Interview with Mike McGinnis

by Matthew Farfan

Mike McGinnis is a jazz musician/musician/composer from Brooklyn, New York. His primary instruments are the clarinet and the saxophone. Mike has played with a vast array of jazz artists in his lifetime, such as Anthony Braxton, Alice and Ravi Coltrane, Hank Roberts, Ben Goldberg, Steve Coleman, and Lonnie Plaxico. Mike has appeared as a soloist or sideman on over 60 recordings and his work has also been recognized outside of the jazz world, as he tends to create/perform a multitude of music styles that fit his mood. Some albums that Mike has played on in the past few years are, Dana Lyn’s “a point on a slow curve”, Hank Roberts Sextet “Science Of Love”, Gino Sitson “Echo Chamber”, and Erik Deutsch “La Nutt Blanche”. McGinnis has even performed on Broadway in the Tony-winning show “Fela!”, and his innovative composing style has led DownBeat magazine to hail him as “a bold musician who… follows the road less traveled.”


Q: What is jazz to you? (define “jazz” in your own words and/or explain why jazz is important/meaningful to you.)

A: “In general I avoid the word jazz as I feel it’s an inadequate and inaccurate word for my music. So, “jazz” as most people know it is a created marketing concept to sell music. “Jazz” isn’t necessarily more important to me anymore than another “genre” as much as music is and the people who created music. So I don’t think about music in relation to any single genre. I’d rather use the name of the person who made the music.”

Q:What style of jazz do you enjoy playing/performing the most? Why?

A: “I don’t have a preferred style as I enjoy and perform music from many different places and times.”

Q: What non-living jazz musician has inspired you the most throughout your lifetime? Please explain why.

A: “Non- living: Steve Lacy Jimmy Giuffre Bill Smith Charlie Parker

They followed their own path and played a lot of different music and created art in spite of the challenges. Individual, eclectic and unique and focused.”

Q:What living jazz musician do you admire most? Why?

A: “Impossible to pick one. Carla Bley, Django Bates, Ben Goldberg. All three follow their own paths and their music is broad and not limited to one “style”.”

Q:In what ways do you think jazz might continue to evolve in the future?

A: “I think it will evolve the same way it always has. Young musicians will be inspired by certain parts of the history and first make music that imitates their heroes. Then, if they continue their music will become a product of their environment and individual artistic goals.”