On Tuesday, December 11th, Dominic Lalli will debut his Bluebird Quintet, featuring keyboardist Borahm Lee (Pretty Lights, Break Science), drummer Obed Calvaire (SFJAZZ Collective) trumpeter Gabe Mervine and bassist Hunter Roberts. The jazz band will be premiered live at Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox in Denver, Colorado.
While most know Dominic Lalli from Big Gigantic, Dominic’s roots began in his early days with jazz music. While attending Northern Arizona University, Lalli began to hone his jazz and classical skills by playing weekly trio gigs with world-renowned bassist Joel Dibartolo (Tonight Show Band, Buddy Rich, Carmen McCrae) and Chicago-based drummer Frank Rosaly. Dominic received a scholarship to study music at the prestigious Manhattan School of Music in New York City, where he completed his Master’s degree in Music. There, Dominic studied with the likes of Dave Leibman, Bob Mintzer, Dick Oatts, Kenny Barron, Garry Dial, and many other greats. Lalli eventually relocated to Boulder where he would create Big Gigantic with drummer Jeremy Salken. While the instrumental, electronic producers undoubtedly have a huge year ahead of them in 2019, Dominic Lalli is still finding time for his various passions outside of Big G.
Live For Live Music contributor Nick Gerlach caught up with Dominic ahead of tonight’s sold-out show to discuss his love for jazz and how he shifts his approach to playing it.
Nick Gerlach: What do you have to change about the way you approach performing Big Gigantic and the Bluebird Quintet?
Dominic Lalli: Well, I feel like it’s a completely open playing experience with the Bluebird quintet vs with Big Gigantic. With Big G, I feel like I fit into a particular role especially with my saxophone. It’s a lead melody and soloist role for the most part. With jazz music, and the Bluebird quintet specifically, it’s more of a group playing experience where everyone has their roles but we’re all working together to create these moments throughout the set and throughout each piece of music. To try to embody the music but at the same time find your own voice within that framework, while on the spot, improvising. So it’s just basically a lot more of an open approach to playing vs. trying to fit a solo into 16 bars or something like that.
Any significance to the Bluebird name?
Not technically but I’m a huge bird, eagle, hawk, owl person and I always see these little bluebirds in my backyard and you know Charlie Parker hahahahaha.
The saxophone has a seen increase in relevancy recently thanks to artists like you and Griz. Do you think the instrument will continue to be relevant for years to come?
I certainly hope so! Hard to say but I think the saxophone is such an incredible instrument. I’m so fascinated studying it and studying the masters of the instrument and just trying to find my voice in it all.
You’ve said that you wrote this music in college. Why are you deciding to perform it now?
Some of it I wrote in college and some of it I wrote when I moved to Denver. Mostly I just missed playing this kind of music so I wanted to fire it back up so this is just gonna be the first step in spending some more time writing and playing more jazz music because I just love it so much!!
Who are some sax players that influenced the writing for this music that people unfamiliar with jazz should be familiar with?
I would say a lot of my music is inspired by some of the saxophone greats like Trane, Sonny Rollins and Wayne Shorter but also guys like Branford Marsalis and his bands as well as Josh Redman and Mark Turner and even a lot of up and coming players who are completely ridiculous. I try to be inspired by as much different stuff as possible.
How do you feel about the Lakers chances in the Western Conference this year?
Feeling pretty good about it for their first year with this lineup! Stoked about the Nugs too tho man, they are playing some great basketball right now. Gonna be a really different looking playoffs this year I think, I’m excited to see how it all pans out.