Monica India Johnson - jazzreview.com - Your Jazz Music Connection - jazzreview.com - Your Jazz Music Connection http://jazzreview.com Mon, 22 May 2017 10:37:04 -0500 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Gerald Veasley http://jazzreview.com/jazz-artist-interviews/ http://jazzreview.com/jazz-artist-interviews/ Gerald Veasley, who started playing bass at the age of 12, has been into music for a very long time. He remembers the first record he ever bought, Curtis Mayfield's We're a Winner. He says Mayfield had this beautiful voice that was somewhat fragile, but yet there was a power in it at the same time. After his father died while he was going to the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, he used music to help him through his loss and found solace. He says, when my father died, …
Gerald Veasley, who started playing bass at the age of 12, has been into music for a very long time. He remembers the first record he ever bought, Curtis Mayfield's We're a Winner. He says Mayfield had this beautiful voice that was somewhat fragile, but yet there was a power in it at the same time. After his father died while he was going to the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, he used music to help him through his loss and found solace. He says, when my father died, I had a hard time coming to grips with the loss and the music proved very therapeutic. Besides bass, he also learned classical guitar during college and studied great musicians like Charles Mingus, Wes Montgomery, Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis and Marvin Gaye.

Veasley says music has always moved him emotionally. He says, there were several factors which led me to choose music as a profession. Most importantly, it offered me a way to express things I couldn't find words for. After his father's death, he thought, if music can have this kind of healing effect on me, maybe I can spend my life creating music that I can do the same for others.

During Gerald Veasley's time in college in the 70's, urban music was going through a golden era. He says, that was a time when I was starting to really take music seriously and there were all these great sounds around. Music right about that time was starting to get very, very funky and people were taking a lot of chances. People came along like Sly and the Family Stone, Earth, Wind and Fire, George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic. There were all these innovative groups who were making social and artistic statements without losing their soulfulness. Meanwhile, all these fusion groups like Weather Report were experimenting with combining these funky sounds with jazz.

After his time in college, Veasley became a sideman and worked with Grover Washington's band and Zawinul Syndicate for seven years with Weather Report co-founder Joe Zawinul. He also worked as a session musician, working and touring with such performers as Special EFX, Pieces of a Dream, McCoy Tyner, Gerald Levert, Teddy Pendergrass, Nnenna Freelon, Philip Bailey, the Dixie Hummingbirds, John Blake, Phil Perry and Joe McBride. He says, That was a real education on and off the bandstand.

Gerald Veasley says no matter who he has worked with, he has always learned something. There's value in avant-garde music or free jazz in and of itself, says Veasley, but then there's always value in how the experience of playing music like that makes you think about music. For instance, there was a project I was involved in where the music director was none other than Ornette Coleman. That was a very cool experience. He would stop the band and say 'The reason you played that was because you're playing fret ideas instead of music ideas. You're playing things that come under your fingertips instead of really trying to free yourself to play pure musical ideas, pure musical thought that is generated from within.' That kind of thinking is very liberating and it's taught me to create music from the inside out.

Not only has Veasely been a performer, he has also been an instructor as well. He says, I think of the fortune to have a career that has many dimensions. I've been teaching at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia since 1992. It's have many students that I have talked with through the university. In 2002, we started the Bass Boot Camp, which is an instructional project for bass players and actually it's more than that. It's a weekend of inspiration and intense instruction. We offer about 28 hours of instruction over a weekend. It's a series of master classes and workshops on topics from soloing to Latin music to grooving, sight reading. Anything of interest to a bass player, we cover it. We do it in an intense way, but in a way that's nurturing to bass players of all levels.

Not only does the Bass Boot Camp help up and coming bassists, Gerald Veasley says the instruction helps the mind set of the bassist. When we offer the program, one of the things we really wanted to make sure of is that we had other instructors who had the same mind set that I had of just trying to be very, very nurturing of the musicians, says Veasley. Sometimes when you're in a setting where you see some great bass player up there, let's say someone like a Victor Wooten or Gary Willis or Michael Manring who are legends in the bass community, so often bass players who are in a workshop will be so in awe of these people that they won't really try to really get the concepts on their own. Our program is designed to be hands on. It's also designed to break down that barrier between student and instructor. We all realize that we're instructors, but we're also students. We're constantly trying to better ourselves in that we may have more years of experience, but we're also in the same path as you are, to develop as a musician, to be able to play more from what's in your heart and to express yourself.

Since 1992, Veasley became a solo artist and recorded six studio albums. All his releases up through 1999's Love Letters featured the late Grover Washington Jr. as a guest artist. After Grover's death late in 1999, Veasley saluted Grover on his 2001 release On Fast Track with the song Goodnight Moon. Veasley says, Grover was a gentle human being who I think about every day. I feel like a steward of his legacy, a legacy of honest, heartfelt music. It's better to play one note that sounds like you than a hundred that sound like someone else.

Up until this time, Veasley has never released a recording of material done live in front of an audience. However, that has changed with his latest release Gerald Veasley At the Jazz Base. He says, we decided to do something for the fans. Fans come up to me after a show and they say 'you know, I like your studio records, but where can I hear this?' and what they're referring to is when you see a live concert, not just me but most contemporary jazz artists, there's so much spontaneity, there's so much excitement that it's hard to get that it in a studio setting because the audience contributes, frankly, to that electricity, the vibrancy that they feel in a live concert.

One thing that makes Gerald Veasley At the Jazz Base special is where it was recorded. He says, I was real fortunate to record it in my own club. We have a club called Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base in the Sheraton Reading in Reading, Pennsylvania. We present jazz there every week on Thursday. The way that came about is that Reading is the home of the Berks Jazz Festival, which many people recognize as one of the premier jazz festivals in the country, really in the world. A great ten day festival and have national artists. Last year, they presented 130 concerts during that festival, which is really mind boggling. But once the festival is gone, almost like the circus being in town, once the circus is out of town, there is no jazz in Reading, Pennsylvania. So a few of us thought it would be a great idea, including the Berks Jazz Festival people, the Sheraton Reading and myself, thought it would be great to present jazz year round and the response has been phenomenal.

Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base has continued to bring the spirit of the Berks Jazz Festival on a continuing basis to Reading. He says, a lot of the same people who were involved with the jazz festival are involved in Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base in doing the promotion, the marketing, the production, the merchandising and so forth. It's a team effort and I'm really just excited about it. One of the great benefits of having your own club is coming up with programming ideas and selfishly I thought one of the first programming ideas was to do a live recording there and I'm really proud of the way it turned out.

