By Morgan Rousseau
Astoria-based jazz saxophonist and composer Patrick Cornelius is releasing his second album, “Fierce,” which features dynamic interplay that he hopes reflects the “giddy unbridled joy” he feels while performing.
At its core, “Fierce” is an album that Cornelius hoped would be “fun to listen to,” but in less simple terms, he said he wants to write music “that fills up and rounds out the chordless jazz ensemble” because “in so many instances, saxophone trios or quartets without piano or guitar sound abstract and esoteric to many listeners.”
Cornelius’ inspiration for “Fierce” came from a kitten he rescued off the street and took into his home. He said at first the animal put on a fierce front, giving off the appearance that she was tough, but anytime there was a visitor at the door she would run and hide, exposing her underlying timidity.
“She had this façade of being fierce but underneath she was sort of shy and playful,” Cornelius said. “I had just done an album that I took very seriously — songs had an emotional context. Then I wanted to write an album that was fun to listen to and fun to play.”
The serious album that Cornelius refers to is “Lucid Dream” (2006), his debut solo recording featuring seven original compositions. Four years later, Cornelius is happy to put out an album with a much lighter vibe.
“I was going through a period of time where I was dealing with a lot of questions about inner self awareness question, like ‘who am I?’ and ‘what’s going on in life?’” Cornelius said of his debut. “I was writing darker music and it really influenced the tone of the album. With ‘Fierce,’ I had resolved a lot of my own questions about life. It was a very happy time when I started writing the music. I had a renewed sense of purpose and energy in my art.”
On “Fierce,” Cornelius is joined by Johnathan Blake on drums, Michael Janisch on bass, Nick Bayenas on trombone, and Mark Small on tenor saxophone.
Cornelius has recently performed in New York with jazz musicians Lionel Loueke, Aaron Parks, Aaron Goldberg, Kendrick Scott, Gretchen Parlato, Gerald Clayton, Ari Hoenig and Ambrose Akinmusire.
A native of San Antonio, Texas, and an alumni of Berklee College of Music, Cornelius is happy to call Astoria his home. He settled here in New York because the city is, as he puts it, the center of the universe for jazz musicians. He currently works as a graduate assistant at the The Julliard School in New York, where he is pursuing an Artist Diploma.
“I’ve been living in this area since 2001. It’s very convenient, there’s a family atmosphere here and lots of great food. I don’t think I would want to live anywhere else in the city,” Cornelius said of his neighborhood in Queens. In addition to recording and teaching, Cornelius is proud to be associated with the Queens Public Library, often performing at their events