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Jim Samuel

Jim Samuel

Jim Samuel

How did this new album and overall concept for it come about, and what are your ultimate goals with it?

I'd been out of the music business for over thirty years and rarely played the piano even for pleasure. Then I decided to purchase a digital piano. I wanted to learn a little about the new technology in music and hopefully get back to playing again. Two years later I recorded CHRISTMAS. CHRISTMAS is my attempt to take traditional Christmas songs and arrange them in a fresh, fun way that makes people want to listen again to those "same old holiday songs". My goal was to bring some fun back to Christmas music and hopefully to create some fans along the way.

What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of recording a new album?

The most challenging part of getting back into music is the technology. I have to say it's also one of the most interesting aspects in today's music. I can't believe how much music one person on one instrument can make. You have to remember I'm old school. When I recorded last it was at Cameo-Parkway studios in Philadelphia, a lifetime ago. I can tell you tales of how trash cans, belts and transistor radios were used to get certain sounds in the studio. I remember on my first recording playing large bells brought from the Naval Academy to the session. Today you punch a button on a digital keyboard and record those same bells and better yet you can record them in your home. Not being a tech geek made this challenge of technology greater. However, I am learning that you can teach an old dog new tricks. Frustrating as it's been at times it's been mostly fun.

What elements do you look for in a song that makes it especially satisfying for you to perform?

I like songs that can handle change. Songs where you can change the rhythm or the chords to give it a fresh new feel. I like to rearrange these songs to make them my own. For example the first track on CHRISTMAS, is "Angels We Have Heard on High". It has a different rhythm, uptempo with a Latin style feel that's not how we normally hear this song played during the holidays. I hope listeners like my new arrangement of this old Christmas Carol.

Who are some of your current favorite artists, Smooth Jazz or otherwise?

Brian Culbertson who is the best on keyboards I've seen. He's so good well, it's not fair. I can only dream of playing like Brian. David Benoit is classic Smooth Jazz. Gerald Albright never hits a wasted note. And Brian Simpson whose music seems less complicated than the others. He just makes great music. He knocks me out.

Who would you say has been the single biggest influence in your life in getting you to where you are now in your career?

Years back I heard Brian's album "It's All Good" and loved the music. It seemed simple, wasn't over produced and had great melodies and chords. I loved it. When Brian came to an album signing at a bookstore in Maryland I went to see him. In the store he had a keyboard and computer and put on a mini concert of the album. That's when it hit me, the options technology brings to musicians. I left that store and started researching digital keyboards that night. My return back to music began after seeing Brian.

The second influence is When they picked CHRISTMAS as a Hot Pick album for the holidays, it opened up my music to their vast global audience. Also, Smooth Jazz has been patient with me in guiding me through the new world of marketing as well as consulting me on direction not only for CHRISTMAS but for my music beyond CHRISTMAS. Sue, Sandy, Scott, Donna - all of SmoothJazz have been a great partner in my return to the music scene.

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

The next five to ten years, huh? At my age staying alive and healthy would be a good place to start, I'm only kidding, I feel great. If anything, getting back to music makes me feel younger. I have a little buddy, Jake. He's seven and full of life. When he wants to play sometimes I tell him I'm too old to play. He tells me "You're not old, you're new." I guess I am feeling "new".

My real goal going forward is to build a fan base for my music. I want to make albums that make people feel good. I want to make arrangements that bring new life to old songs. I want to get back to writing songs again. The next five to ten years I want to keep getting better. Keep an eye out for what's next for Jim Samuel. I've grown a little older but I'm just getting started.

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The Steel City Jazz Festival 2017
Steel City Jazz Fest
June 1-3, 2017
Linn Park, Birmingham, AL
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