When Shannon Kristjanson was eleven, she heard her aunt play flute and thought it was the most beautiful sound she’d ever heard. After a few years learning the flute herself, she picked up saxophone to play in the school jazz band and was intrigued by the freedom and challenge of improvisation. Also an accomplished singer, Shannon brings a signature warmth, inventiveness, and sensitivity to all of her musical ventures.
Tell us about some of the projects you’re involved in at the moment.
I sing and play flute in a vocal jazz/folk trio called collage-à-trois. We’ve challenged ourselves by creating dense arrangements with only three musicians on stage. This year at the Jazz Festival we’re adding bass and drums to the sound—I’m pretty excited to hear how the music changes in this configuration.
I’m currently learning new music for Steve Kirby’s Longitude Project. We’re working towards a concert at the end of May with a lot of new material written and arranged by Steve. It’s very cool to explore the Third Stream genre with the Oceanic Jazz Orchestra—they are such accomplished jazz and classical musicians.
I’m also performing this spring with the Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra, Papa Mambo, and a few other groups.
And you have a Jazz Festival gig as a leader this year.
I’m really excited for this! I’ve been writing a lot this year, bringing my diverse influences toward something that sounds like “me.” I’m planning to sing and play both flute and saxophone, so we’ll see what fits where in the music.
So who are those diverse influences?
I could talk all day, but here’s my current shortlist:
Without a Net, by Wayne Shorter: I was all over this album when it came out last year and I just keep coming back to it. It features his current quartet with Danilo Perez, John Patitucci, and Brian Blade. They are some of the most capable musicians on the planet and have played together for over a decade so the places they are able to go with the music… There aren’t words to describe it.
Beethoven String Quartets, by the Alban Berg Quartett: Beethoven is one of my favourite composers but I’ve only been listening intently to his string quartets for a month or so. There’s so much to learn from these works—I’m hooked!
The In Sound, by Eddie Harris: This recording features a masterful rhythm section of Cedar Walton, Ron Carter, and Billy Higgins. I just love how relaxed and soulful it is. I want all music to feel this good.
A Turtle’s Dream, by Abbie Lincoln: You want to learn how to phrase? how to deliver a lyric? how to tell a story with a melody? It’s all here.
What life lessons have you learned from being a musician?
I think it’s very important to always remember why you do what you do. It’s easy to get distracted, discouraged, and demotivated as a musician if you’re too focused on your personal ambitions or what other people think about you and your playing. I find that I play way better stuff when I let go of my ego and just try to create something beautiful…