When, in 2009, saxophonist Elan Trotman released the album 'This Time Around' it was his first concerted foray into the realms of contemporary jazz. The follow up 'Love And Sax', which hit the streets earlier this year, further demonstrated the penchant he has for creating an atmosphere through his music that is both relaxing and sensuous. When recently I met with Elan at the Cinnamon Club in Altrincham, UK (where he had just captivated an appreciative the audience with his performance as part of Peter White's touring band) I was eager to learn more about this most interesting of artists and in doing so went right back to the beginning.
"Although your first excursion into contemporary jazz was in 2009" I began, "you had, by then, already released three other albums".
"Yes, my first release was back in 2001, titled 'Memories' he said. "Being from Barbados, I used it to fuse Caribbean music with jazz. The second, 'Let's Have A Good Old Time', focussed on more traditional jazz themes and also included some gospel. Kirk Whalum appeared on it. My third album was a Christmas project, sort of festive reggae you could say."
I was curious to know what was the driver had been for a switch to contemporary jazz.
"It was all about following my own musical direction, the genre felt right for me but I still wanted to be different, to come up with a sound that stood out from the crowd."
I complimented Elan on his performance that evening with Peter White. It was the first date of fourteen that Peter was scheduled to play on his latest UK tour and I was interested to know how Elan had become acquainted with him.
"We met at a festival in Atlanta where we were both performing" he told me. "The idea of me joining him on the tour sort of stemmed from there. I have played with him a couple of times since so I wasn't starting out from completely cold. It's nice to be back in England again. In fact I was here in the summer. I played sax at a friend of mine's wedding in the city of Birmingham."
"You mention Barbados" I reminded Elan. "When did you relocate to the USA?"
"I moved to Boston in 1998 where I studied music education at Berkeley. From there I stayed in the city and took up a teaching post with the Boston Public Schools System. My wife and I now have two children, age four and six, and Boston is home.
"For how long did you continue to teach?" I asked.
"Well, as a matter of fact," Elan explained "I stopped teaching to become a full time musician less than a year ago. Leaving teaching for music was, for me, taking a chance. I talked to Cindy Bradley about it. Cindy plays trumpet on the track 'Oasis' from my 'Love And Sax' CD but more to the point she is also a teacher, in New Jersey. When you are starting out the prospect of becoming a full time musician is very attractive but, like everything else, the timing has to be right."
"Did the move feel risky" I wondered.
"Sure it felt risky" Elan agreed. "To an extent it still feels risky but things are beginning to happen now. It's great to be here playing with Peter and I am about to start work on another CD."
I was eager to know more.
"This time I'm taking it back to my roots" Elan informed me, "back to the islands, sort of contemporary jazz with a tropical twist. We are going back to Barbados for Christmas and I'm expecting the inspiration that those surroundings are sure to provide will kick-start the creative process. Then in January I'm sitting down with Jeff Lorber in LA to work on a couple of tracks."
If past projects are anything to go by then the results are not only likely to be spectacular but also seem destined to project Trotman further into the smooth jazz mainstream.