How did this new album and overall concept for it come about, and what are your ultimate goals with it?
The overall concept for my new album, Watch Him Work, was inspired by a myriad of life changing events over the past fifteen years since my last release, a straight-ahead jazz effort entitled Dedicated to You. These events include marriage, the birth of my son, Hurricane Katrina, relocation and back, and the loss of my father. I was 24 years old at the time of my first release. Now, as I approach 40, I’ve become a seasoned veteran of life looking at things from a mature perspective. The musical direction of Watch Him Work exhibits the things that I’ve gone through, life decisions that I’ve faced, and the things that have made me grow up.
Of your touring and gigs so far in your career, do any stand out as being particularly memorable or defining moments?
I would have to say that the most memorable moment thus far in my career is actually not a conventional concert, show, or tour. That moment was having a chance to be involved with the 2004 film RAY. I was blessed with the opportunity to be casted as the baritone saxophonist in the Ray Charles Septet and Orchestra working with Director Taylor Hackford, and actors Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington, Wendell Pierce, and others. That was truly a humbling experience being part of such a landmark event celebrating the life of such a legendary figure in Ray Charles.
Who are some of your current favorite artists, smooth jazz or otherwise?
My goodness, there are so many artists that I enjoy listening to. But just to name a few, as a saxophonist, some of my favorites include Kirk Whalum, Gerald Albright, and Najee. I’m also influenced by Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Pat Methany, Stevie Wonder, Al Jarreau, and Prince. Their longevity in this business and musical contributions are truly inspiring. I also enjoy Jill Scott, Mint Condition, J Moss, Joe Sample, Robert Glasper, Ledisi, and Maroon 5.
At what point in your life did you make the decision to become a professional musician and actually record your own albums?
From jr. high to my early years of high school, I experienced some early accomplishments and success as a young musician that would steadily increase my interest in a career as a performing/recording artist. Certainly growing up in a musical city like New Orleans, participating in school band activities, and even being accepted in honor-all star groups, all contributed to influencing what my career path would be. However, having the opportunity to attend my first summer jazz camp at Loyola University in New Orleans after my freshman year of high school had a profound impact on my early life. Unlike in school, this camp offered the chance to play with, hang with, and get to know others who had the same intense interests in music as I did. And with all of us together along with the clinicians who worked with us and introduced us to the various aspects of music performance, recording, and business, the entire experience awoke something in me and confirmed in my spirit that music was my life’s calling.
Going back in your life as far as you can remember, what song or performance is the first you recall hearing and being affected by?
I may have been around 11 or 12 year old. My parents had taken me to my first ever live concert, Al Jarreau and David Sanborn at the U.N.O Lake Front Arena. I still remember to this day how blown away I was by that show. My dad would always play music from his vast album collection, particularly those of Jarreau and Sanborn, and it just amazed me to see these gentlemen with their bands and all of these instruments on this huge stage perform the same songs that I heard in my house while adding so much more to the songs in person, and interacting and establishing such a powerful connection with us, the audience. At that point in my life, I had certainly never seen/heard anything like that concert. I will never forget experiencing for the first time the powerful impact that great music can have on a listening audience.
What’s your favorite non-music activity?
I actually have quite a few non-music activities that I enjoy. If there’s a favorite, it would probably have to be a combination of two, football and architecture. I’m a HUGE football fan, especially where I’m from, it’s pretty much a way of life. Actually, the intensity of the groove and the bass line from the song “Watch Him Work” was inspired by the intensity that comes from the “grid iron.”