Carbondale Community High School alumnus Keith Javors has gone on to become one of the nation’s perm
Carbondale Community High School alumnus Keith Javors has gone on to become one of the nation’s premier jazz musicians, working with greats who include Béla Fleck and the Flecktones, Terence Blanchard, Dave Brubeck, and Clark Terry. Javors will soothe Southern Illinois Music Festival crowds with performances Thursday, June 25 at the Boys and Girls Club of Carbondale and later that evening at the Newell House Grotto Lounge. For more information, check out Javors’s website at <http://www.KeithJavors.com>.
Nightlife swapped correspondence with Javors to learn more about the hard-working performer and teacher. Here’s what he had to say:
First, some background. How long have you been playing? How long has your jazz group been together?
I started picking out television songs on my family’s defunct player piano at about three and started taking formal lessons at around seven. I always remember having a profound love for music and that has never left me.
I have several groups that I lead and work with, and they have been around for various lengths of time. The longest-running collaboration with my quartet featuring alto saxophonist Dane Bays has been going on just shy of twenty years. Dane and I met while students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the first record for both of us was a duo project of originals entitled Mantra.
How long have you been a teacher?
A long time formally and even longer informally. As students of jazz music, all of us teach and learn from one another. I continue to learn everyday. So while my first teaching gig was at the college level in 1993, in reality I was giving private lessons and coaching ensembles even while in high school.
Your website bio says you have several CD releases scheduled this year. What are they and what can we expect from your new material?
I’ve always had an inclination towards original material because it is there where we can really hear the soul of a musician. This tends to be a theme across all of my releases and I suppose my current ones are no different. In addition to the works I produce on my label, Inarhyme Records, Russian saxophonist Oleg Kireyev and I have a new release scheduled for this winter that we’re really excited about entitled The Meeting featuring jazz trumpet icon Tom Harrell and the great New York City bass/drums combination of Ben Williams and E.J. Strickland. Recording with all of them was a pleasure, but working with Tom was especially gratifying, as I grew up listening to and idolizing his music.
You have received some high praise from many critics— Chicago Tribune, Jazz Review, et cetera. How does it feel when you hear those things about your music?
It feels great, of course, when anyone has good things to say about your endeavors, and especially when the source is someone like the Chicago Tribune or Downbeat and so forth. I definitely don’t take those reviews for granted. But it’s important to point out that it’s not always that way. I’ve been blasted by the critics as well and that can hurt. I try not to let them define me or my efforts and sometimes they’re wrong and sometimes they’re right on the money. It’s important to take it all in stride and keep pushing forward, trying to play better and communicate more viscerally.
What do you like better— being a teacher or being a musician?
I like to do both and they both come with unique rewards and challenges. It’s invigorating to be on the stage but also invigorating when you see the lightbulb turn on in a student. With performing, the rush is tremendous but often short-lived. In teaching, you can feel good because you’ve left a long-lasting impact that the student hopefully will pay forward through the generations.
One of the most fascinating things I read on your website was your Jail Guitar Doors USA charity, an outreach mission to bring music programs and instruments to the prison population. Why do you feel it is important to give back to the community in such a way?
I’m a big proponent of paying it forward, because I wouldn’t be blessed to be doing what I do without the help of so many, from family to friends to teachers. We’re only in the pilot stage of the Jail Guitar Doors program in Philadelphia, but encouraging inmates to use music as a means to rehabilitation is a powerful thing, just as teaching students is. I’ve known some musicians who are somewhat selfish in this regard, but to me, with much talent comes much responsibility, and a true artist is interested in making the world a better place through music.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I founded the imprint, Inarhyme Records, about five years ago in an attempt to help expose great music and artists, some of whom were flying under the proverbial radar. Running a top-flight record and music-production company is no easy task, especially [as] innovation and technology keep making the game harder for those in the business, but the intangible rewards of giving birth to new music have made it all worth it.
who: Keith Javors
what: Southern Illinois Music Festival (jazz)
where: Newell House Grotto Lounge; Boys and Girls Club
when: Thursday, June 25