EFG London Jazz Festival

Saying hi and hoping you’re having a healthy, happy and positive week so far.

I’m looking forward to being in London this week for the EFG London Jazz Festival. Again, the line-up includes a number of great artists including Herbie Hancock, Marcus Miller, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Pat Metheny and Robert Glasper.

Celebrating its 10th year, the Festival’s signature opening-night gala showcases a stellar cast of voices performing incredible tunes in this celebration of singing and song. The list of past guests stretches from Boy George, Jacob Collier and Paloma Faith to Gregory Porter, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Kurt Elling.

Guy Barker’s 42-piece orchestra will provide the setting for a star-studded clutch of vocalists, including Seal, Liane Carroll, Mica Paris, Miles Mosley, Tony Momrelle, Vanessa Haynes, Angélique Kidjo and Mads Mathias in a spectacular celebration of the singer and the song, playing Guy’s arrangements that continue to thrill and surprise.

A great time to be in London, despite the cold weather! For further info please visit the official London Jazz Festival website.

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Featured Artist: In Conversation with Duane Eubanks

One thing I love about New York is the number of talented artists it hosts, particularly jazz musicians of pure quality and depth. One of these is Philadelphia’s Duane Eubanks, an extraordinarily talented jazz trumpeter, composer, arranger, producer and recent recipient of the Philadelphia Education Fund EDDY Award.

Duane Eubanks

Knowing he has also performed with mutual friends, I’ve been following his career and have the pleasure of owning his albums “Things of that Particular Nature (2015-Sunnyside) and “DE3-Live at Maxwell’s (2016-Sunnyside). I recently had the pleasure and honour to speak to him about his career to date and what’s next on the horizon.

One of the questions artists are asked is how they chose their medium but we already know it’s in your blood; Your mother is pianist Vera Eubanks and your brothers are celebrated trombonist Robin Eubanks and guitarist Kevin Eubanks. I guess my first question is why did you choose the trumpet over any other instrument? 

I have a twin brother, Shane…  He and I began playing music at the same time. Our brother, Kevin, played trumpet before he played guitar. Robin has always played Trombone. My twin is taller than me by 6 inches, our brothers had old instruments at home so, when it was time to choose instruments, Shane got the longer instrument (the trombone) and I got the shorter instrument – trumpet.  I think each instrument has a certain personality that relates to prospective musicians that play them. I feel a special connection to the trumpet. My height was a plus in this situation.

You decided to read business at the University of Maryland. Did you always see yourself becoming a musician and was that choice purely for academic merits? 

I studied Business in college because I was fairly good at maths and was impressed by my dad’s corporate dealings and the level of stability with which he lived his life.  I was very confused about being a musician when I entered college. I wasn’t even playing when I entered college. I had my years of teenage rebellion and I stopped playing for 6 years (14-20).  I missed the very formative years so I had to work really hard to get my playing on a certain level.  My brother, Shane, convinced me to join the school band and I became obsessed with the instrument and thus a change of heart in terms of my lifelong ambitions.

Describe your experience studying jazz at Temple University with Dr Billy Taylor and subsequently working with Mulgrew Miller’s Wingspan? 

My time at Temple was specifically an attempt to prepare myself for my move to New York.  I wanted to be on a certain musical level before I made the move. Temple University awarded me the time to learn and practice. It also awarded me the opportunities to meet and perform, through master classes, with Dr. Billy Taylor and Wynton Marsalis.

I had the absolute honour to perform with the great Mulgrew Miller. I was a member of his band, Wingspan, for ten years. Words cannot express the gratitude I have for Mulgrew taking me under his wing. I grew immensely from this experience and learned in abundance about the realities involved in being a musician, bandleader, and I got to witness, first hand, a genius at work and how he carried himself as a human being. It was a blessing that has shaped me as a musician and I will NEVER forget the experience or him.

You are a recipient of the Philadelphia Education Fund EDDY Award. Can you explain the initiative/award further and the importance music education plays in furthering the careers of young musicians? 

The Philadelphia Education Fund stands very firmly for all aspects dealing with high quality education. They are advocates for quality teachers, quality learning environments and the overall quality of students’ learning experience.

I received an EDDY award as an advocate for education. It was an honour to be chosen along with my brothers, Robin and Kevin, to receive this education award. Education is the key to our nation’s future. I have accepted the responsibility to share the information that I have gained through my years of experience to ensure the proper information is passed in order to sustain the high level of the music that I love. The generations before me did the same so I could learn. Prospective musicians have a right and a responsibility to learn and those with the experience have a responsibility to share/teach. I, personally, put the responsibility on both student and teacher.

That’s very admirable and congratulations on receiving the award. I’ve heard American jazz artist talk about the popularity of the genre declining but surely this isn’t the case? Moreover, jazz continues to be very popular globally. What’s your view? 

