Jacob Teichroew Biography
I began playing the saxophone at age 10. I had been playing the clarinet in school, and a friend of mine urged me to try out the saxophone. I was reluctant to switch, but once I played it, I knew it was for me.
I began studying formally at age 12 with a private teacher named Andrei Sobchenko. He was a classical saxophonist, and through his lessons, I learned discipline and focus when it came to practicing. He was tough on me, and I often left lessons feeling hurt, but I think this toughness prepared me in a way for a career in music.
When I was in high school, I became intrigued with jazz and the idea of improvisation. Without knowing what I was doing, I forced myself to improvise. It was painful at first, but I began constructing improvised melodies. In retrospect, they were exercises in atonal motivic development… Later, I had to learn to weave this style of playing into my understanding of actual harmony. I’m still working on this!
I grew up in Maryland very close to Washington, D.C., so in high school I began playing weekly with the D.C.- based Thad Wilson Jazz Orchestra. I went to college without a clear musical plan, but I had the chance to audition for Steven Jordheim at Lawrence University. I was so impressed with his gracious and meticulous teaching style that I decided to study with him.
In college, although I was awarded a jazz scholarship, my focus was classical saxophone. I especially enjoyed the intense daily rehearsals playing in a competitive saxophone quartet. However, I was still consumed by the idea of improvisation, and I studied jazz as much as I could.
I moved to New York City in 2007 to study jazz at Queens College with Antonio Hart and Michael Philip Mossman. There I was given the Jimmy Heath Scholarship in jazz studies. Despite my formal training, I don’t really think I became very good at either classical music or jazz. I’ve just been dedicatedly trying to find my own way. Since I began living in New York, I’ve pushed myself to continue progressing as a student of music.
Recently, I had the privilege to attend the Banff International Jazz Workshop, where I studied primarily with Vijay Iyer. Studying in the beautiful Canadian Rockies with likeminded musicians from all over the world was a beautiful experience, and it completely changed my perspectives on music, and on the idea of a career in music.
In 2013, after years of performing with dozens of groups and in countless gigs of varying styles of music, I released my debut album, Tableaux, on Fresh Sound/New Talent Records.
The Best of Jacob Teichroew
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“Saxophonist and composer Jacob Teichroew is a rare example of a jazz musician who evokes the tone and lyrical precision of a musician much older than himself. Teichroew’s compositions juxtapose precisely crafted melodies and dynamic interplay within the ensemble…”
– HOT HOUSE JAZZ
“(‘Tableaux’ is) a quiet debut by a young Brooklyn-based saxophonist who has something of Lee Konitz’ intimate sound and patiently developed phrasing, in a loosely contemporary cool chamber jazz setting.”
– JAZZWISE MAGAZINE
“Saxist Jacob Teichroew leads a team of Syberen Van Munster/guitar, Jarrett Cherner/keys, Petros Klampanis/bass and Ronen Itzik/drums through a collection of well constructed originals. He’s got a warm mellifluous sound on the tenor…”
– JAZZ WEEKLY
Interview with Jacob Teichroew
Earlier this week, Festival Archive was able to touch base with one of our all-time favourite jazz saxophonists and composers, Jacob Teichroew. Hear what he had to say…
If somebody has never heard your music before, how would you describe it to them in one sentence?
I value narrative quality, structure, and mood more than style.
Who were your main musical inspirations growing up?
The first time I realized I liked jazz I was listening to Cannonball Adderley playing with the Miles Davis Sextet on a compilation made of two 1958 recordings featuring John Coltrane, Paul Chambers, Bill Evans, and Jimmy Cobb.
What made you choose to play the saxophone and do you remember buying your first one?
A friend urged me to try out the saxophone with him when we were picking instruments in school. I was reluctant to give up the clarinet, but after I tried the saxophone I was hooked. My first good saxophone was given to me by my parents and grandfather when I was 12 years old. It was a Selmer Superaction 80 Series II Alto. I still play that alto to this day, and I still love it!
