Young drummer from Brewster earns reputation as a favorite among top musiciansBy Bill O’Neill
Kareem Sanjaghi has been playing drums professionally since he was just 13 years old. His grandfather, jazz pianist Bob Hayes, asked him to perform in a show that included famed trumpeter Lou Colombo. Since then, Sanjaghi has jammed with Tony Bennett’s band and hopped on stage to back up Tony Orlando.
“When these things happen,” says Sanjaghi, “I think about something my grandfather told me: ‘I don’t care who you’ve played with. I care if you can play.’”
“That’s always in the back of my mind,” says Sanjaghi. “You have to keep working harder and raising your game. When you get up to play, people don’t care about your resume; it’s ‘What can you do for me right now?’”
Sanjaghi, 28, is plenty busy these days. He plays jazz with the Bert Jackson Quartet (with Jackson on guitar, Roe Osborn on bass and Paul Lesniak on saxophone) and blues with The Wicked Trio (also featuring Jackson and Osborn). He continues to play with his grandfather, who has his own regular gigs at the Captain’s Table restaurant in Hyannis.
Although Sanjaghi has high standards for himself, he has plenty of fans. Orlando called him “one hell of a drummer” and Colombo, with whom Sanjaghi played regularly for 10 years, called the young drummer “one of my all-time favorite musicians.”
Other artists Sanjaghi has played with include pianist Eddie Higgins, singer Donna Byrne and blues harmonica player Jerry Portnoy. Sanjaghi started playing drums when he was 11. Back then, he thought “it would be fun if I could play a gig, just one gig with Grandpa.”
Sanjaghi loves the improvisational nature of jazz. “It’s like a language. You might not have met someone before, but you can talk to them. It’s the same with a jazz musician. You speak the language and you get up and play.”
“Jazz music involves real mastery of the instrument. Some of the guys I’ve played with, the things that they’re doing technically are inhuman. Lou Colombo’s playing was crazy stuff,” says Sanjaghi.
Born on the Cape, Sanjaghi attended Nauset Regional High School and Cape Cod Community College before graduating from Boston College. He lives in Brewster and works in the residential lending division of the Cape Cod Five operations center in Orleans.
Music and banking seem different, he admits, but he sees connections.
“They both boil down to attention to detail, hard work and surrounding yourself with a good team or good musicians,” he says. “They both work your mind and keep you stimulated. One helps the other.”
“Whatever you do in life, it’s good to have multiple things going on, so you don’t get burned out.”
Kareem Sanjaghi is scheduled to perform with The Wicked Trio at 8 p.m. on Jan. 14 at Harvest Gallery Wine Bar, 776 Main St. (Route 6A), Dennis. Sanjaghi will also perform at 3 p.m. on Jan. 28 at the Wellfleet Public Library, 55 West Main St., Wellfleet.