Church on Monday: A Q&A with saxophonist Elias Haslanger

Elias Haslanger - COURTESY
Elias Haslanger

On his new release Church on Monday LIVE at the Gallery, Austin saxophonist Elias Haslanger leads his band through Blue Note boogaloo and straight-ahead standards, featuring Jake Langley on guitar, Daniel Durham on bass and Scott Laningham on drums. On organ, Dr. James Polk, Austin legend and former arranger for Ray Charles, brings a soulful and full-bodied punch of B3 to the set. Over the phone, we caught up with Haslanger, who spoke about his influences, his new album and his celebrated organist.

What was the first jazz album that caught your attention?

It was eighth grade that I picked up my first Charlie Parker recording. I think it was a Dial compilation. I'd never heard anything like it before. It was the first time I was really struck by the music. I went to bed every night listening to Bird for a long time.

What is your songwriting process?

It starts with a melody, but the melody may be a rhythm. It either starts with a shape that has intervals and that shapes the whole form. Or it's a rhythmic structure, whether it's Latin or swing or pop. I'll have an idea in my head what the feel should be and how the rhythm of the melody should go. Then I'll sketch that out so that it makes sense to me and it feels complete. Then I'll go back and fill out the notes and the harmony.

Why did you decide to do a live date for your new album Church on Monday LIVE at the Gallery?

If you've listened to any amount of jazz, you know that live is a much different kind of recording than the studio. All of us have a completely different vibe and feel than in a recording session. It's the same when you go see a gig. It's hard to do, but I wanted to capture the essence of what the band is on any given night. 

I happened to be listening to Stanley Turrentine's Hustlin'—that '64 record with [organist] Shirley Scott and [guitarist] Kenny Burrell. It's an incredible record and I had the idea to get these guys together and see what happens.

How does playing with Dr. Polk change the energy of your set?

Dr. Polk is like a huge Cadillac driving down the road. All you have to do is go along for the ride. I still play like I play, not any way different. But it's more shaped by the repertoire that we choose, which is a little more towards soul jazz.

Elias Haslanger feat. Dr. James Polk, $15, $20 per couple (free for KRTU and Artpace members), 8:30pm Fri, Nov 21, Artpace, 445 N Main, (210) 212-4900,