By Tricia Witkower
Since March, Fantasy Springs Resort Casino hosts exciting live jazz series every fourth Sunday of the month in their 12th Floor Cocktail Lounge & Wine Bar. Jazz at the 12th Floor Lounge’s July installment features husband and wife duo, Joe Bagg and Gina Saputo. They chatted with us ahead of their July 23rd performance.
Where did your love and passion for music come from?
JB: My grandfather was a Swing-era musician in the scene in Detroit and raised a family doing that. My mom and dad say at a very early age I displayed an interest in music, and they were supportive, getting me piano lessons, etc.
GS: I fell in love with music as a child in Oregon. We were always listening to music and singing and my Dad led the praise band at church. I caught it from my parents. I think it’s contagious! We were raised in a very artistic culture. I was surrounded by art & music and my curiosity was nurtured.
What initially got you interested in the jazz genre and who have been your biggest influences?
JB: The fun factor – in jazz you’re constantly varying and playing with fresh ways of interpreting the music in the moment. Influences include Wynton Kelly, Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett, Sonny Rollins, Charlie Parker, Charlie Haden, Jim Hall, John Scofield, Billy Higgins and Paul Motian.
GS: My dad would listen to jazz in his studio and one day I heard him listening to something that blew my mind. It was Carmen McRae. I loved the freedom that she had with the phrasing, expression and the melody. From then on, I was exploring all styles of jazz. The freedom of improvisation is addictive and the possibilities are endless. I couldn’t get enough and I still can’t.
Has your first love always been jazz? What else do you listen to?
JB: I think so, but I listen to a lot of other genres like Classical (Bach being a particular favorite), along with more popular styles like funk, rock, soul, and bluegrass.
GS: Yes, my first love is jazz, but I listen to all kinds of music. There are so many incredible voices out there, and being a singer, I can greatly appreciate the intricacy of what they’re doing.
What has been the most satisfying moment in your careers as musicians?
JB: It’s probably something subtle like hearing an attractive idea in my head and executing it the way I’m hearing it in the moment. In that sense I’m extremely lucky that I get to do this all the time and have these rewarding experiences regularly.
GS: Is it having an audience eat out of the palm of your hand? Or is it that moment you are so in the music, it feels like you are floating outside of yourself? It’s everything. The subtleties and the obvious. The big names and the no-names. It’s the ability to make incredible music with fantastic musicians for audiences with open hearts.
You are both accomplished jazz musicians who have played all over and are based out of L.A. What are your thoughts about playing in a city whose jazz scene is just emerging?
JB: It’s true New York is still the epicenter of the national jazz scene, but the West Coast has a storied history that I’m proud to play a small part in.
GS: I’m incredibly grateful to be a part of it and to witness the evolution of this music. California has a deep history in jazz with the West Coast cool movement, it’s nice to see that wave rolling in again.
What advice would you give to up-and-coming local musicians in the Coachella Valley?
JB: Always go out. Check out live music, got to jam sessions (if there isn’t one, create one). Also listen to the music constantly. It’s a language, and you can’t learn a language out of a book. You have to immerse yourself in it.
GS: My best advice it to serve & respect the music. Immerse yourself in it. Go see live music, support each other, work together, learn the history and give it your everything.