When Sean Nowell first started playing the saxophone in fifth grade in Alabama, it was not solely because of invested interest in the instrument. He was terrible at sports and started playing to get out gym class.
From there, Nowell became a fan of jazz in high school. While he attended a Southern Baptist College and became a music minister for two years, he realized that jazz music was his true calling. He made his way to Berklee College of Music to study composition and then headed to the Manhattan School of Music. He has called New York City home for the past 16 years.
The cultural melting pot that is the City inspired Nowell to create the Kung-Fu Masters. He worked in straight jazz, avant-garde jazz, funk, rock, hip-hop, dixieland, classical, electronica, world music and theater. The musician was also influenced by comic books, anime and 1970’s kung-fu films.
“The Kung-Fu Masters is essentially a culmination of the creative experiences I’ve had around the world rolled into one very funky package,” Nowell said.
The Kung-Fu Masters’ lineup is Nowell, Brad Mason on trumpet, Mike Dease on trombone, Art Hirahara on Rhodes/clav/synth, Adam Klipple on organ/synth, Evan Marien on electric bass and Marko Djordjevic on drums.
“The players in the band are amongst the top in NYC and therefore the world,” Nowell said. “Even though they’re super busy freelancing and touring, they’re committed to making this music explode with energy and joy!”
Given his love of diverse culture, it should come as no surprise that Nowell loves Astoria, the neighborhood he has lived in for the past seven years.
“As soon as I leave my house I might see folks from 20 different countries as I walk to the train,” the musician said. “Cultural diversity and mutual understanding is one of the many reasons Astoria is so great.”
Nowell has released several albums over the last few years, the latest being “The Kung-Fu Masters,” which came out on March 26.