SPR: What’s the first jazz record that you really got deep into and how did it shape you as a musician?
Devin Drobka: Art Blakey’s Indestructable. I could sing every solo on the record and I just loved the band sound and the mystery on that whole album. They were a band and coming from metal and playing in bands I could really tell how they had such a cohesive sound and really put the time into the vision. It really showed me that you have to have mystery and that things should be vulnerable. I think now music is too clean and polished because we don’t value vulnerability or we don’t create space to really listen to people and this album really was putting it out there for me.
SPR: When you’re performing, how do you listen to your fellow musicians?
DD: I make sure it is not about me and that I am an active audience member as well while playing with them. I make sure that I am also taking risks and not getting stale by tuning out and making sure that the music is being served.
SPR: If you could play one show with a musician that is no longer living, who would it be and why?
DD: Ornette Coleman and Charlie Haden. I just need to know what that feeling is like.
SPR: How has your playing changed over the past decade?
DD: I just feel like I have had more time to develop things at my own pace and just dig deeper. I teach a lot and that has really been helping me refine my craft and vision. I feel like I have really started to trust my strengths and go into them further from a soloistic perspective as well as someone who is hired to be a realizer of original music for others.
SPR: Who is someone outside of music that inspires you and why?
DD: Helen Frankenthaler. This quote should sum it up, “There are no rules. That is how art is born, how breakthroughs happen. Go against the rules or ignore the rules. That is what invention is about.”
SPR: Where do you see jazz music heading?
DD: Good question, hopefully it’ll keep providing a platform for self expression and invitation into the unknown.
SPR: How do you think we can continue to cultivate new audiences for this music?
DD: By getting over ourselves and really caring that people are there. I notice a lot of musicians see themselves as separate from the experience
SPR: What is a book that you’ve enjoyed reading in the last year?
DD: Right now I am reading My Anotnia by Willa Cather. Incredible writing and imagery.
SPR: With so much unrest in the world, do you find yourself bringing your social and/or political thinking into your music and if so, how?
DD: I want to create a place of understanding and care and listening on the bandstand and wherever I have a chance to perform music at. By knowing why I am showing up as a human I feel like I can allow others to be heard and be themselves and have space to share. I think it is really important to really think about how we want to be as humans and that art and music is a choice and has nothing to do with who we are at a fundamental level, when I changed my thinking that way it has allowed me to be more open and caring and respectful of others.
SPR: What are the last three records that you’ve been digging on?
DD: Glenn Gould playing the Preludes and Fugues, Old and New Dreams Bootleg with Paul Motian on drums, Dee Dee Warwick