go by pretty quickly), but I practice my saxophone everyday.
R: Is there an event or experience that led you to start in experimental media?
LP: I’ve always experimented. The whole thing has been an experiment.
LP: Who do you see as instrumental in your development as an artist?
R: My life as an artist has been effected by everyone and everything that I encounter… it all effects me.
R: What is interesting to you about your own work?
LP: I’m interested in the way it sounds. That’s why I make it.
R: Do you do other things aside from music?
LP: Not much. I have a wife and 2 grown up kids. I like to swim. I have a job at a tv show. I teach at a university.
R: Other thoughts?
LP: Yes, many… all the time. I could go on… probably longer than you would want me to… It can be a problem…