REVIEWS & INTERVIEWS
JazzED Magazine Review
BY CHRISTIAN WISSMULLER
Originally from Houston, Texas, tenor and soprano saxo- phonist Samir Zarif first began catching the attention of many when he moved to New Orleans, where he performed often with the likes of Ellis Marsalis, Nicholas Payton, and the Jason Marsalis Quintet.
A move to NYC in the early aughts saw Zarif attending the Manhattan School of Music and performing with The Paislies and, later, The Story. With 2011 came his first album as a leader, Starting Point, a disc that showcased his talents as a songwriter and passion for alternative and electronic music genres.
With the release of his newest album, Stereotype Threat, Zarif unveiled his new artistic identity, FKAjazz (FKA = former- ly known as), moving jazz forward even further into new and exciting territories, incorporating elements of hip hop, traditional jazz, R&B, and other musical forms.
“The phrase ‘Stereotype Threat’ literally means the fear of being reduced to a negative stereotype,” Zarif explains. “It was the perfect title because of my influences. As I was developing this sound, my worst fear was being labeled as, ‘The next saxophonist [who] plays like every other saxophonist.’”
Published Oct 2017
Interview w/ Alvin Jones on Planet Jazz
O's Place Review
by D. Oscar & Heide Groomes
"Stereotype Threat" Review: Riveting, electronic, club beats dominate the landscape of Stereotype Threat, the latest release from saxophonist FKAjazz (aka Samir Zarif). The band is composed of Lez Lemon (b), Julian Litwack (g), Justin Swiney (d), Noah MacNeil (keyboards, b, vocalist) and FKAjazz with several guest artists sprinkled through the set. JSWISS adds rap on "No Way To Go" and "Storytime Interlude". Marcus Machado (g) makes his presence known on two selections notably "Angel Cake" including Lez Lemon (b). It's a solid, funky, dance party.
Published Sept 2017
United Press International
"...On his forthcoming release 'Stereotype Threat', the triple threat Musician/Producer/Writer doesn't disappoint. This is clearly a man on a mission. He takes traditional jazz and twists into a force that is uniquely his own. He fearlessly plays with precision and a passion that takes you on a musical journey like no other. As promised, there is Greatness here."
Published Sept 2017
by Nick Bewsey
Like many of his contemporaries, Texas-born saxophonist/vocalist Samir Zarif isn’t boxed in by tradition, which makes his splendidly realized debut recording, Start- ing Point, something to talk about. Zarif programs his recording like a suite, and it’s clear that he finds sonic quality to be as vital as rhythm and harmony, and the album unfolds with an engaging purpose. A meticulous musician with a gifted ear for composition, much of the album reaches for Trane-like highs with reverential tunes (“Dancing In The Garden Of Dead Roses”) and sinewy horn solos (“Letter To The Brothers”). But his “jazz beyond jazz” approach works best on “Fear and Deceptions,” opening the door for punchy bass notes by Zack Lober and crisp backbeats courtesy of drummers Greg Ritchie and Colin Stranahan. Zarif expertly fuses poetry slam performance art (“The Old Man’s Box”) with spacey pop electronics (“Keep The Faith”) and steps out with a remarkable vocal duet with Maria Neckam on “This Life,” a song that wears the sensitive textures of a Nick Drake tune.
Published May 2011
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
by Mark F. Turner
Among the many new voices with something unique to say, Texas-born saxophonist Samir Zarif's Starting Point is as fresh a debut as they come. A member of the internationally acclaimed group The Story—whose names include rising stars, pianist John Escreet and saxophonist Lars Dietrich—Zarif also contributed to singer Maria Neckam's memorable Deeper (Sunnyside, 2010). In both cases, his horn has been impressive, but leading and composing his own release is a real opportunity for the saxophonist to shine... read full article
THE URBAN FLUX
Out of the box, Zarif’s steadfast approach to display not only great talent but reveal his unique character and skills to score fluid yet off measured sounds which intertwine seamlessly in the fabric of the global landscape. With that said, what we have here is the versatile artist who is undeniably focused and willing to valiantly explore the possibilities as he merges his distinguish voice into the fold with “STARTING POINT.” read full article
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
by Raul D'Gama Rose
Zarif is a horn player who brings a searching soulfulness to both soprano and tenor saxophones. There is an almost inaudible vibrato in his playing as he makes deep and searing forays into the after world of spiritualism. In this respect, he directly follows the John Coltrane of later years. But Zarif is a singular voice as well. His tone is somewhat dry, and his ponderous journeys into the realm of harmonic invention are characterized by the gilt-edged glide of broad glissandos. Moreover, his playing assumes an almost cubist personality as he brings a statuesque, Zen-like imagery to the exploratory phrases and lines that pepper his musical excursions, especially when he employs his own voice to narrate his lyric poetry and when he slides in the electronics... read full article
All About Jazz
by Dan Bilawsky
Saxophonist Samir Zarif has experienced a wide cross section of the cultural landscape of the United States. Zarif grew up in Texas, spent his college years learning and performing in New Orleans, and then traveled north to New York for his studies at the Manhattan School of Music. While all of this isn't necessarily remarkable for a budding musician to take in, these experiences contrast sharply with the aural images that Zarif presents on Starting Point... read full article