Gerald Veasley At the Jazz Base brings a group of musicians that have worked with Veasley and some that are relatively new. He says, I'm fortunate enough to have a great band. This band has been with me for several years. There are a couple of members who are new, but the core of the band's been with me for a couple of years. These guys are really established as musicians in their own right. Guys who have work with Alicia Keys, Jeffrey Osborne, Maynard Ferguson, Jill Scott and I could go on and on about the individual resumes of these guys. Names from the jazz world, names from the neo-soul world, names from the pop world. But we all come together with one concept of playing contemporary jazz that's very exciting and spontaneous and funky.

Gerald Veasley's first live release shows just how important people who listen to contemporary and smooth jazz should take time to expand their horizon. It's good to hear what a performer does on a studio release, but Gerald Veasley At the Jazz Base shows there is a difference when you see and hear someone perform live. You get to see the musicians' soul and on Veasley's CD, that soul shines through. Veasley says, Anyone who has seen me live knows that I'm not just kind of doing it by the numbers. Every time I get the opportunity to get on stage, it is really a celebration. Celebrate with Veasley by getting the CD.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Monica India Johnson) Jazz Artist Interviews Sat, 29 Jan 2011 11:24:49 -0600
Jimmy Roberts http://jazzreview.com/jazz-artist-interviews/ http://jazzreview.com/jazz-artist-interviews/ Forget about beans and cornbread! Growing up on a steady diet of Maceo Parker, Stanley Turrentine, and Junior Walker, nourished the soulfulness of saxophonist Jimmy Roberts. This Suffolk, Virginia native heaped his plate with healthy portions of R&B jazz, and rock, and after more than three decades, Jimmy Roberts still hungers for the taste of good music. Roberts paid his musical dues in the backwoods of Virginia, later moving to Toronto, and eventually Los Angeles. Etta James, Sade, Bonnie …
Forget about beans and cornbread! Growing up on a steady diet of Maceo Parker, Stanley Turrentine, and Junior Walker, nourished the soulfulness of saxophonist Jimmy Roberts. This Suffolk, Virginia native heaped his plate with healthy portions of R&B jazz, and rock, and after more than three decades, Jimmy Roberts still hungers for the taste of good music.

Roberts paid his musical dues in the backwoods of Virginia, later moving to Toronto, and eventually Los Angeles. Etta James, Sade, Bonnie Raitt, and Greg Allman are just a few of the heavy hitters for whom Roberts has played. In 2000, Roberts collaborated with session guitarist and producer Peter Roberts to form The Roberts Brothers. They released their first project called "Sugar and Spice," on BDM Records. Perhaps, what Jimmy Roberts is most commonly known for is his role as saxophonist to legendary rocker Rod Stewart. Roberts describes Stewart as a "spiritual guy and a very soulful man." However, he could very easily use these same words to describe himself.

The soul is where our emotions live, and judging from Roberts’ new CD "Bless My Soul," he had a great deal of emotions to release. The voyage of emotion begins with the title track, "Bless My Soul," which lends itself to solemn reflection gradually evolving into hope. At this point you may be tempted to turn off your CD player for fear that "Bless My Soul," could not get any better, but believe it, or not, it does. Jimmy Roberts provides an edginess not often found in smooth jazz offerings. Even classic remakes like the Isley Brothers’ "For the Love of You," find a new groove with the unpredictable sax solo by Roberts backed up by Jeff Golub’s guitar, and the heavy percussive rhythms laid down by David Palmer.

Roberts also enlists the talents of percussionist Lenny Castro, bassist Wil McGregor, trumpeter Sal Marquez and many other A-list musicians to get his first solo project off the ground. Here’s what Jimmy Roberts has to say about "Bless My Soul."

Jazz Review: Jimmy, thanks for taking the time to give us the scoop on your new project, "Bless My Soul." So right off the top, what was the blessing in this project?

Jimmy Roberts: Well, first off, let me thank you for sharing your space to allow me to talk about my project. The blessing in this project truly was the fact that we got it finished. As you probably know, trying to get so many people together to make sessions happen sometimes is next to impossible, everyone's schedule being so hectic, but lo’ and behold we got it done. I think it is a very nice sincere piece of music.

Jazz Review: Jimmy, you have worked as Rod Stewart’s saxophonist for many years. You’ve also worked with Sade, Rick Braun, Jeff Golub, and Bonnie Raitt, among others. When putting together a solo project do you consciously decide that you do not want to take from their styles or do you embrace it and work it into your own style of music?

Jimmy Roberts: Truthfully, for me, I just write and perform the music and I am sure that as we live and touch other people, somehow they leave us with a little piece of themselves which in it's own right helps to shape and influence us in ways that we aren't even aware of.

Jazz Review: In the notes of the "Bless My Soul" CD, you acknowledge Grover Washington Jr., as the Godfather of smooth jazz. This is obviously a smooth jazz album, but your saxophone is thoughtful, unpredictable, and harder-hitting than a lot of smooth-jazz saxophonists- much like the late Grover Washington Jr. Was that deliberate?

Jimmy Roberts: First of all, the initial consciousness of Bless My Soul was not at all about making a smooth jazz record. The true nature of this record was to do something that allowed me to be as close to who I am as a saxophonist and writer as I could be. My background is really more R&B and rock than it is jazz. I enjoy playing jazz but I am truly one of the last honkers. That style goes back to Willis Jackson, Big Jay McNeelly and a host of other bar walkers who could turn a club into a frenzy with pure saxophonic wailing. I still think that the ultimate level of inhibition came though the soulful primal screaming of some of those hard blowing tenor sax men of yester year, and this seems to be the nature of my playing whether I like it or not.

Jazz Review: If you were to describe yourself as a saxophonist what positive adjectives would you use? Now I’m all for the positive attributes, but I know that only Jesus is all good, so just to keep it real, the second part of the question is what negative adjectives would you use to describe yourself as a saxophonist?

Jimmy Roberts: Now that is an interesting question. I guess the most positive adjectives I could use to describe my sax playing would be soulful, hard driving and sincere. The negative adjective that comes close to my own evaluation of my style would be that it is quite raw at certain times. But I'm not so sure that raw is so much of a negative attribute- for in its rawness there is pureness and sincerity

Jazz Review: The rawness is one of the qualities I most enjoy. I also really enjoyed the song, "Driving It In," for that reason. It grabs you from the first drumbeat and then pulls you in more and more with the fast pace and gritty sax. It’s easily my favorite. I also like "Ain’t that Peculiar," and "This Time," If you were given the choice of picking three songs to represent this album, which would you pick and why?

Jimmy Roberts: How odd that you would pick "Driving It In" as your fav. For all of the things that I have described about my style, that song for me really says it all. As far as my three favorite songs on the record I would have to say "She Told Me So," "Love Lingers On" and "This Time."

Jazz Review: You’ve been at this saxophone business for a while, who was spark that ignited your passion for the instrument?

Jimmy Roberts: The first time that I remember getting really excited about what I felt from hearing a sax player was listening to John Coltrane's "Love Supreme."

