Philly's Jaleel Shaw to teach Masterclass, perform at Temple
Jaleel Shaw | photo courtesy of the artist

2011 was a hard year for Jaleel Shaw. His father passed away, a cousin was killed in a motorcycle accident, and some personal relationships came to an unhappy end. All of that pain is reflected through the impassioned music on his latest album, the 2013 release The Soundtrack of Things To Come. Which is to be expected for any artist who expresses themselves as personally as Shaw does – except for the fact that none of those things had happened yet when he wrote the music.

“When I was getting ready to record the album, I looked back at the compositions I had written and all of them were basically about the things that I had just gone through – and the compositions came before the music,” the Philly native says. “It was pretty deep. Even the titles were related to the things that I had just gone through, so it was almost like I had composed this music for what was to come. It was an awakening in a way, because I’ve always composed based on life experiences but sometimes you don’t think about how your life and your work, your career, your music are more intertwined than you know.”

Shaw will perform some of that precognizant music from The Soundtrack of Things To Come, along with material from his previous two CDs and perhaps some new music, when he leads his new quartet at Temple’s “Jazz @ the Underground” on Wednesday night. The group features Shaw’s longtime pianist, Lawrence Fields; bassist Linda Oh, a new star on the scene who’s been working with the likes of Dave Douglas and Joe Lovano; and drummer Allan Mednard, a newcomer who’s just beginning to make a name playing with established stars like Kurt Rosenwinkel and Aaron Parks.

Growing up in East Oak Lane, Shaw began playing music as a young age (the cover of The Soundtrack of Things To Come features the altoist as a toddler playing a toy saxophone) and determined his life’s path by the age of 8 when his elementary school showed the 1953 Disney educational short Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom, an animated history of music. “After I saw that I was hooked,” he recalls. “I ran home and told my mom I wanted to play something.”

He studied with saxophone instructor Rayburn Wright and at the age of 11 came under the tutelage of Lovett Hines, the local educator who continues to direct the music program at the Clef Club and also mentored Christian McBride, Joey DeFrancesco, and Justin Faulkner. After graduating from the High School for the Creative and Performing Arts he received a full scholarship to Boston’s Berklee College of Music and went on to earn his Masters at the Manhattan School of Music. In the years since he’s played with the likes of legendary drummer Roy Haynes, trumpeter Tom Harrell, and pianists Chick Corea and Jason Moran.

In the afternoon prior to his performance, Shaw will offer a master class that will be open to the public as well as Temple students. The opportunity to teach a younger generation reminds Shaw of his own formative years in the city. “When I was younger I used to go to the musicians and ask more questions than I see young artists doing today,” he says. “Maybe it was because I was growing up in Philly, but I feel like it’s not as easy as it used to be to go up to someone that you admire; sometimes the artists aren’t as accessible. But I’m realizing more and more as a musician that sometimes helping people understand the music helps them like it.”

Jaleel Shaw will perform at Temple’s Jazz @ The Underground on Wednesday, October 8th. Tickets and information can be found here.

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