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JazzColumbus.com Interview Series: Maxwell Button

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by Andrew Patton on February 2, 2015

Next in our new series of interviews with some of Central Ohio’s finest jazz musicians is drummer Maxwell Button. Button is very active in the Columbus music scene, playing with plenty of jazz acts but also working in other genres. One of his most exciting ongoing projects is his series of monthly tribute shows at Dick’s Den, providing a detailed look at the work of more and more legendary jazz musicians. Button was kind enough to fill us in about parts of his musical background, as well a full roundup of the many bands he is currently working with.

When and why did you start playing music and jazz?

Maxwell Button (MB): I started playing music because my two older brothers were musicians and from a young age it seemed like a natural thing. I started playing jazz because one of my brothers gave me Thelonious Monk’s album Monk’s Dream and I listened to it a million times.

Who are some of your main influences in your playing/performing?

MB: I really like old guys like Roy Haynes, Jack DeJohnette and the late Billy Higgins. I’ve also listened to tons of Cannonball Adderley and Sonny Rollins, learning their solos. I love John Scofield too. 

What is your fondest musical memory?

MB: I remember playing trio with Derek DiCenzo and Dave DeWitt for the first time and feeling really happy.

What are you listening to today? What’s on your playlist?

MB: I’m usually listening to whatever music I need to be familiar with for an upcoming gig… so for the last month that would be some 60’s rock, country music, Jimmy Smith, Bob Marley and Sonny Rollins.

What inspires you about the Columbus Jazz scene?

MB: Columbus is great because I can play a lot, not have to travel far and make enough money to live on. Smaller cities don’t have enough work and larger cities have a high cost of living. There are some great well established musicians in Columbus and lots of earnest, hard working musicians who are eager to play. 

What are you working on for 2015? Any new projects, exciting shows or releases?

MB: I did one tribute show a month all of 2014 at Dick’s Den and I’m doing it again this year. It’s challenging to organize the music and musicians for a different show month after month but it really pays off. The shows have all been tributes to a different jazz musician each time, but this year I’ll be mixing in some themes like the upcoming show, A Tribute to Love, on Saturday, February 14th at Dick’s Den. I’ve still got a weekly jazz trio gig in Powell at Local Roots from 5:30 to 8:30 every Tuesday with Derek DiCenzo and Nate Smith. We’ve been doing that for almost 5 years. I love my 60’s rock band, the Moonbats, great era of music and great bandmates. I’m also excited to be playing with Joey Hebdo now, we’re doing some recording next month and his music is really cool. Aditya Jayanthi is organizing a group called Turtle Boat which explores the music of drummer Paul Motian that I’m excited to be a part of. I’m doing a cool jazz group with Kyle Tucker from Oliver Oak and Alex Burgoyne has a great Ornette Coleman band I’m in called FJHP (Free Jazz Hit Parade). I recorded two albums last month with saxophonist Joe Graziosi and can’t wait for the release. Also, I’m doing a Sonny Rollins tribute again at Natalie’s on Wednesday, February 18th with Eddie Bayard, Derek DiCenzo and Dave DeWitt. I’m looking forward to 2015 for sure.

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