Jazz Review: Jazz wasn’t always the passion for you.

Jimmy Roberts: I was pretty much raised on R&B and rock but anyone who played the sax turned my ear. There was a song called "Tuff" that was recorded by Ace Cannon that I used as an opener in my early years of doing talent shows. It was just a simple blues riff but I delivered it as a sultry lowdown instrumental and the girls went wild. Honestly, I don't think the genre mattered as much as did the freeness to express. For me it was all music from the heart, be it jazz, blues, R&B or rock. To me it was all jazz.

Jazz Review: What other forms of music inspire you now. Is there anybody coming up that takes your breath away?

Jimmy Roberts: I keep an open ear to all music for there is inspiration forthcoming from all places at all times. I find myself listening to mostly jazz and I expose all of my children to the jazz of today and jazz of past eras but I also let them expose me to what excites them being that we all can sometimes turn a deaf ear to artful changes. As far as someone who gets me excited today, I love to hear Kirk Whalum play his horn. I also love to hear some of the new producers out of Virginia Beach. A lot of the new pop tracks have a fresh touch to them, so again my ears are open.

Jazz Review: Speaking of Virginia Beach, I know that you are from the Suffolk area and you left home at young age to move to Canada and eventually California. Growing up would you have ever imagined that the Hampton Roads area would be yielding such a musical influence on the country?

Jimmy Roberts: The Hampton Roads area has always had a wealth of incredible talent, but not enough outlets to expose the greatness of it all, thus those who were able to create a success for themselves had to leave the area. And now it seems talent from all over the world are mining the minds and environment for that new thing, that fresh sound. It is not so far fetched that Virginia would have the musical impact that it has on the country but it is a surprise that it came from my own backyard and I wasn't at home to be a part of it.

Jazz Review: Does Jimmy Roberts have any words of advice, or warning for anyone trying to come this way, and plant their feet in the music business?

Jimmy Roberts: The greatest words of advice that I could give to anyone approaching this business of music, would be to stay true to ones own talent and find ones own thumbprint in whatever art-form they pursue b0ut by all means when you venture into the business of art, spend as much time learning the business of art as you spend learning the voice of your art-form.

Jazz Review: If you were granted a dream session, who would be there, where would it be, and what would be the show-stopping exit song?

Jimmy Roberts: If I were granted a dream session, it would be in the future and I would have my three year old on something because even at three he has such a sense of rhythm my six year old on vocals for her love for singing is so acute it is exciting to watch and I guess the show-stopping exit song has not been written, as of yet. (Smile)

Jazz Review: Will you be doing any touring, or working on other projects any time soon?

Jimmy Roberts: This new year I have plans to start a second Roberts Brothers project with my partner Peter Roberts, a second Jimmy Roberts project, and I want to do a project with a rapper out of New York named Paul Joseph, sort of an instrumental/rap record. There are possibly some dates with Rick Braun coming up in early spring so if all works out 2003 will be a fairly busy and prosperous year. And once again I do want to thank you for helping me to spread the word and for that, "Bless Your Soul!!!"

Jazz Review: Well, we thank you for taking the time to talk to us. God Bless you and much success with "Bless My Soul."

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Monica India Johnson) Jazz Artist Interviews Sat, 29 Jan 2011 11:21:47 -0600
Will Downing's Sensuality, Music, and Other Matters of Fact http://jazzreview.com/jazz-artist-interviews/will-downing-s-sensuality-music-and-other-matters-of-fact.html http://jazzreview.com/jazz-artist-interviews/will-downing-s-sensuality-music-and-other-matters-of-fact.html Will Downing
A tall glass of cool water, when the sun is shining bright, is always a welcome treat, much like the new "Sensual Journey" CD from the tall glass of cool named Will Downing. The vocalist, who has been wowing us for well over a decade, has just released album number nine, and did not forget the kitchen sink, or the star power of producers like Ronnie Foster, Lee Ritenour, Rex Rideout, Ronnie Garrett, and Kashif, among others. The sum of all the names of these superstar producers and musicians add …

A tall glass of cool water, when the sun is shining bright, is always a welcome treat, much like the new "Sensual Journey" CD from the tall glass of cool named Will Downing. The vocalist, who has been wowing us for well over a decade, has just released album number nine, and did not forget the kitchen sink, or the star power of producers like Ronnie Foster, Lee Ritenour, Rex Rideout, Ronnie Garrett, and Kashif, among others. The sum of all the names of these superstar producers and musicians add up to one definitive total-Will Downing to the highest power.

"Sensual Journey" picks up where the 1998 CD "Pleasures of the Night," with saxophonist Gerald Albright, left. It is a collection of essentially jazz-centered love songs. Downing pairs with his "Pleasures of the Night" buddy on the current CD with one of the albums standout songs; a soul-stirring tune entitled "Home." The first song released to Urban AC radio was "Cool Water," kicking off Downing’s sensual journey of eleven tracks, with the sensitivity, and sexiness that has become trademark for Downing. The lyrics, spun by Downing’s deeply rich baritone, convincingly assure his object of adulation there’s no need to fear; he’ll be all the man she needs. "Almost like Being in Love," with the accompaniment of guitarist Marc Antoine, is yet another standout track. At the tune’s end you may either wish you were in love or be glad that you are. But that is concisely what Will Downing’s music does to us mere mortals-he makes us reflect on that "state of being" that defies control-he makes us reflect on love.

I had the opportunity to talk with Will Downing just a few days before the release of his new CD. What I found in our conversation was a man who is witty, confident, reflective, and prepared to take on the challenges and successes to come. The journey for Downing is not only sensual, but fired by the passion of continually putting out beautiful music.

Jazz Review: Will, you have a new CD, "Sensual Journey" coming out on May 7th. If you could just share your experiences about waiting for a new release to drop what are your thoughts this time?

Will Downing: I’m always excited about a new CD. I think the waiting part, after your done, is the killer. Because you sit with the music so long, you form your own opinion and you want to know what the public feels about it. That’s more important than anything. But I really feel confident about the things that we’ve recorded on this album. There are some classic songs on here and songs that I know will be a mainstay at my shows. There are things that I’m going to have to sing forever and ever, and I don’t mind. When you record that’s what you want, and I think there are quite a few songs like that on this album.

Jazz Review: I think "Sensual Journey" delivers what it says in the title from beginning to end. What was your number one goal in making this album?

Will Downing: Well in essence it has a lot to do with me personally. Usually I always like to think that I’m doing the best I can to make myself happy. Public persona is always a big factor, as well. I’m just excited about the record. I just think that it’s a really good record. It’s an opportunity to surpass what people consider to be one of my best albums. I did an album called "A Dream Fulfilled" back in ‘92’ or ’93,’ and since then people have always said, "That’s your best album."

Jazz Review: That’s the one with (Angela Bofill’s) "I Try" on it.

