Sam Wolsk, Louis Danowksy on performing live in NYC
April 17, 2018
Sam Wolsk and Louis Danowsky are doing A-OK. Their jazz band, DW Jazz Orchestra, played its first live show ever at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola at Lincoln Center in New York City last August. Since then, they’ve made their Evanston debut at SPACE and have another gig there May 29. The Daily caught up with them to see how they were doing and what is next for them. The responses have been shortened for clarity.
The Daily: You guys recently performed at Dizzy’s in New York. What was going through your head when you were performing there?
Danowsky: Oh my god.
Wolsk: I was gonna say “oh my god,” too.
D: I was having stress dreams about it before it was happening, but the day of the concert you’ve just got to go, otherwise it’s not gonna happen. By the time I was finished I felt like I had just run a marathon. It was so exhausting because you’re running on adrenaline and you don’t realize how much energy you consume.
W: It was definitely very exhausting. I had reasons to be stressed going into it, but I was mostly just really excited. It helped that, even though it was our first live show, it wasn’t the first thing we did with that band, so I knew that we had charts that would sound good and great musicians that would pull it off.
The Daily: You have an upcoming performance at SPACE, what are you doing to get ready for that?
W: For this next SPACE show we’re writing a ton of vocal charts. I feel like most people with mixed musical backgrounds might be more familiar with vocal jazz than purely instrumental jazz, so we’re hoping to reach out to the other side of the aisle in that respect.
The Daily: What does it mean to be a jazzer?
D: I feel like a lot of people who that title would apply to don’t like being put in that box. For me, jazz is one piece of the musical puzzle. Being in jazz has given me a really good foundation to understand what goes on in music today. It’s been particularly valuable for me when I’ve tried to branch out and do other things with contemporary bands or work in production.
The Daily: Playing as a part of Jazz at Lincoln Center is a huge honor for any jazzer. Was there a feeling of “I’ve made it?”
W: When we first got on stage it was packed and I didn’t know half the people there. We play our first song to all these people cheering us. I wasn’t super sure of (who would) show up, (would) it just be our friends and family? It was definitely a pretty mixed crowd. It’s hard to say if I made it; it’s a continuing goalpost that I’ll move for myself.
D: One of the best stories that night was when this South Korean family came up to me and this little 5-year-old kid wanted a picture with me. They were visiting New York City, and they were like “we came to Jazz at Lincoln Center because we wanted to see jazz live in America.” We were that representation of jazz in America to that Korean family that night.
Read more from April’s edition of The Monthly here.