10 Fingers: Christian Atunde Adjuah

by Ella Campbell

1. What was the first album you couldn’t stop listening to?
The Soundtrack to Purple Rain. I ended up playing “Purple Rain” with him too, so it ended up coming full circle. I was in his band for two years, but it was kind of a nightmare to –
EC: It was kind of a nightmare?
CAA: Well I mean just logistically. It’s a lot going on. A ton.

2. What music did you listen to in your childhood that stuck with you?
I listened to all types of stuff.
EC: Is there anything specific that you still thoroughly enjoy listening to?
CAA: When I was a little boy I would listen to Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie’s “Salt Peanuts.” That was how my grandfather got us to keep still. So that, I guess. I’m always really captivated by Sir Edward Elgar’s cello concerto in E minor, since I was a little boy. I also used to really love, when I was a little tiny baby, I used to love Rick James, so my mom said.

3. What music do you listen to that makes you want to get up and dance?
Makes me want to dance?
Drop It Like It’s Hot.
That will always be it.

4. What music do you listen to when you’re in a quiet mood? Maybe sleepytime music?
I can’t fall asleep to music. I’m always analyzing it. So when I need quiet, I don’t listen to music.

At this point we got off topic, talking about the food that we were eating, and he told me I wasn’t allowed to post the conversation about the food on the blog. After talking about the food:

5. What music do you listen to when you’re hanging out with people?
Bounce music. Bounce music is project music from New Orleans. The most popular person now is Big Freedia, but there’s DJ Jubilee or Katey Red too. If you’re not from New Orleans though you might not really know this stuff.

6. What song did you have stuck in your head today?
Grand Central. I was humming it this morning when I woke up. You know, Cannonball and Trane.

7. What is the most profound moment you had in a lesson?
A lot of times in conservatories and with younger musicians, they’re constantly being taught within a frame of an incredibly dogmatic and idealized idea of what jazz is supposed to be, and what that usually in turn does is strip away all of the things that actually make a musician unique. Which, by the time they become adults, as players they’re not captivating because you can’t tell what they’re perspective is since it’s been washed away. So I always make sure that no matter what it is, that I’m telling my students that they always continue to cultivate and define the things that make them unique as players.
EC: What about an ah-ha moment for you while you’re teaching?
CAA: When they tell me to slow down while I’m teaching. It’s a very important lesson. As a teacher you have to learn how your student learns. Everyone is different. Some people are auditory, some people are tactile, some people are digital, so you have to figure which combination of all those things works for your student, which is an incredibly difficult thing to do. Especially when you’re teaching something as abstract as jazz music. I have a tendency to move too fast because I know what I’m teaching already, and it’s normal, but I always feel bad because I don’t want them to miss anything.

Then we got off topic and started talking about the Slow Movement. Back to jazzy-things:

EC: Okay last question!
CAA: Wait what? Really?
EC: Yeah the idea is for these to be short interviews. Quick. Fun. Painless.
CAA: F*** the readers! They can read 20 pages! I just made a double record right? 23 songs. No one has a problem with it. It’s the number one jazz record in America and Europe right now.
EC: That’s probably the people that already know about you though and want to hear it all. Or, what if someone bought it and didn’t listen to the whole thing?
CAA: No! What I’m saying is that’s a lot of music right? What if I was like ‘Let me give ‘em just five songs,’ when now, a lot of the feedback I’m getting is that they like the entire thing. And I feel like the vast majority of the times I’ve done interviews over the past couple years are with people who, without intent, just want to find information for short attention spans.
EC: Well, I just said that is the point of this interview. It is for people with short attention spans.
CAA: I know, that’s your intention so that’s good. That’s different. But a lot of times people complain about attention spans being short, and being an older guy, -”

He got food on his face right then and we, of course lost track of the subject again while we bickered over who was going to go get napkins: talk about short attention spans! So here’s the bickering over who’s getting napkins:

CAA: Can you go get me a napkin or something I’m like… over here….
EC: Can I go get you a napkin?
CAA: Ah, you’re too good to get me a napkin.
EC: Yes.
CAA: You’re being mean.
EC: You’re being a diva.
CAA: Awww geez. Really?
EC: Just… go like this! *demonstrates using shirt sleeve as napkin*
CAA: Please.
We both start laughing.
Random Lady approaches table: Is this a first date?
Random Lady: Why didn’t they serve you with any napkins?
EC: We were standing at the bar when they brought the food.
CAA: I’m asking nicely!
EC: *Gets napkins*
CAA: See?
Random Lady: What are you interviewing for?
EC: I have a blog.
CAA: Can we print this? Can this be in the blog? For real. Print all of that. Okay. Anyway, five more.. wait five what? What’s the next question?