Will Downing: With "I try," and "I Go Crazy," and a bunch of other songs. My goal is always to surpass that album (laughing). Every time I do an album I think, "Okay this is going to be the best album. This is going to better than ‘A Dream Fulfilled." So that’s my goal and I think we’ve either done it or come very, very close.

Jazz Review: This is a very good album. I’ve listened to it several times.

Will Downing: Okay, listen to it some more. (laughing)

Jazz Review: Talk about a line-up! You have Gerald Albright, who you work with quite often. On top of Mr. Albright you have Ronnie Foster, Hubert Laws, Wil Kennedy, Boney James, Marc Antoine, who just has one of the most distinctive guitar sounds in contemporary jazz, the incredible Marcus Miller, Vinx, Vesta and I could go on and on. How did you get all of these musicians to sign on to this project?

Will Downing: Well it was easy. They are contemporary and a great deal of them are friends of mine. Every one likes to be associated with quality, and so we trade off. You know Gerald and I have been working together for some years. We had a duet album together called "Pleasures of the Night." And basically on every album we do a trade off. I’ll say, "Hey Man come on and play." Then he’ll say, "Yeah would play on mine?" And we don’t pay each and we both stay poor, but we get to participate on each other’s album.

It’s the same situation with Lee Ritenour. I sung on the "A Twist of Marley" album and he reciprocated and co-produced and produced cuts on this album and I got him to play on it. It’s just the music circle, as far as this music is concerned, is so small. It’s just a natural call. Boney and I talk often and we always talked about doing each other’s album, so I finally made the first call.

Jazz Review: And I imagine you do meet with a lot of artists on the road-sharing bills with each other.

Will Downing: Absolutely! Absolutely! Yes. We always meet and say the same thing. "Oh Man you were good we got to get together and work." We always say it, but I’m the one who follows up on making the call. And it worked out. It worked out on this album.

Jazz Review: Now, I was just talking about the musicians that were playing on the album, but then you have another list of musicians who helped in producing? Tell me what they brought to the project.

Will Downing: Well, I think that when you call in "co-anything" like co-producers, co-writers, whatever; they always bring in a different perspective. This is my ninth album and I think that a lot of times I may fall into a pattern and not realize it. So I think you need another set of ears in there saying, "Hey Will, why don’t’ you try this instead of that." And you have to be open to that in order to keep up with the times and also bring out the fresh music.

Jazz Review: I imagine there is a whole lot of trust that goes into that because it is ultimately going to be your sound.

Will Downing: Well, you’re always going to have your sound, so just because someone new is coming in, it doesn’t mean that it takes over the whole project. It’s kind of like another flavor to the food. I know the people that I work with very well, and I know what they are capable of doing. It’s just a matter of just saying, "I value your opinion. I trust your opinion" so let’s go with it.

Jazz Review: "Sensual Journey" has a very even flow from track to track. It gets you in a mood and keeps you there. I thought the same of your last CD, "All the Man You Need," except it was more R&B tinged, whereas this one is decidedly more in the cool jazz contemporary vain. Would you agree with that?

Will Downing: Absolutely! Absolutely!

Jazz Review: What was the decision for the more jazz centered approach this time?

Will Downing: Well, I think with the Motown record, "All the Man You Need," it was a matter of satisfying quite a few kinds of entities. We thought that we could solidify ourselves in the R&B arena. So I kind of made the record a little more R&B tinged, but at the same time I have my personal needs that have to be satisfied and I threw my flavor on it. It was a good record and I think there are some real gems on it musically. I just think the continuity didn’t flow as well as the "Pleasures of the Night" album prior to it, or this album. The older you get, you really have to plant your feet in one area and make your stand and say, "This is what I want to be known for this is what I want to do," and have an air of consistency. And I think that this album gets back on track. We were on track on "Pleasures of the Night." We went a little off-center for "All the Man You Need," and now we are coming back full steam ahead with the new album.

Jazz Review: But it is all right to go outside and satisfy that need.

Will Downing: Oh absolutely! But you know the sad thing, and I guess lucky for me, is a lot of people don’t get that opportunity to say what they want to say, the way they want to say it.. Some people take chances, and they flop, and may never get another opportunity. So I’ve been very fortunate in that regard because I have been able to take chances, experiment, and come to rely on the plusses and also correct the minuses.

Jazz Review: And I think your audience trusts you not to take them off to any crazy places.

Will Downing: Oh no! It’s always going to be musical. It’s always going to have an air of consistency. We’re not going to go but so far off track. I think that this is going to make the hardcore Will Downing fans really happy.

Jazz Review: Does it bother you sometimes that we have to keep people in certain boxes saying," You’re a jazz artist," to others "You’re an R&B artist" and "You’re a soul artist." Does it ever bother you that it just can’t be music?

Will Downing: It always bothers me that that’s what it is. But that’s just not how the world works. It’s really unfortunate. We segregate the music. "This is adult music. This is hip-hop. This is R&B. This is jazz. This is contemporary jazz." And it is silly. You know, the radio programmers program that way, as well. They kind of put an artist like myself in a very difficult position because my music is too soulful and too heartfelt to be played on the contemporary jazz stations. It’s too musical to be played on the hardcore R&B stations. So it puts me in a very strange position. I’m not old but I’m not young. It’s very difficult to find you’re place out here. So you have to do what you have to do for yourself and for the fans.

Jazz Review: Now it seems like there are so many more acts that are blending types of music. It would seem that it has to change.

Will Downing: Yes! Well, you would hope so, and you just hope that it’s not too late for you in somebody else’s eyes. There are a lot of artists out there with an abundance of talent. I’m talking about artists that were established and have fallen off in someone else’s eyes and they just can’t get back on. It has nothing to do with their ability or inability.

Jazz Review: While I was listening to the "Sensual Journey" CD, I came across a song called "Maybe" where I heard this guy with a baritone voice, who shall remain nameless- who was giving this lady the "mack approach" from way back. Seriously it’s a fun song but you are laying it on thick.

Will Downing: (laughing)Ah that’s one way to look at it. Well you have to remember having phone sex. I don’t know you’re personal life or what your day to day is like. Just imagine when you hooked up with that new person and you were just getting to know one another on the telephone. That’s kind of what the conversation sounds like. You probably don’t want to admit it, but that’s what it sounds like. You’re sitting up there in bed and all you hear is that gravel in his voice.

The premise of the story is very real. It’s not like out of the realm of reality. It’s about a guy who has decided he’s had enough of work and he’s going to take the day off. Now he’s trying to convince his lady-friend to do the same thing. Her question is "what are we going to do?" That’s where it starts, " Maybe we can go to the movies, maybe we can go to the museum, maybe you can come by and we can hang out, maybe we can " You fill in the blank.

Jazz Review: But by the end it does come back to making love.

