It was unseasonably warm in January for New York. Only in town for 5 days, I was completely set on not giving up this session. Etienne had just returned from touring Europe with Richard Bona. Alan was fresh off of the plane from Los Angeles. Adam was recruited the day before the set from Jose James. Vlad was the glue that held it all together.
Riding the A train from 125th, I emerged from the subway at Times Square. After a quick rehearsal in midtown, cappuccino with Exenia, then a quick run for dinner and wine with an old squeeze, I sat in on a few tunes a The Fat Cat, and then hung on the Lower East Side to jam at The Basement with 6figures. Lugging my horn on my back in the cold rain, scratching my street shoes down the Harlem pavement at 4AM, this was my life in the city of dreams. I had come back home.
I arrived in Brooklyn on the recording date, meeting Nikki and Adam for the first time in the hall at Breeding Ground (We we’re referred to the spot by Alex Busby Smith, a bassist whom we met one night after a gig at Blue Note). She giggled saying “everything about you is so Jazz,” or at least I gave that impression- the gig bag with the dented vintage horn, a loosened Burberry tie, cuff links, a fedora hat, carrying a stack of old Freddie Hubbard records found in a musty basement in Bed-Stuy for two bucks each. One by one the band trickled in and the music took shape. We recorded Cold Duck Time about twenty times, ironically deciding only to use the first take on the album. The more that we played, the more hip the session became. As always when Songbird (Exenia) arrived, the fuel was then on the fire as the tunes churned out one after another.
Chemistry began a year ago. It was only a few months before hand that I had moved to NYC with just a pen and dream, isolating myself while writing lots of contemporary music. One day hanging at a show with my idol Nicholas Payton at Birdland, I was encouraged to write and record asap. In the process of composing, I’d sit at the piano for hours in my brownstone, picturing Basquiat dancing to Bolero in Washington Square Park as he painted. I wanted to recreate that music; midnight music; finger popping music that expressed living in my moment- in the prime of my life under the lights of the big city. Then it happened. One day organically floating ideas took root, and compositions began to form.
I put together a small quartet that winter, and expanded that group by the summer to a nine piece band playing regularly during this trial and error period, everywhere from the streets of the Lower East Side to some of the best clubs in the city.
The group as it now stands is myself on trumpet as leader, Alan Blake on guitar, Etienne Stadwijk on piano, Vlad Borkovsky on bass, Adam Jackson on drums, and Exenia on vocals. This project is geared towards encouraging younger audiences to embrace the art of creatively mixing old school sophistication with modern dance, bringing back reminiscent sounds with a hip new twist for a new generation of listeners.
Shout out to all the cats that gigged with Chemistry: Naoki Morasaki, Macello Casagrandi, Mark Nagy, Lucianna Padmore, Milton Barretto, Adrian Roxtar, Alex Cohen, Andy Weintraub, Charlie Rauh, Reid Lindberg, Erskine Hawkins, Gordon Bartow, Justin Tyson, Kazuki Kitamori, Malik Washington, Noah Dreiblatt, Rashon Roberson, Tiffany Chang, Tomo, Toni Blackman… the list goes on and on
In order to expose the growth of non-traditional jazz in my generation, often I offer a unique perspective on the influence of contemporary urban forms, whereby processing trending Black art, or to a greater extent mainstream forms, into an edgy raw electronic fusion of consciousness for contemporary improvised music streams from Blues, Hip Hop, to Mid-West techno influences, all laden with the sensibilities of Jazz into something I coin the “transcendental movement of Electronic Music…” Independently I released 4 albums of music by the time I was 25 years old:
Love Letters (a poly-rhythmic combination of compositions), Remix (Electronic Jazz), Chemistry (Hip-Hop Jazz), The Chocolates Suite (Third Stream Jazz with strings)
I began studying composition with Wee Kee Brody at the University of New Orleans, with additional study with pianist Ellis Marsalis and arranger Doug Bristol. My experience ranges from writing and arranging for large ensembles such as jazz and marching bands, to jazz combos and small ensembles for Off Broadway plays. As previously stated , I enjoy working in electronic mediums, experimenting with the color of Jazz and the pervasive dissonance of Hip Hop, yet ironically, the more that I mature in composition, the more I realize that less is more. Now, I look to document life around me with sound and give greater credence to each note written and played, somehow finding the “lyricism” in instrumental composition. What emerged was Not Your Classic.