"Starting Point," Samir Zarif's Debut CD as a leader, is a culmination of the many experiences and influences he has gained through his life thus far. Originally from Houston, Texas, Zarif grew up surrounded by a musical family. At the age of 6, Zarif began playing the violin through the inspiration of his sister, Tahirah Whittington, a renowned world-class cellist. Also, through the influence of his mother, Linda Zarif, a choral director and classical pianist, Samir Zarif also began performing in choral groups starting at the age of 7. By the time he was 10 he began his musical studies on the saxophone. He attested to his clear tone and strong vibrato in his sound saying, It was the first thing I wanted to learn on the saxophone; how I could transfer the technique of vibrato from my violin to my saxophone." That starting point began the start of Samir's unique and unmatchable sound on his instrument.
While in high school Zarif attended both the High School for Performing & Visual Arts as well as Willowridge High School, gaining a well-rounded general and musical education. However, life took a drastic change in 1999 for Samir Zarif when in the summer after graduating from high school, his mother passed away from leukemia. Previous to her death, Samir's father had also passed away in 1994. Although Zarif had been playing and performing music for most of his life, it wasn't until after his mother's death that he seriously determined to pursue a career in music as a saxophonist and composer. At that time, I needed an outlet to express my emotions; feelings that were too difficult to express in words. Music became that vehicle and soon I began to look at my instrument and the ideas of composition in a new light."
Samir Zarif soon moved to New Orleans to attend the University of New Orleans where his professional career began, performing regularly in the Jason Marsalis Quintet as well as with many other musicians including Ellis Marsalis, Aaron Neville, and Nicholas Payton. Also during that time, Zarif led his own band which also featured Jason Marsalis as well as Steve Masakowski (guitarist from Astral Project). Before leaving New Orleans, Zarif also became a pioneering member of the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra (NOJO) and soon after, recorded the orchestra's debut CD, Strange Fruit," released on Basin Street Records.
After departing from New Orleans to live in New York, Zarif attended the Manhattan School of Music where he helped form The Paislies, a sextet that went on to tour throughout the U.S. and Europe. In 2006, The Paislies released it's first CD on the Fresh Sounds, New Talent Record Label. However, soon after it's release, Zarif shifted his focus on a new group of musicians later to be named The Story. The Story features Samir Zarif with an international group of young, talented musicians: John Escreet, Lars Dietrich, Zack Lober and Greg Ritchie. From 2006 to the present The Story has performed throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe performing at such venues as The Bimhuis (Amsterdam), Pizza Express (London), The Jazz Gallery (New York), and Upstairs (Montreal). In 2009, The Story released it's Debut CD and is continuing to gain prestige around the world.
As a collaborator in groups like The Paislies, The Story and also as a sideman in bands such as the Maria Neckam Group, Zarif has been able to grow in many ways as a saxophonist and composer. But when asked to compare his collective works and recordings to the work he is producing as a leader, he replied by saying, It of course feels refreshing to be able to fully convey the things that I feel are most important to me in a way that I see fit. And all the musicians on this project ("Starting Point" features Zack Lober, Colin Stranahan, Greg Ritchie, Maria Neckam & Lars Dietrich) were amazingly supportive of my approach and added creative input to the music. Also, this recording is very special because it's the first full representation of who I am as an artist. In the realm of collaboration, we are always faced with curtain limitations that overshadow an individual's own perspective; because it's a collection of perspectives that naturally form a new perspective than that of each individual. I have been so fortunate to be apart of many groups of this description. However, in my opinion, nothing compares to the fulfillment of creating a full body of material and seeing the manifestation of your ideas put to life. Every song on the album represents some sort of starting point in my life and so it felt amazing to finally have the outlet to fully share these ideas."
Now embarking on the well-anticipated release of his first recording as a leader, Zarif is focused on creating a hallmark in and beyond the jazz scene. Incorporating traditional & modern jazz with his passion for singing & songwriting in the genres of electronic and alternative music, Zarif has redefined listeners' expectations around the world. Deemed, Jazz Alternative,"this sub-genre has become the niche that has made Zarif a special addition to not only the jazz scene but also within the realm of the singer/songwriting's world as well. When asked how he came up with this new approach to his music, Zarif simply replied, I just started writing and performing the music I wanted to hear with no attachments or definitions as to what I was doing. Most of the music that I enjoy listening to is not traditional jazz music. So after many years of composing and creating music, this is what manifested itself. Ultimately, I am just happy I can create music that many people can enjoy; not just my follow musicians but others as well."
This story appears courtesy of Two for the Show Media.
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