Technical virtuosity combines with emotional depth in the music of Joe Sherbanee. With eloquent writing and vivid themes. The Road Ahead, Sherbanee's daring debut album for Native Language music, breaks down music barriers. Fusing together contemporary jazz with funk, blues, and pop influences, the crossover appeal becomes obvious in a style that cannot be categorized.
JazzReview.com : You were taught by your father to play the drums ..Was that your first introduction into music?
Joe Sherbanee: Yes, I would think so, we were not a musical family, we're not a family that plays instruments .MY dad happened to play the drums when he was younger, just as a casual hobby .He also played the drums while in the navy. We had a drum set at home and he'd play when he had time. He works way too hard, sorta like me. I picked it up from him because it was the cool thing to do. I really got involved in it when I was in high school. I was in the drum line and I did all that fun stuff. I was in the jazz band and sort of progressed into a compositional writing, performing and kept going and Here I am.
JazzReview.com: So you would say that's your first intro to music?
Joe Sherbanee: I would say so, into playing music, hearing music with piano lessons with a combination of having your folks listening to your music. Your dad plays the drums and I think my cousin played the clarinet in a marching band. Those kinds of things. Music is something that is kind of born and bred in the culture of where you're at and certainly as you grow up you hear things on the radio and you see things on the TV. The culture sort of becomes a part of you. You see and hear things you like and try to emulate that or try to learn what are they doing. That's how I got started.
JazzReview.com: How did you become introduced to jazz?
Joe Sherbanee: I would say starting around high school being a member of the jazz band. I know being a member in the drum line, there were a lot of other guys that were really listening to solid musicians, and I think because jazz is a musician based music form versus rock which would be more band oriented. In jazz you listen for certain musicians. There's a really happening drummer named Will Kennedy, I just loved what he was doing. I was 13 years old so anything that anyone does really catches your eye, you start listening to stuff they do. It just so happens that a good majority of these people were in the jazz genre and I started cutting my feet and all. I grew up listening to Huey Lewis and the News and the talking Heads and those kinds of groups. So it was a little bit of a change for me. It's a musician’s art form and it's a musician’s music and it seemed like the fitting place for me to be. I started really looking at these people and trying to figure out what they were doing. It was so many levels it captivated me. And trying to do my own thing, you want to have your own voice out of all that. And Here I am. (laughter)
JazzReview.com: You've studied at the prestigious Berklee College of music and recently graduated with a degree in Music Business at the University Of Southern California.
Joe Sherbanee: Berklee has it's own mystique, I will not stop talking good things about Berklee. It was one of the best experiences I've had had in my whole life. Being a member of that family, being a member of a really elite group of musicians, producers, writers, composers and teachers was almost indescribable. You walk down the halls and one classroom would be teaching 20th century classical composition counterpoint, the other class would be going over writing harmony, another class would be working on recording techniques. There was a heavy metal class. The thing with that was you never saw people in the hallway or your dorm that were mere images of you. There were people you could meet and people you could talk to and discuss on an open level about music. Something you couldn't get going in a regular college. These people were all in the same boat you were in. I wouldn't say forced to be a part of it as much as you could. But it became a part of you. The environment Boston had a great cultural center. It was such a great experience.
JazzReview.com: Who would you say are the persons who have influenced you the most musically?
Joe Sherbanee: First and foremost every one I've listened to I really like. I really like to pick up on what everyone is doing --it's tough to say that everyone is your influence bit it's a big factor, if I had to nail it down I'd have to say the Yellow Jackets, because I really sat and listened to their work. Consequently I've been fortunate enough to work with them on different levels and really got to soak in what they're doing. I am a huge fan of Pat Metheny and grew up as I said earlier listening to Huey Lewis, so I have a pop thing happening. But it's difficult to say there are a lot of people I listen and respect what they are doing. I like setting moods. I like setting atmosphere and music. There are only a handful of people that can show you that. I'm also a big film buff, So I get a lot of my inspiration from film scores and atmospheric music.
