Meet the Players: Paul Jones, Saxophone titan.

Paul Jones is an incredible saxophone player I met while at MSM. I urge you to visit paulthejones.com to listen and learn more about his musical pursuits.

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When did you start playing music, and Jazz? How did that come about?

I think my first initial interest in music was Michael Jackson.  Apparently, as my parents tell it as a toddler I was very into Michael’s album Off The Wall.  I started playing music when I was 8.  I wanted to play saxophone, but the music teachers told me I had to wait until I was ten and my hands got bigger.  So I started on piano.  I wasn’t in love with the piano and as soon as I could I switched to saxophone.   I didn’t discover Jazz though until I was about 14.  I moved to New Hampshire and they had a Jazz band instead of a concert band or marching band like in Maryland.  Immediately after my first day of Jazz Band I was hooked.  I started listening to Miles Davis and John Coltrane records with friends from school.

Who are some of your biggest influences as a performer and as a composer? As a musician in general?

As a performer I’m extremely inspired by John Coltrane, Joe Henderson, Bill Evans, Miles Davis, Jerry Bergonzi, George Garzone, Mark Turner, Chris Cheek, Brad Mehldau, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Lettuce, Soulive, and all my musician friends and mentors.  There’s so many musicians who influence me on a daily basis.  As far as non-musical influences, my grandfather for his inspiring work ethic and personality.  As for composing one of my favorite pieces is Ravel’s String Quartet in F major.  Kurt Rosenwinkel’s compositions are some of my favorites.  Lately I’ve been checking out the Rite of Spring.  Bach and Beethoven are the best.  If I had all the time in the world I’d work on playing Chopin on the piano.

I know you keep a pretty busy schedule, and that you also have health concerns.  How do you manage to balance these two things as a musician?

The answers to each of these questions could take a whole page each easily.  This one especially for me.  Just before moving to NYC in 2009 I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.  It’s a chronic illness and demands my attention all hours of the day everyday.  As time has passed I have become much better at managing it and learned how to not let it determine my life.  But my health comes first before music.  There have been many doctors visits and beyond numerous phone calls to insurance and supply companies.  I’ve been fortunate to be able to keep progessing in music though through this condition.  Many days I just work on music.  But there are many days where it’s just taking care of my health.  Another added toll of Type 1 Diabetes that is not as commonly known (I believe) is that it is one of the most expensive diagnosis’ a person can receive.  The management of Diabetes requires life long care, supplies, and supervision.  There’s not a lot of downtime for me currently.  I feel fortunate to be gigging a lot this year but since most gigs don’t pay a lot I keep a day job to cover my regular expenses and medical bills.

Do you have a favorite performance you’ve done in the last few years?

I have felt fortunate to be performing a lot this last year.  Some of my favorite performances have been with my own group, once at the Cornelia Street Cafe and then IBeam.  Performances with the Uptown PartyDown at Rockwood Music Hall have also been really inspirational.  A standout performance with AP was at the Tea Lounge in Brooklyn.  I’ve been learning how important auxiliary perc. can be on performances.  A performance with the SNAP Saxophone Quartet at Somethin’ Jazz Club was really musically challenging and nerve racking because I felt like it was the most musically obscure gig I played so far this year.  But I loved it and am looking forward to performing with all these groups soon.

Do you have any specific practicing routine that you work through?  How do you practice?

My practice routine changes often I feel.  I usually focus around what gigs I have upcoming.  When not working on the music for the gigs I generally work on instrument technique.  Keeping my sound, hands, and mind together.  I’m currently taking a group class with Jacob Sacks on mixed meters.  This class has been taking up a lot of practice time lately.  Once the class is over I’ll not exactly sure where my practicing will head, but I think it will involve transcribing, playing songs in 12 keys, and composing.

What are your musical goals?

I’m not trying to think to long term these days on my musical goals.  I want to record my first album this year and need to find funding for that.  I also also want to make a 4 part video of a suite I am currently working on.

What are you listening to these days?

Lately I’ve been listening to Ben Wendel’s record Frame.  Kneebody: The Line.  Aaron Parks: Alive in Japan.  Thundercat. Gregory Porter.  Rite of Spring.  random videos on youtube like Brad Mehldau in 94.  Gerald Clayton.  Marc Copeland: Night Whispers.  Miles Okazaki: Mirror.  Tony Scherr.

Do you have any book recommendations?

Next on the list is Lolita. I’m not an avid reader, but books and writing have helped me discover how I compose music.  I started using the titles to develop pitch material and have learned a great about building music through editing essays and papers.

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1932

A song from 1932 that I’ve been checking out lately. An apt tune for this month – I’ve been focusing on people in NYC struggling with homelessness. 

“Brother, Can You Spare a Dime,” lyrics by Yip Harburg, music by Jay Gorney (1931)

They used to tell me I was building a dream, and so I followed the mob,When there was earth to plow, or guns to bear, I was always there right on the job.They used to tell me I was building a dream, with peace and glory ahead,Why should I be standing in line, just waiting for bread?