The, now three-person table, laughs.

EC: Just name any five musicians you’d want to see perform. Alive or dead. Anybody.
CAA: I’d like to see some figured bass things. Like Monteverdi or something like that.
Random Lady: She meant naked. Who would you want to see perform naked.
CAA: Well if that’s the case then Monteverdi is out.
Random Lady: I’m just trying to pep up this interview.
EC: *facepalm*
CAA: Come on. No this is good. You don’t think watching Brahms naked is funny? That’s great. I’m just saying. Shit. Yeah. Anyway. So Monteverdi I’d like to see, I’d also like to see WC Handy, I’d like to see Bob Dylan and Woodie Guthrie when Bob Dylan was still developing. Um, I’d like to see Clifford Brown and Booker Little play at the same time.

So, maybe I should add that question. Which performers to see naked…. Thanks for the idea, Random Lady.

Until next time,
Always make sure there are napkins at the table before you get comfortable.
– Ella

PS: “Random Lady approaches table: Is this a first date?” #jazzgirlproblems

10 Fingers: Casey Benjamin

by Ella Campbell

Allow me to explain what a “10 Fingers” post will be: we ask musicians ten fun and quick questions. Hopefully the answers only require one or two sentences because we know these guys have got a lot of people to talk to! With their short answers, we at Back Beat add links so that you can discover and learn from them everything they mean when they just give us the name of an album or artist.

On Friday night, Detroit was graced by the presence of the Robert Glasper Experiment. If you’ve never seen a concert in Detroit, go there. That city shows LOVE. Well, “moves love,” I suppose. The line-up included Mark Colenburg, drums; George Clint– I mean, Casey Benjamin, saxophones, vocoder and ambient laser sounds; Derrick Hodge, bass; and of course Robert Glasper, keys.

After the show I was lucky to get the chance to have a quick and light-hearted conversation Casey.

1. What is your favorite dance music? He chuckled. “Soca and ‘70s disco.” …Well that explains a lot.

2. What is your favorite thoughtful music?Todd Rundgren. He’s a folk-rock writer and producer from the ‘70s and ‘80s.”

3. What do you call the music that you play? “Good music.”

4. What music from your childhood has stuck with you? Pat Metheny: Offramp and Quincy Jones: The Dude

5. What is the first album you bought that you couldn’t stop listening to? Al B Sure: In Effect Mode

6. Name some musicians you’d like to see perform, alive or dead: “Miles. Herbie. Well, I’ve seen Herbie. Does that count? … Herbie. Roger Troutman, The Beatles, Gordon Lightfoot, Donny Hathaway. Marvin!” [note: Make sure you peep that Roger Troutman link, readers! He’s the father of the mastery of the talk-box. Check these two vids as well: Roger Troutman Interview and I Want To Be Your Man. As soon as I listened, I was like “I understaaaand.” Listen. Do it.]

7. What’s your favorite basement album? “Well, am I chillin’ in the basement with a bunch of dudes or with a girl?”
I mean a bunch of dudes, because usually I’m chillin’ in the basement with a bunch of dudes (#jazzgirlproblems), but give me an album that you’d listen to with dudes, and one that you’d listen to with girls.
“Okay. With dudes, and I don’t want to sound cliche because I’m in Detroit right now, but ‘Welcome 2 Detroit’
…He had a lot more to say about chillin’ with a girl:
“Marvin Gaye: I Want You … But I just love, love-songs. I love writing them. I love ballads.”
Well then, feel free to write the Jazz Girls at Back Beat a love-song-ballad, Casey.
“Joni Mitchell: The Hissing of Summer Lawns, Radiohead: In Rainbows, Herbie: Mr. Hands. I mean, I really just listen to songs though. I make my own albums out of them.”
So, mix-tapes.
“Yeah, mix-tapes.”
Mix-tapes and love-songs? We’re charmed.

