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Steve Raybine

Steve Raybine

Steve Raybine

Could you take us through the creative process that has yielded your lastest release, "In the Driver's Seat."

I began rehearsals for the music eighteen months ago. For some of my songs, I specifically tried to write 'shorter,' more concise pieces with a catchy melody--this was definately true of Step it Up; Hummingbird and Strut Your Stuff. Step it Up features Michael Paulo on sax, who was recommended to me by Rick Braun. Hummingbird was ultimately the perfect song for flute and vibes--my keyboardist, Dan Cerveny brought this to my attention. As you can hear, only flutist, Steve Kujala (my old Auracle bandmate) could have played that multi-dimensional and virtuosic flute solo. Strut Your Stuff is an archtypical shuffle tune with a little extra flair within the arrangement.

After the 'live' rhythm tracks were recorded on the various tunes, I decided that You've Got it All would work best as a duet between vibes and muted trumpet (with flugelhorn in the bridge section).

Importantly, I knew that I wanted to incorporate more 'horn-section' parts (tenor and/or baritone sax; trumpet and trombone) into the arrangement of the songs. Doyle Tipler, my co-producer, primary recording engineer and mixer, wrote the horn parts for the various songs. From my perspective, the horn parts have added a tremendous musical dimension to the overall sound of the songs. Vibrafunk and Coffee Break were songs that I had written years ago, but had never recorded. Coffee Break is probably more indicative of the Jazz Funk/Fusion genre--I wanted this song to reflect the best of the horn-style dominated charts of days gone by, albeit with vibes as a co-lead instrument (it even includes a modulation near the end of the song) with saxophone. Vibrafunk is more stylistically grounded within the Urban Funk musical realm. You Don't Love Me Anymore is a song that I've also waited for the right moment to record. Jenny Hill sang it with my band years ago, but it finally came together with a stunning counterpoint provided by Nelson Rangell on alto sax. I've always wanted to showcase my solo vibraphone playing on records (I perform it often in live shows), so that was the genesis behind including that on the CD--it is a specific vibraphonic 'art form' that I've worked on throughout my entire career. Finally, Jim Mertz did a great arrangement of Bobby Caldwell's, What You Won't Do For Love, which works well as a vibe feature.

Doyle Tipler, Chris Acker (executive producer) and myself, worked endlessly on tweaking the arrangements and achieving the best mix sound for the songs--also complemented by Doug Van Slouns' mastering. Simply put, it was an exhausting and all-consuming project, but the most rewarding musical experience I've ever been involved with.

What aspects of "In the Driver's Seat" have you found to be the most satisfying for you personally so far?

Thus far, I can confidently say that I believe this is my finest recorded work to date. I know how hard I worked on this project for the last eighteen months as a producer, performer and composer. It is personally fulfilling to create a work that you're very proud of and to make it available to your audience(s).

You've performed and been involved with a diverse range of musicians so far in your career. Can you give us a bit of perspective as to how those experiences have led you to where you are today with your music?

I've always said that to a certain degree, you are influenced by all of the significant people that you've come into contact with during your lifetime. From my early musical years as the percussion section leader in high school in Oshkosh, Wi., working with the internationally-acclaimed wind ensemble director and educator, Dr. James Croft, to later performing for one of my early jazz influences, the great Dave Brubeck, I've learned from some phenomenal musicians and educators. Vibist, Gary Burton, taught me the value of understanding and applying jazz theory and harmony when improvising and the dedication involved in becoming a jazz virtuoso on your instrument; Ray Wright (Eastman School of Music) taught me how to arrange music for a Big Band and a studio orchestra; Bill Dobbins (Eastman School of Music) taught me how to write jazz music in various styles; Teo Macero (Miles' producer) taught me how to 'edit' my compostions; vocalists Jack Jones and Michael Feinstein showed me how to relate to an audience, as they both have a tremendous rapport with their audiences; Rick Braun showed me the value of being a meticulous producer in the studio; Auracle (jazz fusion band in the 1970's) was where I initially honed my craft as a jazz performer and composer; etc. These individuals and/or bands...and numerous others, have shaped my musical evolution, in addition to my own creative voice as a jazz performer, composer and educator. Your own distinct musical journey is an ongoing evolutionary process that continues throughout your lifetime.

What's the most challenging aspect of all you do in your career...from being a professional musician to being an educator...and thus generates the most personal growth for you?

I've jokingly referred to my career as the AAA School of Music: All things, to All people, at All times. The coordination of every aspect associated with my teaching studio (students' schedules; music; communications; mentoring; etc., ) combined with the creation, promotion/organization and performances of my band, can be exhausting and somewhat overwhelming at times. It's not uncommon for me to run from one appointment to another and arrive with five minutes or less to spare--multiple times each day.

In my career, most people would consider me a perfectionist, because I have extremely high standards for what I expect from myself in order to be the best possible teacher, performer and composer that I can be. Therefore, I suppose another challenging aspect of my career, would be meeting my own standards for excellence involving all of the people and circumstances that I'm ultimately involved with and accountable to. Most importantly, however, I always factor my family responsiblitites (which takes precedence over all other things) into the career equation, so the totality of all these dimensions working in conjunction with one another ultimately makes for a challenging life. In summation, I'm proud of the fact that I do reasonably well at balancing all of these personal and career issues and this creates the most personal growth for me.

If you were to choose to learn a new instrument that you've never played before, what instrument might that be, and why?

I've always enjoyed the 'sound' of the saxophone within the jazz idiom, so I suppose that would be the instrument that I'd try to learn how to play--I'd probably start on alto. When the saxophone is played by a gifted performer, the range of expression that the player can achieve is truly remarkable and eminently appealing. Furthermore, it is much easier to transport than a vibraphone, which would be really refreshing.

What are some of the most important goals you have for yourself in the next five to ten years?

1.) I've been pursuing my musical version of the Smooth Jazz 'dream' for FOURTEEN years now, which began with the first song I composed for the genre in 1995 and has continued throughout my first CD, Balance Act; second CD, Bad Kat Karma; and now, In the Driver's Seat. I suppose my primary career goal comes down to the word opportunity. I'd like to have the opportunity of showcasing my vibraphone playing and my music at prominent jazz festivals and jazz venues around the United States. I'd also like to take my family along (sons David and Sam and my wife, Beth) if these opportunities presented themselves to me and if it was possible to coordinate these events with their schedules.

2.) There have been numerous people that have believed in me and my music over the many years (band members; music business folks; friends and family) that I would like to be able to offer opportunities to if greater musical success were to ever come my way. I think it's always more meaningful to share any success you may achieve with the people who you care about the most in life and to let them know how much you appreciate them.

3.) I'd like to maintain my teaching studio, continue being a positive role model to younger musicians and to mentor my students, regardless of the career path(s) they've chosen. Students need people who truly believe in them and their special abilities. If I can be of assistance to them, then I'd like to be able to do so.

4.) I'd like to become more involved in charitable events and to help others. My wife works as a genetic counselor at a Medical Center and she is a positive role model for me. You enrich your own life when you give selflessly to others.

5.) Like most musical performers, I'd like to record more in the future, but that again comes down to opportunities and probably to finances.

6.) If possible, it would be nice to not have to teach until 9 pm most days and five hours on Sunday. I'd also like to be able to take more vacations with my family. On a purely practical level, I would also appreciate not having to move so much heavy musical equipment by myself in the future.

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