How did this new album and overall concept for it come about, and what are your ultimate goals with it?
My long-time friend and saxophonist, Phil French re-connected with me in early 2014. We always wanted to do a project together, but it just so happened that this was the right time! As our first full album together we decided to use all my songs and arrangements, produced and performed by me, which allowed Phil to focus mainly on his melodic tone and soulful sound on sax. Our goal was quite simple—to be excellent and refreshing! We wanted to tap into the essence of our individual and collaborative styles developed over the years and showcase it at our best. Everlasting literally does that by blending songs I wrote from way back when we first started working together over 20 years ago with the spontaneous songs I wrote and produced just for this project. Everlasting embodies the “eternal” nature of music and life from a Jazz point of view with a profound inspirational theme throughout.
What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of recording a new album?
The entire process of a new recording project can really be challenging. Why? Because it’s new! It’s uncharted waters. Like with a brand new baby, you do a lot of worrying and praying along the way, but then you forget all the worrying and love it all the more once you see the face of its life come into full view. But there are some steps that seem more challenging than others—things like deciding on the album song order, choosing the release date, knowing when to stop tweaking, and just letting go and trusting your gut that you’ve put in all the work necessary to make it the very best it can be.
How would you describe what inspires you to do what you do?
I have to say that for both Phil and I from the very beginning doing music was a gift and a “calling.” We both got it honestly from birth. As soon as we were able to recognize the gifts we had, and the perpetual desire to play, write, and perform music, we’ve been doing it ever since. As a gift music is something we want to share with everyone as a mutual inspirational experience. But as a calling music is what we want to give back to God as an exclusive offering.
What elements do you look for in a song that makes it especially satisfying for you to perform?
I look for the melodic allure, the expressive journey of the arrangements for both myself and the audience, the chemistry created between me and the other musicians, and I look for that rare experience when the music takes me to a place I’ve never been before, but always inspires the need in me to return to re-live it again.
What are you most proud of at this point in your life and career?
I think being true to whom I am as an artist is a great thing to be. Who we are musically is one of the most fulfilling, yet humbling things about life and what we do. Sometimes it’s easy to get distracted by all the great music you hear on the radio by other artists—maybe even thinking that what you do won’t be able to compete. But I’ve learned that everyone brings their own unique experiences to the table. These experiences shape everyone’s original sound. Only our music can say what only our music was created to say. So all I have to do is be who I am with the songs, my style, and the performance I render, and allow the unique qualities and message of the music to shine through. It speaks purely as intended to the open hearts of audiences that hear it.
What’s your favorite non-music activity?
Being with family and friends— especially my wonderful wife. I’ve learned that relationships are the most important thing in life. And even great music is best enjoyed when you’re with the one you love!
If you were asked (and we are asking now!) for your advice as to what the Smooth jazz format could do moving forward to insure it relevance and growth, what would your suggestion(s) be?
I’d say develop new platforms and open up opportunities for new artists to be heard both on the radio and in live performances, especially on the major Jazz Festival circuit. Many times the music of unknowns and independent artists whom are just as talented or more than what’s being promoted are neglected. But if successful promoters, radio stations, and established artists were to team up more to do community outreach to provide the opportunity for emerging artists to be heard I believe there would be many more success stories to be celebrated, many more “big” stages to be shared, and even more great music for audiences to hear, appreciate, and support.
What do you see as the biggest challenges to the growth of Smooth Jazz in the future?
I believe the growth of Smooth Jazz and Contemporary Jazz in general is suffering because of educational deficits within the public school systems of America. In fact, this is true for music as a whole. And there’s a financial deficit in supporting Jazz Artists professionally. More soliciting of sponsors and benefactors who may show interest in supporting Smooth Jazz and Jazz events within our local communities is needed. And if combined with their financial support for the sheer “art” of these genres, this could prove to be the key to overcoming many of these challenges and preserving the future of Jazz for generations to come.