JazzReview.com: You're right the music scores in film set the tone, the emotional moods are touched upon.
Joe Sherbanee: I think that one of the crutches in the genre, the contemporary jazz format is that there is no vision and they are very flat and I like to set the atmosphere. That's where you can close your eyes and see what is going on. To a certain extinct I think "Big Cities" the first cut recorded is evident of that you can hear all the sounds going on. "November" (another cut) to a certain extinct you can close your eyes and feel you're right there listening to these guys. It's important to give people more than what they're just seeing at face value. I think there's more that can be read into it and people really want to read into it. If not you're just listening to good music or nice music.
JazzReview.com: Tell me why you chose jazz over any other genre of music?
Joe Sherbanee: I think if I were born and raised in the south I would have different music influences, then I would have growing up in the west coast. Being a part of a large city like Los Angeles. I grew up in Orange County which is a half hour south of LA. But it's still part of the same community. There's a lot of urban textures that are happening here. There's a lot of jazz, there's a lot of rock. It's a lot of everything. But it seems like I clicked into jazz from my experiences growing up in school. Musicians I like were a part of that forum. No one in my family likes jazz, no one it's just weird...(laughter)
JazzReview.com: Are you kidding?
Joe Sherbanee: No, my dad is an oldies guy, he loves the Ventures, the Temptations and all the other groups. They are great groups. I listen to them too. My mother has a complete different taste of music. My love of music grew out of the vision that some of these people had like Pat Metheny, the Yellow Jackets. The music was more an art form than it is for a lot of people. It's a lot of other experiences things you hear and see that shape who you are. I like to think that I'll evolve into something else in a little bit. What I've been hearing a lot about is the cut "The Destination,The Journey". That's a really big sentence to put out there but in a way it describes what I'd like to do in the road ahead. Let's see where this goes. I'm a Virgo so things are never accomplished, things are never finished, you can always perfect on things. I look back and that record was recorded 2 years ago and there are things on it that I say Oh Please I can't listen to that anymore. I'd to go back and redo it (laughter ) but you have to bring that spontaneity back and leave things as they are. It's a snap shot of who you were when it was done and take those experiences of things you have heard and things you've learned and try to move forward and use those things to create new experiences.
JazzReview.com: In the new Release "The Road Ahead" one of the tracks "November" It explores the parts of a relationship which deal with loss and pain. What were your experiences?
Joe Sherbanee: I don't mean to pump up any sort of relationship or something life shattering or a sort of look at me kinda thing. I think a lot of tunes were more of a personal therapy kind of thing. Or just a relationship I was going through at the time. That was something sparked out of trying to express something really strong and something really simple at that time. I chose a full base melody, changes that were a little common but on the other hand things were a little out there. I wanted to make that sound unrefined and a little raw. I think the downside of a relationship .the emotional roller coaster if you will, can make you feel like that a lot of times. I wanted to try to capture where I was at the time. It wasn't a major depression thing. It was a little difficult for me in that this girl was a big part of my life. It's a part of growing up and growing through a normal relationship.
JazzReview.com: The "Road Ahead" That struck me as a means of moving forward...What does it represent?
Joe Sherbanee: I certainly think it means what you have to look forward to The places you can go, the people you can meet. I don't think it's just what's ahead of you and at the same token it's what's behind you, what you've been through and where you're at. It's a past, present and future all rolled into one. A lot of it implies my hope for my future of what I'd like to accomplish for myself, the goal I've set for myself. I think it really matters that I'm very young doing this( 22 years old) It's positives, this is what I have to look forward to. when you do certain things therapy, they become personal, you get a little tunnel vision about it. You only see things a certain way and I wanted to use the record and the tune to open up my mind a little. The Road Ahead is a visible element. There are a lot of weird people you can meet along the road. Anything you can think of from the big cities to the little clubs, to the little bar in Nebraska that plays blues tunes. It just works!