On a weekly basis, about how much time do you spend practising?
Now that I am teaching music full time, I have limited time to practice, but I still get in about an hour a day of saxophone. Before I started teaching, I practiced at least two hours a day, and sometimes up to four hours. I try to play every single day, even when I’m exhausted or really busy.
Do you attend sessions, if so, what do you think makes a good session?
I don’t go to open sessions at clubs, but I arrange private sessions in the homes of friends and acquaintances. I find the experience more useful, both in terms of learning music, and also in terms of meeting new musicians.
Do you have a fixed preparation regime before going out on stage? How do you cope with nerves?
I had always struggled with severe nervousness, which is part of the reason I didn’t like going to sessions. However, I finally got over nerves after studying in the Banff International Workshop. I began to realize that my music was just part of me, and I knew I had nothing to prove. When music becomes an act of sharing, rather than of showing off, then there’s no reason to be nervous.
How do you handle mistakes during a performance?
As long as mistakes don’t interfere with the narrative or the structure of the music, then they aren’t really mistakes. I don’t mind mistakes because I make them a lot, and I’ve learned that fitting mistakes into the music is often what makes music interesting.
What has been your most memorable gig?
My most memorable gig was the album release show for my album Tableaux. I had just returned from studying with Vijay Iyer in Banff, and I had also just accepted a full time job teaching music theory in a NYC charter school. I was excited by the possibilities of my own music education, as well as that of my future students. The videos from that gig are featured on this page.
Which is the one place where you’ve always wanted to perform?
I honestly can’t think of a place. I don’t think I really mind where I play, as long as there are some people listening!
If we were to walk into your studio, what equipment would be find?
My studio is my second bedroom in my Brooklyn apartment. You would find my tenor, my alto, my clarinets, my flute, and my desk strewn with dozens of reeds.
Which famous present day musicians do you admire and why?
I’m not sure if everyone on this list qualifies as “famous,” but they all ought to be!
Vijay Iyer for his incredibly thoughtful approach to music and everything that goes into it, Gilad Hekselman for his understated and eloquent phrasing, Ben van Gelder for his beautiful tone and his simplicity and restraint.
What’s it like being a professional musician, playing gigs, releasing CDs, etc.? Do you feel you’ve reached your goals?
It’s incredibly difficult. There are many more musicians than there are gigs, and to get anything accomplished takes years of hard work and focus. I prefer to think of music as a lifestyle or even a religion rather than as a job. I often lose money on gigs in order to pay my band members, but I try to devote every day to learning how to be a better musician.
How do you balance your music with other obligation? – Besides music, what else are you into?
I am interested in education. Learning music appeals to me because I love the idea of making a system out of a something completely abstract. I believe the neural pathways in my brain have formed solely as a result of trying to learn how music works. As a teacher, I am constantly trying to figure out how to get my students to make mental connections through visual, aural, and physical learning.
Other than music and teaching, I’m into reading fiction and drinking coffee.
What are you goals and aspirations for the future?
My goals are to grow as a musician and as a teacher. I take both pursuits very seriously, so as long as I continue to progress, I will feel as if my goals are being met.
What advise would you give any aspiring musicians wanting to make a name for themselves?
It’s very hard to say, since making a name for oneself often seems to have nothing to do with making music. I would say that what drives me is the idea that since you only get one shot at life, if you want to do something, you have no choice but to devote all your internal resources to doing it.
Who are your top all time favourite jazz musicians?
I have the utmost respect for any musicians throughout history who have developed a clear and unique musical vision. It would really be too long a list for me to mention. Currently I’m drawing inspiration from my peers in the improvised music world, and from symphonies by Mahler and Sibelius, and from Joni Mitchell.
We would like to thank Jacob Teichroew for taking the time to talk with us, we hope you have enjoyed learning a little more about this talented musician/composer. Remember to check out Jacobs website for further details on upcoming gigs, album releases and further information on his teaching practises.
Thank you Jacob and best of luck with your future endeavours.
The Festival Archive team
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