Trumpeter and composer Samantha Boshnack is one of many participating in the upcoming Festival of New Trumpet Music. Boshnack is bringing ‘Seismic Belt’ to the festival, a group performing music about the Ring of Fire, the seismic area located on the rim of the Pacific Ocean. This music, in Boshnack’s own words, “examines our relationship with the Earth, including the elements of risk and faith in that uneasy cohabitation. Movements of the work draw on influences from some of the cultures and people living on the Ring, including Chile, Japan, Alaska, Western Samoa, and Russia.” Over the course of a three-month Make Jazz Fellowship sponsored by the Herb Alpert Foundation in LA, Boshnack composed the work, and its premiere was released as Live in Santa Monica, on Orenda Records in March 2019.
Boshnack also leads and performs with a number of ensembles, and is a fellow at the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music in California. Joining her at The Jazz Gallery for this performance during the Festival of New Trumpet Music will be Chris Credit (tenor/baritone saxophone), Jessica Pavone (violin/viola), Sarah Bernstein (violin), Kai Ono (piano) Lisa Hoppe (upright bass) and Jacob Shandling (drums). We spoke with Boshnack about the new work and her next steps.
The Jazz Gallery: What made you want to use the Pacific Rim and the Ring of Fire as a way of starting a conversation about our relationship with the earth?
Samantha Boshnack: I live in Seattle which is on the Ring of Fire, the horseshoe of volcanic activity around the Pacific. Moving from New York, seeing volcanoes like Rainier and St. Helens, I was immediately floored by their grandeur. Summertime here is a great time to go traveling: I’ve been hiking around mountains in Oregon, I’ve been to Indonesia and Mexico, and always end up trying to get to a volcano. I put out a record in 2014 called Exploding Syndrome that was more focused on Mt. St. Helens–I wrote a suite about that explosion. I felt that there was a lot that could be done with the topic, and I wanted to do two things with it. First, I wanted to explore different cultures living on the Ring of Fire, because there’s so much to look at, including Eskimo music, Russian music, indigenous musics… You’ve got Japan, Chile, the Samoas. Second, I wanted to look at the science of the Ring, and try to portray that musically. We’re living through tumultuous times, and there are things we’ve done to the earth, but there’s an inherent risk of living on earth even without what we’ve done.
TJG: That brings to mind your phrase “Risk and faith in uneasy cohabitation.” So you were looking at music from cultures that live along the Ring of Fire?
SB: Yeah, and I hope to do more. I was interested in finding stories and coping methods from cultures that live on the Ring. I haven’t gotten as deep as I want to yet. It might be a stretch, but I do think people are influenced by where they live, so there must be something of that in the music of their respective cultures. I’m not necessarily saying they all have something in common, but in general, it’s fun to try to be inspired by types of music you’ve never heard. I’ve done a few projects where I was writing for people from different countries, and I liked that way of writing and preparing. Not stealing or even writing ‘in that style,’ but allowing yourself to be inspired by the musicality of another culture. I try to create music that speaks to the experience of dealing with the inherent danger of life, yet also trying to take in the good, the beauty.
TJG: What else has stood out for you in the differences between Atlantic and Pacific coasts? While traveling and research, what other specific things spoke to you?
SB: The idea of the duality of it all. You have these incredibly beautiful mountains that are so dangerous as well. That duality inspires me. When you travel to places in Oregon or Hawaii where there are lava fields or other barren places, it looks like another planet. The lava has burnt the ground and everything on it. It’s beautiful, it’s ugly, it makes you think.
TJG: Is this duality something you’ll talk about with your bandmates while working through this music? Or is it more on your mind while putting notes on the page?
SB: Once the music’s written, I bring it to the musicians and we work it out. They know what it’s about and it comes across, but the composition process is more where I’m tackling the subject matter, and I hope the musicians feel something from it.
TJG: The work was completed at 18th Street Arts Center in LA; What was the residency like for you?
SB: Incredible. It was a tight timeline: You show up at the beginning of February, and the final concert is in the middle of April, with one work-in-progress showing mid-March. It got there. There were no other things I had to do during that time. That’s partly why I wanted to have a topic, because having a specific goal in mind is a great way to delve into a composition project. Something to inspire you while doing work that might otherwise feel overwhelming. Every day, I was listening, researching, writing, and going out and finding the players I wanted to play with for the record. I didn’t know originally that I wanted it to be a record. First, we did the concert, then I got the nice live recording of it, so I released it. The LA jazz scene was great, and I was happy with my collaborators.
TJG: Did you have this Ring of Fire idea before the residency?
SB: Yes, I did apply with that idea. A lot of times, you get these ideas and then apply for things for years. Then something comes through and you get to do it. This is something I’ve been trying to do for a while, so I’m glad it happened [laughs].
TJG: Would you say the music has evolved, changed, grown, shifted as you’ve recorded and continued to perform it?
SB: For sure. Little things. It’s more refined. More instances of “Yeah, we did this on the recording, but maybe we could do it like this instead.” I’ve done this music in LA, Seattle, and one gig at Nublu in July, so this will be the second New York show. The New York players were really great, and of course everyone is different, so it brought a different flavor. There’s lots of improvisation, so that gives a chance for that flavor to come out. It’s different every time.
TJG: What are you looking forward to about this particular iteration at The Jazz Gallery?
SB: The second time is always a great thing. We’ve already rehearsed, we’ve already performed it, so now we can go deeper. You go further every time, of course. All the players are people I respect and admire. I’m honored to be at the Festival of New Trumpet Music, which I’ve dreamed of doing for years. Dave Douglas was a big influence on me starting in college, so I think it’s great that he does this festival.
As a composer, you’re always evolving. Sometimes you listen to your music and you hear elements that have always been there, and yet, they keep shifting and growing with you, your playing, your opportunities, your people. I think that this album is really me, and it feels true to myself. It pays homage to a region, and expresses things I wanted to express.
TJG: Tell me a little about the band that we’ll see at the Gallery.
SB: Chris Credit is flying out with me from Seattle, he plays in my Seattle band. We have Jessica Pavone on viola and viola and Sarah Bernstein on violin. They’re both really accomplished improvisers in New York. Jessica plays a lot with Mary Halvorson, and Sarah has her own great groups. I didn’t know those two string players before I came, but I wrote to Jessica because I’d heard of her and was a fan of her music. We’ll have a younger pianist named Kai Ono, who I actually met doing this string trio composition I’m working on through the Gabriela Lena Frank Academy. He’s in the Academy too, so I asked him to play piano. He sounds great. We’ll have a bassist who lives in New York but is from Germany, Lisa Hoppe. She has a group too and I love her writing. And a drummer named Jacob Shandling, a friend of a friend who brought a lot of excitement to the music on the Nublu gig. The chemistry was great in July, so I decided to keep working with this group.
TJG: What steps are you looking to take in the near future? Say, the next six months, with the band or in general.
