Jazz Monthly Feature Interview part 1

December 23rd, 2011

“Jazz Monthly Feature Interview” Gordon James

Jazz Monthly: Our guest here today has received excellent reviews by critics and the Jazz world alike. This new CD  “A New Kind Of Love” combines his multi talents as Trumpeter, Flugelhornist, Vocalist, Composer and much more! Based out of New Jersey, we would like to welcome… Gordon James.
Jazz Monthly: In what way do you think “A New Kind Of Love” will contribute in the Jazz scene today?
Gordon James (GJ): I think A New Kind of Love offers more variety to the smooth jazz scene. In my opinion much of smooth jazz today sounds the same. The established artists all sound great and have their own styles but much of the new music tries to fit into that same mold. When I was creating the CD I found myself trying to write for that formula and found that it just didn’t feel right to me. So a lot of the instrumental music on the CD stretches that mold a little while still trying to keep it very commercial.As far as the vocal songs I have been involved in personal growth and trying to contribute in my own way to helping make a better, kinder more peaceful and caring world. So on many of the songs the lyrics just popped out and I went with it. Also I had just started singing prior to starting the project so I thought why not find a few songs that I could sing as well. So I think I ended up created a nice mix of songs that have a great message and a real feel good vibe. If anyone wants to read more about my process for creating many of the songs on the project check out my blog on my website www.gordonjamesmusic.com
Jazz Monthly: You have said that this CD in many ways is like a debut album as it is the first CD that you have produced, arranged and written…  how were you able to maintain the creative ability while trying to keep the management of everything under control?
GJ: I think the best answer to that question is that the management of everything was really a part of the whole creative process. It was all kind of wrapped up together like a neat little present. The musicians and singers on it were either musicians I had already worked with or in some cases were recommended by the guys I used. To give you a couple of interesting examples on the title track I originally thought I would have Jose Loo come in and sing it. I just thought his high sweet voice would have the right vibe for the song. Then when we were doing the session it hit me that this song should be a duo. He totally agreed and recommended Lajuan Carter a female vocalist he worked with in his club date band. The rest is history, how great do they sound together?  And on the song Got Blues when Matt King came in to do the keyboard track I was telling him that I thought a more blues approach on guitar was what the track needed and he recommended Mike Neer who could do the slide and pedal steel guitars and guess what; he ended up living about two blocks from me right here in Middlesex. The whole project went kind of like that. There were lots of synchronicities and everything really flowed easily.  I took my time, worked around everyone’s schedules and I had to be very patient and just take it one step at a time. The whole project took almost two years from start to finish.
Jazz Monthly: Artists approach song writing in many different ways. Describe your song writing process?  

GJ: Once again I go into this on my blog The Making of A New Kind of Love parts one and two but really the whole process was truly magical.
The original songs both lyrics and melodies came very easily. Then I would flush out the arrangements, loops, drum programming, string and synth parts and I would add a keyboard and bass part myself. Then it was just a matter of thinking about which keyboard player and bass player I wanted to come in and re-do my piano and bass parts. On a few I even kept my original bass part. Then I would bring in a guitar player if I thought the song needed it and of course the vocalists. I’d usually have the vocalist come in first before the other players but not always. The covers were done pretty much the same way. Got the idea to do a particular song, listened to the original and then sat down and flushed out my own arrangement and brought in the other players. And usually the players and vocalists would give me a lot of takes and I would go back and edit it and chose the best stuff. I also allowed the players a lot of freedom to contribute their own ideas and would suggest different approaches to them as well. I may have two or three different approaches to a keyboard track for example. 

The vocalists were great to work with. In many cases they would come up with their own ideas for background vocals and harmonies as well as incorporating some of mine. I learned a lot from this which ended up being real handy when I was doing backgrounds and harmonies for my own vocal tracks. I also did a lot of harmonies on my trumpet tracks and some songs had trumpet, muted trumpet and flugelhorn tracks. It was an amazing amount of work and I still can’t believe I did it. Some of the songs had up to fifty and sixty tracks. But overall it was a great experience and so much fun watching the songs take shape and keep getting better as each musician came in on and played on them.

Jazz Monthly:“A New Kind Of Love” offers such an assorted collection (16 tracks) of songs both vocal and instrumental I’m sure there already are some crowd favorites…  tell us about them?

GJ: I haven’t really performed a lot of them yet live. Although I recently did The New Brunswick Jazz Festival and did a few. They loved Kool and the Gang’s Funky Stuff. And after one time through instrumentally I sang it as well. Really had them going. “Can’t get enough of that funky stuff”. Same with No Diggity. I had them all singing with me. Also Smile went over really well. I think everyone loves that song and can relate to it. And the way I do it as an upbeat samba really gives it a feel good vibe. As far as radio and the internet people have really been picking up on A New Kind of Love and Straight from the Heart because of their feel good nature and great message. Dark Chocolate has been getting some play and also With Our Love has a great hook with Ty Stephens singing backgrounds. Somebody must like that one cause they put it up on you tube and it’s gotten a lot of views. Speaking of which I created three video slide shows of A New Kind of Love, Straight from the Heart and Smile that are up on youtube as well as my website. The pictures add so much to the power of the message. What do they say, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

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