Next in our new series of interviews with some of Central Ohio’s finest jazz musicians is saxophonist Bryan Olsheski. Upon returning to Columbus after touring and living abroad in the late 1990s, he has been one of the area’s leading tenor saxophonists. His local credits include leading his own groups and playing with the Columbus Jazz Orchestra, Vaughn Wiester’s Famous Jazz Orchestra, Bobby Floyd, Pete Mills, James Gaiters and many more. He has an exciting quintet show coming up this week (see below) and can be seen regularly around town. Keep reading for Olsheski’s thoughts on his background and on upcoming projects:
When and why did you start playing music and jazz?
Bryan Olsheski (BO): I started playing the saxophone at the age of 10 in my 5th grade band. I was featured on our first concert on a little piece called “Cheerio.” I can still play it for you now for 5 bucks! I got a lot of joy from that and it inspired me to keep at it. My mother has been a professional vocalist since I was a child and my father was a saxophonist for Al Hirt in the 60’s. I was exposed to many different types of music from an early age and the sound of the saxophone always appealed to me. My time at the College-Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati solidified my interest and opened my eyes to many aspects of the music.
Who are some of your main influences in your playing/performing?
BO: Some of my main influences are John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins, Dexter Gordon, Michael Brecker, Joe Henderson, Lester Young. Many more. Some of the great players of my generation I admire are Joshua Redman, Chris Potter, Seamus Blake, Mark Turner, Eric Alexander and many more as well. There is a rich history in jazz saxophone in which to draw from, fortunately.
What is your fondest musical memory?
BO: My most important musical memory would probably have to be my father playing his tenor for me when I was around 6 or so. He was improvising around “You Are My Sunshine.” I was fascinated by the sound and just the general presence of the instrument. I had no idea that the saxophone could do all of those things. So many buttons and air creating these amazing sounds! Sometimes I still try and approach the horn with that kind of wonder.
What are you listening to today? What’s on your playlist?
BO: I’ve recently been listening to a lot of Chu Berry. One of the true greats. Had he lived beyond his 30’s he would’ve been just as influential as Coleman Hawkins or Lester Young. I love early traditional jazz and am always trying to learn something new but I also gravitate towards newer, modern jazz of today. Was just recently listening to Mark Turner with the Fly trio. Such a great player. Jazz is such a broad term anymore. At the end of the day I guess I always go back to the players that have something definite in their approach.
What inspires you about the Columbus Jazz scene?
BO: There are many fantastic musicians here in Columbus that continue to inspire me. My mother would bring me to Bobby Floyd’s jam session back in the late 80’s. Those were magical times and learned quite a bit at those sessions. There’s a rich jazz heritage that’s sort of woven into the scene here. It seems every major city has their own personal jazz history; however, Columbus has produced some great ones – Roland Kirk, Sweets Edison, Hank Marr, Rusty Bryant and others. Columbus also has a great jazz orchestra (CJO) I play with occasionally, and I’m proud to say we actually support local jazz artists and bring in real jazz at the annual Jazz and Ribs Fest. Hard to come by these days! I like that about Columbus.
What are you working on currently? Any new projects, exciting shows or releases?
BO: I’m always working on something to improve as a musician; however, I’ve gotten really good at changing diapers, ha! Raising 3 kids takes a lot of my time however, I still take the time to develop my craft. Listening, transcribing, writing. Not always easy. I’ve been writing music for my next CD project, which is long overdue. No date set yet however, I’m working on studio, budget, etc. Looking forward to that in the near future.
Where can local audiences see you play in the near future?
BO: My next public performance will be at Bungalow Jazz, Friday, August 21st at 7:30pm. I’ll be playing with Bobby Floyd on organ and piano, Derek DiCenzo on bass and guitar, James Gaiters on drums, and Ansyn Banks on trumpet. Always a joy to work with and hear Bobby. A very honest and great musician. Will be a great one for sure. The Bungalow is located at 2539 East Fifth Ave in Columbus. For more info people can call: 614-397-5540. I will also be playing at Dick’s Den on Friday, September 4th.