Jean Amédé Cazé is one of the most recognizable musicians on the contemporary Jazz scene. After beating out other competitors in the Thelonious Monk Jazz International Jazz Competition in 2007, Caze launched off a career that brought him on the stages of “The Today Show” to playing with Caribbean Sextet, to touring with Michael Bublé and performing with Roberta Flack. Cazé is hard at work on his second opus, a follow-up to Miami Jazz Scene, a 9-piece album that practically had some touting Cazé as a Haitian Miles Davis. Tracks like “Caravan” recalled the moods of 1960s Jazz with a little bit of contemporary thrown in, while the bouncy “Love, Love”, fused classic Jazz with just—just—a hint of pop. Cazé has been touring practically non-stop, while overseeing the recording of his second album (which he plans on dropping prior to the Fall season), but made the time to do this charming little interview.
Of all the instruments in the world, you chose the saxophone and the flugelhorn.
When I was 9 yrs old, my teacher asked me if I wanted to be in the music program. I accepted and was given a choice between the trumpet, saxophone, or trombone. I looked at the saxophone and thought to myself, too many buttons to press, seems hard. I looked at the trombone and I thought, it’s too big to have to carry around. Then I saw the trumpet and thought, oh cool only three buttons to press, how hard could it be? Then it took me days before I figured out how to make a sound!
It’s been said that childhood turbulence is a prelude to the lives of most musicians. Was that the case with you?
No. I grew up with minor issues. I grew up without a father but never felt like I needed one. I grew up poor but I come from a very loving and supportive family. Looking back it wasn’t so bad.
In 2006, you recorded your first album Miami Jazz Scene.
Yes, Miami Jazz Scene is the name of my self-produced debut album which I released independently while studying at Florida International University. The title is a joke, since the jazz scene in Miami barely exists. The music on the album reflects the kind of music I would perform at venues while living in South Florida.
You teach music as well. What is your approach to teaching music?
I help my students develop skills while trying to keep it fun for them. I expose them to great works of art to keep them inspired and I perform for them during the lessons so that they have something to strive for. I’m very honest when it comes to telling them about what it takes to be a professional musician.
After having to wait a number of years following your debut CD, what can fans expect from your second CD?
It will be worth the wait. The 2nd CD I’m finishing up now is at least 10 times better than the first. It features a lot of great artists. Reginald Policard, Mushy Widmaier, Dener Ceide, Martine Marseille, Melanie Charles, Obed Calvaire, and many other talents. My compositions are also more upbeat and interesting. The sound quality is superior. It will also be my debut as a vocalist. I will sing on several tracks in English and Creole. Syto Cave and Ralph Boncy wrote the lyrics of the songs with Creole lyrics. The reason for the long wait is that I’ve been very busy touring and I needed time to develop as a vocalist.
Most jazz musicians didn’t experience their first taste of success until they were well into their 30s or later decades, whereas you, the acclaim started when you were still in your late teens and early 20s.
What can I say? I’m blessed! Not only did God give me the talent but he put people in my life that recognized the talent and gave me chances to grow. A career in music isn’t easy. You have to have faith and discipline.
Out of all the accolades that you’ve gotten, is there one that stands out for you?
There is no one accolade I can pick out. I am grateful for every accomplishment. Being a professional musician who can support himself is an accomplishment. I’m a much happier person because I love what I do for a living. Work doesn’t feel like work. I put all of my plaques away in the closet because I don’t like to be reminded of what I’ve done. I’ll do that when I’m old. There’s way too much work to be done, I’m always looking forward.
Who really is Jean-Amédé Cazé?
You might have to purchase more space on the site if I fully answer that question! Hehehe. For now I’ll pretend you’re just asking about my name. Not too many people know this, but my real first name is Amédé. Jean is my second name.
What was your parents’ reaction when it became obvious that you wanted to be a musician for a living?
They supported me. I got scholarships to fund my education. I never left it up to my parents to fund my education. I think everyone should be encouraged to do what they are passionate about. Who says you can’t be successful in the arts. One of my teachers told me, “Nobody can take your dream from you……you give it up”.
With such a busy touring schedule, not to mention teaching and freelancing, how do you find a balance and avoid burnout?
Great question, it’s a constant struggle. I go to see other artists who inspire me. To be reminded of the powerful effect of music can have. I also try to schedule time to get away from music. I make time to be alone, hang out with friends, watch movies, read, exercise, etc. The more of a life I have outside of music, the more life experience I have to put back into the music. I’m a Libra so I’m always looking for that balance.
Who’s your dream collaborator?
I can’t say I have just one. Quincy Jones is the first person that comes to mind though.
Where do you see the music industry going? It’s obvious from developments in the past couple of years, that consumers are rejecting traditional channels, labels are losing their past influence, making some fear that the music industry is on a downward spiral.
I’m not sure where the industry is headed, but as long as the real artists continue to do what they were put here to do, there is a chance that they will inspire a change for the better.
If you should die tomorrow, before you wake, though we hope not, what would be your biggest regret?
My biggest regret would be that I took time for granted. I know I haven’t reached my full potential. I’m just getting started.