Will Downing: Hey, it was some ungodly hour of the morning. And it is phone sex (laughing). It was an adult booty call. The joy of being an adult; it was a classy booty call.

Jazz Review: Yes it was. Thank you. Well, the song puts you in the mindset of a lot of the old R&B songs with the smooth rap. Talking about classic songs you remade "I can’t help it" made famous by Michael Jackson, "If I ever lose this heaven" by Quincy Jones, and "Just Don’t Want To Be Lonely for your "Sensual Journey" CD. "You have remade many songs successfully. What is your rule of thumb on classic songs like these?

Will Downing: A lot of songs that I’ve done over the years have been by female artists and I give the male interpretation. That’s one standpoint. Another one is sometimes you want to say something and you don’t know how to say it, and someone has said it better and you have to be a big enough person to admit that. I think a lot of songs that I sing and remake are so well written- and that it is exactly how I felt and the way I want to say it; so I remake it.

Jazz Review: You express it differently.

Will Downing: Song like "I try," men want to sing songs like that and say things like that all the time, but it is so well written that it’s exactly what I want to say. Instead of saying "ditto," I give my interpretation of it.

Jazz Review: This has been a year of great change for everyone. Musically, you have undergone changes with your label. And in the grand scheme of things you are a New Yorker, so the events of September 11th had to have affected you. On top of that as a musician you have to fly all over the world and for a while flying was a nightmare. Talk about how this last year has affected you.

Will Downing: Well, I think that it puts everything into a reality take. Obviously, I have heartfelt emotions for those who were in the building and those who were affected by it. I knew someone who was killed inside the towers. It was a tragedy. We ended up canceling quite a few things. I had a show with Patti Austin in England that was sold out and we canceled those shows. You kind of get on those planes and travel and you really have to keep your wits about you. When I finally did get on a plane, I think I watched everyone who would get on the plane and what they were doing and it just made me very paranoid, and just alert. Every time I saw someone (in the plane) I’d say to myself "the bathroom is in the back why are you walking to the front? Get ‘em!" But the world has become kind of like that. It’s a very strange time right now.

Jazz Review: Looking back on your career. What makes you proudest?

Will Downing: That’s a tough question. I don’t know if I can pick one (pausing). Every time I hear my record for the first time on the radio. I’m ecstatic. To me, that’s the best feeling and the best moment to have.

Jazz Review: Even now, after all these years?

Will Downing: Oh yeah! I hadn’t heard this record up until two days ago. People around the country were calling and saying, " Ah man I just heard your record." And I’m saying "I haven’t heard it yet. I haven’t heard it yet." Two days ago I just heard it on the local station here. I heard the beginning of it and I was downstairs with my daughter and I told her "I got to go upstairs for a minute." I went upstairs, went to my room, and closed the door. I’m sitting there looking at the radio like it’s a TV. I’m sitting up there welling up inside. It’s a fantastic feeling. Between that feeling and going on stage and just portraying it for the very first time and seeing the reaction from the audience. That’s also a great feeling. So I can’t say that there’s any one feeling that’s like "Yeah!" I get excited all the time about little things.

Jazz Review: What does Will Downing want to do, from performing to recording, to going somewhere that you’ve never played-that you haven’t done yet?

Will Downing: Well you know out of all these years I’ve been recording, I still don’t have a gold record. And it’s a materialistic thing to ask for but I want one. I leave an open space on my wall every year that I release an album and I have an empty wall. I mean I have gold records from other artist that I’ve recorded with over the years and that’s cool but that’s what I really want.

Jazz Review: Hypothetically, if you could talk to any one performer past or present and get advice from them who would it be? And why?

Will Downing: Donny Hathaway. I don’t know if he’s an influence on my vocal style but I’m really touched by the things he’s done musically and vocally. I would like to just get to understand him and how he got to where he was and understand who he was. There was so much emotion in his music that I just want to feel it and get it from the horse’s mouth.

Jazz Review: With this new album and summer approaching, you’ve got to be hitting the road. Where are you performing?

Will Downing: I haven’t really seen a schedule yet. I know there’s about two or three weeks of work with Patti Austin, Gerald Albright, and me this summer. Then I’ll be doing a lot of spot dates.

Jazz Review: Sounds good. I just want to thank you for taking the time to sit down and talk to us.

Will Downing: Thank you. It was a pleasure, and hopefully I’ll see you this summer!

For more info about Will Downing&&&s tour schedule or to listen to the "Sensual Journey" CD log on to his website.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Monica India Johnson) Jazz Artist Interviews Sat, 29 Jan 2011 11:21:07 -0600
Walter Bell http://jazzreview.com/jazz-artist-interviews/ http://jazzreview.com/jazz-artist-interviews/ Walter Bell
Recently when typing away on my computer, I slipped in flutist Walter Bell and the LJU’s (Latin Jazz Unit) "In Three Places at Once," CD and heard something wonderful. Yes, "Something Wonderful," the Rodgers and Hammerstein composition whimsically and beautifully sung by Ruth Naomi Floyd. More to the point, the something wonderful I heard was a mesmerizing and spontaneous expression of some very standard standards. Bell injects his trademark Latin Sounds on this CD with "So What," "Killer Joe," …
Recently when typing away on my computer, I slipped in flutist Walter Bell and the LJU’s (Latin Jazz Unit) "In Three Places at Once," CD and heard something wonderful. Yes, "Something Wonderful," the Rodgers and Hammerstein composition whimsically and beautifully sung by Ruth Naomi Floyd. More to the point, the something wonderful I heard was a mesmerizing and spontaneous expression of some very standard standards. Bell injects his trademark Latin Sounds on this CD with "So What," "Killer Joe," and "Stella by Starlight," among other selections. Amazingly, these songs do not bend to traditional interpretation, but take on new life in everything from arrangement to performance. In fact, in one sitting of this mostly live nine-track CD, you will undoubtedly find your mind and soul in more than three places at once and loving it.

Bell’s flute is not simply cool and melodic, but exuberant, fluttering and feverish at times. A self-taught virtuoso flutist, Bell knows how to make his instrument sing. "The flute is the closest instrument to the human voice. "I can make the instrument laugh, cry, or dance," said Bell. The Latin Jazz Unit also helps him to that end, providing a backdrop of rhythm and Latin beats so dreamy one could float on them.

Bell utilizes three sets of musicians for his Latin Jazz Unit on his sixth Reika recording. The players include: pianist and guitarist Bill Shilling, guitarist Gerald Smith, saxophonist Wil Smith, bassists Joshua Bayer and Michael Boone, pianist Benito Gonzales, drummer Aaron Binder, and percussionists Willie Vasquez and Johnny Vargas. Bell also recruits his friend, vocalists Mark Greene, former lead singer of the original ‘Moments’ to sing on the laidback yet swingin’ "Autumn Leaves."

