They say if you can get paid for a job you love doing, you’ll never work a day in your life. Drummer, composer and Denver native Colin Stranahan has been putting this theory to the test, most recently with his working band The Stranahan/Zaleski/Rosato Trio. Each member of the trio composes and, at different times, leads – a dynamic rare for a band in any kind of music. A few days ago the group released its second album, “Limitless,” and is currently touring in support of it.
“I’m doing what I love and I’m able to making a living doing it,” Stranahan told Reverb in an email interview. At 26, Stranahan’s love affair with music already stretches back almost two decades, ever since his saxophonist father turned him on to Miles Davis and John Coltrane records when the drummer was eight years old. A graduate of the Denver School of the Arts, Stranahan learned to compose at a young age and put out two albums before he turned 20.
Now based in Brooklyn, Stranahan feels his latest band provides the space he’s always wanted to live in musically. We spoke with him in advance of the trio’s two shows on Thursday at Dazzle.
Q: You released your first album here in Denver when you were 17 years old. What’s been the biggest artistic change for you since those days?
A: The biggest change is that … before, I was a student. I will always be a student, but now I feel like I am able to make a statement as an artist and a person.
Q: Musicians sometimes make their debuts on jazz stages at a young age just by virtue of their raw talent, but you were also composing right from the start. How did you manage that?
A: I was able to experiment with composition at a very young age. Most of it at that time was by ear. At that age and growing up around musicians, such as my father, I was always encouraged to write more music. My father to this day always tells me to keep writing. To me, it’s just like playing the drums, you have to practice it. Since then I have tried to study as much as I can and go further into the world of composition.
Q: What was it like to break into the New York jazz scene as an outsider, and what are the challenges you still face?
A: It was a very exciting time. And it still is. It was a very humbling experience because you realize there are great musicians at every corner. It was a very healthy transition, though. I realized that you can only be yourself and that’s only what people ask for. I face the challenge of maintaining a good steady career, to always be working and staying healthy mentally and physically.
Q: Your last two albums have been with pianist Glenn Zaleski and bassist Rick Rosato. How is it different having a working band, and has it changed the way you compose?
A: Not only are those guys my favorite musicians, but (they’re) my best friends. That makes the biggest difference. We are constantly talking and hanging out. This provides a great connection at all times, and when we get on stage it’s the same energy as if we were sitting at home talking about life. We compose together in this band. We all write music on our own, but it doesn’t take shape until we try it as a band together. In other bands there might be one leader dictating what the sound needs to be and the vibe.
Q: What haven’t you done yet that you still want to accomplish?
A: I would love to take this band all over the world and perform. I’m very lucky to be able to perform in many different groups all over the world, but I think it would be an amazing accomplishment to be able to take your own band out there. We are going to Asia at the beginning of next year and that is one step closer. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.
Denver-based writer Sam DeLeo is a published poet, has seen two of his plays produced and recently completed his novel, “As We Used to Sing.” His selected work can be read at samdeleo.com.