Katisse Buckingham is a woodwind multi-instrumentalist who has truly crafted his own sound. Fusing Jazz, Hip-Hop, World Music and Pop, his talent and unique style have brought music royalty to his door - Katisse has performed with Prince, Lionel Richie, Dr. Dre, Herbie Hancock, Andy Summers, and Vanessa Paradis among many others.
Unknown to many, Katisse was also the man behind the now infamous "Jazz Flute" scene in the Will Ferrell film, Anchorman. We were lucky enough to catch up with Katisse while on tour with The Zawinul Legacy Band in Vienna…
Thea: Hi Katisse, great to meet you and thanks so much for taking the time out to do this interview. Let’s get started – so do you come from a musical background?
Katisse: Yes, my parents were both musicians and mainly played folk music but they wrote great songs. I always had music around when growing up.
Thea: and when did you first learn to play the flute?
Katisse: When I was a kid I was drawn to play the saxophone. I started at age 12 and played all the way through high school. I was actually a theatre major in high school and not a music major but I always did play. I was asked if I played flute when I went to Music College and I said no. They told me I had to get a flute and learn to play it so I could play lead alto saxophone in the big band! I was nearly 18 when I started the flute…
Thea: It's so good to hear you say that, so many people think that unless you've started learning before the age of 16 you've missed the boat! So how often and for how long do you practice?
Katisse: I have a very extensive warm-up procedure. My warm-up on the flute is probably over 45 minutes alone! Before I actually even start practicing... I feel like warm-ups are super important. I practice extensively every day. Only very rarely do I take a day off. If I've played a tremendous amount and I feel physically and creatively tired I may take a day off. But that only happens about once every six or seven weeks. I truly love to play and I truly love to practice. Sitting with a metronome and a tuner and working on patterns, scales, solo transcriptions, songs, and anything else I have on the practice agenda, makes me so happy. I just love it
Thea: Wow, that’s an incredible practice schedule. You must be pretty motivated, who or what 'windspires' you to do what you do?
Katisse: Early on I was given lots of records including John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, weather report, Miles Davis and many other great artists. They inspired me from the beginning. But I enjoyed many styles of music through my life and I still do; Latin jazz, world music, hip-hop, rock, folk, bluegrass, reggae and anything else that is sincere and worthwhile.
Thea: What advice would you give to beginners who are nervous?
Katisse: A really good quote that I enjoy is "the only reason to be nervous is if you're not prepared". I feel that there is a lot of validity to this statement. I try to work really hard and be as prepared as possible and that helps me avoid being nervous. Another quote that I really enjoy is "don't do any more, or less then you are prepared to do". This one may be a little bit harder to grasp but I see it like this – you want to work hard and prepare and then come in and play what you prepared or play to the level of your preparedness. Don't try to shy away and musically crawl in a corner and just "get by" with the performance. Also don't, at the last second, decide to do a bunch of wild things that are way out of your comfort zone. While you certainly should push yourself, you don't want to be completely out-of-control.
Thea: That’s great advice! So what is the most interesting or strange gig/job you have ever done and why?
Katisse: I think that playing the "jazz flute" solo on Anchorman would be the strangest... The session itself was very uneventful but the fact that, in modern language, it's nearly synonymous with the term "jazz flute" is pretty wild!
Thea: We love it! Ron Burgundy certainly took on board your advice in Anchorman, though pretends not to of course: “I'm not prepared. Not at all.... This is a surprise, I'll tell you..." If you were not a musician, what other career would you want to have?
Katisse: I think I would have been a physicist or a stand-up comedian!
Thea: We think that everyone’s ‘music’ is different. What is your music and your style?
Katisse: I could not agree more that everyone's music is different!! Too often people will discard what they really want to do musically in favour of fitting into a specific and established music genre. I understand this from a marketing perspective but not as much from a creative perspective. For me it's a mix of jazz, hip-hop, pop, and world music.
Thea: We also think that everyone should have an opportunity to learn to play a musical instrument. Why do you think it’s so important?
Katisse: To sit in a room by yourself and have to concentrate and focus with nobody applauding for you - it's centering and enriching in a very deep way. Then to be able to play music with others where you have to listen and give of yourself is a great analogy to being a good human being.
Thea: I couldn't agree more, it's a hugely understated part of being a musician. If you could meet anyone in the world dead or alive who would it be, and what would say to them?
Katisse: I'd love to hang and talk with Miles Davis. I sincerely (and humbly and respectfully) think he'd dig what I’m doing musically and I’d like to thank him for his bravery and brilliance. And irreverence.
Thea: We think he certainly would! What other musicians have you met that you admire?
Katisse: So many! Currently I'm playing with many different groups including The Zawinul Legacy Band (with Scott Kinsey, Hadrien Feraud, Bobby Thomas, and Mike Baker), Clave Quintet (with Otmaro Ruiz, Jimmy Haslip, Luis Conte, and Jimmy Branly), Billy Childs Quartet, The Left Side Sax Alliance, John Daversa Small Band, Steve Weingart Group, Alan Ferber Big Band, Down to the Bone, Sir Sultry Quintet, Russ Irwin (Aerosmith), Strunz & Farah, Marcel Camargo's "The Brazil You Never Heard", among others….
Thea: Finally, we have just launched a new range of fun accessories for the flute - if you had to choose, which would be your favourite case?
Katisse: I'm pretty low key as far as colours but the giraffe one looks pretty cool!!
Thea: Great to meet you Katisse and thanks for taking the time out to talk to us.
For more information on this cutting edge musician please visit his website:www.katisse.com
Below is the video of his brilliant new track 'Law of Attraction' from the new album A World To The Wise, enjoy!