JazzReview.com: The track 5:30 Friday, That's a let loose funky, contemporary jazz number, a feel good number.
Joe Sherbanee: It's funny my partner Theo Bishop and I we are always joking about naming instrumental tunes because what do you name it Happy Days...So we said, "This is the kind of tune you could put on in your car and it's Friday...5:30 Friday hey that's kinda cool, It's unique because it's not just a west coast time, it's the end of the week, and the sound of something new. It has that beginning, middle, and end kind of feel, past, present, future ride to work and it's interesting, and it is what it is. 5:30 Friday was more specifically the weekend going to see his girl, it wasn't necessary the weekend, the weekend gave you time to relax, it gave you something to look forward to. You're kind of excited and mellow but then you say hey wait a minute things could be getting better.
JazzReview.com: Your rendition of "Blackbirds" is very different it's relaxing, very straight forward, it's mellow
Joe Sherbanee: It is very different and it fits very weird with a lot of people. I'll be quite honest it is my least favorite tune on the record in that I wasn't very happy with what I did. But it's the tune everyone talks about, the press. Andy does a really interesting unit version of blackbird, it's very loose, drums are very tight, but then it's got a real loose feel on top of it. I think the thing that sat well with me was the lyrics "Take these broken wings and learn to fly" again it was very visible to me and it's for that reason that was recorded.
JazzReview.com: Let's talk about "San Luis" Tell me how that rainy night in Boston inspired you to write this tune?
Joe Sherbanee: It was another one of those dorm nights and I needed to get away, there's practice rooms every where and I just wanted to play. It was about two in the morning and I just heard it in my head, I sat down at the piano and hammered away until about six in the morning. I wanted to express how I was feeling at the time, and I wanted to talk to talk to somebody and not just your mom or an old friend from high school but to talk to someone that would really listen to you and talk to them about your feelings, a lot of people don't do that. You keep a lot of stuff to your self and that wasn't what I really wanted to keep to myself. I put it on paper and I thought it would be a musical letter to a friend, but it sort of evolved into this conversation piece. I think my Yellow Jackets influence can be heard here. The soprano sax has it's own character, the fretless bass has it's own character and you think these people were talking to each other. You could close your eyes and listen and you can hear the bass do it's own thing. The soprano will comment on it and back and forth and they'll mingle together and it'll be done. It's a musical conversation....That's why I wrote it.
JazzReview.com: Tell me about the independent contemporary jazz label and Watermark entertainment. What's in the future for these 2 companies?
Joe Sherbanee: Certainly the label is strong, You're a local musician and want more than anything to land a deal with a record label and it never happens so you try to do what you can to survive as a musician and as an artist. It started initially as just a name we had for the stuff we were doing and the long short of it was the people were seriously responding to the things we were doing and it wasn't just on a local basis. We received fan letters from all over the world and it was frightening .We received broadcast royalty checks from South Africa and France, fan letters from Yugoslavia and from Brazil a few weeks ago. And you wonder how it gets out there to those people, I think the internet has a lot to do with it. The music is finding it's way to people. We weren't really selling a lot, we were doing well but not really making a lot of money, But we had income. It sort of developed as a need to facilitate all that was going on around us. I have a music business background and a degree in music business and it just seemed right. Now we are finding new talent and we're trying to new stuff out and we're a full company with international distribution. It's a good thing for someone who thought he wanted to write music for his family and friends( laughter) Watermark Entertainment is a secondary relationship I have with film Director, Jon Larson. we're working on a couple of feature film productions. That's my other life. We have a lot of stuff going on right now. I wanted to include that with what I'm doing because one thing leads to another on either avenue. It's sort of a technically or benefit I wanted to have. A safe guard if you will.
JazzReview.com: What do you see in terms of your future? What specific goals do you have for yourself?
