Music Articles

Wayne Escoffery: From Kenny G To 'The World's Best Tasting Vodka'

Wayne Escoffery i

From smooth jazz to smooth distilled spirits: Wayne Escoffery. courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption courtesy of the artist
Wayne Escoffery

From smooth jazz to smooth distilled spirits: Wayne Escoffery.

courtesy of the artist

How quickly we learn. Saxophonist Wayne Escoffery is playing our Live at the Village Vanguard broadcast/webcast series tonight (Wednesday, Jun. 9) at 9 p.m. ET. These days, he cuts a pretty dapper profile, musically or otherwise. He's even landed a few bit parts in commercials and TV shows for it — more on this in a minute.

But in a recent newspaper profile, he says his first exposure to the saxophone came through Kenny G:

"I have family in Jamaica, so I went for the summer and I went to a music store in Kingston and said, 'I want to learn jazz, give me the recording of the best jazz saxophone player.' So they gave me a Kenny G recording. And they're like, 'This is the best dude, learn this.' So I pretty much learned everything on the recording. I didn't know any better."

Once he started playing jazz seriously, he was taken in by a different crowd of mentors, including the late Jackie McLean and recently, trumpeter Tom Harell. He has learned well.

"I do sometimes get that nerdy jazz thing where I want to think of more technical stuff, but I think it's important to make people move and feel the music. All of my mentors — Tom Harrell, Jackie McLean, whoever it is — have that element in their music. The blues and the soul are always there no matter how complicated it gets."

Applause for that. The whole piece, in the New Haven Advocate, is here. It provides all the more reason to tune in tonight: you can stream our broadcast live here. And after the jump, Wayne Escoffery for Grey Goose vodka:




Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from