Red velvet frames another Tuesday night at Zinc Bar as James Francies gets inside a blues in 6 and stays there for a good long while. Now and then a virtuosic line escapes his right hand, but ultimately returns to the thick groove.
In five short years, the Houston-born pianist/composer has become a force on the New York scene, working steadily to dissolve genre lines and create new music that preserves and connects all his early influences, and explores the shape of what’s to come.
“Growing up in Houston, I was exposed to music at a very young age,” says Francies. “Playing classical music, playing in church, going to jam sessions and having different teachers—it was always just a mash of good music.” An artist who’s focused on uncovering innate musical connections, past and present, Francies finds himself less concerned with shoehorning one particular sound into another. Instead, he allows those connections to emerge naturally.
“I don’t try to ‘combine’ my roots because once you have roots, you can’t really turn away from them,” he says. “I just try to let my personal experiences and my influences authentically come out. Having a jazz and classical foundation has really helped me understand where I want to go, where I’m going and where I am, musically.”
Where he is, musically, is where he is, physically. According to Francies, the New York music scene has had a profound effect not only on the way he plays, but on his degree of day-to-day hustle. “I never saw New York as an arrival; I always saw it more as a launching pad,” he says.
“I always wanted to come to New York—ever since I was 12. So I was always focused and still, to this day, working hard. When I got here, it wasn’t like, ‘Oh, I finally made it!’ It was more like, now you have to work twice as hard—three times as hard—to get to where you want to be. And I do enjoy it. New York’s one of those places that keeps you on your toes.” (more…)