I caught up with Walter Bell to talk to him about his new CD "In Three Places At Once." Here’s what he had to say!

JazzReview: Walter, thanks taking the time to talk to us. I know you have a very busy schedule. In fact, it is so busy that you recorded your latest release "In Three Places At Once," literally in three places.

Walter Bell: You’re absolutely right. I found out it was easier to do it that way than commit three of my groups to studio time and I could also capture some of the excitement. We inadvertently made history by being the last group to record at the BET Supper Club, which is now on-pause mode.

JazzReview: The new release is awesome, and speaking as someone who has seen you perform live, it really captures the essence of your live show. What do you want people to walk away with after seeing Walter Bell perform or listening to your CD’s?

Walter Bell: First of all, thank you. It’s always a pleasure to play at outdoor and public venues. I want people to know that they have heard one of the "baddest" flute players in the country and feel we have given them a complete show. So if they don’t see us perform live or hear us for a while, they’ll know they got a variety of music featuring straightway jazz, blues, seductive ballads and Latin rhythm all in one set.

JazzReview: Walter this is your sixth release. What lessons have you learned over the course of the past five releases that helped you in your most recent offering "In Three Places At Once?"

Walter Bell: I’ve learned how to save money in the recording process and make it at the same time. I also, came to the grim realization that there are no more million dollar record deals for jazz musicians unless you look like Halle Berry or Brittany Spears. I’m joking of course. It isn’t about talent and hasn’t been for a long time. It’s about marketability. I have been blessed to be able to keep 100% of my CD profits and maintain creative control, thanks to the support of my fans and radio stations that are about pleasing their listeners rather than hypnotizing them.

JazzReview: The Latin Jazz Unit could easily be called the Latin Jam Unit! Tell us about some of the musician who are working on "In Three Places at Once."

Walter Bell: I’m glad you asked that question. Although I can, I stay away from playing salsa strictly. I am a jazz flutist that loves Latin music and I have to be sure people don’t get confused when they hear the title of my band, so I try to hire the most versatile musicians that can go both ways musically. Musicians that know how to stay alert and create something other than just showing off their technique and at the same time know that "clave" isn’t something we’re going to have for dinner that night. With that in mind, I try to hire the best and most dependable cats that I can find and give everybody a chance. Most of my players have never played together before meeting me. One of my biggest resources is Philly and D.C. talent.

Jazz Review: Describe how this past year has been different in terms of your career.

Walter Bell: I’m hiring on the average 30 different musicians a month whether they are playing with me, or taking my place at gigs that I can’t attend. I’m getting calls from guys from all over the country for work. The CD is being played on both coasts, as well as in Australia and parts of Europe and is almost sold out after being out only three and a half months. These are all wonderful things considering I am my own agent, manager and consultant. This is why I say my prayers at night!

JazzReview: When you look at Walter Bell in terms of your career and craft, what would you like to see happen in the next five years?

Walter Bell: I’d like to see my music reach more listeners and new listeners with greater ease. I’d also like to be able to frequent the country more often than I do to let people know all the musical training in the world doesn’t guarantee success, what does is hard work and determination.

Jazz Review: If there is one thing that can be said about Walter Bell is "he will most likely be in a city near you." Is this the status quo life of a musician, or the life of Walter Bell, the ambitious and hardworking flutist who loves the road?

Walter Bell: This is probably the life of Walter Bell, the ambitious and hardworking flutist, who loves the road and to quote Art Blakey "If you’re not playing you’re disappearing."

Jazz Review: Along with the big venues, you frequent many college campuses around the country and talk to many aspiring musicians. What do you get from those conversations as a veteran musician?

Walter Bell: It’s a barometer as to what is going on among younger players and what I may not be aware of. It’s also a chance to share with them the things I’ve learned in the business so it won’t be as hard for them as it was for me and other musicians who are completely independent.

Jazz Review: As a self-taught musician what were the advantages and disadvantages of this kind of training?

Walter Bell: As a result of tradition and school systems in this country, players are taught to depend on eyesight instead of their ear. Many musicians can’t function unless they’re reading from a chart or prepared text. Then they want to improvise, but can’t remember the melody of the song they started with. Also, they have to acquire at some point "feel". When they do get those things going they are phenomenal.

But I’d rather have a guy with feel and ear any day, rather than a guy who has to read the same song night after night and never learn it. Imagine going to a movie, paying $10.00 and seeing the actors reading from scripts. Being self-taught has enabled me to have spontaneity that comes from being in a do or die situation. I’ve been playing on stage since I was 14, and a combination of reading your audience and knowing what not to do is extremely helpful.

Jazz Review: Who did you lean on for musical influences? And how did your style evolve to include Latin sounds?

Walter Bell: Herbie Mann, Hubert Laws, Yusef Lateef and my childhood buddy, Artie Webb. Because I play the flute, I was drawn to Latin rhythms. The flute is a prominent instrument in that music. So you heard more of it than you did in Motown, for example. In our neighborhood you could do the mambo or cha-cha to a Motown record that had a mambo flavor to it. Philly had some wonderful neighborhoods and radio stations and I got to enjoy all of them.

Jazz Review: Who would be in your dream jam session? And where would it be?

Walter Bell: Players: Bobby Hayes, the guy that taught me everything about jazz at an early age(he was a fantastic flute and conga player), Richard Davis on bass, Sunny Bravo on piano, Cal Tjader on vibes, and Mongo Santa Maria on congas. And the three places for this jam session would be: outdoors at Times Square, the Tropicana in Havana, Cuba, or at the house I grew up in Philly on Arch Street

JazzReview: What is coming up for you?

Walter Bell: Miss Cleo hasn’t told me yet, but seriously, whatever it is I hope it’s good and others can benefit from it.

JazzReview: Thank you Walter. Keep up the great sounds!

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Monica India Johnson) Jazz Artist Interviews Sat, 29 Jan 2011 11:20:48 -0600
David Dyson's Soulmates http://jazzreview.com/jazz-artist-interviews/ http://jazzreview.com/jazz-artist-interviews/ If you want the "regular" with a side of cookie-cutter smooth jazz sorry, that’s one thing bassist David Dyson won’t serve you! The main ingredient this young talent pours in all of his work is a large dose of musical integrity. Sure integrity might feel good to the soul, but does it pay the rent? Well, it has been for over a decade as Dyson has worked with a range of artists including the legendary Chico Freeman, Walter Beasley, Pieces of a Dream, Me’shell N’degeocello and The New Kid …
If you want the "regular" with a side of cookie-cutter smooth jazz sorry, that’s one thing bassist David Dyson won’t serve you! The main ingredient this young talent pours in all of his work is a large dose of musical integrity. Sure integrity might feel good to the soul, but does it pay the rent? Well, it has been for over a decade as Dyson has worked with a range of artists including the legendary Chico Freeman, Walter Beasley, Pieces of a Dream, Me’shell N’degeocello and The New Kids on the Block.

