Harvard/Berklee jazzer Kyle Nasser comes into his own
Hometown: New Bedford
Think of: John Coltrane meets Radiohead.
What caught our eye: The Harvard University ’05 and Berklee College of Music ’09 alum proved himself both a deft composer and fluid jazz saxophonist on his 2015 debut solo record, “Restive Soul.” Nasser is currently touring as part of a quartet, Beekman, with Chileans Pablo Menares and Rodrigo Recabarren and Spaniard Yago Vazquez.
Light bulb moments: Technically, his first light bulb moment came at age 6, when he fell in love with the saxophone while watching a jazz band perform at a New Bedford restaurant. He’s played the instrument since he was big enough to hold it. His second light bulb moment came during his senior year at Harvard, where he studied economics and political philosophy, and played with the Harvard Monday Jazz Band. “In 2005, Harvard did a tribute to Hank Jones, the great jazz pianist. He was around 88 at the time, and he loved what he was doing. We took him out to dinner, and then a jazz session at Harvard. We played for about three hours, then he asked us to get him a cab home at 11 p.m. so he could practice. That struck me — to have something in your life that you’re so into that you want to go home and practice at 11 p.m. when you’re 88 years old. So I applied to Berklee.”
Biggest thrill: “The South American tour last year with Beekman. I’ve never experienced anything like it. When you play in New York, you’re playing to these little . . . basement clubs, dive bars. Down there, we played theaters and big outdoor festivals, the main jazz clubs in Santiago, Chile. Reactions from the crowds down there were incredible. I thought people were patronizing us. People were asking for autographs. I was like, ‘Are you serious? Me?’ ”
Biggest surprise: “I underestimated the business aspect of the whole scene — the branding and marketing. When I got to New York, I heard some incredible, incredible musicians, who I don’t think anyone outside of New York has ever heard of.”
Inspired by: “I listen to a lot of classical. Compositionally that’s a huge influence on me, the way classical composers develop harmony over longer forms. Wayne Shorter, the way he combines his approach to composition and improvisation.” Also John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, Hank Jones, Joe Lovano, Loren Stillman, Tony Malaby, Steve Lehman.
Aspires to: “Keep recording. And to book a tour to Europe. But my ultimate goal is to leave a body of work, to contribute something to the history of jazz.”
For good luck: “Nothing, really. But I had an injury last year that prevented me from playing for seven months. I was going crazy. I felt disoriented. I was able to work with a physical therapist, so now my pre-playing ritual is stretching.”
What people should know: “There’s a huge segment of the population who thinks jazz is an abstract, intellectual . . . thing. And it’s not; while it’s musically complex, its melodies and compelling rhythms are easy to latch onto. There’s a rock sensibility to it.”
Coming soon: Beekman dates on Feb. 9 at Wally’s Jazz Cafe, 427 Mass. Ave., Boston. 7 p.m.; Feb. 10 at a house concert in Cambridge, 7:30 p.m. (see www.kylenasser.com for details); and Feb. 11 at Airport Grille, 1569 Airport Road, New Bedford. 7 p.m.
Links: www.kylenasser.com, www.beekmanmusic.com