NIFTYSAX Might Just be the Jazz Pioneer We’re Looking for with Spheres

Using his blockchain handle “NiftySax” (for NFTs, or non-fungible tokens), the composer and tenor sax musician Milo Lombardi has just released fifty-five tracks that provide a variety of moods and modes to meditate to or ponder our place in the universe. Presenting and consuming music through blockchain, he claims, absolutely cracks the music industry wide open. He’s found fast success offering his music in this nontraditional way, which both surprised him and delighted him and his fans. New fans are checking it out for the novelty but staying for the music itself.

Spheres (a double album released on Legato Music) uses the lingering of tones over one another, taking the listener on their own driftwood out to sea, experiencing calm waters in an array of changing color and temperature. NiftySax’s tenor creates layers and ribbons that waver, quiver and undulate in soothing, meandering sonic rhymes.

When and why did you start sax?

I started playing saxophone in 1999 when I was 11 years old. I had been studying piano for a few years and then I tried an old saxophone my dad had in the house and it was love at first notes! I then entered the G. Rossini Conservatory of Music and studied classical saxophone there for 8 years.

Talk about the name of your band and the name of this album and what it signifies.

NiftySax is my blockchain persona. The name comes from NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens), which some people call Nifties. Hence, NiftySax.

The name of the album, Spheres, comes from the ancient concept of the “music of the spheres,” or Musica Universalis, the sound of the cosmos, constantly playing in the ether.

Why are you releasing this as an NFT and how does it work?

The benefits of NFTs are many. First, when I release my music this way, I have absolute creative freedom, no middlemen. It’s very personal, and I have a direct line to a worldwide audience. It’s very efficient: from the producer directly to the consumer.

When did you start writing the material for this project?

The music is all stream of consciousness. Nothing was actually written down for this album.

The germ of the idea came during the summer of 2021. I had just finished releasing the Nifty Sax Genesis series, which was a very pure form of expression and as such, sometimes quite dissonant. I felt the need to create something more accessible and peaceful. Something that the listeners, myself included, could put in the background while relaxing and meditating.

Why not two separate albums? How are the songs thematically related?

All 55 tracks follow exactly the same theme of the Music of the Spheres. The large, never-ending reverb glues all the pieces together with the aim of taking the listener on a journey through higher dimensions.

The two hours of music were recorded in the span of a few weeks and they represent a snapshot of my musical expression at the time so it was important for me to release them all together.

What was the biggest challenge, and the highlight, of production?

Creating the visuals for the tracks was quite a challenge. Each piece comes with an audio-reactive video which was carefully crafted. That took me the longest time, simply because it’s not my area of expertise and I had a lot to learn.

The highlight was definitely release day. Selling out the whole collection in less than 12 hours was incredible. Seeing the sales come in, talking directly with the collectors and sharing the excitement with them was a beautiful experience. Plus, I had never made so much money with my music in such a short time (that night I sold about $40,000 worth of music). 

How has managing and planning your music changed since the pandemic? What are the lessons learned, and how have you adapted?

The pandemic was tough. My whole business model was focused on live music. When that stopped, I had to completely re-invent myself.

When I learned about blockchain and I saw artists sell their works online as NFTs, I realized that there were almost no musicians at all doing it, so I decided to learn everything I could about it. It turned out that I was one of the first musicians in the world to do that, which is mind-blowing! My collection was actually the first “human-made” music collection on Ethereum to implement a rarity structure like mine.

Where and how do you find gigs today?

I am lucky enough that people contact me about gigs at this point. I take all the offers that sound interesting to me.

The beautiful thing about being able to make a living by selling music is that I can concentrate only on gigs that I actually really want to play! I am also in the process of planning a summer tour in the US. I’m open to offers.

What venues are you concentrating on at this time?

I sometimes play in online venues in the Metaverse, but my favorite venues are always small theaters and jazz clubs, or any place where people can sit down, relax, and deeply listen.

I hope to be able to return to these “real-life” venues soon.

Who are the classical influences on your music?

I love Ravel, Debussy, Chopin, Liszt and I very often listen to Bach, Vivaldi, Palestrina, Steve Reich, Beethoven…

When you do layered sound with video, who does the video for you and what are you looking to create as a final product?

I do most of my videos myself using Adobe After Effects. I like to create videos that can, in a way, hypnotize the listeners and allow them to lock their attention onto the music.

What musicians do you like to collab with? What instruments do you like to collab with?

I love playing in duos with pianists or guitarists. I also really like to collaborate with bands. I see any band or genre of music that I’m not familiar with as an exciting challenge and an opportunity for creativity.

How is jazz changing right now?

I feel like jazz is a huge umbrella that includes almost everything at this point, as long as there is some element of improvisation. I think that a lot of musicians who explore their creativity deeply enough always end up playing some sort of jazz.

I also have deep respect for tradition and I think it is very important to learn to speak the “language” for any musician willing to embark on the jazz journey. 

Other comments?

NFTs have changed my life. Come find out why.

For more information visit https://niftysax.com/spheres. For the NFT, visit https://zora.co/collections/zora/6774.

Photos courtesy of and with permission of the artist.

© 2022 Debbie Burke

Books by jazz author Debbie Burke

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