I think the popularity of jazz will always be an issue being discussed. Many have no idea that jazz WAS the popular music in the early part of the century. It has lost its place in popular music but is still very relevant to a number of people. If it wasn’t , there wouldn’t be so many musicians trying to learn the art form.  In Europe, where I think cultural values and advances are praised, supported, and upheld, communities have far more access to things of artistic expression (music, art, literature, etc.) I don’t see that kind of dedication to the uplifting of the minds of the American people. Jazz music gives the listener the opportunity to open their minds, think freely, and absorb a different approach to a general situation. The emphasis on the importance of the arts has been gravely overlooked. I think it’s hindering the advancement, exposure, and the quality of the arts and society as a whole.

To date, not only have you worked in jazz but across many genres, at many venues and with a number of notable artists. What has been the highlight of your career to date and why? 

I am extremely proud of the fact that I have worked in many different genres of music in many different settings. I think it is very important for musicians to keep an open mind when it comes to crossing genres when performing. It allows you to grow as an artist and opens yourself to prospective fans of your craft. I have to say that working with the legendary Elvin Jones would have to be at the top of the list. I constantly thank my man, Bassist, Gerald Cannon for making it possible for me to be a part of Elvin’s band. I still wear the shirts we had to wear.  I got to witness, first hand, the spiritual element of the music. I guess it was easy for him from playing so many years with John Coltrane, but it was an awesome experience to watch him play his heart and soul every night on every tune.  It made me aware of the fact that music is spirit and the lack of it in today’s artists.

Who is at the top of your list to work with next if you’re given the opportunity? 

Work with next? I have ALWAYS been on a mission to learn as much as possible from my predecessors. I have a list of guys in mind…. George Cables, Victor Lewis, Billy Hart, Harold Mabern, to name a few. I have worked with Dave Holland’s Big Band. I would love to experience that again and would embrace the opportunity to do a smaller group with him. I would also like to do a something different like 3 trumpets with incredible talents that walk with humility (no ego – I can’t do egos, especially trumpet egos) perhaps Josh Evans and Roy Hargrove… that would be fun.

I forgot to add, working with my brothers Robin and Kevin. I think that is something not only I would look forward to but many in the industry as well. Also Roy Haynes!! The thing about music is that there are plenty of ways to learn, people to learn from and plenty of music to make.

Following the successful release of ‘DE3: Live at Maxwells’ and ‘Things of that Particular Nature’ when should we expect another album? 

I am very proud of my latest releases. They were well received and a lot of fun to produce. They were much needed learning experiences.  You can expect something in 2018. I am performing a weekend at Smalls December 15 & 16. These dates may become commercially released performances.

Are you happy to share anything else currently in the pipeline?

Someone very wise and very close to me advised me not to share everything that I was up to.  While you are working out your plans, someone has already implemented them.  I am working on music for a number of recording ideas. One specific recording project I am really excited about. Everyone will know when things get put into motion. I now realize the importance of being creative when promoting myself. That being said, we did a mini documentary with the intention to draw some attention to my willingness to teach. This mini documentary has been accepted by a few independent film festivals. In general, keep your ears open for future recording projects. They are coming!

I look forward to witnessing more from Duane and wish him the very best with his career. For further information please visit his website. www.DuaneEubanks.com

Pictures At An African Art Exhibition -Philadelphia Museum of Art

Pictures At An African Exhibition
Pictures At An African Exhibition

I hope you’re all enjoying the start of 2017. I wish you and yours a happy, healthy and hugely prosperous year ahead.

One of the projects I will be contributing to this year is ‘Pictures At An African Art Exhibition’ the second album by Darryl Yokley’s Sound Reformation.

The new album is due for release later this year and puts an Afrocentric spin on Moussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition.’’ In addition to Moussorgsky’s work, Darryl’s inspiration comes from an interest in art from the African diaspora and visits to several institutes, including the American Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Darryl has been working tirelessly on this work. I’m really looking forward to its completion and I hope to share further news on its release shortly.

In the meantime, the band will be performing music from the upcoming album and some of my original work will be exhibited as part of the show at Philadelphia Museum of Art on Friday January 13th from 5:45. For further information please visit the following links.

http://www.darrylyokley.com/news

http://www.philamuseum.org/

 

St Lucia Jazz Festival Reaches its 25th Year!

St Lucia Jazz Festival
St Lucia Jazz Festival

I’m looking forward to attending the St Lucia Jazz festival. The event is now in its 25th year so I’m excited to be on the island, attending the concerts, being inspired by the arts programme and soaking up the Caribbean sun.

The first St. Lucia Jazz Festival in 1992 was an idea to attract tourists over May and June, apparently seen as relatively quiet period in the calendar. The event was inspired by the launching of the October Jazz Festival in 1991 spearheaded by Luther Francois as Musical Director.

Taking time to visit Sulphur Springs in Soufriere
Taking time to visit Sulphur Springs in Soufriere

The event now ranks second in the Caribbean after the Trinidad Carnival as an attraction, with artists such as Herbie Hancock, Branford Marsalis, Lauryn Hill, Courtney Pine and India Arie performing over its 25 years. The line up this year includes the legendary George Benson.

