CRAIG ALSTON - Fertile Ground


From the very first note I was a believer! My Datta is hands down the the best mouthpiece I've ever played.


Why did you choose to become a musician?
I didn't choose to be a musician. It chose me. There was two particular events in my life that lead me to know I was a musician. The first was when I was about nine years old. My dad took me to a Max Roach concert. He was amazed that I sat through the entire concert. I heard Max Roach play and it sparked my interest in music. That was my first introduction to straight ahead jazz. Up until that point all I knew was Classical music, R&B, Soul, funk and contemporary jazz. But what Max Roach played was like nothing I'd every heard. It was amazing and I was completely mesmerized. The second one was hearing Charlie Parker play for the first time. Again I was a kid, I heard a recording of him. I remember listening to his music and just knowing I wanted to do that. I wanted to play music, I wanted to play jazz.

What is your experience when you feel connected into the music?
Music is unlike anything I've ever known. When I'm playing music and it feels right to me, its a feeling of belonging to something greater than me. I feel humble and vulnerable, but its also inspiring and I'm glad to be connected to it. When I was in college I played in the woodwind ensemble. I remember one particular concert. We were playing Ghost Train I played a solo and after that I just stopped and listened to the ensemble. That day, the music reached a point where I felt like I'd transcended to another place. It was beautiful and burst into tears because I was so overwhelmed with joy. I guess it was like being in heaven and looking at it and being able to appreciate it in a way that I can't when I'm physically involved it. It was a spiritual experience.

What is your experience of when you don't feel connected to your music?
When I don't feel connected to the music it's like some form of prison or hell because it attacks my spirit and soul. I feel discouraged and feel like I've failed to do what I'm here to do. It makes me aware of my limitations and makes me aware that no matter how much I've learned and accomplished; there is still so much more to learn about music and life. It also drives me to be better. It motivates me to be a better father, a better husband, a better musician, a better man and a better human being.

Where does your inspiration comes from? What does it feel like?
I'm inspired by everything, nature and other art. I try to draw inspiration from everything because I think it's all connected. In order for me to progress musically, I feel like I need to know about dance, photography, theater and other genres of music. I think art inspires art. I also get inspiration from my children. When I look at them, they inspire me to leave a legacy for them. My children make me see the world as they do, with renewed innocence and optimism. I think thats what good music is about. Inspiration comes in spurts, sometimes it's overwhelming. It's a force that can't be denied. When I comes, I have to work through it. At that moment, I'm obsessed with getting it out. I remember when I was in college in the marching band, I woke up one morning with "Another Star" by Stevie Wonder in my head. My heart told me to re-write for the marching band. So I did. That's how it works for me.

What is your experience while improvising? Does it relate to any spirituality you may practice in your life?
When everything is working, it feels like an endless stream of ideas. There are so many options as to where the music can go. As I'm listening to what is happening around me, I try to just let go and let the music lead me to where it wants to go. I try not to over think it or make it overly complicated. It's a way to just live in the moment of the music.kind of release of whatever is inside me on that day, at that time. As far as it relating to spirituality, it makes me realize that everything is connected, it's bigger than any one person and it works best if I get out of the way and let the music lead.

Where does your inspiration while composing come from? What is your experience of that inspiration like?
When it comes to composing, my inspiration doesn't come from any one thing. I'm inspired by what may seem insignificant to most. The littlest things inspire me. Usually, when I try to make something happen; it doesn't. If I relax then it comes to me. When it comes to composing, each composition is its own unique experience. Most of the time I have hundreds of ideas in my head that seem unconnected then something clicks and I know how to connect the ideas that are in my head. If I had to try to give it words its like something unknown, but I don't fear it. Its an unknown that I follow knowing it will lead me to a place that will give me more. The moment when the pieces become a composition is incredible, maybe even magical.