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Chops: David Binney on Why Musicians May Not Need a Bite of the Big Apple

If you want a jazz career, moving to New York isn't the must that it once was, an industry vet argues

David Binney
David Binney

When I was 19, I moved to New York City from Ventura, Calif. Growing up in the Los Angeles area in the ’70s and early ’80s, I’d been groomed for the life of a career studio musician. I played alto saxophone but was also practicing soprano, flute, and clarinet. The teachers I had were all successful studio musicians and made a good living. I, however, was attracted to the music of Miles, Trane, Weather Report, and various ECM artists, and L.A. at the time was not a hotbed for those types of music. So when I was old enough to leave California, I did. I knew that I had to go to New York. There was no other place to be if you wanted to play and write the kind of music that I was into.

I could write a book about my 38-year experience in New York. But that’s not the subject of this article. The point I want to make here is that the feeling I had about NYC when I was 19 just doesn’t hold as true today. Moving there is no longer a prerequisite to make it as a working creative musician. Today, I’m living in Los Angeles once again. I love it and wow, has this place changed! As have many places.

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David Binney

David Binney is an alto saxophonist, composer, and producer. He has recorded 22 albums as a leader and hundreds of albums with other artists, including Antonio Sanchez, Uri Caine, and Medeski, Martin & Wood.