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Hennessy artistry is constantly on the lookout for to include an increasing number of live musicians to its shows across the country.  This month, we’re excited to showcase as part of our line-up Rhys Sebastian D’souza, a saxophone prodigy who has developed into one of the country’s premier artists with collaborations across jazz, funk and electronic music acts. Rhys tells Hennessy artistry why he fell in love with the saxophone, jamming with other artists and shares a fantastic selection of music with us. 


You have a long history of music in your family. Can you tell us a little about it?

As far as I know both my grandfathers learnt western classical music and were well educated with whichever instrument they chose to play – be it the cello, the double bass, the violin or the piano. They applied their knowledge to Bollywood songs of the ‘60s and ‘70s and even in their original compositions which were mainly folk (Konkani or Portuguese). My parents too, both being pianists, learnt western classical music as children and then kind of grew into pop, jazz and rock and roll of the 70′s to the 90′s. My dad’s more of a pop pianist now and my mum does almost everything musically possible except sitting behind a DJing console. I’m the only third generation D’souza to have become a professional musician now and my tastes too, vary from my parents, and change over a period of time.


What attracted you to the saxophone and what is the magic of playing the instrument? What would you compare it to?

I played the clarinet for three years before my parents and teacher at the time coaxed me into giving the saxophone a shot. It was way easier than the clarinet and I never looked back. I feel very close to the instrument like I can emote my feelings through it – like any musician would. As much as you think it makes the ladies swoon, that not why I ever got into it but hey, its part and parcel of my life now! I can’t compare this instrument to any other because like I said before, its a personal thing. But, if I had to choose another instrument over the sax, it would be the trumpet!


Who have been the biggest influences on your music?

My parents for sure. And then in extension, their friends who are also musicians have played a big role in shaping me. I’m also naturally influenced by the saxophonists and pianists worldwide. No, Kenny G is not one of them! But I do appreciate what he’s give to the world.


Do you remember the first time you teamed up with a DJ?

Yeah! It was a long, long time ago when I was perhaps 18 or 19 and I played with some house music for a corporate event. I like that space of music as it’s melodic in its own way and I feel very free when I express myself on the saxophone.


What is the challenge of playing live with electronic music acts in comparison to playing with live musicians?

You need to be very disciplined stuff when you collaborate with electronic music artists. You need to be on the ball at all times to know when you’re supposed to enter a song and exit. If you miss your cue, you pretty much feel very lost then! And that’s very challenging as you only have 4 or 8 bars or 16 bars to make your mark. With live musicians, although there is a structure to adhere to in a song, we can play it by ear and extend certain sections within the song by just making eye or by gesturing certain hand signals.


Rhys D’souza picks five tunes you absolutely have to listen to…


Joshua Redman’s rendition of Eric Clapton’s ‘Tears in Heaven’
I love it when you can interpret someone’s song as your own, in your own style but still feel like they did justice to the original songwriter. That’s what Redman dies here. And everywhere else. He is one of my idols at the moment. He’s quite theatrical in his style of playing you want to see him and hear him perform. That’s what he does to me. He’s an absolute genius who’s bridged the bebop style jazz of the 70′s with modern technique and its an absolute pleasure to hear.


Joshua Redman – ‘One Shining Soul’
I recently did a gig at Blue Frog, Mumbai, under the name of SaxOnToast and this was one of the hardest songs to play. It is technically a mother-crocker of a song to play, but its beautiful when you just listen to it. How he does it, I don’t know as yet, but I like a challenge and this was the most challenging of the set that night, and in my life. I think we did all right!


Casey James – ‘Jealous Guy’ (John Lenon cover)
When we talk about originality, emotion, honesty and simplicity, this one’s my favourite. It’s so minimal in terms of musical production and arrangement… but he’s absolutely nailed it. I love that. And if I may say so, this is right up there with the original, if not better.


 Steely Dan – ‘Black Cow’
There are better audios that you’ll find on youtube, but I absolutely love this live performance. I started listening to Steely Dan 11 years ago and their ‘Two against Nature’ album got me hooked onto them forever. Later, I found that their older albums are brilliant! They have that sense of pop, funkiness and jazz and they are really true to their sound and music. To me, they’re like scientists of the music world who create complex music in theory in a studio, and replicate that sound on a live stage. That’s just nuts if you listen to the production value of their songs: Horns, guitars, keyboards back-up vocalists… man, thank god they have just one bassist and drummer.


Maceo Parker – ‘Elephant’s Foot’
This is the kind of music I’d love to perform one day. What’s so great about this song is that it’s bloody funky, groovy and he’s written some great lyrics.

  • Vineeth Vincent

    Good stuff!