SB: With the band, I’m hoping to make more things happen out in New York. I don’t have anything else on the books yet, but I’m trying. Outside of this project, I’m coming back to have my string trio played in Massachusetts. I’m doing a big chamber music writing project over the next year—I’m working with different poets on a topic called ‘Uncomfortable Subjects,’ things people think about but have trouble talking about. I have a lot of work to do on that. So those are my big writing things. I have some dates in Seattle with my quintet too. I play in a group called Alchemy Sound Project that plays on the east coast a lot. I’ll be playing with my mentor and teacher from Bard, Erica Lindsay, who wrote music which was funded by the Chamber Music of America New Jazz Works Grant. We’ll be recording that. The pianist in the group Sumi Tonooka also got the grant, so I’ll be playing with her too. So I’ll be out on the east coast a lot doing other people’s music, and then booking my own when I can. Sometimes you have things booked way out in advance, then other times things come together quickly and suddenly.
Name: Stephanie Richards Instrument: trumpet, flugelhorn Style: modern creative, avant-garde jazz Album Highlights:Fullmoon (Relative Pitch, 2018), Take The Neon Lights (Fresh Sound, 2019)
Tell us a bit more about your forthcoming album, Take the Neon Lights. This next record is my second record. Unlike the first [Fullmoon], with solo trumpet and a very experimental concept, this one goes more into my roots as a jazz musician. Compositionally, the music is still really complex and rhythmic. It’s a quartet and a lot of the compositions are in song form, so we have cycles over which we improvise. There’s also some open improvisation in there, I mean, it’s still experimental but definitely much more of a jazz record. The music itself is about New York City. I’ve been living here for 10 years now, so I wrote it for certain places in Brooklyn and New York. There is also poetry that was written for NYC and I kind of linked to it by giving each tune the title of a poem.
Why the option for a jazz quartet? Well, it’s interesting that the instrumentation determines a little bit if it’s jazz or not. It’s a lot easier to call it jazz when you have a quartet and it’s really hard to call it jazz if I’m playing my trumpet against a timpani or a snare drum. But, at the same time, I see it as the same. When improvising, I’m responding to the same information.
What music genres outside of jazz influence you? I listen to a lot of music. James Brown is a huge influence. I like funk music a lot and for a period of time that was all I did. I’m also really excited about what’s going on in the indie rock scene. I think there’s so much crossover between indie rock musicians and jazz improvisers, especially in a place like New York.
I know you’ve collaborated with the Pixies, which is a band I grew up listening to. How did that happen? I played in a group called Asphalt Orchestra, formed ten years ago in New York, and the idea behind it was: we’re going to play new music but we’re going to be choreographed. We had this idea for our second album while on tour, and at one point we all agreed we wanted to listen to Pixies record Surfer Rosa. Everyone in the band was digging the record so much and we just had this conversation: ‘man, what if we did a cover record? This is kind of a new music ensemble.’ That was awesome, it was so much fun. We toured that project and opened for Pixies several times.
What made you choose the trumpet? I wish I had a romantic answer for you (laughs). I was lucky to go to a school that had a band program and I liked the trumpet because, at that time, I had the idea to move between the orchestra and the jazz band. That flexibility was a nice reason when I look at the music I play now. I’m always moving between different genres and different communities.
You played at Winter JazzFest. How was the experience? At Winter JazzFest you’re playing for people who really love jazz. It’s not like in those clubs where half of the people are there for dinner. There are so many musicians, there’s such a good hang, and the audience is a mix of musicians, writers, lovers of music and people coming from all over the world. I felt especially honored because it was the last set of the last day of the festival and it meant a lot every single person that waited to see us.
Can you tell me two persons who have influenced you the most as a musician? The first one and most clear is Butch Morris. He influenced me so much. I had the fortune of meeting Butch through a mutual friend. I was playing at my friend’s wedding and Butch pulled me aside, saying: ‘I got the good whiskey.’ (laughs). And then he looked at me and said: ‘you’re not really a trumpet player’. It took me a moment to realize he meant that as the biggest compliment he could give because what I take from his words is that I wasn’t playing the instrument in a traditional way. After that moment, he kind of took me under his wing and he showed me around New York. He introduced me to Henry Threadgill and kind of hooked us up together. I also learned so much from working with Henry, listening to him and watching him.
Is there someone who you would like to collaborate with? There’s so many and I can go so many different directions, but if I could… in my dreams, it would be Wayne Shorter.
If not a musician, what would you be? Maybe a dancer or an athlete. Trumpet is a very athletic instrument and I actually love that aspect. I think my body has more music inside of it than my brain does, so when I’m playing I usually let my body take over.
What was the first jazz album you fell in love with? My first jazz record was Kind of Blue but I didn’t fall in love with it. It took me a long time. I didn’t understand the context or what that music meant. I got the record, I listened to it because teachers were telling me to check it out, I transcribed solos, and then a few years later I picked it up again and could hear the colors inside of it. I could hear the sophistication and the class and the taste that Bill Evans had, and what Miles Davis was doing, which was totally pioneering. My second record was just a collection of all the Verve recordings. A four CD-set of kind of old jazz that took me through decades of jazz, starting in the 20s. I remember being super into J.J. Johnson and Duke Ellington.
Are you working on any other project? After this record [Take the Neon Lights], I’ve got another record where I worked with a scent artist, someone who creates smells. I wrote music with smells. I’m interested in the idea of the ability to sense music not just with our ears but also with our bodies. The new record is done – it’s with Jason Moran (piano), Stomu Takeishi (bass) and Kelly Wollesen (drums). It’s a great band and it was a wacko project! The other part of it is that, as musicians, we’re trying to figure out how to survive in a digital age. And one part of this project is that you can’t buy smells on iTunes. I was really trying to think about how could we make the physical manifestation of our music meaningful. If the record comes with stickers that you have to smell, then it adds another sort of level to the listening experience. It will probably come out next year and we’ll see how it goes.
How did you become a trumpet player? I started playing trumpet in the 3rd grade, but my fascination started about a year before. In 2nd grade for African American History Month, I wrote a report on Louis Armstrong. As a kid, I grew up watching VHS’s of old movie musicals, and one of my favorites was “High Society” which is probably where I got the idea. I also remember watching “Cabin in the Sky” as “research.” My parents always had WBGO on in the car but were not musical themselves. So in 3rd grade, there was this add in the school newsletter, a high school student looking for beginner trumpet students, and my mom gave her a call. The rest is history!
Did you play other instruments before the trumpet? If so, did those instruments inform how you played trumpet? Or did your view of how music is played change once becoming a trumpeter? I had zero musical training before I started playing the trumpet. Any knowledge of how music fit together didn’t really happen until I started really studying jazz.
Were there recordings in the beginning and even years into learning the instrument that drew you into the trumpet’s sound and possibilities? I think in the extreme beginning definitely the recordings of Louis Armstrong with Ella Fitzgerald played a big role. When I first started getting into jazz and learning how to improvise I was definitely very into the early Jazz Messengers stuff, especially Moanin’ with Lee Morgan and then Clifford Brown on the Live at Birdland Album. I was super lucky to have two great trumpet teachers throughout high school to point me in the right direction. Tatum Greenblatt was my private instructor, and then every Saturday Igot to hang with the former jazz messenger Valery Ponomarev at the NJPAC Jazz For Teens program in Newark. Both of those guys hipped me to quite a few great records.The Dexter Gordon album Homecoming Live at The Village Vanguard with Woody Shaw was also a biggie. I also, sort of by accident, came across the self-titled Booker Little album when I was around 14 or 15, he’s definitely been a huge influence since then.