Once I built a railroad, I made it run, made it race against time.Once I built a railroad; now it’s done. Brother, can you spare a dime?Once I built a tower, up to the sun, brick, and rivet, and lime;Once I built a tower, now it’s done. Brother, can you spare a dime?

Once in khaki suits, gee we looked swell,

Full of that Yankee Doodly Dum,

Half a million boots went slogging through Hell,

And I was the kid with the drum!

 

Say, don’t you remember, they called me Al; it was Al all the time.Why don’t you remember, I’m your pal? Buddy, can you spare a dime?

 

Once in khaki suits, gee we looked swell,
Full of that Yankee Doodly Dum,
Half a million boots went slogging through Hell,
And I was the kid with the drum!

 

Say, don’t you remember, they called me Al; it was Al all the time.Say, don’t you remember, I’m your pal? Buddy, can you spare a dime?

 

Meet the players: Justin Leigh, drummer extraordinaire.

Hi all – Excited for the show on August 5th @ the Brooklyn Tea Lounge. I’ve been working a lot this month on music that is inspired by conversations with homeless individuals in NYC.  Hope to see you there.  More on that to come –

I thought it would be great to feature various members of the Aerial Photograph group on this blog from time to time. Here is a great interview with Justin Leigh, who plays drums for this outfit.  Justin is one of my absolute favorite people to work with.  He has been such an inspiring musician to work with over the years. Enjoy –

Thanks Justin!

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Justin making the magic happen at an aerial photograph recording session.

When did you start playing music/drums? How did that come about?

I first started playing the drums when I was in the third grade.  My middle brother, who is a piano player and music teacher, was in the middle school band and they needed a drummer for the jazz band.  So, he volunteered and they let him borrow an old gold sparkle Ludwig drum set.  However, it had no cymbals, just the drums.  I was really getting into The Beatles at that time and my brother did not really practice on the set all that much, so I would sit down and play along to a Beatles compilation cassette I had.  I would just play on the rims for the cymbals.  The first tune I tackled was “Hey Jude” and then moved onto “Paperback Writer.”

How do you feel about your college experience as a music major?

This is kind of a loaded question, right?  I mean I loved my time at Temple.  In fact, I left The University of the Arts because I was hearing a lot of musicians around Philly who were from Temple and I thought I have to be a part of this.  The education I got was wonderful, I got to learn how to play in a big band and get mentored by the great Carl Mottola.  The faculty there is mostly made up of Philly guys and former students.  There is a lot of bonding that goes on between the faculty and students, and it very much fits into the uniqueness that is the Philadelphia music scene.  Everyone is all in it together and we all want to see each other do well and be happy.

The only reason I bring up the question as being loaded, is because you really don’t HAVE to go to music school to be a music major.  You could go to school for something practical and take private theory, ear training, composition, and lessons for your instrument on the side, while also hanging out and meeting people in the scene, thus still making those coveted connections.

I know you teach in addition to performing and composing.  What is your approach to teaching drum students?

I learned a long time ago from a friend, former Temple grad., and fellow Trevosian – when discussing the frustrations of students not practicing or taking lessons seriously – that learning music should just be fun for people.  Who cares if they don’t want to be as serious as I am or really practice like I do?  It is just nice that they are embracing music, and truthfully, these are the people we want to appreciate music and come see our shows.  Therefore, I try to just gauge the student’s interest level and go from there.  But above all, I want their time with me to be fun for them.

Who are some of your biggest influences as a drummer? As a musician in general?

Well, there is certainly the obvious – Brian Blade.  He kind of embodies what a great person is.  I have gotten to meet him a few times and ask him some questions, and his answers always showcase his endless commitment to serving the music.

Ari Hoenig was a huge influence on me when I was in my early twenties.  His creativity and ability to get sounds from the drums and shape phrases and forms are truly inspiring.

Tony Williams was huge, too.  I will never forget first hearing him and just being like, wow!  Someone can do that?  That’s who I want to be.

I would also have to say Jason Fraticelli.  He is a bass player in Philly and someone who has also worked with Aerial Photograph.  He has the ability to capture a crowd and draw them into the music no matter what is happening or where we are playing.  He is also just the nicest guy and really inspires me to remember to just enjoy the fact that I get to play music with such wonderful people.

Do you have a favorite performance you’ve done in the last few years?

I just recently did an impromptu performance at Matt Davis’s apartment with Matt playing acoustic guitar, this wonderful singer Samantha Rise and myself on just a snare drum.  We did three pieces of Samantha’s for a small group of friends and it was just magical.  There was such an energy flowing through the room and between the three of us.  It is truly special when you can create with people and know that they trust you and you trust them.  The music can then truly become such a wonderfully organic thing with each member reacting to the slightest change in tambour, rhythm, tone, or inflection, all for the sake of enhancing the listener’s experience.  Not everyone gets to know what that feels like.

