I am me is my coming-of-age record. It closes a youthful chapter marked by insecurity and uncertainty and depicts a more mature Austin. One that has begun to see previous "weaknesses" as "voice". My playing has always contained some amount of frailty. Hearing the monstrous, flawless playing of saxophonists like Cannonball Adderley or Michael Brecker has always intimidated me. Now I feel in this modern day of perfectly molded social media narratives perhaps a dose of real, raw, and blemished is exactly what we need.
Purchase available exclusively through Bandcamp
Preview of an upcoming chordless trio album:)
Solo sax on a Jerome Kern standard
Duo playing over the internet!
Original of mine. Groove with poignant lyrics
Solo EWI and Synthy loops
Solo Sax and Pedals
A bit about me...
Hi, I'm Austin Zhang, a first-generation Chinese-American boy raised in suburban Texas, now a songwriter, saxophonist, writer, and curator based in New York City.
Earlier in 2022, the United Nations Human Rights division along with This Alien Nation commissioned a composition from me to counter reductively negative views of immigration. I recorded my mother detailing her story of escape from Mao-ist China in search of freedom and opportunity and scored her story with music for saxophone and electronics. I live performed the score at Joe’s Pub in NYC. The UN later interviewed me about my work and the piece on their Stand Up 4 Human Rights podcast. Additionally, I led a jazz quintet at the first AAPI Jazz Festival that celebrated the often overlook minority of Asian jazz musicians in the midst of record-settings rates of hate crime against Asian Americans.
My early career revolved around becoming the most masterful jazz saxophonist I could be. I practiced obsessively for ten years, graduated from the Manhattan School of Music with scholarship, and went on to perform with giants of jazz music: Terri Lyne Carrington, Wycliffe Gordon, the Mingus Big Band, and others. My saxophone has been heard at such venues as Jazz at Lincoln Center, Joe's Pub, Newport Jazz Festival, and internationally in Ecuador, Costa Rica, Colombia, and the Netherlands.
Two incredible mentors, Wynton Marsalis and Stefon Harris, challenged me to exchange my ego-centric goals (how good can I be?) for generous ones (how can I use my talents to help others?). Armed with an expanded view of the role of art, I now use my music, podcast, blog, and concert series as communication mediums to combat environmental destruction, end the theft of human potential by big tech algorithms, and embolden other thinkers, artists, and entrepreneurs to pursue meaningful and worthwhile projects.
My upcoming musical project, Breath, is a video series and album where I compose and record acoustic folk/jazz inspired songs in serene natural settings to encourage listeners to slow down, put away their screens, and engage with the natural world.
Here's me as a youngin' playing with and learning from amazing people
Photo dump of some cool shows I've played over the past few years