What elements do you look for in a piece of music that makes it especially satisfying for you to perform?
RUSS BRANNON : I really enjoy compositions that are harmonically rich and offer the listener musical surprises. A great tune for me has to be multi-dimensional, but not complicated, offering interesting harmonic movement in multiple sections. I love deceptive cadence, and it goes without saying, the groove has to be right.
What do you see as the biggest challenges to the growth of Smooth Jazz in the future?
RUSS BRANNON : I see smooth jazz as the place mature listeners go to experience new music that can make them feel good. It needs to be interesting maybe challenging, and yet accessible. I believe that these listeners come mostly from a pop music background, and now need to go to the next step musically. The challenge to smooth jazz artists, and stations, is to allow the genre to grow. If it is too "dumbed down" or delivers "more of the same", over time, we risk losing our audience. The sound needs to remain smooth, and more adventurous rhythmically and harmonically.
What would be the most important piece of advice you’d impart to a young musician just starting out in the jazz/smooth jazz arena?
PRESTON GLASS : If you love music, play and record music for the sheer love of doing it as your motivation. If you do that, the rewards, including financially, will be there. But the journey along the way will fulfill your soul...
What aspect of the creative process, from concept to market, do you personally find to be the most rewarding?
PRESTON GLASS : I'm a songwriter 1st, so writing the song rates way up there... But taking a song that's written, and then putting the arrangement together has always been one of my favorite creative processes; because you can paint that sketch (the song) any color you want to, to make it come alive - whether it's a brand new song or even a classic song...
Who would you say has been the single biggest influence in your life in getting you to where you are now in your career?
BILLY SHIELDS : I would have to say two people who influence me in different ways for me. First Alan Rowe who was my jazz teacher who played with Stan Kenton Orchestra and Winner of a ‘Down Beat Hall of Fame World Scholarship’ to Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. Stanley Clarke who Produced my first album (Shieldstone) that was voted #8 Cont. Jazz album of the year by billboard charts. Stanley also played on three songs and working with him I learned knowledge from the studio you can not go to school and learn.
What question do you wish someone would ask you that has never been asked of you in an interview?
BILLY SHIELDS : I always wish that someone would ask me why I play jazz/smooth jazz? I feel that good music is good music first no mater what style you play. I also feel when you play with top jazz players it's like playing in the NFL in football or the NBA in basketball. The feeling you have when your playing with great players in jazz gives you chance to take music to another level you would never be able to do without them.