If you had to identify with one or two gurus, trumpeters or otherwise, who had the greatest impact on your musical journey to date, whom would they be? Oof, that’s a tough question. I’ve been super lucky to get to study with a whole bunch of trumpet gurus over the years. I was incredibly lucky to study with the biggest guru of them all, Laurie Frink, my first two years at the New School. I like to think she taught me how to practice. The idea of gradually challenging yourself, and changing your routine as you evolve, so you continue to grow is something I think about every day. The second two years of my time at The New School my primary teacher was Ingrid Jensen, who’s style of teaching was very different than Laurie’s, but incredibly complimentary. I think Ingrid was incredibly instrumental in helping me develop my own voice on the horn. It was Ingrid who gave me the idea to do my masters in Europe.
Who is your favorite trumpeter today and what song best exemplifies why this trumpeter is so inspiring? Also a tricky question. I find myself going back to Avishai Cohen quite a bit. His playing on the Mark Turner Quartet album Lathe of Heaven is amazing. His first album “The Trumpet Player” was also a pretty big game changer for me when I first heard it. Ron Miles is another guy who I have not checked out nearly enough.
John Blevins for FONT Music: How did you first get involved with FONT? What did you perform and with whom?
Jeff Kaiser: Originally, it was supposed to be with the LA Trumpet Quartet featuring myself, John Fumo, Kris Tiner and Dan Rosenboom. We contacted Dave Douglas, who was very kind and generous to offer us a spot at Cornelia Street that included me doing a solo trumpet set with my electronics rig. However, the quartet ended up not being able to make it, so I invited guitarist Tom McNalley to join me. Tom and I had just finished ZUGZWANG, the first in my chess series. You can listen to some of it here.
It was a blast to play FONT at Cornelia Street, it ended up being a really fun night shared with the quartet of Nate Wooley, Gordon Alley, Reuben Radding and Andrew Greenwald.
I noticed it says that [Zugzwang] was recorded live with no overdubs on the pfMENTUM website too.
Yes, we were trying to make sure everybody understood that all the audio processing was not taking place after we had played, that it was *not* a studio project, but a live music project. I hadn’t really developed my ideas of hybridity, agency and instruments at that time. We were just trying to make sure everybody knew what we were doing was live. Many people in the ‘90s and the early 2000’s thought that my recordings just featured a lot of studio processing. Live electronics is so much more common now.
In the description about the Zeitnot piece, it that says you pre-recorded some sounds from the trumpet—like slides and different valves and movement. Did you pre-record that and sample them?
ZEITNOT (see video below) is a new work I developed at UC San Diego during the last year of my PhD studies. I was so incredibly fortunate to work with Joe Kucera, the head engineer at UCSD, and to do these recordings of the inside of the trumpet.
For these recordings, the trumpet was not played by blowing et cetera. What you hear is the sound of air being compressed and escaping from slides being moved, the sound of the valves and the springs as they descend, et cetera. We used these really high-end microphones and preamps and put the mics way, way inside the horn so you can actually clearly hear the smallest movements of the slides and valves. I find it quite mesmerizing.
I then edited the recordings and made a very large sample library with Native Instruments Kontakt. These libraries are then driven by a group of probability-based generative patches I built in Max. (These patches, by the way, will be released free on my website, sometime soon.) I was in Amsterdam in March (with Trevor Henthorn of my duo www.madeaudible.com) working with the next generation of those patches and ported them to Max for Live plugins to be used in Ableton Live. All of this stuff should be released to the public soon. All of my Max and Max for Live patches as well as the sample library.
How did you get in to using [Max/MSP]?
Well, I never considered myself a programmer, but first and foremost an artist. But now, here I am a programmer and Assistant Professor of Music Technology and Composition! I am at University of Central Missouri, in a fantastic music tech program (www.ucmo.edu/music/faculty).
I actually wrote a paper called, “How I lost a 150 pounds thanks to Max/MSP,” which goes into detail of me leaving hardware pedals for a computer. In brief: I was in London, touring with Andrew Pask, a great saxophone player who also works for Cycling ’74, the company that develops Max. We have a duo called The Choir Boys. Anyway, we were touring and I was carrying all this hardware with me, two cases at 75 lbs. each, and he just had his laptop.
Every time we got on a plane or off a plane, on a train, off a train, in or out of a cab, it was like a nightmare for me. I went home and buried myself for six months learning Max and recreated my hardware rig inside of the Max world. That was my entry into it, just recreating phrase samplers and delay lines and stuff like that. I was performing with Max inside of a few months.
For those unfamiliar, Max is fantastic tool to create with and rapidly develop technological ideas for art (and more). For more of my relationship with Max: www.cycling74.com/2016/05/24/an-interview-with-jeff-kaiser-msp-whispers-and-i-listen/
When I watched the [Zeitnot] video it seems like different sounds you’re creating on the trumpet automatically trigger changes in the video and audio. Does your playing affect coding in the program?
There are many interactive elements in the software I wrote: threshold triggers, pitch and volume followers, et cetera. However, for that particular performance of ZEITNOT I could not get the interactive stuff to work simply because I only had access to old computers to run the video. (You can see the iMacs onstage with me.) There are just too many layers of things interacting on each screen for the old computers to handle. I think there is at least at least eight or nine layers of video being composited by Max on each screen live in real time. But I do think there is the perception of relationship between the music and video due to all the complicated things happening simultaneously, something is bound to line up!
There is all this interactive stuff going on within the system itself, but in the case of that particular performance the trumpet isn’t doing it. It actually does work interactively with the audio though. The sound of the trumpet, the onset of something, the pitch of something, the duration of something, the volume of something of an audio event, all of these things can control different elements of the video.
You mentioned your fascination, your love of chess before; is there an element to [Zeitnot] where you’re competing with the software or competing with the computer in some way?
There is this type of chess that was popular for a minute among the elite chess players in the world called Advanced Chess. The top grandmasters in the world, would play against each other and they would each be assisted by a computer. For me, it’s more like that. It is not competition, but working together with the computer. Together, we’re achieving the best we can. (BTW, I’m not a great chess player, I’m just intrigued by it. It is a very meaningful thing to me on so many levels.)
All of these ideas of relationships with technology—from chess to music—for me, point to ideas of system environment hybridity. Where everything is a participant, everything is working together, agency is shared between the participants: I’m not in charge of the computer, the computer isn’t in charge of me. There are all these feedback loops and relationships that I think surprise both of us. Sometimes I feel really surprised. I think sometimes the computer is surprised. Even the performance space plays a role. The trumpet has a role. We’re all together. I don’t view the computer as a mere extension but as this whole hybrid thing, where I’m informing what the computer is doing, the computer is informing what I’m doing, the horn is, the space is…The computer is a performer. It is an important participant. The computer is a player, is a performer. It is a participant helping to make things happen.
When you refer in the video description to “ambisonics”, does that mean distributing the sounds you’re creating in surround sound?
Ambisonics is a surround sound variant that allows for a sphere of sound around the audience. It is a scalable system for a variable number of speakers. If I have four speakers, I can use four speakers. If I have more, I can use more. The Max patch, using the ICST Ambisonic externals, places and moves the sound through space in different ways. I’ve written some algorithms that will generate patterns of movement, swarming patterns and rotational and random patterns and stuff like that. You don’t hear it so much on the video as it was recorded in stereo.
