What’s your attraction to classical music?
There’s a lot of freedom in classical music. If you brought five versions of the same piece, they would sound totally different depending on the region, the conductor, the orchestra, all these different things. Because there’s a lot of wiggle room, even in composed music. It’s just great to play in a system that has rules, because it helps you refine freedom.
But coming as a jazz player, you don’t feel restricted by playing a pre-written piece?
I never really have a want for freedom. Classical music makes me a much better saxophonist than jazz does. Because for saxophone technique, guys end up playing fast stuff. In classical music, you just have to develop a technique to execute melodies and ideas that are beyond the linear ways that we tend to think about music. And that’s the challenge of it for me. I’m not really a linear thinker, although my dad [pianist Ellis Marsalis] is. A lot of classical composers are melodic thinkers, not linear thinkers. Some of these melodies can be quite difficult, and you’ve got to learn to play them under duress, which is different from playing them in a practice room.
You can read it all here. I didn’t put everything up, as I’m a bit more careful about “language”.