Jazz Monthly Interview part 2

December 23rd, 2011

GORDON JAMES interview page 2
Jazz Monthly: When you perform, do you absorb a lot of energy from the fans reaction to your live performances? Tell us about your interactive experience with your fans.

Well I think I just touched on that a little in the last question but yea I love to interact with the audience. I really encourage them to participate. I still do the song Grazing in the Grass from one of my earlier CDs in my performances and people love to sing along with that one. Everyone seems to know that song. But really there is such a give and take of energy and love exchanged in a performance. I used to joke that sometimes performances felt like being in church. I’m sure most performers experience this; it’s a real high. I also love to go out in the audience. I did a show down in Fayetteville NC called Jazz on River in an amphitheater for about a thousand people and went out into the audience and they all went crazy motioning for me to come over to them. And of course they’re all are recording it on the their cell phones. Fun stuff…

Jazz Monthly: You have a wide array of artists that you’ve worked with. Let’s talk about some of these players on your CD “A New Kind Of Love,” and some of those that made special contributions to this record.
GJ: Yea my last CD I worked with Bob Baldwin, James Lloyd and Chuck Loeb and it was a great experience. I learned so much from those guys by watching them work especially about writing and arranging. I think that’s why I felt the confidence to go ahead and do this one myself.  I also knew I had an abundance of talent to draw from here in the NJ, NY area. Matt King is an amazing freelance keyboard player here in NJ that works with me a lot both with my band and as a duo. He has played with Chuck Loeb, Blood Sweat and Tears and many other big names. Joe Scott the other keyboardist on the CD I met quite a few years back and we just clicked right from the start. We have very similar melodic styles and have great chemistry together. Joe has worked with so many names and recently when we did a gig and went to play No Diggity he said, “you know I did the tour with those guy’s” meaning BlackStreet. He is awesome and brought just the right feel to all the songs he played on especially This Guy’s in Love with You and Smile. He nailed them.  

Guitarist Mike Hogan and I go back to the 80’s when we had a band called Inside Out and played clubs throughout north Jersey. He has been on every one of my CD’s except for In Joy. He also has a great style and is very easy to work with. Bassist’s Mark Peterson and Chris Plunkett are both guy’s that play with me live a lot and both seemed to add just the right touch to the songs they played on. Jose Loo and Lajuan Carter I already mentioned. Jose performs with me a lot especially if I’m doing a gig where they want a mix of jazz and R&B songs. He knows so many R&B and Motown songs and really get’s the audience going. Vocalists Ty Stephens and Chanda Rule I met at a church in north jersey where I sometimes play for the service. Ty is the choir director and when I first heard him back in 2008 I knew he was going to be on my next CD.  He is an amazing vocalist and has such a great sense of what the song needs.  He is a master at creating background vocals and like I said before I learned so much from him from watching him work.  Ty has performed all over the world. He has a steady summer gig in Monaco and right now he is touring Japan with a Japanese R&B star. Chanda is so amazing and my only regret is that I didn’t have a song for her to sing lead on. Although she is featured on Give Peace a Chance and did such a great job on that. I feel vey fortunate to have had so many great players on the CD and I hope I make a lot of money on the CD so I can give them all bonuses. They deserve it.
Jazz Monthly: How did the Trumpet and Flugelhorn end up being your instruments of choice? Which do you prefer?
I really don’t know why I chose the trumpet in school but for some reason I was drawn to it. Maybe I played it in a past life or as I sometimes joke “it was the loudest instrument that could drown out my mother and sister who were always arguing.” Anyway I started in the fourth grade and took to it very easily. By the time I was in the fifth grade I was first chair in All City Band and playing a solo accompanied by the whole band. Then every summer for the next five years I won a scholarship to the Union County Band and Orchestra summer school where in the sixth grade I was first chair in the advanced band comprised of mostly high school students. And I was just a little squirt. By the time I reached the 10th grade I was a little bored with music program in my hometown of Plainfield, NJ and starting looking for alternatives. I ended up going to the world-renowned Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan for my last two years of high school. That was kind of a rude awakening for me since they drew the best players from all over the world. I went from being the #1 guy in Plainfield high to #7 out of 10 trumpet players at Interlochen. What a great experience though to be able to major in music while still being in high school. I loved my time there. I started playing flugelhorn much later in my 30’s after I started playing Jazz. I have to say I fell in love with that sound. It’s so warm and fat I would say it’s my instrument of choice. Then muted trumpet (I love that sound that Miles made so popular) and then lastly the open trumpet.
Jazz Monthly:You now have been recording music for some time now. At what point in your life did you make the choice to become a professional musician and actually record your own albums?
When I got out of college I traveled to Houston Texas to play in a gospel-oriented group called Blue Aquarius. We did one record that was on the Stax record label. We did some touring in Texas including a lengthy prison tour which was very interesting and then we made our way to California.
The band ended up breaking up there and I started playing in Latin bands in huge Latin clubs all over LA. Then I met a sax player that was playing with Johnny Guitar Watson and ended up touring with his band for a couple of years. It was there I got the bug to start playing jazz and became determined to learn how to really improvise. I left California and came back to NJ and started going to NY a lot and hanging out in jazz clubs. It was there I met Ted Curson and started studying trumpet and jazz improvisation with him. He really got me going on the right track. Year’s later when I sent Ted a copy of my second CD he invited me to one of his performances at the Blue Note in NY. During the intermission I went up to his dressing room to hang out and one of his fans asked me how long I had studied with Ted. He replied, “Just long enough to get good.”
I then went on to start my own band Inside Out and we did one record for Panoramic Records, Ray Goodman and Brown’s label at the time. It went nowhere and so we starting making demos and sending them out to labels only to get one rejection letter after another saying “you are really good but were really not looking for any new jazz groups at this time”. So by the time the early 90’s rolled around I decided I was going to start making my own records. I released my first CD Candlelight Love in 1995 and have made four more since then. They are all independently released with the exception of In Joy, which was on NuGroove records. I hope your readers will check out all my CDs on my website including my latest A New Kind of Love which should not only appeal to the jazz fans but all fans of music. It truly is a feel good record.
Jazz Monthly

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