Jaleel Shaw: A Cause For 'Optimism' In Jazz


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  • Jaleel Shaw: alto saxophone
  • Lage Lund: guitar
  • Aaron Parks: piano
  • Joe Martin: bass
  • Johnathan Blake: drums


  • Producer: Josh Jackson
  • Mix engineer: David Tallacksen
  • Recording Assistant: Josh Webb

Just the Music

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  • All compositions by Jaleel Shaw.
Jaleel Shaw (300)

Jaleel Shaw. Lafiya Watson hide caption

itoggle caption Lafiya Watson

The reach of a young jazz musician always seems to exceed his grasp. This is either proof of the struggle or a sign of madness in great ones.

Meet Jaleel Shaw, a young, independent jazz musician on the cusp of big things. The Philadelphia-born saxophonist has earned the requisite credentials for success: early local training, a scholarship to attend the Berklee College of Music, dual degrees in music education and performance, a specialized Masters in Jazz Performance.

While there's no shortage of protean young improvisers in New York, Shaw benefits from an increasingly rare commodity: a real-world apprenticeship with a master musician. Since 2005, drummer Roy Haynes has employed the saxophonist. Haynes, 83, offers six decades of perspective as a professional musician, and has played with every major innovator in modern jazz. Haynes' bandstand is the jazz equivalent of finishing school.

"I can hear the history of the music in his playing. I can feel it," Shaw says. "It gives me an idea of where I want to go. It really makes me think of developing my own style."

Shaw's emerging voice gains some volume with Optimism, a self-released CD with nine original compositions. Three are featured in this studio session. The serpentine "Flipside" earned Shaw his second ASCAP Young Jazz Composers Award. "Muna's Sleeping" is a lullaby for drummer Johnathan Blake's daughter. "The Struggle" is as much a tale of will as it is a story of the music.

"To me, jazz tells the struggle," Shaw says. "If you listen from when it began to now, you can hear the development. People don't realize that now, but jazz has always been there."

It still is, and that's cause for optimism. Don't believe it? Just ask Roy Haynes.

Originally recorded April 30, 2008.

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