11th Annual Jazz Album Nominee
9th Annual Jazz Song Winner
9th Annual Jazz Song Vox Pop Winner
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Record Label: Jazz Fractamodi
Home Base: Boston, MA
Genre: Modern, Creative Jazz
Categories Entered: Jazz Album
Work Submitted: Many Muses Vol. 2
Artists Featured: Carmen Staaf: piano, Alec Spiegelman: clarinet, flute, bass clarinet, Kendall Eddy: bass, Austin McMahon: drums & percussion
Who are your influences? I have far too many influences to credit here but, for this specific project I think the music is truly a result of various life experiences translated into musical form and language through my lense.
Describe your nominated work: This music is energetic, wistful, sentimental, and occasionally quirky. Most of it is groove-oriented (in a jazz-sense) and revolves around a written bass-line and/or a short repeating solo form.
Did you use any unusual effects or instruments in this recording? On a few tracks I “prepare” the drum-set so that, for example, when I strike a cymbal you hear a tambourine rattle. Or, I’ll place a “klean kanteen” stainless steel water bottle on the snare drum so I have a metallic sound to strike in addition to the primary surface of the drum. I do this a lot to create a more percussive approach to the drum-set rather than always feeling locked into the primary sounds of the drums and cymbals. Aside from that, this music was written for a standard jazz trio (piano, bass, and drums) plus flute, clarinet and bass clarinet, which is somewhat rare in this style of jazz. On “Pirates”, I use a recording of the ocean that I recorded with a zoom recorder while staying at a beach house north of Boston.
Were there any happy accidents while in the studio, or did everything go as planned? There were accidents aplenty but not necessarily in the studio – getting there was the challenge. The whole band was staying with me (since they live in NYC) so we needed to rent a van in order to get to the studio together. I had arranged to pick up a van that morning yet, upon arrival I was informed that my driver’s license was expired so they were legally unable to rent me a car. In the end, my wife rented the van and drove half of the group and I drove with my 4 month old daughter and the other half of the band. My wife and daughter ended up camping out at the studio all day which definitely had an influence on how the music turned out.
How did you raise the funds for this project? How long do you expect it will take to recoup your out-of-pocket recording expenses? I consider recording my original music an irreplaceable investment in my artistry. Therefore, I used my own funds from my work as a sideman and teacher to pay for the various expenses involved in recording, duplication and publicity. The truth is that my career as a freelance drummer/sideman far outweighs how much I dedicate to being a bandleader. All the while, I created a fan-funding page on my website (and on the record label site) during the project and did receive a few donations towards the project but only a very small percentage of the funds came from that. I plan to raise funds through KickStarter for my next project and hope that this will afford me the opportunity to promote and publicize to a higher level.
Why did you choose to submit this work to The 11th IMAs? I had success with my first album in the 9th annual IMA’s – winning Jazz Song category – and I feel strongly about this music as a follow-up to my first album so I felt it would be worthwhile to see if there was a similar response to this larger work. You never know how people will respond to your music. It’s important to believe in it and reach out to your mentors, teachers, industry leaders and as many fans and opportunities as you can in order to continually try to grow as an artist and build your career.
What’s your definition of success and how will you know when you’ve achieved it? Success is not a destination but rather a state of being. It’s not something that is simply achieved and then you move on to the next thing. It requires hard work, dedication, and a constant thirst for new ideas.
How will you leverage your IMA honors to achieve your career goals? I’ll start by advertising the nomination to my fans, friends and family via my website and Facebook and then include the honor in my biography and CV for garnering more work, performances and opportunities.
Who’s sitting in your audience and what makes your fans unique? My audience is my peers, students and fans of creative music. Often, the venues in which I perform have a certain following of people looking for an escape from their daily lives and want to here musicians pushing themselves into a creative realm of possibilities.
What is your guilty pleasure on the road? Any close calls or mishaps while on tour? I’ve done very little touring as a bandleader but, while on the road as a sideman I’ve had a very strange series of bathroom doors locking shut and thus trapping me inside having to call awkwardly (and in broken Italian) to, “please open the door.”
Who are your musical heroes & influences? My musical heroes span from Chopin, Debussy, Satie and Poulenc to Keith Jarrett, John Scofield, and John Hollenbeck.
Are there any songs you wish you wrote and why? “Fishing by Moonlight” by Robin Milford (a somewhat obscure English composer). It’s a beautiful and tragic piece that I highly recommend.
What artists are you listening to that would surprise your fans? I like Yael Naim a lot. She has a very expressive voice and compositional style.
How do you discover new music? Do you buy music or are you content with streaming? I use Rhapsody and Spotify to explore new and established artists (often by my peers or students recommendation). I also use Pandora to discover music that I may not otherwise come across. I still buy recordings on occasion though it has become rare with the advent of these music streaming companies.
How will musicians make a living if fans continue to expect music to be free? It’s important for musicians to be creative on the bandstand and in our everyday pursuits. We have to find new outlets for our music and alternate revenue sources like licensing for TV, film and internet media. My understanding is that even in the prime of the recording industry, concert ticket sales still outweighed record sales so I also hope to have fans attend my concerts if they happen to hear my music on Rhapsody or Spotify.
What don’t fans/audiences understand about the music industry today? That publicity is the main difference between a really good band that’s well known and a really good band that you’ve never heard of. Labels pool all there resources to push one artist and countless others are left to do it on their own. This is not necessarily a bad thing but, something that we artists need to be aware of.
Are digital singles/EPs vs. full albums the future? To be honest, I’m not sure. I do think it’s very common for people to purchase just one song from an artist, which they may have heard on television. Yet, in the world of jazz and music containing improvisation, I think listeners are curious how the artists will approach improvising over one tune versus how they may approach the next.
Finish this sentence: The music industry is…a hierarchy of artists supporting and inspiring one another. Without the independent artists who build their following from the ground up there would be no place for the major artists at the top.
What do you have in the works for the upcoming year? This coming year will include a tour of the New England area and a recording in the fall with a new group, which will feature pianist Vardan Ovsepian and mostly new music. I’ll also continue to perform with Jerry Bergonzi and various other groups in the Boston area while spending my days raising my two children and teaching at Harvard University and the New England Conservatory.
Where fans can find you and your music: