For the new millennium, Jack Prybylski‘s ambitions widened. Still a steadfast saxophonist, he ventured out as a solo artist releasing his debut album Soho Strut in 2001 on Innvervision Records, which garnered him immediate acclaim for his smooth jazz single "Mandalay Bay." The song was inspired by a former girlfriend he tells, and motivated him to research opportunities on the Internet where the single was first received by music fans. His recent album Window Shopping in 2006, also on Innervision Records, was produced by himself and smooth jazz guitarist/record producer Ken Navarro. As Prybylski tells Jazzreview.com, it was a brilliant match.
Jazzreview: How did you meet Ken Navarro and what made you feel that he was the right producer for your follow up album Window Shopping?
Prybylski: Ken and I met through Elizabeth Ware from Visible Image. Elizabeth maintains my website (www.jackprybylski.com) and was re-designing Ken's at the time. Ken was starting to put ‘Love Colored Soul’ together and was interested in using the Internet more to support his CD. I had done an extensive campaign with smoothjazz.com and Ken contacted me to get my opinion of the results. This was also the time that I was seriously getting the wheels in motion to record my CD. Right from the beginning, Ken & and I really connected. There was this very strong gut feeling that Ken needed to be involved with this project. At first, I asked him if he would write a song or play on a track and it ended up that he produced the CD and performed on most of the tracks, which I'm very thankful for.
Jazzreview: What was the songwriting process like for Window Shopping? Where did you draw your inspiration from for these melodies?
Prybylski: On Window Shopping I collaborated with a very dear friend and an excellent saxophonist and composer himself, Horace Alexander Young. Horace and I were endorsing artists for the L.A. Sax Company and developed a great chemistry over the years and I really wanted to work with him on these new songs. The chord changes for Window Shopping came from a song I wrote in High School for this girl that I liked - didn't get the girl that time either, the melody for ‘I Need You’ was one that I wrote for ThemJazzbeards. We reworked the groove and chord changes to fit into a smooth jazz format and the inspiration for ‘Santa Faustina’ actually came from a Polish saint.
Jazzreview: How did you meet JJ Moscato and why did you believe that his vocals would be good for "Don't Say No"? Why did you feel the melody needed vocals?
Prybylski: J.J. and I met a few years back when we were both playing in a local blues band. We both ended up getting fired from that band, so when I was putting the live band together, I asked if he wanted to play keys and do some vocals. J.J is a fantastic singer with the great blue-eyed soul quality in his voice. The reason for having a vocal tune on the CD was because everybody else seemed to have one, so I went with the flow. Horace put me in touch with Travis Milner who wrote the song, and after hearing it, I knew that J.J. was the perfect choice to sing it. There is a version of the song where J.J. impersonated Eric Cartmann from ‘South Park’ but you need a really high level of security clearance to hear it.
Jazzreview: Who do you feel are the top three people in your life that have influenced you the most to be the musician you are today and why?
Prybylski: I'd have to say there are actually four. First and foremost, my parents. The support that they gave me from the very start and continuing throughout my career is immeasurable. I wouldn't be where I am today if it wasn't for them. The two others would be Donald Mattea, my elementary band director who started me on saxophone and Ed Yadzinski. ‘Yadz’ was my private instructor in high school and later my undergraduate and graduate professor in college. In addition to developing my technical skills, he really installed in me a great love of the instrument.
Jazzreview: What turned you onto the saxophone in the third grade as opposed to playing the trumpet or the drums or another instrument?
Prybylski: Actually, I wanted to be a drummer, but was told that there weren't any openings. At the time I chose the saxophone, I didn't know anything about it. My dad was an aerospace engineer, and some of the terms he would talk about contained the letter ‘x’ in them. I thought the whole space exploration thing was cool, so since the saxophone had an ‘x’ in it I assumed it must be cool also.
Jazzreview: Was anyone in your family a musician or an artist and inspired you to explore your creative talents?
Prybylski: There's a lot of music in my family. My dad played the trumpet. My aunt was a very talented singer, who could have gone the professional opera route if she had wanted to. And my paternal grandmother played piano for silent movies. We were told a short time ago that our family tree includes the Polish pianist Chopin.
Jazzreview: When did you know that you wanted to be a professional saxophone player and what steps did you take to pursue that goal early in your life?
Prybylski: I actually knew I wanted to pursue a career in music when I was a sophomore in high school. As a result, I stopped being a jock and replaced sports with a lot of garage bands that came and went, and I focused more on being a saxophonist who was going to enter music school in college. I started to take playing the saxophone more seriously.
Jazzreview: What did you major in at the State University of New York at Buffalo? How did college prepare you to handle what was to come up ahead for you?
Prybylski: I majored in music education and music performance and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees in both. As I stated earlier, working with Ed Yadzinski really developed my saxophone skills. Add to that higher levels of music theory classes, orchestration classes and the greater playing opportunities just equipped me with more knowledge and allowed me to develop as a musician and performer.
Jazzreview: What do you consider was your break through, that first major break you got into jazz music? Who do you feel first broadened your opportunities to play jazz?
Prybylski: I don't know if you would call this a break through, but it was definitely an eye-opener which lead me down a different path. I had the opportunity to study with Dave Liebman at one of his summer sessions. At that time I was playing with top 40 and rock bands and mainly playing keyboards. During this session, Dave changed my saxophone sound 180 degrees, and I remember sitting in one of the classes thinking ‘Here I am with saxophonists from across the United States as well as Europe. Why are you putting your saxophone playing on the back-burner? First and foremost you should be playing sax!’ I got back in town and sold my entire keyboard rig.
Jazzreview: When did you first begin playing with Them Jazzbeards? Why did you want to be a part of this band and what was that experience like for you?
Prybylski: I'm an original member of the band which started in 1989. The rush for me playing in that band was two fold. First, this was the first time that I was in a band that played almost all original music. Secondly, the response and feedback that we received from our ‘original’ music was amazing. The environment is very creative. My partner-in-crime in the band is the band's violinist Michael Miskuly. Mike and I have this amazing chemistry between us. If you listen to the band live, what you hear is David Kane, the band leader and piano player, playing what he brought to the table when the song was being born. A lot of the melodies heard on the Jazzbeard tunes are things that Mike and I came up with.
Jazzreview: What are some memorable moments you have from playing with Them Jazzbeards?
Prybylski: The most memorable was playing for the ground-breaking ceremony of the Fashion Cafe in NYC. The Fashion Cafe was the restaurant chain started by supermodels Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell and Elle McPherson. Other moments include opening for David Sanborn, The Rippingtons, Spyro Gyra and doing the movie soundtrack for the movie Shadow Creature.
Jazzreview: What motivated you to become a solo artist and to write your debut album Solo Strut? What inspired the melodies on this album?
Prybylski: I guess the desire to do a solo project came about because of the success of the Jazzbeards. Seeing the reaction to those originals made me want to see if material that I wrote would have the same success. Actually, an old girlfriend was the inspiration for ‘Mandalay Bay.’
Jazzreview: "Mandalay Bay" was a huge hit for you from Solo Strut, why do you think that song resonated so deeply with people? Were you surprised?
Prybylski: I was greatly surprised! I think people were drawn to the song because of it's groove and overall feel. It really paints an aural picture of a very relaxing experience in a tropical setting.
Jazzreview: Do you remember your first live performance as a solo artist? Where was it and how did the show go? Were there rough spots that you knew you needed to iron out with your band or did everything go smoothly?
Prybylski: Soho had been out for awhile and I was starting to write for Window Shopping before I did my first live gig with a band as a solo artist. It was at the Lewiston Jazz Festival, in Lewiston, NY outside of Buffalo. The gig went very well, however I didn't get a chance to enjoy it. I was so stressed during the first set that people wouldn't like it that I couldn't relax. Even though we had a great response from the crowd the entire night, I had to keep telling myself ‘relax, everything is going okay, they really are liking the music.’
Jazzreview: How does your music continue to grow? What keeps you motivated?
Prybylski: The music continues to develop as an outsource of the band growing and developing. The guys in the band are bringing in new material, which makes me want to bring in new material and it just snowballs. It's very refreshing! My saxophone motivation comes from the fact that there will always be something out there that I haven't heard about or don't know how to do. At every level there is always more ‘stuff’ to be learned and to be put in your bag of tools.
Jazzreview: As a student of music education, do you feel that music education is important in schools? Are you active in boosting music education?
Prybylski: I feel that music education is very important. Everyone knows about the research which shows that kids who play an instrument achieve higher scores on standardized tests, but it goes beyond that. It provides so much more. Kids learn about teamwork, self discipline, dedication, work ethic, creativity. They're rewarded with a sense of personal achievement and becoming part of an additional ‘family.’ As an endorsing artist for Yamaha saxophones and previously the L.A. Sax Company, I've done numerous clinics with music programs at all levels - grade school through college. It is very refreshing and rewarding to see dedicated students grow and develop into tomorrow's world-class musicians.
Jazzreview: Who are some artists that you are listening to today that you feel are broadening jazz music and your own horizons?
Prybylski: Lately I've been listening to a lot of the new guys on the scene like guitar players Matt Marshak and Jay Soto as well as getting into the ‘chill’ stuff from Europe. I've also come across some great European saxophonists, Michael Parlett from England and a Polish saxophonist by the name of Marcin Nowaski. Recently, I met an accomplished Canadian keyboardist by the name of Eddie Bullen, so I've been checking his stuff out as well.
Jazzreview: How do you feel about the Internet? Has it been a helpful tool for you? If so, how has the Internet helped you?
Prybylski: I think that the Internet is a marvelous tool for the music industry. It has been extremely helpful. I've used the internet for all aspects of my career. Everything from recording, promotion and publicity, advertising, airplay and sales. Without it, I wouldn't be able to reach the world-wide audience that I have.
Jazzreview: What do you want people to remember about you? What would you like to be your legacy?
Prybylski: First, with all the great saxophonists out there, it would be extremely flattering to actually be remembered. If I was to be so lucky I guess I would want my legacy to be that I had a distinctive sound, that I was an equally talented as both an entertainer and a musician and that people who came to a performance walked out feeling good.