Can you give a brief history of your performing and teaching career?
For teaching, I was originally a private music teacher that taught trumpet in the Los Angeles area. Through my friendship with Vinny Golia, Wadada Leo Smith and John Fumo I was able to pick up a few classes at Cal Arts. I found that I loved teaching in the university environment! I decided to go back to school and earn a PhD. I was accepted at UC San Diego, it was the same year that Ed Harkins retired, so I took on trumpet students there and also taught a variety of classes, including history of the Blues, a survey of music from the continent of Africa, Max/MSP and others while working towards my PhD. Upon leaving, I taught digital audio composition, Max/MSP, music theory and other courses at the University of San Diego. I also taught the History of Rock at MiraCosta College.
Now, I feel incredibly fortunate to have a tenure-track position at the University of Central Missouri which has a stellar music tech program. I work with the professor that started the program, Dr. Eric Honour (saxophone player/Max programmer/engineer/composer). In addition to the current undergrad program, we will be creating a new grad degree in music tech. This semester I’ll be teaching Max/MSP, Audio for X, Live Production and directed studies.
You’ve mentioned playing in London and Amsterdam—have you ever lived abroad?
During summer breaks, I have lived in Berlin and Amsterdam for a few months at a time. What a joy to hang out with the people on the scene there. I have been fortunate to perform throughout Europe, in Sweden, Germany, Holland, Spain, the UK, Mexico as well as all over the US. I recently returned from another visit to Amsterdam for an artist residency and a performance, and that was wonderful.
I was at this 45-year-old organization called STEIM. The acronym stands for Studio for Electro Instrumental Music. A lot of interesting artists have gone through. George Lewis was the artistic director there for a while. I think he started his Voyager program at IRCAM but finished it at STEIM. A lot of great musicians have spent time there. It’s really neat to be a part of it.
Are you mostly performing or teaching there or studying and writing?
Mostly creating. They gave us a studio, Trevor and I were working on some plug-ins we’re developing for Ableton Live. I also curated a concert for the Oorsprong Series, in this wonderful space where I played with the great drummer Frank Rosaly and vocalist Han Buhrs. It is a great scene,very active, very creative. Every night there are interesting gigs going on.
So what’s the history and mission of pfMENTUM?
pfMENTUM grew out of the Ventura New Music Festival (Ventura, California). Keith McMullen and I started pfMENTUM as a newsletter for the festival. Eventually I decided I wanted to have my own record label, and liked the wacky name, so pfMENTUM “evolved” into the label.
It is wild to see the way it has developed. Now when you go to the “Artists” page on the website (www.pfmentum.com/artists), and you start adding up all the musicians and engineers and poets and photographers that have been involved, there are well over 400 people. And we’ll be passing 100 releases in the next month.
The mission is to keep representing creative music from many different paths, many different places and many different people. It started out as being more regionally focused with a lot of my personal friends in Los Angeles. Now we’ve reached out and are trying not only to represent the established creative musicians—wonderful people like Michael Vlatkovich—but also younger musicians. Maxwell Gualtieri and Louis Lopez—co-directors of pfMENTUM and wonderful artists themselves—have been helping reach out to younger artists.
What are your thoughts on the music industry in general with streaming and such? Do you have any strong opinions about Spotify and similar platforms?
Our music has always existed in such a small corner of the music industry. All of these technologies and changes in the industry create opportunities for us. But, yes, it’s depressing when you see artists earning pennies, if that, from Spotify et al.
But our music doesn’t operate on the same financial level as some music. To talk about what pfMENTUM and other small creative labels do, and to talk about it in the same way that you would talk about Sony and their artists, becomes almost an exercise in absurdity because we’re different. Our music is different. Our audience is different. Our numbers are different. Our reasons for doing what we do are different. It’s a whole different world and if we start comparing with the big corporations, we risk getting really depressed. We do our music as our work and we deserve our income, but in addition to income, it is also a necessity for most of us to be creative forces in this world.
To discuss the music industry, in ways, is also to discuss what you value. If we’re assessing what I value, what I value is: creativity, community, and an outlet for creativity. The goal with pfMENTUM is to give people an outlet for their creativity. Making a living is of course very valuable and very important, as is being creative. It is just so difficult to survive on the music alone, so you see many of us taking other jobs as well.
Do you see any changes on the horizon for the way pfMENTUM releases music? Do you think… it makes sense to keep releasing physical media?
When we started pfMENTUM the industry was still mostly dominated by physical media. I would like to see the product pages also become places where every artist can have their Bandcamp pages as well. It’s not just an outlet for the physical medium, however, I do see physical media as still important.
I would like to see pfMENTUM move into a 501(c)(3) not for profit model. The future is funny to plan for, you just don’t know stuff when you’re starting out. I started out with a friend in my apartment and we had these custom recycled cardboard wrappers for covers, with soy-based ink and tied with hemp twine. We would have 1000 printed CDs on a spindle: no shrink wrap, or jewel boxes. All the packages would then be hand-folded and hand-tied, usually by a crew of friends having beers, and then mailed out to critics and radio stations. I didn’t think about “growing” and “the future.” It was really nice, and when we hit thirteen releases in the catalog—folding, wrapping, tying each one—I thought, “This is not sustainable.” So we moved on and changed.
Now at over 100 releases it is time for another re-examination as to how to remain sustainable. Believe it or not, I think that physical product is a part of that future, with more small runs of vinyl and cassettes with digital downloads. And CDs. Some people still love them! Maybe 8-track tapes next. But it just keeps going, and so we do it for love of the music, for love of creativity, creative activity and creative people.
Do you have any upcoming performances or projects you’d like to mention?
I have a new KaiBorg album that will be released soon (www.kaiborg.com). I am very excited about it. I play trumpet and electronics. My good friend David Borgo plays woodwind and electronics. That album is all mixed and ready to go and features some new (and I think adventurous) use of electronics. We have a new release featuring Vinny Golia with Ken Filiano, a Dave Ballou solo trumpet recording, the Mark Dresser DVD is exciting, Scott Walton and Steve Adams duo, and the Matty Harris double septet coming out really soon, which is a big project on digital, vinyl and CD. A lot of fun stuff going on.
I also wanted to ask you about the quarter-tone playing you’ve done.
It starts with Joe Marcinkiewicz making two quartertone prototypes for Arturo Sandoval (!) Joe made large bore and small bore versions (prototypes for the Rembrandt quarter-tone trumpet). Arturo kept the smaller bore horn. Rob Blakeslee (a fantastic trumpet player who has since retired) worked for Marcinkiewicz at that time and was tasked with finding somebody to buy the large bore prototype horn. He knew I was on the hunt for a quartertone, so they loaned it to me for some sessions and concerts with Vlatkovich (www.pfmentum.com/product/michael-vlatkovich-across-36-continents-pfmcd030 was the first). It was a very reasonable price, and I loved the horn. But I simply could not afford it and sadly returned it to them. Not long after that, I was playing in Vinny Golia’s large ensemble with Rob and he walked into rehearsal and dropped this case in my lap, saying, “Here you go.” I looked at him, he said, “It’s yours, a gift from us.” I am so grateful, I love that horn so much!
So you went down the path of learning to use quarter-tones after getting the horn?
