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

Art Un-Covered

by Ella Campbell

Please forgive this blog entry for being a bit more casual than usual.

Buzz buzz buzz: NEXT Collective‘s album Cover Art.

I’ve got your back, readers. I have made us all a playlist with all of the original tunes on it.

Jazz to me, has a history of taking popular songs, and playing instrumental versions of it. But Ella, then all cover bands would be considered jazz! Oh shush.

Also, jazz has a history of its artists searching for songs in their most original rendition. I also think it’s finally found its cycle (it is only like a hundred years old, after all). It goes from being something people are timid about, to being something mainstream and popular that people can dance to. And then it wades away from that, becoming something distant from popular culture again. I think jazz is just on it’s way back around to performing popular tunes of the time and being approachable to a mainstream audience. All the while, people play all kinds of jazz from any given era on any given day. Maybe jazz just has a history of being a music that presents what the day calls for.

In the end of it all, whether this album is jazz, I don’t really know and I don’t really care. I do think “jazz musicians” (for whatever that title is or isn’t worth… nowadays with “jazz musicians” winning R&B Grammys and whatnot) will claim it for themselves. Anyhoot. Just listen to it and enjoy it, MFs. < That means, my friends, right?

But listen to this first.

1. Twice

2. No Church In the Wild

3. Africa

4. Fly or Die

5. Oceans

6. Refractions in the Plastic Pulse

7. Marvins Room

8. Come Smoke My Herb

9. Perth

10. Thank You

Bonus Tracks

11. Beep Me 911

12. Weightless

13. Little Brother

14. Wonderfox

Just don’t tell your parents you were listening to Drake and Kanye.

Until next time,

Swing, or not, sisters!

– Ella

Messages From Masters: Tim Warfield

by Ella Campbell

After a Terell Stafford Quintet concert, the musicians all re-entered the stage and opened up the house for questions. A member of the audience asked a question about how to keep her sons involved in music. She has a son who is taking piano lessons and she can’t convince him to keep practicing, so she asked what made the members of the Quintet stay interested in music. Here is Tim’s answer.

“I just love music. I guess the radio is what kept me inspired. And, if you know me, my parents. My lifestyle was different. My childhood was different. I lived in the hood, but I was not allowed to speak the hood unless I was out on the street. Then it was okay because I had to understand what that was. If I was in our house, I had to speak properly.

“I was fortunate enough to have parents that exposed me to a lot of different things very early. Me and my brother were treated really well, and I consider myself to be very blessed. For whatever reason, I was just that kind of kid who would go out and hang out a little bit, but then I just liked sitting by the radio. I used to just listen to music, and I happened to grow up in a period where it was a very fertile time artistically. No matter what genre of music you were talking about, like now, you see someone saying ‘I’m gonna do a Joni Mitchell project,’ yeah, well, whoopdie-doo. There were so many while I was growing up, you could choose anybody. We were just talking today about, whether you think he’s corny or not, Barry Manilow. He wrote a bunch of killin’ tunes, and so did John Denver, so did Karen Carpenter, so did The Eagles, Christopher Cross, Earth Wind and Fire, The Platters, doesn’t matter. I could just go on and on. That’s the era I grew up in.

“So, I was just like a sponge as a young person listening to all this music, and I liked music. And the other thing is, it’s a different sort of experience I think, for me, than maybe the current generations. I think we were talking about this yesterday as well: when I was growing up there were no visual images to go along –”

The woman asking the questions interrupted: “Where were you born and raised?”

“Born in York, Pennsylvania. Raised in York, Pennsylvania. That’s where my mother’s from. My father’s from west Philly. So my mom would be like,” Tim raised the pitch of his voice to sound feminine,  “‘No no! they can’t fight!’ and my dad would be like, ‘Let them fight.’ But he spoke like this,” Tim lowered his voice and spoke with perfect diction, “‘Let them fight. Dear. They must learn how to fight.’ and then I would come home with a black eye,” switches to his father’s voice again, “‘You’ll be all right, son.’” The audience laughed.

“I lived 20 minutes from Amish country. Everybody’s hip to that right? So how I lived, and what I understood, was a bit more diverse than the kids in my neighborhood. Even listening to music was different for me, not having visual images. No one dancing, no one singing, you don’t see groups of people dancing or anything.

“It’s like, you hear about Michael Jackson, and you think about your favorite song. Then you hear he has a new record out. How did you hear he has a new record out? You read it in the magazine or heard it from your friends. And you couldn’t wait until you got to this song: and when you got this song, it was just you and the song. Which is much different than you, the song, and the video. Understand that. It’s a different spiritual, intellectual experience when you don’t let someone feed you a visual image with music. It’s much more intimate. I think the idea of being intimate with music also inspired me. You know, and, when my parents said ‘you have to practice.’”

