Guest Student DJ Hayden Kajercline: Speaking The Language Of Jazz

Sep 3, 2015

Note: Each month, KPLU invites a teen guest DJ to play his or her favorite pieces on the air.  The program is part of KPLU's School of Jazz.  

Hayden Kajercline from Mt. Si High School is the Student DJ for the month of September.  Hayden's hour aired from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. on September 3rd.

To get to know him better we asked Hayden to answer a few questions about jazz:

Which instrument do you play and why?

I play the alto saxophone. I’d like to say I chose the alto with great intention, but the truth is, like most people, I picked up the sax as a fifth grader because it was shiny and sounded cool. That said, I have stuck with the alto sax for seven years, and truly fallen in love with the instrument because of the great diversity of sounds it is capable of.

On the low end it can speak in the soothing, gravelly voice you would expect from Dexter Gordon’s tenor; yet on the high end an alto sax can sing a melody that sails above every other sound in the room. Johnny Hodges can bring an audience to tears with a sweet ballad, or Kenny Garret can scream out a relentless wall of sound. In my opinion there is just no other instrument that so wholly encapsulates the range of what jazz can be.

What’s your all-time favorite jazz piece and why?

I’m going to cheat and give an album instead of a song, which has to be “A Love Supreme” by John Coltrane. The album is basically a deeply personal profession of Coltrane’s spirituality, and is the sort of album where listening to it is truly an experience -- you kind of just have to sit back, close your eyes and listen. And I don’t think you have to share Trane’s spirituality to appreciate the album for what it is in a broader sense, which is basically an expression of an artist’s soul in the most uninhibited, but also eloquent, way. 

Who’s your jazz hero and why?

Well I hate to be redundant, but I’m going to have to say Coltrane hear too. He basically dedicated every fiber of his being to perfecting his craft. The level of commitment and focus with which he approached jazz was evident in his practice habits and of course in his music. We could all learn a thing or two from John Coltrane, no matter what our passion is.

What is jazz, exactly? How would you explain it?

I think of jazz foremost as a language. Through jazz, musicians can speak complex ideas and emotions to an audience, drawing deeply from the genre’s 100-year history. With only a few notes, a skilled musician can make a comment, voice an opinion, crack a joke, or even argue. Like most languages, it has distinct dialects and vernaculars; it has been constantly evolving since its conception, but without ever forgetting its roots.

It seems a lot of people who are not into jazz sort of scoff at the genre and see it as pretentious, because to them much of what they’re hearing just doesn’t really make sense. But when you think of jazz as a language, those accusations of pretention seem a bit absurd. It would be like listening to a group of people speaking French, and mocking them as pretentious simply because you don’t understand what they’re saying – the truth is you simply haven’t learned their language.

There’s no shame in listening to an Ornette Coleman recording and thinking “I don’t understand what I’m listening to,” but if you keep exploring the world of jazz you may come back to that recording and suddenly it’ll make total sense. I would encourage everybody to dive into the art form that is jazz, because once you know the language you can understand the poetry.

Set list:

  1. Detroit - KENNY GARRETT (Seeds From The Underground)
  2. I Didn't Know About You - THELONIOUS MONK (Straight, No Chaser)
  3. Sun King - CHRIS POTTER (Gratitude)
  4. Cuerpo Y Alma - ESPERANZA SPALDING (Esperanza)
  5. Giant Steps - JOHN COLTRANE (Giant Steps)
  6. Chinoiserie - DUKE ELLINGTON (The Afro-Eurasian Eclipse)
  7. I Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out To Dry - DEXTER GORDON (Go!)
  8. Calling - KENNY GARRETT (Beyond The Wall)