1999 marked the release of Dyson’s debut CD entitled Soulmates, on the guitarist’s independent Lo’hand Funk label. Releasing Soulmates on his own label enabled Dyson to create the kind of music that was uniquely his own upbeat and richly funky tunes like 95 North, which take the listener on a jazz-centered, rhythm and blues-laced journey. Reflective songs such as Lena’s Lullaby, coined in anticipation of his newly born daughter, were songs plucked out of the very fabric of the man. The ambitious CD caught the attention of pianist Marcus Johnson and was later released through his Marimelj Entertainment label with a major distributing deal through Warner Brothers.

Family, music, business and integrity in tow, Dyson moves toward his next release. His sophomore effort promises special guest appearances by some of the heavy hitters in jazz. A true slugger, David, is one to watch in the years to come.

JazzReview.com:Hello David Dyson. How are you?

David Dyson: I’m fine thank you.

JazzReview.com:David you are an extraordinary bass guitarist. You play with a lot of passion and fire. Where does it come from?

David Dyson: Thanks for your kind words. I think that passion and fire comes from my love of music in general.

JazzReview.com:I imagine there’s nothing, musically, you like doing more than performing live. Have I guessed right?

David Dyson: Almost. Actually, I think composing songs edges out performing for me. It’s very rewarding to complete a piece and be happy with it. But performing is a very close second.

JazzReview.com:You have done very well for yourself with the release of the "Soulmates" CD, what’s next for you?

David Dyson: I’m doing demos of my songs for the next CD. And I’m close to finishing all the potential tunes that will be considered for it. I wont be going into the studio with live musicians until spring, though. But I will have several special guests on the next one. I’m also possibly going out with Me’shell N’degeocello in February to help promote her new release. And of course I’m still doing occasional dates with "Pieces of A Dream."

JazzReview.com:What does your music represent to you? In other words, if you were to define your music what would it be?

David Dyson: "Feel good music! It’s music that grooves. Technically, it contains strong elements of R&B, funk jazz and fusion, though."

JazzReview.com:If you could make up a word to describe your music what would it be?

David Dyson: "Groovemotional."

JazzReview.com :I’m feeling that answer, and I agree. How have you grown in the two years since your release of Soulmates?

David Dyson: "Not only have I learned a lot, but I also realize what I would have done differently to improve Soulmates sonically. Also, I have a greater appreciation for fans. It truly is a blessing to have people enjoy what you’ve composed and it’s rewarding to realize that you were successful in conveying your emotions through the music."

JazzReview.com:You are on keyboardist Marcus Johnson’s Marimelj Label with distribution through Warner Brothers. Is that the best of both worlds when you take a small record label and combine it with a huge distributor?

David Dyson: "Sure, especially if you have the creative-control, which is extremely important to me. My CD was completed and I was selling it myself when I ran into Marcus. So, he knew where I was coming from. Integrity is most important to me. I’d rather not do a CD if I can’t have the creative control over my own tunes. No one tells an artist what to paint because it’s his personal vision and it’s coming from within. So, why do so many (most) labels try to control a musical artist’s vision? Numbers (sales) which equals money!!! But, most of them know little about music, just sales. So, the quality of music in the industry on a whole has really declined because it’s not about music first and foremost anymore."

JazzReview.com:Who do you write for, yourself, fans, radio hits?

David Dyson: "Me. I think that’s what the fans appreciate and want. That’s what I respect in other artists that write from their hearts. I mean don’t get me wrong, I have and do write radio ready material, but for other people, generally, and even that still has integrity. And, if fans want to hear more of a particular previous vibe that I’ve put out I’m down for accommodating that. Ultimately, if I convey my emotions effectively, the fans feel me and can relate overall."

JazzReview.com: Would you consider yourself as working toward creating a musical legacy?

David Dyson: "Definitely."

JazzReview.com: You just finished working with Pieces of a Dream, one of the legendary groups in contemporary jazz music. You are up there on the CD. Are you now working as a part of the group?

David Dyson: "We have a great business relationship, but they understand that I’m doing a lot of other projects as well. Plus, Gerald Veasley does the majority of their gigs. He has had a relationship with them before Grover Washington passed, so it was only natural that he should play with them. I do occasional dates."

JazzReview.com:How fun is that? I mean, talk about high energy!

David Dyson: "It’s always fun to work with those cats. It has been for about 3 to 4 years now."

JazzReview.com:Something a lot of people might not know about you is that you’ve been around for a minute. David is it true that you were the musical coordinator for New Kids on the Block?

David Dyson: "Yep! I was with them for three and a half years and it was a great experience. Actually, my title was "Musical Director/bassist." I also worked with them personally to put the music to their steps and switched up grooves every couple of weeks to keep it interesting. I enjoyed the experience."

JazzReview.com: An amazing experience!

David Dyson: "Definitely, I saw most of the world and got a lot of experience while making money. I could tell you some stories "

JazzReview.com:Was that your introduction to the music industry?

David Dyson: "No. I had some experience with Walter Beasley first two videos and my first appearance out of town."

JazzReview.com:For those who are looking to gather some of the experiences that you have gathered and make it as a musician, what is your advice to them?

David Dyson: "Keep on trying and don’t give yourself a limit. You’ll never make it if you do that. How many times have you heard people say, ‘I used to play (fill in the blank).’ If your heart is truly in it, keep striving and network all you can to gain a positive reputation. That is extremely important."

JazzReview.com:David, thanks for taking the time to talk to us.

David Dyson: "Thank you."

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Monica India Johnson) Jazz Artist Interviews Sat, 29 Jan 2011 11:20:26 -0600
Stirring the Pot with Lesette Wilson http://jazzreview.com/jazz-artist-interviews/ http://jazzreview.com/jazz-artist-interviews/ Although, the average jazz listener might not recognize her name, pianist, producer and bandleader, Lesette Wilson, is a highly respected artist in the music business. Names like Me’lissa Morgan, Tom Browne and Genobia Jeter have all relied on her songwriting and producing talents. Other artists including Chaka Khan, Billy Ocean, Noel Pointer, Bobbi Humphrey and Stanley Turrentine have depended on her as a keyboardist and musical director for their concert tours. Still unfamiliar? Well, mayb …
Although, the average jazz listener might not recognize her name, pianist, producer and bandleader, Lesette Wilson, is a highly respected artist in the music business. Names like Me’lissa Morgan, Tom Browne and Genobia Jeter have all relied on her songwriting and producing talents. Other artists including Chaka Khan, Billy Ocean, Noel Pointer, Bobbi Humphrey and Stanley Turrentine have depended on her as a keyboardist and musical director for their concert tours.