Until next time,
Practice & listen, sisters!
– Ella

10 Fingers: Tomeka Reid

By Hannah Dexter

Tomeka Reid

1) What music do you listen to when you’re feeling thoughtful?
Violinist Michael White’s Pneuma record from 1972. I love the whole vibe of the record and the positivity it speaks.

2) What is your favorite music to dance to?
That’s a tough one as I actually really love dancing. I still do pretty much the same thing I did when I would come home after school in junior high/high school. When I get home I usually dance around the house for about 30 minutes!! LOL! I love late 90′s hip hop, Earth Wind and Fire and high life music! And of course House music!!

3) What’s a profound moment you had teaching/receiving a lesson or in a class?
Really understanding that you have to try. And learning to embrace outcomes whatever they maybe. But that you always have to try. Some things might work. Some things might not. In either case you will learn something valuable as it’s often more about the journey to the goal than the goal itself.

4) Who is a young musician that we should be looking out for?
Tyshawn Sorrey! (This is the second time someone has said Tyshawn in our interviews!)
Ingrid Laubrock!

5) What music from your childhood has stuck with you?
Wow. LOL! I would have to say the Smiths and Elvis Costello.

6) What was the first album you bought with your own money?
Ravel‘s Bolero. I was obsessed with this piece for a while in Junior high!

7) What song did you have stuck in your head today?
Changes by Jimi Hendrix. Totally blasted it in the car on the way to doing my errands this morning.

8) What’s your favorite basement chilling album?
Can I list 3?!?! Jeff Parker’s Like Coping, Digable Planets’ Blowout Comb, and Anything by Jimi Hendrix.

9) If you could see any 5 musicians perform, alive or dead, who would they be?
I’m going to only include people I have never seen: Abdul Wadud, Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield, Mstivslav Rostropovich, and Sun Ra.

I just realized these are all men. But they were honestly the first that popped into my head. I have been fortunate seen many of the female artists that I would have wanted to see though! And I have had the opportunity to play with many great ones too…Nicole Mitchell, Dee Alexander, Mazz Swift, Silvia Bolognesi, Katie Young, Ann Ward, Ingrid Laubrock and many others!!

10) Who is your favorite musician to play with?
That’s another tough question. I feel so blessed to play with all of the many amazing musicians that the universe has put in my midst that’s it’s kind of hard to say. I know that I would really love to play in a group playing the music of Henry Threadgill some day. I love his writing!

Until next time,
Write sisters, write!
– Hannah

10 Fingers: Antonio Hart

by Ella Campbell

After we talked to Marcus Strickland at the Dave Holland Big Band concert in Ann Arbor, we talked to Antonio Hart.

1. What was the first record you bought that you couldn’t stop listening to?
I don’t remember the name of it, it was a Johnny Griffin record. And then I bought The Best of John Coltrane, that had Naima, Giant Steps and all that on there. The Sugarhill Gang, because I grew up in the rap generation you know. Winelight, Grover Washington Jr. That’s the stuff I started listening to.

2. What music was in your household while you were small that you grew up listening to?
All the Motown music. Marvin Gaye, The Spinners, The Temptations, The Four Tops. Not jazz. Not at all. Gospel music.

3. What’s your favorite music to dance to?
Whatever makes me move my body.

4. What’s your favorite music to listen to if you’re hanging out with people?
I like to listen to Bob Marley and Afrobeat. It really depends on the mood, I could listen to some traditional jazz or a nice vocalist. When I’m chillin in the club having a glass of wine or just relaxing, something else.

5. What music do you listen to calm down?
I do a lot of Tai Chi so I listen to a lot of Chinese music, which is geared toward the martial arts that I do. It depends, I might put on some Debussy, I might put on some Prince. Hm. Who else do I like to listen to? It depends on the time of the day. Sometimes I don’t want to hear jazz at all. So I’ll listen to Mary J Blige

Ella: “Have you seen the double bill she’s doing with D’Angelo?”
AH: “I know some guys that are in the band, I’ve heard it’s happening, Did you go? How was it?”
Ella: “I loved it.”
AH: “I mean, I like all of it. We play jazz but, really, we’re musicians. I’ve played with Common, I’ve played with a lot of different people. All of us have played,” he pointed to Mark Gross, “he played with Mary J, with D’Angelo and those cats. We all played a lot of everything, you know? You have to.”
Ella: “That’s what I want to do. I want to play a lot of everything.”
AH: “You just gotta prepare yourself. Practice. It’s about making communications and all about relationships. You could be the best saxophone player in the world but if you don’t make relationships with people you’ll be sitting and not working. You know, you have to be careful too.” He looked at Christen and I, “You both are beautiful women, so you have to be really careful about the way you present yourself. Present yourself in a professional way so that guys know you’re not some chick that’s gonna let them get in your pants. You have to be very very serious, because once you get that reputation, with this guy or that guy, it’s over for you. Over. I mean, you pick and choose your battles. But to be respected as a professional musician, you have to present yourself in that way. Be able to read the music. Show up on time. Everything that’s expected of anybody else to do. And if someone talks to you in a way that’s not appropriate, you shut it down right away. Right away. And if they don’t call you again, that’s good. You know what I mean? That’s the best advice I can give you. I’ve been in New York for 20 years. I want you to be successful, and I want you to be happy. Because guys are gonna try, I mean, they’re probably doing it already.”
Christen: “yup.”
Ella: “yup.”
AH: “I mean, that’s kind of what we do. Just be careful. Keep practicing. Make relationships. Be a good person. Put energy out there. Pray, and ask for that. It’ll come to you. You’ll get a chance. But you’ve gotta have your eyes open. If you keep looking at what somebody else is doing, you might miss your opportunity. So keep your eyes open for opportunity, keep yourself on your horn, and study as much music as possible. Different kinds of music. That’s it.”