In 2013, Saint Lucia Jazz was rebranded as the Saint Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival. The rebranding included a fashion show branded as Saint Lucia HOT Couture, the Cultural Explosion, Saint Lucia Sound Stage, and Blu Session. Dance, art, theatre and culinary arts now form part of the festival experience.

For further info on the festival please visit http://stluciajazz.org

“Creativity is a Drug I Cannot Live Without”

Abstract Figurative.2
Abstract Figurative.2 by David Emmanuel Noel

I love the above quote by Cecil B. DeMille. I look forward to another creative summer full of fun and hopefully a bit of traveling. Part of the fun will no doubt include exhibiting again and working on a new body of work. I’ll be working on a few themes involving live music, musicians and African symbolism.

Music is very important to me; there’s something uniquely wonderful in seeing artists sing or express themselves through the use of a musical instrument. Like me, they get lost, enjoying the process of being creative. They lose connection with the outside world , are at peace with themselves and in their own mental space. I’m also looking forward to attending a few music festivals for further inspiration. There are some great acts to see.

Africa as a continent is awash with symbols. African symbols are “sources of insights into African orientations to life” according to the Ghanaian historian N.K. Dzobo. Whilst signs provide simple information, certain symbols are used to communicate more spiritual and pertinent messages concerning the way of life of  people, addressing every situation they are presented with. Given the vastness of the continent and its various existing cultures, it would be a big task to gather a fully comprehensive directory of symbols. Therefore, I will be working on my own interpretation of the West African Adinkra symbols.

Time to get creative! Wishing you all well!

I Wanna Be Your Star- by Artist Nancy Goudinaki

In 2012 I wrote a blog about the talented vocalist Nancy Goudinaki aka Nancy G. I’m glad to say one of my treasured recent gifts is a signed copy of her new album entitled ‘I Wanna Be Your Star.’ I’ve been listening to it quite a bit in my studio recently. I was quite excited to get the CD ! In addition to the great music, it has great sleeve artwork, a portrait of Nancy, by the very talented visual artist Gina Nelson.

Nancy Goudinaki (photographer Anthony Dean)
Nancy Goudinaki (photographer Anthony Dean)

The CD adds up to be a worthy addition to my ever-growing music collection and certainly lives up to expectations. Listening to the album only reminds me of Nancy’s talent, energy and natural synergy with jazz music; a unique development of moods, ambiances, and phrases. The album showcases her flexibility as an artist, her freedom of expression and the virtuosity of her band featuring Orrin Evans on Piano, Tenor Saxophonist JD Allen, Rudy Royston on drums and the late great Dwayne Burno on bass. The album also features the talents of vocalist Miles Griffith, percussionist Daniel Sadownick  and bass player/album producer Richie Goods.

Each track is very different. Some, such as ‘Milonga’, appear to have a more authentically European and folk influenced through their orchestration while others such as Billie Holiday’s ‘Fine and Mellow’ have a rich classic component. Nancy’s vocal tone and style seems reminiscent of notable artists such as Abbey Lincoln or Lena Horne.

‘I Wanna be Your Star’ is template for any female jazz singer/songwriter. I’ve found it an intimate and emotional album that is uncompromising, intense and comforting. For further info on Nancy G  visit www.jazzynancyg.com or to buy your own copy please  http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/nancygoudinaki

Recent Drawings and Sketches Video with James Colah

James Colah
James Colah

Hi peeps! I thought to share a some of my recent drawings and sketches in another short video, this time in collaboration with accomplished keyboard player, producer, arranger, composer and session man James Colah.

I approached James after hearing a number of his tracks. He has an impressive resumé in the music industry, starting his music studies at the age of four with classical training that progressed to a dynamic, creative flare for composition and performance.  He has composed, performed, recorded and produced music for over 300 artists of various genres.

His achievements and experience spans many diverse areas of the music business including co-writing and performing the title music for Terry Wogan’s ‘Friday Night Show’ on the BBC. He was signed to CBS ( Sony / BMG Records ) with his two identical triplet brothers at an early age, resulting in a European tour. His resume included touring with many high profile acts including supporting ‘Tears For Fears’ in America and Canada and the classic soul band, ‘The Foundations’ throughout Europe.

In a three decade career , he has worked as a musical director or session man with a range of high profile international artists which include: Edwin Starr, Ballet Rambert Dance Company, Sheena Easton and Haysi Fantaysi.

James has continued to maintain his standard of excellence by developing as a musician/composer/producer and has recently steered his talents into the genre of ‘ Smooth Jazz. ‘ His talent was recently recognised , winning the 2011 Coffee Talk Jazz Radio – International Songwriter Award.

He’s currently working on a smooth jazz album release under the name of ‘The James Colah Project’ and to date has released eight highly successful singles including ‘To be with you’ featured on my latest video. Enjoy the video and music and have a great day!

For further info on James please visit http://www.jamescolahproductions.com