Still unfamiliar? Well, maybe that’s by design. It’s all about the music for Lesette Wilson. Once you have had the pleasure of talking to this dynamic lady, you realize that she’s very content to stay in the background and let the music shine. Although her jazz roots are the soil in the bottom of the pot, she truly loves and appreciates Hip-Hop, Reggae, Latin, and classical music. Whatever the flavor, Lesette Wilson serves it up with the seasonings of the lessons learned as a veteran musician.

1981 marked the year of Lesette’s first release "Now that I’ve Got Your Attention." Over a decade later, in 1993, Wilson released the CD entitled "Unmasked." Staying busy all the while, it was not until 2001 that the much-anticipated CD follow-up CD "Livin' in the Zone," hit the shelves. Here she is talking to JazzReview.com about her latest endeavors

JazzReview: Although you are coming back to the forefront on your CD "Living in the Zone," does it really matter to you as long as you can play music?

Lesette Wilson: "It doesn't matter to me doing a CD or not, as long as I am playing music. You can tell by my track record. In my long career of being a musician, this is only my third CD, a comment that many of the reviewers seem to take note of. The reason being is during that time that I wasn't in the forefront, I was still continually writing, producing, and performing music. Sometimes when a musician becomes a ‘recording artist,’ their opinions, sense of style, even their sense of self becomes part of someone else’s vision or ideas. This, of course, is part of the business, but it should not control who you are and what you do. I came into the music business because I loved creating, playing and performing music on any level. As long as I was doing that, it didn’t matter to me if I was an artist or not. I may not always be an artist. Hell, I may not always be a producer, but I will always be a musician. I believe my God given gift is to create music on whatever level."

JazzReview: What can a musician learn from being in the background?

Lesette Wilson: "The best training for anyone, musician or whatever, is being in the background for a while. It provides you with the opportunity to see, participate, and be a part of something without having the risk of the project on your hands. You get to see firsthand how things are put together from beginning to end. You can learn to avoid some mistakes and common pitfalls, both musically and business-wise, while understanding and seeing what it takes to be a leader. I always say, ‘to be a great leader, one has to understand what it means to be a follower.’ Sometimes that means being in the background. You can do that, while still developing your skills."

JazzReview: You mentioned Dave Grusin and Quincy Jones as being influential to you. Why?

Lesette Wilson: "Dave Grusin and Quincy Jones were very influential to me because their work and accomplishments epitomize what I want to do as a musician; starting off as a musician, doing solo projects as an artist, utilizing their own music, experiencing producing music for television and films, producing and writing for other artists to help them visualize their dreams, working alongside and even having their own record companies, while maintaining a standard unsurpassed by many. I personally had the opportunity to work with Dave Grusin while doing the Tom Browne ‘Love Approach’ album and I was amazed. Even my mentor, Milton Hamilton, taught me to make a living as a musician by doing all things musical. That includes a variance of roles!"

JazzReview: What are the most important lessons for other musicians?

Lesette Wilson: "I think the most important lessons for a musician are to always challenge yourself and keep your instrument tuned up to par. When I say your instrument, I'm really talking about your mind and body. You must constantly feed your mind, music, outside ideas and interpretations, and new and challenging concepts. Your body, meaning you have to be physically ‘up’ on your actual instrument, to have the physical facility to be able to execute these new and fresh ideas. A doctor has to constantly read the new medical journals. A Wall Street broker has to read the financial periodicals. Therefore, a musician must also stay on top of his craft. That is if he wishes to survive and prosper. I wish I could execute and play all of the things that my mind can process (a true master) however, with each new idea comes a new set of challenges."

JazzReview: What lessons came together for doing "Livin’ in the Zone?"

Lesette Wilson: "Now that is a very interesting question. As this album finds it’s way to an audience, I find that my lessons and ideas for this CD grow as well. At first I did this album from my place of comfort, knowing that the reward was in creating the music. Anything else was ‘icing on the cake.’ However as each day goes by and I meet other artists, musicians and consumers, I realize that I have a larger responsibility to that audience and perhaps to the music community as a whole. For everyone that seeks out music, we as musicians, especially black recording artists, have a legacy of music, pride, and a certain level of competency that must be constantly maintained, questioned, and inevitably raised. Our visibility as recording artists provides us with a certain platform in which we can express and release those ideas to large numbers of people. Music reflects the thoughts, feelings, culture, and ideals of a society at that particular time. We play a larger part in recording and reflecting history than we sometimes care to. Therefore, we have a greater responsibility to our audiences to enlighten, motivate, and inspire them."

JazzReview: What’s the best part about the project?

Lesette Wilson: "I don't know yet it's too early to say."

JazzReview: Talk about some of the artists on the CD.

Lesette Wilson: Great! Shelene Thomas, J. Phoenix, Ralph Rolle, Roger Byam, and all the rest of the singers, songwriters, and musicians who worked on this album, are a small percentage of the hard working, talented corp. of folks that are constantly working on perfecting their craft, earning a living, as well as becoming recording artists in their own right. A lot of times artists will look for an established artist to perform on their record to bring them a certain level of validation, visibility, and record sales. Well, I figured I'm a nobody as well, so why wouldn't I work with people from my point of reference? The only difference between a recording artist and these folk is that you just haven’t heard them! Plus, folk at this level are still happy just to participate in the creative process, therefore keeping this stage of the project relatively pure. And, these artists are incredible! I look forward to seeing bigger and better projects from them in the very near future."

JazzReview: Favorite song?

Lesette Wilson: It would have to be Live Your Dreams, Shelene Thomas, ‘cause it exemplifies what I feel about manifesting the things you want in your life. It’s a spiritually uplifting song."

JazzReview: After listening, what do you want your audience to experience and take away from this?

Lesette Wilson: "I would want my audience to feel the fun, anticipation and pure joy of creating, preparing, and performing the music for you guys. I hope it uplifts, challenges some, and soothes others. Although a CD only reflects what that particular artist is feeling at that time, it entertains the listener for years to come."

JazzReview: Tell us of one of the best musical experiences that you've been a part of.

Lesette Wilson: "That would also be difficult to answer. I've learned so many different things from each of these artists. For example, I learned about form and production techniques from watching and listening to Dave Grusin and Larry Rosen, diligence and having a set goals everyday working in the studio from Phil Collins, my love of R&B music from Me'lisa Morgan, a vocalist as a musician as well from Chaka Khan, and utilizing Bebop in a contemporary format from Roy Ayers. If you stay alert, you will learn something valuable from almost everybody you work with. My greatest experience is now, hopefully, being able to share that love, admiration, and legacy of great musical experiences with my new and growing audience. Thanks for the opportunity and I'll try to live up to the responsibility."

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Monica India Johnson) Jazz Artist Interviews Sat, 29 Jan 2011 11:20:25 -0600