Jazz Currents: Andrew Rathbun, Prolific Composer Of Original Jazz

Aug 28, 2020

Andrew Rathbun
Credit Dominic Gladstone

Andrew Rathbun is the professor of saxophone at Western Michigan University. He's also a composer and recording artist who's released "around" 15 albums, and a colleague of Jazz Currents host Keith Hall, who teaches jazz drumming at WMU. For the first time in the series, Rathbun persuades Hall to play with him and bassist John Hébert, who joined the WMU jazz faculty in 2019. 


The conversation takes all three back to their time in the New York City jazz scene--  a scene like no other, according to Rathbun. Musicians would meet for sessions at any time of day to read new music, play free improv, and sometimes just talk music, eat pizza, and get to know each other outside of gigs. "It was a great way to up your game," says Rathbun. "I called people who were a lot better than I was." He says he was amazed at the talent that would show up. It also taught Rathbun the art of listening, which he says is a key component of a musician's success and development.  

One of Rathbun's most influential teachers, at the New England Conservatory of Music, was George Garzone, who remains a life-long mentor.  He remembers his first exposure to Garzone's "amped-up, post-Coltrane sound," saying "I had never heard anyone play like that."  

Rathbun, Hébert, and Hall play four selections in live, one-take settings in the Takeda studio at WMUK. They are "Nine Nations," by Rathbun, "On Mo," by Kenny Wheeler, "Hey, Open Up," by George Garzone, and Thelonius Monk's "Boo Boo's Birthday."

You can stay in touch with WMUK music on FacebookTwitter, and by signing up for our eNewsletter.