That is correct, I had been looking for one and Rob knew that. I had been looking for a long time because I’ve been a fan of Don Ellis—I love his quarter-tone stuff! That rock big band stuff was never really my thing, but I just respected him and all of the players so much. I loved the sound of his quarter-tone and the trumpet section playing quarter-tones.
I’d been looking for one for a long time and that is how Rob knew to talk to me because we had talked about it. He was the one who told me Holton made all the quarter-tones for Don Ellis and that the Holton rep would bring them to the rehearsals and gigs and then take them back afterwards. They were never left in the hands of the musicians. So they could not be found later. Thankfully, there are creative trumpet builders like Joe.
My last question is, are those your teeth in the dental x-rays on Zeitnot?
They are. It is a panoramic x-ray of my mouth. I also have an MRI of my head that haven’t used yet that I’m going to use as well. It’s really freaky.
I had some work done on a tooth and something happened with the muscles and nerves. There is something going on and I battle numbness on the lower right side of my chops. ZEITNOT was the first real big performance since that happened, so I felt like including that as a theme. I still have ongoing problems. I have been poked and prodded, had x-rays and MRIs. I don’t know what is going on—neither do the dentists and doctors I’ve seen—but I keep playing as best I can.
Jeff Kaiser is a music technologist, trumpet player, composer, conductor, and scholar. Classically trained as a trumpet player, Kaiser now views his traditional instrument as hybrid with new technology in the form of software and hardware interfaces that he creates for his performances and recordings. Kaiser gains inspiration and ideas from the intersections of experimental composition and improvisation and the timbral and formal affordances provided by combining traditional instruments with emerging technologies. The roots of his music are firmly in the experimental traditions within jazz, improvised and Western art music practices. Kaiser considers his art audio-centric, but he also works with live video, tracking and interactive technologies. He regularly performs throughout the United States and Europe, and his work is featured on Clean Feed Records, Leo Records, NineWinds, Cuneiform Records and his own label, pfMENTUM, among others.
Embracing the idea of being an artist/scholar, Kaiser has also presented at national conferences, including the Society for Ethnomusicology, the International Society for Improvised Music, SPARK, and invited presentations at colleges and universities. His scholarly work ethnographically explores contemporary musicians who use new, repurposed and reinvented electronic technologies, and critically examines how these musicians conceptualize their practice. He is particularly interested in changing notions of agency, instruments and virtuosity, and how artists, audiences and critics construct what is valuable and desirable in these emerging fields. In addition to documenting how creative individuals configure technologies for their own purposes, Kaiser argues that technologies can also configure musicians and musical communities by affording specific ways of creating sonic and social value.
By Thomas Bergeron, April 2016 – «When I was in college, a friend of mine played me a recording of Shane Endsley‘s composition Snake Pit from his debut album 2nd Guess. It was one of those addictive head-boppers for me, and at that time it was probably the coolest thing I had ever heard a trumpet player do. It wasn’t just the virtuosic trumpet playing that struck me. The structure of the compositions on that album were like nothing I had heard before. Like many of us trumpeters, Shane’s artistry became the doorway through which I was led to the mind-blowing world of Kneebody.»
We are delighted to present a very insightful chat with NYC based trumpeter, David Smith. A heavy presence on the NYC creative music and jazz scene, David is the whole package – composer, band leader, educator, performer, father, husband and all around great guy! It’s a pleasure to dig into some heavy subjects with him on the trumpet, NYC’s current scene, recording and life – be sure to check out his group at ShapeShifter Lab on February 9th! Read More
John Raymond and Pablo Masisboth moved to New York City in 2009 – since then they’ve spent a lot of their time creating a career in the ever evolving jazz world here. They will be sharing the stage this Wednesday October 17th at Cornelia Street Cafe starting at 8pm with their respective bands. Pablo will bring his quintet with a new set of music inspired by his residency in Kabul, Afghanistan and John Raymond will bring a new quartet featuring the music from his latest record “Foreign Territory”. In preparation for what will be a great night of music, Benje Daneman of The FONT Music Team, sat down with John and Pablo to talk about the night at Cornelia Street, their adjustment to the music scene in NYC and their personal music:
Interested in listening to the recording of this interview? Here it is!
C.J. Camerieri has been a staple in the FONT Music cast of characters (er… trumpeters) since its inception. Over the past decade, C.J. has been developing a career that defies stylistic definition – we love these kind of musicians here at FONT Music. Graduating Juilliard, playing with Bon Iver, Sufjan Stevens, forming a contemporary classical (you can’t really call it that) group yMusic and recently recording with Ben Folds. What’s next?!
We’re very lucky to have him this year curating and performing at our Opening Concert at Rockwood Music Hall on September 24th on a program we have titled “Without A Frame” (Buy tickets here). We hope you can join us for that, but check out what C.J. has to say today as we sit down with him for a few questions.
C.J. thanks for chatting with us today. You’ve been a foundational member of FONT Music over the years, right?
I’ve been lucky enough over the years to play with FONT Music since (maybe) the very beginning. The first time I played on a FONT Music concert was at Tonic which has sadly been closed since 2007. Since then I’ve played with a variety of groups including Butch Morris, the New York Trumpet Ensemble, and with my group yMusic. A few years ago FONT Music commissioned the great composer Andrew Norman to write a piece for yMusic and it was a huge success. The piece was the featured single off of our last record “Balance Problems” and has been met with much critical acclaim. This year FONT Music has commissioned Mick Rossi to write a piece for us and I’m excited to start learning that new work in the coming weeks. I am very grateful for FONT Music and feel lucky to be a part of this community.
I think the luck is ours, or at least mutual! Thanks for all you’ve done over the years. You’re a pretty unique player and all over the map stylistically (I mean this in a great way!). How did you get to where you are today?
I graduated from Juilliard in 2004 and was trying to do a little bit of everything. I played with orchestras, broadway shows, jazz, free jazz, studying harmony/arranging and was really happy but a bit musically unfulfilled. I found myself searching for a musical scene that would allow me to play a variety of styles, to improvise but also play technically challenging material, to play other instruments (I also play the French Horn and piano) and get a chance to shape the music through arrangements and my own creative ideas. I also wanted to be on bigger stages playing for more people! I was lucky enough to find that scene in alternative music. I started playing in 2006 with Sufjan Stevens and immediately joined his band as a featured soloist. I then began touring with bands such as The National, Rufus Wainwright, The Plastic Ono Band, Angus and Julia Stone, Martha Wainwright, My Brightest Diamond, Gabriel Kahane, and many other artists. I joined Bon Iver in 2011 and won two grammy’s for the band’s sophomore record in the same year that my group yMusic released it’s debut record which was named Time Out New York’s Number 1 classical record. Since then I have become a member of Paul Simon’s band, toured and played with Sting, and played on over 200 recordings total in the last ten years.
Dang! You’re a busy guy and playing with some the best musicians from so many different styles – that’s what we’re all about here at FONT Music, as you know. So yMusic will be playing at Rockwood for our opening night – what is up with yMusic these days?
yMusic is a lot of my musical focus these days. We are releasing a record this fall with Ben Fold’s that I co-produced/arranged called “So There” and will tour that a bit. yMusic is in residency at New York Live Arts and we have a number of exciting commissions we’ll be premiering there including a performance with Bill T. Jones.
