Sound It Out: “20 Questions” #25 — Oscar Noriega

Another installment of the recurring “Sound It Out: 20 Questions” feature on, with an artist answering a survey inspired by the famous Proust Questionnaire…

Multi-reed player Oscar Noriega played in the very first Sound It Out concert, helping to kick off the series in June 2012 as part of Tim Berne’s hit band Snakeoil. As a charter member of the house-rocking Endangered Blood – with Chris Speed, Trevor Dunne and Jim Black – Oscar also played in Sound It Out’s first-anniversary fundraising festival for Greenwich House Music School. Oscar makes an overdue return to the series on June 16, 2018, to do double-duty. He will play his usual mix of clarinets and alto saxophone with Gordon Grdina’s Inroads Quartet (alongside the guitarist/oudist leader, pianist Russ Lossing and drummer Satoshi Takeishi); and, to open the evening, he will be behind the drum kit for the Crooked Trio, his group with pianist Marta Sanchez and bassist Lim Yang. Known for its longstanding standards gig at Barbés in Brooklyn, the Crooked Trio will be celebrating at Greenwich House the release of the band’s debut album, Deluxe (Barbés Records), which features “originals in a standards vibe” by all three members. Born in 1968, Oscar grew up in Tucson, Arizona, and has played with such elders as Paul Motian, Dewey Redman, Lee Konitz, Gerry Hemingway and Anthony Braxton. A connoisseur of tequila and spicy food, Oscar is a convivial guy, as well as an excellent, engaging musician – with tastes that range from not only jazz of the classic and avant-garde varieties but also to Mexican banda and country-and-western. — BB

  1. What was the first jazz album you fell in love with and stayed in love with?

Bird with Strings by Charlie Parker.

  1. What do you think is one of the most overrated jazz albums ever?

Overrated jazz albums? Get in line…

  1. What’s one of your all-time favorite non-jazz albums?

The IRS Tapes – Who’ll Buy My Memories by Willie Nelson.

  1. What’s the last album you listened to from beginning to end – and did you like it?

Showboat by Kenny Dorham – loved it. So lyrical…

  1. What’s your favorite film score?

Once Upon the Time in the West by Ennio Morricone.

  1. What was the most recent concert – of any genre – that made you fall in love with music all over again?

The Mandingo Ambassadors at Flushing Hall, Queens.

  1. Which are your very favorite and least favorite venues for live music?

Most favorite: Barbès, for the vibe. Least favorite: Cornelia Street Café, for its vibe and the pay cut.  

  1. What’s your favorite quote about music?

“We have both kinds of music – country and western.” — The Blues Brothers

  1. If you could have a drink with any late visual artist of the past, who would it be?

Frida Kahlo.

  1. What are the top three tools of your trade?

Ears, brain, heart.

  1. What’s your most indispensable piece of technology that isn’t music-oriented?

Kitchen stove.

  1. What are your top media sources of writing/opinion/news about music?

DownBeat (though it can be the Fox News of music).

  1. What non-musical/non-technological quality is most important to being an enduringly creative musician?

Stubborn faith.

  1. What living person do you most admire – and what’s one quality he or she has that you most admire?

Lee Konitz, for his sensitivity.

  1. What living person do you most despise – and what’s one quality he or she has that you most despise?

No time for contempt.

  1. What’s your favorite place in the world?

The Grand Canyon — life is short.

  1. What book would you most like to read again?

The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera.

  1. What film haven’t you seen that you feel like you should?


  1. What aspect of the past do you miss most – and what’s one thing you look forward to about the future that doesn’t yet exist?

I miss landline telephones, many things analog, having dinner without cell phones. And I look forward to having a vote that counts.

  1. What would you like your last meal to consist of?

Start with a margarita… then dry-aged porterhouse steak cooked by me at my house, plus roasted potatoes with rosemary olive oil and a nice Brunello to drink. Shared with friends I love.