Joe Sherbanee: My future consist of making people happy and getting music, getting entertainment, getting the arts to people that I wouldn't say don't necessarily have it but who need enlightenment, who need some sort of spiritual lift on some levels. We are doing this to make money, I'm not going to kid you, I have to make a living but with my experience and education it seems like the logical thing to do. I want the opportunity to make more records and be a part of peoples lives. I want to be a part of the more visual side of things and have a company who will be able to produce entertainment of any kind. I want to give people the opportunity to have their own voice. That's what Native Language is about. Where people have their own way of saying things and they have a medium, they have an outlet for that. That hasn't been available to them previously.
JazzReview.com: What's your favorite part about being a jazz musician, composing, performing or being on the road?
Joe Sherbanee: My favorite part is the relationship you make, the diversity of talent and music that's around you. The writers, the people, the culture that's around it. It can be fun, it can be intellectual, it can be a lot of things. This type of art form is relatively clean in that it's not rap music, it's not hard aggressive, It's not I have a gripe with the world kind of music. There's something there, it's musicians music and there's an art to it. It certainly is the founding point of most contemporary music, rock & roll, blues all started from this .In the same roots. So if you're really going to get down in developing something new you have to know where you were at in the past. I think jazz is a really solid place to start.
JazzReview.com: Tell me about your composing habits?
Joe Sherbanee: I need a lot of work though. I'm the guy that wears all the hats in the business, in the family, and I like to be able to sit for 3 weeks straight and play my instrument and purge my thoughts. I don't have the time that is afforded me that I would like on a deep concentrated level. I still play, perform, produce, write I'm still doing all of that stuff. I have to run the ship as my partner says. I need a place to support my artist. My personal life kind of takes a back seat to all of that unfortunately. It is certainly temporary. I plan to keep writing, it's a matter of feeling it too. I can't just sit down and force something out, if I feel something I will go to the piano and write it down as much as I can or I tape record myself singing. I don't sing very well, so I try to write down as much as I can. I'd like to believe I have a long way to go, I'd like to believe I can still listen to new things and be able to write new things and be a part of a good place in the world and I think jazz has that ability.
JazzReview.com: When you compose, for example your release "The Road Ahead " and you set up the recording dates, and you have the musicians in that you want to perform on it, have they seen the music before they get into the studio?
Joe Sherbanee: A lot of times yes, because of my relationship with them they've heard the stuff I've been working on. But on the other hand, they're guys who come to play a few parts on your record and be done with it. That's the way it is. Things can be better or worse.
JazzReview.com: What comes to mind as some of the most memorable experiences you've had as a professional musician?
Joe Sherbanee: I would say performing with some really good guys, my continuously spending time with the Yellow Jackets is something I hold very dear to me. Relationships I have and people I have played with. I'm very fortunate that I'm in a good circle of people that support what I do and I hold that as memorable as anything else because they all give me my experiences to grow from.
JazzReview.com: What advice would you give someone who thinks he or she might want to pursue a career in jazz?
Joe Sherbanee: Believe in yourself and believe in what you do, and don't give in to what people tell you is the right thing to do. I think it's very important to make mistakes make lots of them so you learn. I was told growing up you have every opportunity to fail and you should do that. Because it's either do or do not kind of thing .If you don't you'll never know what could have gotten yourself into. if you fail you pick yourself up and move on. You would have learned something from that opportunity. You should believe in yourself, believe in what you do even if it's the perfect or the most commercial form. Do your music not what everyone is telling you to do or what's selling. I think Native language will have a great place in the business. We need to bring the art back into the music that's been lacking for sometime. Joe Sherbanee is currently producing Theo Bishop's new album that will feature Jonathan Butler, Eric Marienthal, Nathan East, Lori Perry, Steve Oliver and Steve Reid of the Rippingtons. What I like most about doing what I'm doing says Sherbanee, Is the ability to diversify and simply create a piece of work that in part inspires and provokes thought. I don't know if I can peg myself as a musician or a filmmaker, but an artist that just likes what he's doing.....