That all sounds awesome! What else can we expect to see you doing coming up?
I’ve been recording a bunch with Paul Simon, Jose Gonzalez, The Tallest Man on Earth, and many other exciting artists and hope to get back into the studio with yMusic in early 2017 to get started on our 3rd record.
So you’re curating our opening night at Rockwood Music Hall with Stephanie Richards called “Without A Frame”. We recently chatted with Brandon Ridenour (see article here) who will be playing at that concert with his group FOUNDERS. yMusic will be playing and so will Asphalt Orchestra. It looks to be an amazing evening! Give us some insight into how you got to curating this evening.
When I was asked to curate an “indie classical” concert at FONT Music this year my initial reaction was to not do it! I think that the classical trumpet repertoire is in my opinion probably one of the worst collections of pieces in existence and I just don’t know why! So many other instruments have so many great pieces but I’ve always found our repertoire extremely lacking. I don’t want to go to a concert and hear the Hadyn Trumpet Concerto or the Arutunian ever again (isn’t that what college is for)? That’s just my opinion. I started to look around though and there is so much interesting music happening in the trumpet world right now that has a strong classical backbone yet is hard to put a label on. I wanted to put together a night that featured these kinds of classical trumpet centered ensembles/performers that are really pushing the boundaries of what we call classical music. I think it should be a fun night.
Totally agree – we can’t wait to check out this amazing night of music. Thanks again C.J., we’ll see you next week!
More info on C.J.:As a trumpet player, french hornist, arranger, and keyboard player, C.J. Camerieri has enjoyed an active, diverse, and exciting career since completing his classical trumpet training at Juilliard in 2004. He has become an indispensable collaborator for numerous indie rock groups as a performer, arranger, improviser, and soloist and is a co-founder of the contemporary classical ensemble yMusic. yMusic’s debut record was named Time Out New York’s #1 Classical Record of 2011, the same year that Camerieri won two Grammys as a member of Bon Iver for the band’s sophomore record, which later reached gold status. He is currently the newest member of Paul Simon’s band, joining for 2014’s “Paul Simon and Sting: On Stage Together” tour.
CJ began working in alternative music as the trumpet player and keyboard player for Sufjan Stevens in January of 2006. He then went on to tour the world as a member of Rufus Wainwright’s band in 2007-2008 before starting yMusic with Rob Moose in the spring of 2008 and later joining Bon Iver in 2011 while also touring with the Plastic Ono Band and The National. In 2014 CJ became the newest member of Paul Simon’s touring band.
As an arranger, trumpet player, french horn player, and keyboardist C.J.’s discography includes well over 200 recordings including current and forthcoming releases by Paul Simon, Bon Iver, yMusic, Sufjan Stevens, Rufus Wainwright, The Tallest Man on Earth, David Byrne, Antony and the Johnsons, Martha Wainwright, Loudon Wainwright III, Aero Flynn, Gabriel Kahane, The National, Angus and Julia Stone, Ingrid Michaelson, The Staves, My Brightest Diamond, Sean Lennon, Yuka Honda, GOASTT, Jesse Harris, She and Him, Harper Simon, Chris Garneau, Clare and the Reasons, Welcome Wagon, Anthony Coleman, ACME, The New York Trumpet Ensemble, Argento New Music Ensemble and the Paragon Ragtime Orchestra.
Thomas Bergeron is one of those trumpeters who does it all – and really well! As comfortable in the jazz world as he is in the classical world and in the creative contemporary music world, he continues to blur the line of what these genres might even mean to someone. This is why we are big fans of him here at FONT Music.
He will be presenting music from his latest project “Sacred Feast” at The Dimenna Center (Benzaquen Hall) on Sept 25th for FONT Music 2015. We are seeing this as a DO NOT MISS performance (buy your ticket here). Not only is he a great artist, trumpeter and composer – he’s also a great guy and we had a blast chatting with him today. Here’s what he had to say…
Hey Thomas, thanks for chatting with us a bit today, we’re really excited to experience your show in couple weeks at The Dimenna Center – we’re so glad to have you on the program this year. I was surprised to hear this is your first time presenting with us. You are a great example of a “Crossing Genre Artist” we like here at FONT Music. We’ve found that FONT Music means different things to different people and artists, what does it mean to you?
I’ve been an admirer of FONT Music for years, and has become an important and influential force in the creative trumpet community, and I’m thrilled to be a part of it. To me, FONT Music is one of the most forward-thinking “New Music” festivals because it recognizes and embraces the many forms and genres that should fall under the heading of “New Music”, and focuses on the post-academic paradigm where performers are composers and vice-versa.
Right, that’s a great point about the performer being the composer and vice versa. In our community, you rarely are seeing the sole “composers”, but more so the performer is writing for themselves and others they are closely related to. In some ways, it becomes a bit more personal that way I suppose.
Among the many accolades for your new album “Sacred Feast”, the head honcho here at FONT Music Dave Douglas has said some pretty awesome stuff about your new project. “A really fine, beautiful statement. Subtle and rich … I can’t think of another player anywhere that could pull this off”. That’s pretty awesome…
Because Dave is such a model for me as an artist, as soon as “Sacred Feast” was finished, I sent the tracks over to him. I assumed that I was one of dozens of artists sending him material every week, so didn’texpect a response. He not only listened to it, but wrote me an email from the airport with his thoughts! How cool is that? This meant so much to me, and again shows how committed Dave is to supporting young artists and trumpeters. I was obviously thrilled when he asked me to perform at FONT Music this year. I hope that in time I can pay it forward by supporting future generations of FONT Music artists.
Dave Douglas has long been a huge creative and professional inspiration to me, and this Festival is a perfect example of why that is. On top of being a prolific creative force, stunning improviser, and virtuosic trumpeter, Dave is devoted to furthering the art form by supporting other creative artists, especially trumpeters.
Yeah, Dave’s a pretty amazing guy! So, for those of us new to Thomas Bergeron, can you give us a brief history? What have we missed thusfar?
This is a loaded question! I spent a good portion of my early years working in the classical world, both orchestra and chamber music. During this time I was mostly focused on honing my trumpet playing. Because I was taking orchestra auditions (and every freelance gig felt like an audition), I became obsessed with developing my sound and perfecting my technique. I soon realized that sound development and technical work would be never-ending pursuits.
It wasn’t long before I grew hungry for more creative outlets. I had played jazz for as long as I was a trumpet player, but after college I became more intensely interested in improvising and composing (and their intersections). It wasn’t until I arrived at Yale for graduate school that this became a career focus. Yale is primarily focused on classical chamber music, but there were a few fantastic jazz musicians in the program (and luckily for me they were rhythm section players :)). We put together a small jazz group, which provided an oasis of creativity for me. I wanted to convince the school that jazz performance practice had a place within their established chamber music curriculum. My strategy was to arrange jazz versions (written for jazz players) of the music of classical composers like Debussy, Villa Lobos, Chopin, and Ravel.
I love it – change the system from the inside out! Including your musical history and interests creating something unique. And this brought you to your first album?
My first jazz album interpreted the music of Claude Debussy (“The First of All My Dreams“). I was encouraged by the response to the music, especially when we performed live. We would constantly hear jazz fans saying they didn’t realize how cool Debussy was, and classical fans saying they never thought they’d enjoy a jazz show so much. While I was working on this creative outlet in the jazz realm, my classical career continued to have a life of its own.
