Saturday, September 3, 2011

RAHSAAN BARBER'S MAGIC TOUCH

“After I recorded this album, I told my dad if I get hit by a car tomorrow it would be okay because I made this album. It is that personal for me,” said saxophone player Rahsaan Barber, 31,  about Everyday Magic, his new album Jazz Music City released Tuesday. Barber has big aspirations for Nashville, his hometown. He wants it to be a jazz hub like New York, Chicago, and Detroit. Everyday Magic is the initial step toward that goal.

Barber was born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee. His dad was a bass player. His mom was a sister, and his grandmother was a piano player. His twin brother Roland (their dad named them after the jazz saxophone player Rahsaan Roland Kirk) plays the trombone. In 2001, they co-led the album Twinnovation. Barber attended Manhattan School of Music. He decided to make his mark in Nashville instead of New York. He pointed out Nashville is full of unsung jazz musicians, and the jazz scene there is ripe.

Everyday Magic is Barber second album as a leader. Trio Soul was his first. He owns the record label and concert promotion company Jazz Music City. On Everyday Magic, he composed all the music, and hired Nashville jazz musicians Adam AgatiJody NardoneJerry Navarro, and Nioshi Jackson.

One of Everyday Magic’s many highlights is a spirited exchange with Roland on Why So Blue. Barber boyhood idol was sax man Stanley Turrentine. Barber's playing is deep and soulful like Turrentine's was. You can also hear elements of three soulful Tennessee saxophone players in Barber playing Hank Crawford, Sonny Criss, and Frank Strozier.

“This record is the culmination of many years of hard work, and it is good to have this record in hand. I think there are more years of practicing and long, long hours in store for me, but it is nice to have gotten to this point,” Barber said. I Dig Jazz talked to Barber about Everyday Magic and his plans for Jazz Music City.

Your band is tighter than strings on a tennis racket. Were they a natural fit for your originals?
We literally learned to play this music in the studio. That is not the way I like to record. I like to go out and play this music for a year, and then record it. But it didn't work out that way given our schedules. The majority of the music we didn't play until the Monday we went into the studio. I’m looking forward now to going out and playing this music more regularly.

Why did you record all originals?
I don't now any standards that sound the way these tunes sound. It's certainly possible that we could have done A Child is Born instead of Manhattan Grace, and Naima instead of Adagio. I felt that I had enough material to work with this record at a high enough level without stepping outside of my own compositions.
I think I have been fortunate enough to play with theses great Nashville jazz musicians that master whatever music I put in front of them. I think I have found myself musically at a higher level than I could when I was 25-year-old.

Did you set out to make a statement with this album?
I hope that Everyday Magic cast a light on what is happening on the jazz scene in Nashville. I've had a lot of conversations here in the black community about the future of jazz music. Conversations like are there people doing more than simply making money off the music verses trying to continue on the legacy of the music. That's what I would like to do, keep this music going here.

How is the jazz scene in Nashville?
It is growing. I think the level of musicianship is here. I think it is on the level of anything happening anywhere. However, we are still in desperate need of a major venue. With Jazz Music City, I am trying to address that, and present the many world-class jazz musicians in this city. In some situations, we have world-class jazz musicians playing background music because that is the only gig available to them. There is not a situation industry-wise that can help them have the careers that they want to have.

Are southern jazz musicians unique?
There is a certain kind of conviction jazz musicians from the south have. There is certain musicality that draws my ear and excites me about the musicians. They understand the power of the music, and the stylistic breadth. Hopefully, that comes through on Everyday Magic. What makes jazz musicians in Nashville unique is we are in a town where we play all types of music. It is only natural as a composer that I bring to a project a wide range of music. Nashville has a lot of those kind of musicians but it is not a jack-of-all-trades master of-none thing.

Why did you decide to make your mark in Nashville instead of in New York?
You know that old adage if you can pay your rent in New York you have made it. That is great if your aspiration is to pay your rent. Some of my friends live in New York, and they are living in what looks like a closet to me. I did not feel a kinship in New York. Not that I couldn't play the way musicians play there. There were many things calling me back to Nashville, and I felt that I could have the career I wanted to have here.

What are your plans for Jazz Music City?
With the Jazz Music City Records, We are trying to create footsteps for local acts to become national acts. It won't be all about me. We have this depth of talent here that needs to be showcased like New York and Chicago showcase their musicians to the world. I definitely want to create a catalog. I don't want to create a Blue Note Records of the south, but there are plenty of jazz musicians here that if Blue Note heard they would be interested in signing them. That is where Jazz Music City comes in.

It is a record label and a concert promotion company. It is entirely independent at the moment. But I feel so strongly about what I'm doing if I lost everything on it I wouldn't regret it. I don't think that is going to happen. I know the talent here is at a certain level, and if you believe in the talent and present it right, the company will be successful.
Saxophone player Rahsaan Barber

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