How did this new album and overall concept come about, and what are your ultimate goals with it?
We wanted to do an album that had a live feel to it, ideally with everybody recording at the same time, however, we ended up recording the rhythm section first and added the horns and additional parts later. We wanted a full band sound and we knew if we called on our friends who were great arrangers and musicians, we could accomplish this. Every song began with a sketch and was written at night. Thatís why the title came so easy later on during the project. It all started with a sketch. We are hoping that there will be a connection with the stories in the songs and people can identify with it and sayĒ I have been there tooĒ or I know what they are talking about.
What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of recording a new album?
We knew who we wanted on the cd but some of the musicians were touring or so booked up that there was a waiting period to get everybody. Also, we wrote so many songs, and it was hard choosing one song over another.
What are some of your current favorite artists, smooth jazz or otherwise?
RHONDA : George Duke, Joe Sample, CeCe Winans, Lalah Hathaway, Stevie Wonder, Diane Krall, and Joey DeFrancesco.
What elements do you look for in a song that makes it especially satisfying for you to perform?
RHONDA : If it is a song with lyrics, it has to be saying something that I can connect to and feel or is telling a story that needs to be heard that moves me. If it is an instrumental it has to be a song that is so exciting or emotional that I have to play it.
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?
RHONDA : When I was a teenager, I was on vacation with family in Philly and there was a free concert at Pennís Landing and the artist performing was Lionell Hampton. It was the first time I had ever heard live jazz. I could not believe what I was hearing. I was really moved by the big band sound and I thought the vocalist was superb; thatís when I wanted to play jazz. I wanted to do what they were doing.
What would be the most important piece of advice youíd impart to a young musician just starting in the jazz/smooth jazz arena?
Always play your best no matter who is listening. Listen to everything, music, people, sounds around you. It can inspire you to become a better musician. Remember to establish and keep positive relationships. Itís an essential part of this business and life. Stay humble. Just be you. Donít try to sound like someone else, you are unique and no one can be you and you canít be anyone else. Donít give up on your dream. If this is your dream, you are already becoming it, so donít let anything stop you. Just keep playing.