I’m now going into my fourth season as principal trumpet with the Springfield Symphony, my third season with the Atlantic Brass Quintet, and I recently finished a two-year residency at Carnegie Hall with Ensemble ACJW. Working with these ensembles is of course immensely rewarding, not only because I get to perform alongside some of the worlds greatest players, but because I’m constantly exposed to some of the greatest music ever created. As a composer, jazz musician and improviser, I feed heavily off of the music that I’m exposed to in classical settings.
Wow – you’re ALL over the place musically, that’s so cool! And you’re drawing all areas of your musical interests into your creative playing and writing! So unique and personal! What can we expect next from you?
While promoting “Sacred Feast“, I’m always thinking about new material. I’m currently working on some ideas for smaller jazz groups (trios and quartets), and I’m also writing some new music for the Atlantic Brass Quintet. This is exciting to me because Atlantic is a traditional brass quintet made of up virtuoso players, but most of the players are also stellar improvisers with firm footing in the jazz world (like our trombonist Tim Albright, for example). The variety of skill sets in the ensemble opens up a lot of doors compositionally. I tend to pick a point on the horizon to sail towards, but allow the winds to blow me to a new course if they want to. So who knows, man? In general just trying to stay creative, stay healthy, and continue working hard to serve the world of music.
Yes… serving the world of music, that sounds about right. Do you have any big classical projects coming up?
As for nerve-wracking classical projects … there are a few coming up. Most notably, I’m performing the Haydn Trumpet Concerto, as well as Copland’s Quiet City with the Springfield Symphony in November (along with Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks … yes all on the same program … yikes).
So, Sacred Feast is your newest album out taking a “different” look at the music of Messiaen. Can you give us some insight?
I became captivated by the music of Olivier Messiaen when I was studying with one of his students, Joan Panetti, who teaches a course at Yale called “Hearing”. What struck me most was his ability to manipulate harmony and tone color to magical effects. Messiaen was known as a mystic, and perhaps more famously as a devout Roman Catholic (someone tell the Pope this concert is happening on the day he’s in NYC!).
Right! He’ll be a half mile away from you when you’re performing “Sacred Feast” – we’re seeing that as more providence than coincidence here. We’ll save him a seat.
Seriously … Tell the Pope this show is happening while he’s in town. He will love it. He probably already loves Olivier Messiaen’s music. If he hasn’t heard of Olivier Messiaen, he should. If ever there was a Pope in history who would enjoy a jazz Messiaen show, it’s Pope Francis.
We totally agree. We’ll see what we can do … Speaking of spiritualness of the music, how does the music affect you?
I am not a religious person per se, but Messiaen’s music takes me to a place that I can only describe as spiritual. That’s why I created this project. I wanted to expose people to his music who might not otherwise find it.
The band has only sunk deeper into the music through the numerous performances we’ve given since the recording sessions (I’ve often thought that bands should re-record their albums at the end of the tours that promote them. It could be like a musical version of one of those before/after pictures in weight-loss ads).
Ha! Yeah, the music evolves so much over time – that’s actually kind of a cool idea. The before and after musical shots… I’d be totally interested in hearing something like that. Tell us a little bit about what to expect on Sept 25th for your concert at The Dimenna Center (Benzaquen Hall) for the Festival?
This FONT Music performance has turned into quite a special affair, with the addition of a fantastic string section and the brilliant Becca Stevens (who sings a 3-part song cycle of Messiaen’s on the record, in addition to his Vocalise). The icing on the cake is that my friend and Pakistani tabla master Yousuf Kerai will be in town that weekend, so I’m re-arranging a number of our pieces to allow him to join us. I met Yousuf while visiting Karachi in January. Just a few days after meeting him, we put together a concert with some local musicians in which we combined Eastern and Western musical practices. Yousuf is the real deal when it comes to tabla. He grew up in Pakistan and studied with Ustad Khurshid Hussain. I remember him describing tabla as a “means of discourse”, which is a particularly apt description in the context of our collaboration.
It’s been such a pleasure talking with you, and we can’t wait to hear this pretty special concert!
Thank you for supporting contemporary music and people crazy enough to devote their lives to playing the trumpet. You’re making the world a better place.
We seem to think so too – glad you agree! Okay, so if we DO get a hold of The Pope, how can we entice him to stop by?
My suggestion, if you have his ear:“Excuse me Your Holiness, there is a concert happening across town tonight entitled ‘Sacrum Convivium’ (use the latin, trust me). Music inspired by the great Catholic composer Olivier Messiaen, including performers from Pakistan, Japan, and the US. Would you like to attend?”How could he say no?
Well, if you didn’t convince him, you’ve convinced me! Thanks Thomas!
Here’s a great clip of “Porquoi” from the “Sacred Feast” recording session:
Thomas Bergeron’s Bio: A trumpeter, composer, producer, and educator known for excelling in both the jazz and classical realms, Thomas Bergeron exemplifies a new breed of 21st century artists. In addition to his own hybrid jazz chamber ensemble, Thomas performs as a sideman with many jazz groups in NYC, is member of the Atlantic Brass Quintet and principal trumpet with the Springfield Symphony. He recently concluded a 2-year residency at Carnegie Hall with Ensemble ACJW, and has performed with Vampire Weekend, The Danish National Symphony Orchestra, The American Symphony, The Temptations, Idina Menzel, Judy Collins, Jon Irabagon, Arlo Guthrie, Ernie Watts, and the Radio City Christmas Orchestra, among others. His network television appearances include Saturday Night Live, Jimmy Kimmel Live, and CBS This Morning.As an educator, Thomas is dedicated to sharing music in communities that would not otherwise be able to access it. He currently teaches inmates at Sing Sing Maximum Security Correctional Facility through Musicambia, and is an educational consultant for The Harmony Program in New York City. Thomas has held teaching positions at Williams College, Bennington College, Yale, and Amherst College. He holds two advanced degrees from Yale, where he won the Woolsey Hall Concerto Competition and received the John Swallow Award for excellence in brass playing. He also holds a business management degree from UMass Amherst.Thomas is a Conn-Selmer Artist, performing on Bach Artisan Stradivarius Bb and Eb/D trumpets, the Bach Stradivarius Chicago C trumpet, and the Conn Vintage One flugelhorn.
The ongoing question of “How do we save classical music?” has been looming for years it seems. Luckily, in the creative world, multiple ensembles are not just asking the question, they are finding unique ways to SOLVE it. FONT Music 2015’s opening concert “Without A Frame” will be held at Rockwood Music Hall on Thursday September 24 at 8:30 where we will be featuring three of contemporary classical music’s forward looking, genre bending “classical” ensembles – yMusic, Asphalt Orchestra and Founders. It’s hard to truly call them “classical” groups as they start in one camp and jump constantly around to countless others. We’ll be spotlighting these groups in the next few weeks to give you a sneak peek for this exciting evening.
Today we catch up with FONT Music, Canadian Brass and Juilliard alumni and all around great trumpeter, pianist and musician, Brandon Ridenour. What doesn’t he do? We’re still trying to figure that one out. His latest musical project brings together 5 classically trained musician in a more “Singer Songwriter” setting – bringing both covers of multiple genres and originals to listeners ears. If this is what the future holds for classical music, I think we’re in for a treat. Here’s what Brandon had to say to us!
