While Daniel Cooper has been minding his own business, he’s also been taking care of business by becoming an accomplished saxophonist at the age of 21.
“The main thing for me is I’ve always had a goal and it was always just to mind my business and to get there,” said Cooper.
“Other people can come in and say, you should do this or you should that, and you can spread yourself out so thin that you’re going to end up nowhere, so you have to mind your own business, it’s the most important thing — if you really want it.”
Cooper really wants it.
He wants to revolutionize the jazz industry as his idols John Coltrane and Stan Getz once did.
“And I will not settle for anything less, ever, ever,” said Cooper.
He thinks of nothing but his short- and long-term goals, he said.
One goal — one he has recently realized — was to bring his Latin jazz band to Whitehorse from Edmonton.
The band, The Marco Claveria Group, will play at the Yukon Arts Centre on May 1.
Cooper speaks very highly of his band mates.
He is amazed by the bass player, Keith Rempel, who, despite being blind, was able to pick up all the music and solos during his first gig with the band.
Cooper has found a kindred soul in drummer Tilo Paiz, a San Salvadorian who has played with Carlos Santana.
“He’s in his late 50s or early 60s now and he’s just the youngest person I’ve ever met,” said Cooper.
“His life, his philosophies, everything is just so simple and it makes him so easy to be around and to work with and he can do anything musically.
“Everyday it’s me and him talking because we understand each other.
“We’re on the level as far as our philosophies about music and about life and how to enjoy life … just, you know, grab it by the horns and go….”
For two years now, Cooper has been diligently working away on what he calls his “project.”
To date, he has composed eight original pieces of music.
“I’ve spent two years figuring out the music (composing the base, guitar, piano, horns and vocals) so it’s simplified but still maintains its integrity.”
He now wants to record a demo version of all the songs with Paiz, Rempel and other musicians out of Vancouver.
Cooper has no qualms about turning his music into a viable form of employment.
“If you’ve been going at it for 30 years and you still aren’t making money, maybe you’re just not playing what people want to hear,” he said.
That is why he has spent so long working on his own project.
When he finally records, he wants his music to be popular enough so that he can earn a living from it.
“To say that I don’t play for money, well that’s just stupid,” said Cooper.
“Like I say, the market is equally important as the music — one can’t happen without the other, I’m sorry.
“People treat me as if that’s a bad thing; I mean, give me a break, if you have a message, well friggin’ tell it to somebody.”
Cooper got his start playing the alto saxophone in Whitehorse.
When he was 10, he attended the Yukon Arts Centre summer music camp and picked up a sax.
He then took private lessons with local instructor Steve Philp, who not only taught him how to play the notes on a page of music but let him interpret the music the way he felt it needed to be played.
“It was really good for me because I was able to learn how to interpret the music through my instrument,” he said.
“It was a very different approach than a lot of students are able to take because usually they start in band and it’s one teacher for 30 students and you have to play it this way or that way, and I prefer my approach — I wouldn’t do it any other way now that I look back at it.”
Jazz is more than just the swing that people associate it with, said Cooper.
“Jazz is actually just a concept of music,” he said.
“It’s a musician coming into a situation and interpreting the music on their own; it could be pop or R&B or gospel, it could be African, Afro-Cuban, it could be anything.
“Jazz is such a huge variety of music — I guess the word for jazz is just personal interpretation.
“I think that’s really important for people to know.
“They assume that it’s all classical, with trumpets and whatnot but no, it could be any instrument.
“You know a lot of classical musicians don’t have the opportunity to express themselves that way.
“They’re given the notes and they’re given exactly how to play it and if you don’t play it that way then you get a slap on the hand.”
When Cooper was 17, he left Whitehorse to attend a public school in White Rock, British Columbia, that is known for it’s high-quality music program and for turning out talented musicians.
Being a talented musician has always been something Cooper has worked towards.
“That’s the thing that I think about, the first thing when I wake up in the morning,” he said.