Until next time,
Swing, brothers and sisters, swing!
Jazz Girls

10 Fingers: Marcus Strickland

by Ella Campbell

Yesterday, after a fun and exciting Dave Holland Big Band concert, a friend and I cruised backstage to find some musicians to pester. Marcus Strickland was kind enough to let us ask him what he’s listening to.

The concert was so much fun to listen to, the band was very fun to watch and the level of communication between them was outstanding. The colors Dave Holland uses in his arrangements are beautiful: flute + soprano + harmon muted trumpets + trombone. trombone + tenor solos, then trombone + tenor combined improvisation. then trombone + alto + flugel combined improvisation and melody. Vibes and marimba instead of piano or guitar. 4 + 3 +3 +3 + 3, then 6 + 6 + 4, then 6 + 4 + 6. slow 7 where the rhythm section doesn’t give you beat one.  I never got my multiplication table down but my addition sure came in handy when I was trying to settle into their phrasing!

1. What was the first album you bought that you couldn’t stop listening to?
“Woo!” He threw his head back. “I think that I was 11 years old, and my dad had just bought me Crazy People Music, Branford. That was ‘91 I believe? And soon after that, it was My Favorite Things, Coltrane. Yeah. Both of those were on rotation the most.”

2. What was the music that was in your household, and that you listened to while growing up?
“Oh. We were very lucky that our dad was a very eclectic music lover. He had Parliament, he had Jimi Hendrix, he had Coltrane, Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder…. Everything that you can think of that’s from the ‘70s and late ‘70s, he had that playing on his stereo all the time.”

3. What is your favorite music to dance to?
He laughed. “Well, I guess I’m not really much of a dancer these days. I’m much more of a head-nodder?”
Well… back in the day?
He laughed again, “Okay well maybe back in the day. I used to listen to a lot of hip hop like a lot of MC Hammer and stuff like that, but now hip hop has turned into kind of lounge, like, head-nod music. Less dancing going on to it. But when hip hop was dance music, MC Hammer I guess.” And he kept laughing.

4. What’s your favorite music when you’re just chillin?
“Oh.” He got real serious. “I always put on some J Dilla. I have a Donuts shirt. That’s my boy. J Dilla. I listen to a lot of Thundercat, Flying Lotus, Kurt Rosenwinkel. It’s all connected.”

5. What music do you listen to when you need to calm down?
“There’s this one tune, Me’Shell Ndegeocello, ‘Shirk.’ Yeah. That tune always puts me in a nice place.”

6. What tune did you have stuck in your head today?
Water Babies. Wayne Shorter. That always haunts me. Forever. I played it not too long ago with Orrin Evans‘ band.”
[Those links are for Wayne’s recording on his Blue Note recording Super Nova, here are links for his recording with Miles 8 years later on Water Babies.]

7. Who is a young musician we should be looking out for?
“There are so many. They come every day. I think an alto player, he’s one of my favorites, this guy named Godwin Louis. He’s from New York and he’s just incredible. I can’t wait ‘till you hear him. You will hear him.”

8. Have you ever had a moment in a lesson that anyone said anything to you that has really stuck with you, and that you remember often?
“That’s very hard to answer actually. I have the most important thing from an audience member, but not really from a lesson. So after a performance, the most important thing that somebody said to me put things in perspective for me. As a jazz musician, you always have this stigma like, ‘Oh that’s some old music,’ and stuff like that, but I played this performance and this person that never really went to a live jazz show came up to me and they said ‘You know I figured I’d come listen to some nice serene music and then go out to the club afterward, but actually, the music you were playing… I’m good with that. I’m cool. I didn’t even have to go to the club afterwards.’ And that made me realize what my style was, and what the strength of it was. So that was an important thing for me to feel, it stuck with me for a long time. I never forgot it. But in lessons?” He paused, “it’s usually the same stuff, you know, what kind of reed do you use…” We started laughing.

Now I know to delete my reed question 😉

Until next time,
Swing sisters, swing!
– Ella