Thanks for chatting with us Brandon. You’re not a stranger to FONT Music. You played a few years back, right? What did you present then?
The last FONT Music concert I recall being involved in was back in 2008. I played an arrangement of mine of Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time – written for trumpet w/ electronic effects, electric guitar, bass guitar, synthesizer, piano, and auxiliary percussion.On a Messiaen side note, Thomas Bergeron’s “Sacred Feast” features works of Messiaen reinterpreted on Sept 25 at The Dimenna Center this year (coincidence? Maybe…). This year you’re coming back to us with a whole new project – singer-songwriter meets classical. A match made in heaven, in my mind. Tell us a bit about this group.
Founders is the group I’ll be playing with at FONT Music this year. It’s a singing-songwriting group of classical musicians. I was told the working theme of this FONT Music event was something like “Indie Classical”. So yeah, you could call us that. We do some originals, some arrangements. Sometimes there are vocals, sometimes not. The other instruments are violin, viola, cello, bass. I alternate between trumpet and piano depending on what the song calls for. Like yMusic, we might appear to be a classical group, but we don’t necessarily sound classical. Better to experience it in concert than for me to keep rambling about it…Yeah, we’re looking forward to the experience, but we don’t mind your rambling. Give us a rundown as to what you’ve been up to over the years since your days at Juilliard.
I played with the Canadian Brass from 2006-13. My father and girlfriend are both professional pianists, and I play trumpet/piano
concerts with them quite often. I’ve also been performing a new piece I wrote for solo trumpet and orchestra – based on Paganini’s theme from Caprice No. 24.I’ve also started an ensemble called Useful Chamber, which I direct. It’s a chamber ensemble collective that brings the classical sound
world to singer songwriters. The ensemble’s instrumentation is flexible, but always acoustic. Could be as small as 3 instruments, oras large as a 20 piece chamber orchestra. Our debut album “A Dream Within A Dream” uses the full ensemble, featuring a major mixture of musical minds. Melodies are intertwined from Debussy, Mahler, Glass, Radiohead, Pink Floyd, and current writers/singers Leila Adu, Elliot Cole and….me. It’s a fun project. Maybe FONT 2016??Doesn’t sound like a bad idea … we’re really looking forward to Sept 24th! Thanks for chatting with us!
Jonathan Powell is a busy guy – from playing with some of the best big bands in town including Darcy Argue’s Secret Society and Arturo O’Farrill’s Big Band to performing alongside Eddie Palmieri to leading his own groups featuring some of the most creative and cutting edge players on the scene today. We are proud to have Jonathan debuting his newest band The Jonathan Powell Latin Jazz Sextet during the FONT Music 2015 at The Blue Note on Sunday, September 27 at 11:30am and 1pm featuring a “Who’s Who” of the latin jazz scene today (Buy Tickets Here).
Thanks for chatting with us today. We’re so glad to have you on the FONT Music roster this year, Jonathan!
This will be the first time I’ve been involved with FONT and I’m really excited to be a part of it!
You’ve been pretty busy over the years here in NYC. Can you give us all a quick rundown of your history since moving here.
Well I moved to NYC from Florida in 2001 to pursue my love of music.
Since then I delved into the Latin Music Scene playing with NJ-NY based salsa-Timba bands La Creacion, La Bola and La Excelencia among others. All the while pursuing my first love of jazz having had the chance to record with Sam Rivers, Reggie Workman and Charlie Persip while playing with some great young luminaries like Pedro Giraudo, Darcy James Argue, Miguel Zenon and others.
Not too shabby!! If you started with THOSE guys, who are you playing with now?
Currently, I’m playing with the groups of Eddie Palmieri (Salsa Orchestra and Latin Jazz Septets), Arturo O’Farrilland the Latin Jazz Orchestra, Henry Cole’s Afrobeat Collective, Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society and JT Taylor (the voice of Kool & the Gang) among other groups as a freelance trumpet player.
So, we know you’re highly sought after as a sideman and section player, but you are also a very active leader. Tell us a bit about what’s going on with your own projects.
As a leader, I’ve been focusing my energies on a new recording with my Nu Sangha group called “Beacons of Light” (Purchase Here!). I’m celebrating this new release and currently working on a new album for that group which will feature chanting from all over the world mixed in new arrangements featuring the band and special guests.
Wow! That sounds really fascinating… I can’t wait to hear that. But at FONT Music 2015, you’ll be unveiling your newest group, right?
Yes, this will be the debut of my new Latin Jazz Group with which I wish to honor my 14 years in NYC playing Latin music. In the front linewill be Palmieri-band mate Alto Saxaphonist Louis Fouché and myself. We’ve developed a great personal/musical relationship over the years and are looking forward to applying it to this new context.
Also special guesting with us will be my brother tenor Saxophonist Jeremy Powell whom will be brought up to play some of the Nu Sangha repertoire for this show. The rhythm section features the best and brightest of the Latin Jazz genre: Grammy nominee Manuel Valera on piano, bassist Ricky Rodriguez, drummer Henry Cole and percussionist Mauricio Herrera. The music will be an eclectic mix of Latinized Nu Sangha tunes, originals by other members, arrangements of a few standards and of course one or two Eddie Palmieri tunes as he has taught me so much in this music.
Can’t wait to hear this … thanks for your time Jonathan, and keep up all the great work!
Check out this video of Jonathan Powell’s nu Sangha Live at The Blue Note:
A little more about Jonathan:
Originally from Largo, Florida Jonathan Powell picked up the trumpet at the age of eleven never to look back. Inspired by the great jazz trumpeters Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Freddie Hubbard and Miles Davis, Jonathan moved to New York City at the age of 19 to emerge himself in the rich Jazz scene of the “Big Apple”. Though Jazz was his first and greatest love, he soon began incorporating elements of Latin music, North Indian Classical music, Drum’n’Bass, Hip Hop, Death Metal and 20th Century Classical Music into his original compositions. These influences are heard and felt on his band Nu Sangha’s debut album “Transcend” released in 2010 as well as the latest endeavor, “Beacons of Light” released with Truth Revolution Records on August 25th, 2015.
As a freelance trumpet player Jonathan has shared the stage and recording studio with world renown musicians and artists like Eddie Palmieri, Miguel Zenon, Henry Cole, Arturo O’Farrill and the AfroLatin Jazz Orchestra, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Bob Mintzer, The WDR Big Band, JT Taylor (Kool & the Gang), La Excelencia, Sam Rivers, The Pedro Giraudo Jazz Orchestra, QTip, Andy Milne, Gary Thomas, Lenny White, Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, Reggie Workman, Just Blaze, CL Smooth, Slick Rick and Snoop Dogg to name a few. Known for his ease of adaptability to many musical styles, Jonathan has earned a name for himself on the Latin music scene in NYC by winning The Latin Jazz Corner’s Best Latin Jazz Trumpet Player of 2009 as well as becoming Eddie Palmieri’s first call trumpet player in 2013. Jazz guru Nat Hentoff wrote of Jonathan, “Powell’s crackling range and the electricity of his imagination reminded me of the first time I heard Lee Morgan and Clifford Brown. His voice is his own…” JazzTimes (April 2003).