The blistering new album from rising sax-star Aaron Bing is titled 'Rebirth' and in many ways that's exactly what it represents. Bolstered by a discography that stretches back to 2005 and his debut release 'Always' Bing has come roaring back with a collection as good as anything you will hear this year. When recently I got the opportunity to talk with him from his home in Jacksonville, FL I was eager to understand the creative process that underpinned this latest project.
"I had been touring extensively," Aaron told me, "on the road with Frankie Beverly & Maze, Brian McKnight, Patti Labelle and Jeffrey Osborne. I decided to take a back seat from all that for a while and work on my own music. For me compositions can happen any time but it was over an eighteen month period that 'Rebirth' really came together."
"How would you describe your own music" I asked.
"For me" Aaron explained, "my music works best when it reflects my personality. It's about striving for that perfect melody, you know, mirroring the way I am feeling at that precise moment. Some things always remain the same, for example all my music is original, self-produced and reflects my personality. It's very much a part of me."
I noted that 'Rebirth' had been released on his own independent label, Century Records, and wondered what life was currently like for an independent artist such as Aaron Bing.
"I have been trying to build the Century Records label for almost seven years" he said. "I feel it is important to have an outlet for my creative vibe. This time around it's a little different because I have a distribution deal with Universal. With their backing I'm expecting that the exposure the album receives will be that much greater. The first single to be offered to radio is 'Out On The Town' and Universal believes it has the radio friendly qualities to do very well. Ordinarily my music tends to be somewhat more ballad orientated. A good example would be the track 'Timeless'. It has what I like to think is a very natural sound and, what's more, we did in only one take.
I agreed that 'Timeless' is a really outstanding track and commented that when I listen to the music of Aaron Bing I hear snippets of Kenny G, Boney James and Euge Groove. I wanted to know who, or what, inspires him to do what he does.
"It all started out when I was a kid at my grandmother's house," Aaron shared. There was this old clarinet under the bed so I hauled it out and tried to get a sound out of it. Then I heard Kenny G and made an instant connection. As you would expect, many of the kids in school were heavily into rap and R & B. For me, from 9th grade and through to high school I was pretty much locked into jazz. I played talent shows and in that way developed my playing."
A little known fact about Aaron Bing is that he once closely missed out on breaking the Guinness world record for the longest continuous note to be played on a saxophone. I questioned Aaron on how that had come about.
"Well" Aaron told me "the technique for playing long continuous notes is called circular breathing. It's like an 'in through the nose' and 'out through the cheeks' kind of a routine. Back in 1997 Kenny G set the record for holding an E-flat for 45 minutes and 47 seconds but this was later surpassed by Vann Burchfield. My attempt was during the David Letterman show and at the hotel prior to the event I had actually held the note for a world record time. However, the arrangement was we would attempt the world record outside the Ed Sullivan Theater where the weather conditions were not that great. That can affect the reed and in the event we came up short at just over thirty nine minutes."
Aaron Bing has also played a significant part in the relief effort to support the people of disaster torn Haiti. Released in March 2010, his tremendous three track collection, 'Hope for Haiti', remains available on iTunes and combines the timeless 'Amazing Grace' with fine re-mixes of the enchanting 'Missing You' from his 2005 album 'Always' and the equally spine tingling 'Cover Me' from the 2009 collection 'Secret Place'. I asked Aaron what had moved him to get involved.
"It is a project that remains very close to me heart" he confided. "I had already been thinking about a gospel project and possibly working with Wyclef Jean. Of course Wyclef comes from Haiti but that aside the enormity of the tragedy which was unfolding there was just too strong to ignore. I am still connected with the non-profit Haitian American Nurses Association and will continue to help in whatever way I can."
I asked Aaron about his own ambitions for the future and the challenge of breaking into the smooth jazz mainstream.
"In the last twenty years jazz has really changed" he opinioned. "Players like David Sanborn paved the way and now a new crop of saxophonists are taking it on. It's tough. It's a journey. It's important to be true both to your talent and to yourself. On the other hand, the internet makes it easier for independents to get their music out there and technology makes mastering and mixing much more do-able.
"And a word of advice for those making that same journey" I queried.
"Practice and practice" he said simply. "Give yourself a chance to be the best and then make it happen."
With 'Rebirth' Aaron Bing has not only showed himself to be one of the best around but has also delivered one of the outstanding albums of the contemporary jazz year.