In the current jazz environment, the art of jazz expression and the world of formal education are fully intertwined. Serious dedication to either path takes powerful commitment, but fully pursuing both demands a level of diligence and focus that is immensely challenging. Jeff Denson is a man who is meeting that challenge.
Fully immersed in both worlds since the late 1990s, the bassist/composer has balanced a full career as sideman and leader while taking a full course of studies leading to his doctorate. In addition to maintaining an intense performing and touring schedule in the U.S. and Europe while in school – including a long relationship with legendary saxophonist Lee Konitz that continues to this day – Jeff has also taught extensively all over both continents.
Today he is a full professor at the California Jazz Conservatory in Berkeley, California and the Director of its Outreach Program designed to develop the Bay Area’s most talented musicians while making the local scene a productive and fertile environment for jazz. While this intensive level of activity is easily a full-time job, Jeff takes a relentless 24/7 approach, composing for and leading three distinct ensembles, participating in a few cooperative groups and working on his three-act Chamber Opera, WEBS.
At first glance, it might seem that Jeff Denson, like so many of the younger generation that has emerged in the past 20 years, is a product of the formalized jazz education system. This is simply not the case. In reality, he has developed in the age-old tradition that dates back to the earliest days of jazz – listen to the masters, sharing in oral traditions through his personal mentors, and straight-up hands-on experience in the trenches.