8. What was the most profound moment you had in a private lesson or masterclass? “When I found out I have perfect pitch. I was with Weldon Irvine, who was part of Freddie Hubbard’s generation.”

9. Who is a new musician we should be looking out for?Thundercat. And me!”

10. We’re going to have a Top Ten Jazz Booties list. Are you okay with being on that list? “Wait. Male? A list of the best, male, jazz musician, booties? That’s killin’! YES! … Wait. Who else is on the list?”

The spirit of Dilla watches over Casey. Nice shirt Rob!

Even though we’re partial to #JazzGirlProblems, we couldn’t help but notice a few funny and endearing #CaseyBenjaminProblems
1. Don’ git your locks caught in your neckstrap now! #CaseyBenjaminProblems
2. Bassist is soloing. Attempt to subtly walk to the side of the stage. You just can’t hide with a glowing keytar. #CaseyBenjaminProblems
3. Decide to rap about why I’m cool.  Digable Planets becomes famous for rapping, and I don’t. #CaseyBenjaminProblems

[Readers that don’t know Digable Planets? Peep this vid for reference: Cool Like That]

Keep an eye out for these articles coming soon:
10 Fingers: Derrick Hodge
Transcriptions: Clifford Brown

Until then –
Swing sisters, swing!

#JazzGirlProblems Vol. 1

         Hello and welcome to the first official article in Back Beat Magazine! Our first poll lead us to believe that you, the readers, wanted to see some of our #JazzGirlProblems. This kind of article will be featured as one of our originals in Back Beat Magazine, so we are excited to share it with you. However, we need YOUR help from now on! Please send us your 1-2 sentence #JazzGirlProblems to magazine.backbeat@gmail.com. Send as many as you’d like, as often as you think of them! If you have a Twitter, hashtag your thoughts and we’ll pick them up from there as well.  For now, please enjoy the ones our editors and fellow Jazz Girls have come up with!

1. Just walking alone. At night. To a gig. At a club in an alley. With an $8,000 dollar instrument strapped to my back. #jazzgirlproblems

2. He went for a hug. I went for a jazz secret-handshake. #jazzgirlproblems

3. Wait, so, you’re a jazz dancer? #jazzgirlproblems

4. My name is not Baby. #jazzgirlproblems

5. Oh, you’re a jazz major? So you sing? No. #jazzgirlproblems

6. Last-minute gig. Decides to wear pants. Sees drummer. Should have worn skirt. #jazzgirlproblems

7. School band goes on tour. Get own hotel room. #jazzgirlproblems Oh wait. That’s not a problem.

8. I think you need some female mentors on your instrument.  Have you ever checked out… Uh… Well… #jazzgirlproblems

9. Boobs are heavy. Saxophone is heavy. Both need bras. Bras create back problems. #jazzgirlproblems

10. Length of set does not correlate with heaviness of flow. Decide that Depends are the best option. #jazzgirproblems

Ladies, remember, any time you encounter any #JazzGirlProblems, hashtag them on Twitter, or email them to us at magazine.backbeat@gmail.com

Our next article, to be posted on Wednesday (3/7/12), will feature a review of a masterclass with the great jazz vocalist Marion Cowings. He visited Michigan State University last month and our editor Shirley Booker was lucky enough to be there and take notes. There will be some great advice about communication between instrumentalists and vocalists — and how they can be one and the same — as well as an overview of his performance with the jazz faculty at MSU.

Haven’t heard of Marion Cowings? Check out his killin’ version of “Ceora” called “For Ceora.” He has wonderful control of his voice – and charming original lyrics!

Marion Cowings “For Ceora” live at the Blue Note:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c5UZKl6gyEw&feature=related

Swing sisters, swing!
From your editors,
Sweetie McJivin & Shirley Booker