Could you take us through the creative process that has led to the release of your new CD, "After Dark"?
My latest CD project, "After Dark" was an inspiration derived from my life experiences in South Korea and during visits to Dallas and Baltimore. I was really taken away by the night life in Dallas and Baltimore and in particular, the jazz scene in both locations! Lots of "after dark" jazz hot spots to choose from and it was quite moving to see how these cities wind down "after dark". My "after dark" CD idea initiated from my experiences in Dallas and Baltimore, but was born in South Korea! I lived in Pyeongtaek, South Korea for a while and began working on "After Dark" during my stay there. There were a few bars that my wife and I ventured out to in Pyeongtaek; one in particulary called "Belagios" which played a lot of smooth jazz during the after hours. It was the many nights in that place that inspired me to complete the "After Dark" CD! The melodies and flow of ideas began with "Transatlantic" which was an inspiration that came to me on a 14 hour flight from Atlanta to Seoul, S. Korea and the rest is history!
What aspect or aspects of "After Dark" do you find to be the most satisfying to you personally?
I think the feeling of accomplishment is the most satisfying to me. All of my efforts in creating this project and knowing that all of my family, friends and fans that follow my music brings a lot of joy to me! I am also very satisfied that I can express my inner self through my guitar and get it all done on my own at my own pace! This CD represents my emotional outlet for who I am deep down inside and is my way to share with the world!
Who would you say has been the single biggest influence in your life in getting you to where you are now in your career?
I have several that are influential. First and foremost, my relationship with God. It is a blessing to have a gift of creation and God has directed me to this point and I thank Him for all he has done for me. Secondly, I have a very close friend whom I look to as a mentor for where I am at today; his name is Darrly McEachin. He is an huge player in motivating me to record solo and do what I do...extremely gifted keyboardist/musician who I look up to in every aspect of musicianship and brotherhood! He and I worked on a project back in 1999 and during this time, he put the idea in my head about what I should do. Norman Brown, Doc Powell, Paul Jackson Jr, Wes Montgomery and of course Larry Carlton are HUGE influences in what I try to do; they are definitely my lifelong idols and are legends in their own right!
You live and work in Europe. Could you fill us in on that aspect of your life?
Wow, life in Europe! Yes, this is a major part of my music career! The embrace that you receive here in Europe is like no other! From the jazz festival in Munich to the North Sea Jazz Festival in the Netherlands, Europe is a international jazz melting pot! I am here for my work and the cool thing is that my family and I are able to enjoy the comforts of life in the US and the euphoria of living in Europe! We live about 4 hours from Paris, 3 hours from Amsterdam and 3 hours from Brussels, Belgium, not to mention, Berlin, Munich, Strasbourg, France, Italy and the Czech Republic are all day trips by car! The best extended vacation any American could want to be on! And to be known for my jazz and be in hot demand all over the place...well, all I can say is...WOW!
Looking back on your career so far, what has been the most challenging experience you’ve had to conquer to date?
I think the most challenging experience I had was opening for the Rich Little Show in the Netherlands! I never thought I would be the opening act for a famous comedian and didnt really know how I would pull it off. I had some band members lined up to accompany me, but things didnt work out based on scheduling conflicts and geographical challenges (some of the band members resided in Belgium and also Germany). I was left to perform on my own, so I needed to come up with a plan. I assumed that the audience was a "smooth jazz" audience and so I did what I do from my heart. It went over well and I received a lot of praise and new fans which actually was a bit overwhelming! I was so taken away that I missed a backstage invterview with a local TV station!!!!
What would your top “desert island” classic albums be, regardless of genre… the albums you turn to time after time for your own personal enjoyment and inspiration?
I have to say that "The Best of Fourplay" is a definite favorite! Norman Brown's "After the Storm" is a true favorite of mine as well. Of course I can't leave out Paul Jackson Jr's "I Came to Play" and Earl Klugh's "The Spice of Life"; absolutely favorite albums of mine! Gospel quartet music is also my deepest love in terms of music so I have to mention that The Mighty Clouds of Joy's CD "Live in Charleston" and the Canton Spirituals' "Live in Memphis" are two of my favorite gospel CDs.