Morgan Guerin isn’t your typical multi-instrumentalist. Rather than specializing in an instrument family, Guerin performs regularly as a saxophonist, bassist, and drummer. He’s recorded and produced two albums under his own name and scored regular gigs with the likes of Terri Lyne Carrington and Esperanza Spalding, all while still an undergraduate at The New School. As he continues to balance his professional and academic life, Guerin will return to The Jazz Gallery for two nights of music. Both nights will feature a core band of Guerin on drums, bass, synths, and saxophone, alongside Chris Fishman on keyboards and synths, Val Jeanty on electonics, and Dana Hawkins on bass and drums. The first night will also feature vocalist Débo Ray, and the second night will feature drummer Marcus Gilmore. We caught up with Guerin about his current gigs, his approach to learning music, and his expectations for the upcoming shows at the Gallery.
The Jazz Gallery: I’ve been scrolling through your social media, finding things to ask you about. It’s pretty overwhelming: This fall alone, you’ve played with Esperanza Spalding, Terri Lyne Carrington, releasing more of your own stuff, done so many collaborations… How do you keep it all straight?
Morgan Guerin: Honestly, Terri Lyne Carrington’s work ethic completely makes everything I have to do so small. She and Esperanza are the two hardest-working people I know. It’s really inspiring to watch them go from project to project, show to show, and have the energy and passion to be able to share and create all the time. It’s a blessing to see their work ethic, and it has definitely rubbed off on me. It pushes me to create more, to stay up that extra hour, to get up an hour earlier. The way they think and listen to music is so eye-opening and super new to me. Having all that knowledge under my wings at such a young age is a blessing.
TJG: Totally, and it’s amazing that you can see it with that perspective. Behind the social media posts and the live performances, what does it look like with these artists in rehearsal, and how did you get involved in their projects?
MG: I got asked to go on a tour with Esperanza maybe two months beforehand. I believe Matt Stevens had recommended me. They were in the studio trying to figure out how they were going to play all this music live, and they probably needed one person who could handle a couple of roles. For the tour, I was playing my synth, organ, singing, bass, sax, and even kick drum on one song [laughs]. In terms of how we talk, we’re all humans. They’re just humans with an extraordinary knowledge, so we communicate like that, everyone is super respectful, I’m always learning, everybody’s willing to give information and pass it on. Esperanza is super open to ideas from others in general. On the first day of rehearsal, none of us really knew what we’d be playing, at least I didn’t. I found out that she wasn’t really playing bass right now, so I brought everything, just in case. Just the fact that she trusts my bass playing, and to have my bass playing on her live shows and her record is beyond an honor for me.
TJG: Does she talk to about your bass sound, or did she really hand it over to you?
MG: She didn’t say much. Every now and again I’d ask her questions, just because I’d be curious about some of the approaches she’s coming from. She always knows what she wants to hear. If it’s something specific, she’ll point it out. But usually she just lets me play, which is really, really cool.