Do you have any specific practicing routine that you work through?  How do you practice?

I used to have a more serious practice routine when I was younger where I would hit these five domains: Technique, Independence, Reading, Styles and Improvisation.  Now I kind of just practice an hour a day and just keep it simple and work on stuff for hand maintenance and reading.  I just do this all on a practice pad while watching some sort of sporting event on mute.  Occasionally I will sit at the drums and just practice basic rock grooves and fills, in the hopes that I will get that elusive singer-songwriter gig I have been hoping for.

What are you listening to these days?

I have been listening to a lot of great bands from all over.  Lately, The Fossil Collective, Kate Faust, Kimbra, Bombay Bicycle Club, Emma Louise, The Head and the Heart, Sufjan Stevens, and Father John Misty.

My neighbor plays a lot of Led Zeppelin, The Who and Waylon Jennings, so I am constantly hearing that stuff, which is great.

Do you have any book recommendations?

Yeah, I would recommend Stephen Mitchell’s translation of the Tao Te Ching, Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, Howard Kushner’s When Bad Things Happen to Good People, Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, and anything by Ray Bradbury.

Any additional thoughts?

As I get older, I am starting to realize both how short life is and how it can change in an instant.  This realization has led me on a path to truly be aware and live in the present.  I want to enjoy what I do, the people around me and the experiences I get to have.  We are all searching for happiness, but maybe that is all it really is – just love that you get to be a part of this incredible journey which SO many things had to happen for us to get here, and to just be present.

Religion in NYC

Writing music based on religious believers this month. I’m wondering if the religious populations in NYC are the same as in 2001.

from wikipedia:

As reported in 2001 the religious affiliations of the people of New York were:

6% of the people surveyed refused to answer.

Wow, this year is flying by!

March flew by. And now April is almost over.

Other than working really hard on a successful Kickstarter campaign – more on that soon- I’ve been super busy with music.

Here is something of a recap from the last month and a half or so.  I focused on immigrants in NYC in March.  I thought the music came out really well.  We are still putting final touches on the recordings, but they should be out soon.

Here is a quick overview of how the month went.  It’s also a look into how I go about working through this material every month.

I always start by doing musical exercises that get my fingers working and my mind thinking about creativity, composition, melodies, etc. I also like to do free association with words that pertain to the community I am speaking with.  It helps me get ideas together in a very loose way:

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I then spoke to as many people in the immigrant community as I could and recorded the conversations.  The clips I ended up using in this month’s music were from a teacher I spoke with from Ecuador.  I thought her story was indicative of the experiences of many immigrants. I met her through a friend of my wife and I, named Maya.  She is teacher at a public elementary school in the city and got me in touch with this particular woman, who also teaches with her. I met her at the school during her lunch hour and we talked about her experience.

So, then I go home and listen to the recordings.  I write, practice, and think about music.  I start sketching out lots of ideas, some of them good, some of them not so much.  In the last few days leading up to the recording I write out everything and orchestrate it for the band.

Then we record everything. This month it was on March 21st. Here are the musicians who made it possible.

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The performance was at the Douglass Street Music Collective in Brooklyn:

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(sorry this picture says nothing. I need to get better at documenting!)

April has been focused on children in the city. Our recording session is this upcoming week, and the performance is on May 6th.  I’ll post more about that soon. If you are in NYC, please come on out to the Douglass Street Music Collective on May 1st. It’s going to be an awesome show.

Thanks for reading!

Take care,

Matt

City of New York, 2013 & Kickstarter

Hey all,

This is a note about the Kickstarter campaign I’m doing to raise some much needed funds for the “City of New York, 2013” project.  The goal is to raise $12,000 by April 19th. We have about $3000 pledged with a little over two weeks to go.  If the goal isn’t reached, no money changes hands, and the project doesn’t receive any money.  It’s a manic existence for my wife and I! We receive a pledge and think “Yes, we can do this!” or a day goes by and the project receives nothing and we glumly think “Well, we tried.” But when I look at the Kickstarter website and see things like this getting pledges (ahem), I can’t help but feel certain that we will make it!

$12,000 is the lowest possible amount to fund this project every month. Between 10+ professional musicians, 2 talented recording engineers, other recording costs, materials for monthly CD booklets, and a bunch of other smaller expenses – and all of this happening every month for the rest of the year, I think $12,000 is pretty reasonable. A deal, actually.

So the remaining $9,000 seems really daunting right at this point. Would you consider helping? For just $15 you can preorder all of the music from the entire year. There are a bunch of other rewards for pledging that a lot of people have been interested in. And for those of you who have already put some dollars toward the project, thank you. I (and my wife!) really appreciate your generosity.

Here is the link:

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/cityofnewyork2013/city-of-new-york-2013

Thanks for reading.

fingers crossed,

Matt