Friday, February 17, 2012

Rodney - Saxophone

Photo: Kevin Hazelton
Nothing is more iconic for street performers than a lone tenor saxophonist. I've put up bands, a weird animal act, but when people think 'street performers' they either think mimes, or lone saxophonists.  That might be some kind of personality test, but I digress.

Rodney was, in a way, my grail. The kernel that started this project was the fact that I would pass Rodney almost every time I went into the city. Then there was a day I passed him and he wasn't playing, but talking to someone in some sort of animated conversation.

That's when it occurred to me that I really didn't know anything about these guys and it might be interesting to find out.

So I stopped and talked to him and asked where he'd be the next day. Of course, when I did come out to see him, he wasn't there. Street performers, as seems obvious, work on their own schedule. But I was able to find the Supa Lowery Brothers that day and found Rodney eventually.

He was in turns the most enthusiastic interview subject and the most reluctant, sometimes within the course of a single sentence. When I met him the first time he was intrigued by the idea and seemed into the interview. When I met him the second time he didn't seem to remember who I was and was hesitant, but then really got into it.

In a lot of ways I thought of Rodney as my main motivation for finishing the interviews, because every time he saw me afterwards he would grill me about the progress.
Tip Your Street Performers! Photo: Kevin Hazelton

Every street performer has a little bit of the philosopher in them, Rodney has that in massive doses. When you interview someone where you intend to take yourself out of the interview you try and instruct the subject to include the question in their answer. We usually give the example of "So, if I ask you your name, you say 'My name is Rodney' instead of just saying 'Rodney.'" Which makes it sound a lot easier than it is. That's why, when you watch reality show interviews a lot of people seem to be asking themselves questions they then answer.

Street performers more or less just ignored me and every minute I spent interviewing them they weren't making money, so I never belabored the point to avoid making them angry.

But with Rodney, it was nearly impossible. But what did happen were these awesome stream of consciousness rants that my questions could never unlocked in a normal interview.

Photo: Kevin Hazelton
So, you'll notice some differences. (if you've been actually following the blog from the beginning you'll notice a lot of differences, like the second player I added for each post and the slightly new look. I'm not sure which one I prefer, they both have their pluses so for the time being I'm keeping both up). But specific to Rodney...first is what I call the 'usable interview,' the part where Rodney stayed on topic and more or less answered the questions in a way where it wasn't necessary that you heard the question. Mostly, I did have to include my question in at least one so you get to hear my nasally voice in the distance.

But in addition to that, I've strung together some of his rants over some more of his playing. I'm not religious, but this is about him not me, so there is some proselytizing in there. I apologize that I really didn't have as much room to let you just hear Rodney play, but I do encourage you to take a lunch time stroll on Market between 1st and 2nd (I'm a little disappointed that the Google Streetview car didn't catch him) and listen to him play. Be sure to tip him and tell him that interview guy sent you. No guarantees he'll remember, but he just might.


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