Your newest album, “Play Song” is moving strongly up the charts nationwide. How is this CD different your previous two disks?
Yes, happily “Play Song” is getting a lot of airplay internationally, and I thank smoothjazz.com for helping to make this happen.
As with my previous projects, this band is a quartet. But the difference is that I used a piano instead of guitar (along with drums and bass) on the current disk.
I love both combinations equally, but as my original quartet had a piano, I decided to go with this format on this recording.
How did this new album and overall concept for it come about, and what are your ultimate goals with it?
The overall concept for this new album had its beginnings about twenty years ago in Orange County, CA.
At that time, I formed a quartet made up of professional musicians I was working with in other bands locally: Gerard Hagen, piano; Ernie Nunez, bass; Peter Pfiefer, drums and of course, myself on trumpet and flugelhorn.
Very quickly we became one of the most popular small jazz groups in Southern CA, playing concerts, festivals and jazz clubs in the area throughout the ‘80’s. But, although I have several videos of the group in live performance, the group never made a professional recording.
So, in spite of each of us pursuing separate musical careers for a decade, I decided to get the group back together and make a CD. This we did, and with the same members who were in the original combo.
My ultimate goal was to capture the excitement, spontaneity and pleasure that we experienced in our live performances and to share to this with others. To help in accomplishing this goal, we recorded the whole album live in the studio, situated so that we could all hear and see each other at all times.
As it turned out, this was the perfect setup: it was fun to record and we were able to easily capture the feeling and spontaneous interaction of a “live” performance. In my opinion, this played a significant part in the ultimate success of the project.
And, based on the enthusiasm from the public and music reviewers plus its popularity on nationwide jazz charts, it seems that others share my feelings.
What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of recording a new album?
For me, the challenge of recording is not to over-think the process; instead, I always trust my instincts. In my opinion, “having too much to think” can stifle the spontaneity of creative process, something I consider essential to any jazz performance.
During the actual recording I always remain open to ideas and suggestions from other group members, as they are all seasoned veteran professionals in their own right. Playing jazz, whether live or in the studio is a fluid process, which often results in some happy surprises. I love it when this happens, as it does on this recording.
What song or performance is the first you recall hearing and being affected by?
Three artists (trumpeters) have affected me the most: Louis Armstrong, Chet Baker, and Miles Davis.
They are all different styles to be sure, but they share one thing in common: they all play like themselves; each with his own identifiable sound and style.
The earliest was Louis Armstrong. I was lucky enough to hear him play and meet Louie on two occasions. The things that stood out for me were his tone, sound, phrasing, dynamics, sense of time, note placement and always the ability to swing, they made him the ideal performer and entertainer. Also, he always seemed to thoroughly enjoy playing for the audience. He made you feel that the performance was just for you! And, when I met him backstage, he was just as interested in me as I was in him - a very admirable quality in my opinion.
Second was a jazz recording that really turned my head around. It was by Chet Baker. I had never heard anything like it before and it definitely touched me emotionally. The tone of the Chet’s trumpet and his sense of harmony and phrasing were and are pure aesthetics to me. I practically wore the grooves of that LP down to nothing from listening to it over and over.
Finally, Miles Davis and the Kind of Blue album opened more musical doors for me. This record and future recordings inspired me to further develop my improvisational skills to be able to get out of the horn what I was feeling inside. Since then, I’ve listened to and studied not just trumpet players, but all types of music. I’ve found that any great music will reach me, sometimes in surprisingly profound ways.
The combination of these three primary influences does show up in my music to be sure, while at the same time (happily), still maintaining my own musical identity.
How would you describe what inspires you to do what you do with your music?
There is nothing esoteric or mysterious about it. I just try to be aware of and interested in everything going on around me all the time. From the mundane to the sublime, I’ve discovered that anything can be an inspiration if I look at it the right way. But still, that’s the easy part.
The hard part comes when you begin to put the inspiration into a form or shape that can be shared by others. This is where the elements of practice, patience, persistence, expertise and competence come into play.
Also, for longevity in the music business, you must realize the importance of these two words: music and business.
Success requires both.
For instance, without the dedication and expertise of the staff at smoothjazz.com getting music enjoyed by people worldwide, many musical artists would remain unknown and unheard.
And for this and other reasons, I feel that Sandy Shore and everyone at smoothjazz.com have an influence on the lives of all of us. Why? The reason is simple.
In my opinion, artists are the most valuable people on this earth. They inject the culture with all the art, beauty or aesthetics you find on this planet. Without the working artist, the world would not be as livable. I’m proud to be counted as one of them.