Interview: Gary Smulyan (Grammy Winner & 10 Time Downbeat Magazine Best Baritone Sax) Coming to Alias Coffee 12/15/2022 -By: Rob Smittix

Written by on December 13, 2022

RRX: Where are you based out of?

GS: I live in Yonkers, New York. Just north of New York City.

RRX: Oh Yeah New York City’s hat, I’m familiar, it’s like the extra piece of The Bronx.

GS: Yeah we’re just north of Riverdale which isn’t very far, just near The Bronx border.

RRX: Joe Barna is very excited about this new spot he’s got up here.

GS: Maybe you can tell me a little bit about that. Where are we playing? (Laughs)

RRX: That’s funny.

GS: A café or something, right?

RRX: It’s at a coffee shop but it’s not in a coffee shop. From the way that Joe’s described it, I haven’t been there yet… but apparently there’s this beautiful, perfect sound room that is off of the coffee shop. He says it’s like the perfect jazz setup. He’s already had several successful shows with great turnouts there and this is going to be another one of those! I didn’t go there yet, not because I’m not supportive, it was during the time that I was sick with Bronchitis. Ain’t nobody got time for that! But I’m definitely coming out to this one.

GS: I love coming up to the Capital Region, it’s in Troy, right?

RRX: Yes, this is in Troy.

GS: Every time I come up to Troy, the pressure is on because that’s Nick Brignola’s home territory. Bring your best game every time you play in Troy because the spirit of Nick Brignola is hovering all over the place up there.

RRX: That’s right!

GS: It’s an inspiring place to play.

RRX: And Troy is really up and coming, a lot is starting to happen there.

GS: A lot of it is Joe Barna too. Joe’s the real deal. He creates things and makes music happen. He finds places to play, he finds musicians to play with, he creates venues, he creates opportunities for musicians, both who live there and from out of town. Joe’s making it happen. I tip my hat off to him for all of the hard work that’s he’s doing.

RRX: Oh, absolutely. We have an award show called the Listen Up Awards and Joe actually won that and he had a fantastic speech. Ever since that I’ve really been in Joe’s corner for sure.

GS: So what was that award for?

RRX: He won the favorite jazz musician award for the region.

GS: Okay, that’s well deserved.

RRX: It was favorite too, it wasn’t best, so it’s shows that people like him.

GS: Well, you know I think a big part of it is that Joe is providing places for people to hang out and listen to music. Especially now, I think it’s incredibly important. After COVID happening, people are getting more comfortable with going out now and they’re getting excited about hearing live music, supporting live music and being able to get out of the house. To have venues like what Joe is doing, I think is really appreciated by the public. They’re really glad that he’s doing it and they’re very happy to support it and get out for a night and hear some music.

RRX: What’s really cool too is that he’s leading the jazz scene but the goal is to link various genre scenes together here. It’s something that hasn’t been done in a really long time.

GS: So what do you mean like clubs are supporting each other?

RRX: Yeah finally. People are starting to get out of their little groups and are starting to get out and support each other. There’s still a lot of work to do but we’re starting to see a difference.

GS: That’s important, everyone’s successful if you do that.

RRX: Yeah we’re finally scratching the surface.

GS: Wow that’s great news. To be so separated and protective of your little scene, doesn’t really help the scene as a whole.

RRX: I’ve been saying it for years.

GS: No. I agree with that. Especially in a place like Troy, you know? Because it’s not New York City, it’s a smaller scene, so you really have to do that to ensure the success of everybody. It’s not just about one place or two places, it’s about everybody being successful and the only way to do that is to support everybody. It’s important man. So for me because I haven’t been to this new venue yet. I’ve played in the region quite a few times, so to discover a new place and to see how people come out and react and support; I’m excited about seeing what it is and what the scene is going to turn into. I hope it really is successful.

RRX: Me too and it’s definitely a benefit having you come up and to be a part of it. You’re really going to help what the dream is for this place.

GS: Yeah, I’m happy to be a part, honestly.

RRX: I don’t know if you actually change this on your ID or your passport but how long has it been since your first name became Grammy-Winner?

GS: I don’t know, I don’t think of myself like that. I’m just trying to play music and get better, I don’t know. I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of a number of projects that have won Grammys. It’s been an honor and a thrill but I don’t focus a lot on that honestly. The bottom line is that it’s the work that’s important right? So Grammy Winner, the thing is other people do that I don’t add that, when I talk about myself. I’m happy other people do it and maybe it helps sell a few tickets or something but I don’t think of myself in that way.

RRX: It’s like when I’d bring somebody to town and you never would’ve known they used to be in such and such a band, so you throw it on the flyer and it helps put put butts in the seats.

GS: Oh yeah, of course, from an advertising point of view you have to do that.

RRX: Right.

GS: I actually don’t talk about myself like that at all. I’m just happy to have been a part of these projects over the years. I’ve been really fortunate and in the right place at the right time and I’ve been really fortunate to have played on these beautiful records.

RRX: That’s the thing it’s really about the music and the end product.

Gary Smulyan at Alias Coffee
219 4th Street, Troy NY
Suggested Donation: $20 or more taken at the door

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