Photo courtesy of the artist.
It may come as some surprise that trumpeter Nabaté Isles, an accomplished and (by some standards) mid-career musician, just recently released his first album as a leader. That, in large part, is due to Isles’ career in the world of sports media, production, and entertainment, having been the host of So Much to Talk about on Manhattan cable, SiriusXM’s NBA Radio, and winner of both ESPN’s Stump The Schwab and Crackle/NBC Sports’ Sports Jeopardy. Leading two careers at once, Isles is no stranger to music, having played in big bands lead by Christian McBride, Oliver Lake, Mike Longo, and Charli Persip. His musical upbringing includes all forms of jazz, R&B, pop, Motown, as well as exposure to classical music from his time at Eastman school of Music.
Isles held nothing back on his debut solo release, Eclectic Excursions, produced by Sam Barsh. Featuring sixteen tracks with myriad influences, the album includes an outrageous lineup, far too long to list here in its entirety, but including such notables as Christian McBride, Nate Smith, Ben Williams, Johnathan Blake, Jimmy Owens, David Gilmore, Stacy Dillard, Jaleel Shaw, Frank Lacy, Alita Moses, and Michael Mayo. We spoke with Isles via phone about the full intersection of influences and experiences represented by his new album.
TJG: How goes the preparation for the show?
Nabaté Isles: It’s going well, I’m looking forward to it. We’re doing pretty much all music from the record, and most of the cats that were on the album are playing on the show.
TJG: You’re kidding! There were so many people on the album, how could they all fit on that stage?
NI: [Laughs] It’s going to be a somewhat condensed group, including Stacy Dillard on saxophones, David Gilmore on guitar, Adam Klipple on keyboards, Ben Williams on bass, Johnathan Blake and Jaimeo Brown on drums, all of whom were on the record except Jaimeo, who couldn’t make it. We’ll also have Jimmy Owens, of course, my musical dad, and flautist Elsa Nilsson.
TJG: That’s still only a fraction of the people on Eclectic Excursions—you really pulled out all the stops for this album. How did you keep track of the logistics involved? I imagine it must have taken a lot of work.
NI: I have to tell you, it actually didn’t take a lot of work. Everything went off without a hitch. Around May of 2017, I wrote down a list of everyone who I wanted to be on the album, and then contacted them to ask about the last week of November, after Thanksgiving weekend, because a lot of people are in town during that time, yet not much is happening then. Basically, everyone was free to do the session, which was amazing. Johnathan Blake, David Gilmore, Jaleel Shaw, we go back more than twenty years, and it was great to be able to bring them all together. The planning and organizational process beforehand, now that took time. I wanted to make sure everything was straight for these cats to feel comfortable and relaxed in the studio. We did two major days at The Bunker Studio. I came up with a schedule based on who was playing what, because I didn’t want many people waiting around. It was kind of like a Rubik’s Cube, getting all of the colors organized together.