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Taylor Eigsti (l), photo by Bill Douthart; Jeremy Dutton (r), photo via www.onemustwonder.com

Taylor Eigsti (l), photo by Bill Douthart; Jeremy Dutton (r), photo via www.onemustwonder.com

Back in October, we presented four great shows with pianist Taylor Eigsti and drummer Jeremy Dutton as part of our new Mentoring Series. Every gig featured a different lineup and different repertoire, and we had the chance to talk with Taylor and Jeremy over the course of those gigs about the work they were presenting together (read the entire trilogy here: part I, II, and III).

Now, a little over a month after their final Mentoring Series concert, we spoke with Taylor and Jeremy separately by phone to follow up with their experience and hear their thoughts.

N.B. Catch the last Mentoring Series show of this season on Thursday, January 15th, 2015, featuring Jason Lindner’s NOW vs. NOW with James Francies.

The Jazz Gallery: What were some of your favorite moments that happened over the course of the four gigs? 

Jeremy Dutton: I really liked all of them. They were all very different and gave me something to think about musically and something different to adapt to. That was my favorite part in general: how each concert I got to adapt to a new thing or tried to adapt to a new thing.

Taylor Eigsti: There were tons of musical moments that stood out, but I think just the chance to explore different musical contexts was cool. We did different music at every show, but I think the first moment that comes to mind would have been the second gig. We decided to improvise for 70 minutes straight, and that’s definitely something that takes you on a journey together. I felt like you really get to know someone musically when you’re so into that context with no safety net, just knowing you have to play for 70 minutes. I think he’s just a masterful, really great musician, and I thought, “Whoa, I know this dude musically.” He’s got a huge future and I’m proud of it.

TJG: How do you rehearse that sort of thing?

TE: There’s no way to rehearse. The only way is to hang out socially, because it’s social communication when you’re in that situation, but we get along really well so it makes it possible to have a musical conversation that doesn’t have, you know, training wheels—having tunes and things like that.

TJG: How do you decide what you’re going to play?

TE: It depends. Just like any conversation: if the wind takes you there, that’s what you’re talking about, but we could just talk about anything else. The musicians I hang with and travel with, we probably only talk about music as much as anything else. It’s just that music reflects life and so I’m very much about going and living one, and doing those elements and trying to survive all of that, and that shows up in the music. I guess that would be something different, maybe if music was newer to me or something, but I’ve been playing for 26 years and I see so much life in it, so I interact with music mainly through a lot of other means.

(more…)

Photo by Katherine Tom, via www.jamesfranciesmusic.com

Photo by Katherine Tom, via www.jamesfranciesmusic.com

Throughout 2014, The Jazz Gallery has paired today’s leading jazz musicians with some of New York’s most exciting up-and-comers in our Mentoring Series. As the year heads into its final months, we are proud to present the fourth and final pairing in our series: Jason Lindner’s Now vs. Now featuring the young pianist James Francies.

A Houston native and alumnus of the prestigious High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (HSPVA) like Jeremy Dutton, a fellow Gallery mentee, Francies has spent the last year in New York studying at The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music. During that time, he has already become a regular at venues across the city, playing with the likes of Stefon Harris, Chris Dave, and Mike Moreno. Francies and Lindner’s Now vs. Now will inaugurate their Mentoring Series performances this Thursday, November 20th, 2014, at SEEDS::Brooklyn Arts (617 Vanderbilt Ave.).

We caught up with James this week by phone to talk about the joys and challenges of playing with one of his favorite current pianists.

The Jazz Gallery: Can you tell us a bit about your experience with Jason’s music? When did you first hear it and what drew you to it?

James Francies: I first heard Jason’s music when I was a sophomore or junior in high school. I remember really enjoying the fact that he could make anything groove, no matter how complex or how tightly-arranged something was. He can use all these keyboards and synthesizers, but it would never get in the way of the flow of the music. It was just brilliant. It became something that I really tried to incorporate in my music as well.

TJG: In the past, you’ve talked about your varied musical upbringing—getting jazz from your dad and Earth, Wind & Fire from your mom, as well as funk and R&B from your uncle. Were you drawn to how Jason draws from this combination of styles as well?

JF: Definitely, because if you listen to some of Jason’s music—like the song “Worrisome” that we’re going to do—it just grooves so hard. When I first heard the trio version, I was like, “Oh, my goodness! This is great!” It sounded like something that should be heard on the radio, like D’Angelo or some other neo-soul-type thing. But at the same time, it challenges the listener because not everything is in 4/4 time. It’s not completely typical. I could see people my age who aren’t necessarily into jazz or aren’t musicians listening to it and really getting into it. In some ways, that’s the ultimate goal for me.

(more…)

Photo via www.onemustwonder.com

Photo via www.onemustwonder.com

This month, we present four performances with pianist Taylor Eigsti and up-and-coming drummer Jeremy Dutton as part of our Mentoring Series. We’ve published a series of blog posts about these two artists and their ongoing musical friendship. Read Part I and Part II; the final installment is an interview with Jeremy:

The Jazz Gallery: How long have you been in New York?

Jeremy Dutton: It’s hard to say; it feels like it’s been a long time! It was 2012 [when I moved here], so I guess I’ve only been here for two years, but it feels so much longer. Time passes quicker; it’s easier for things to just go by. When I first got here, I just practiced a lot. Something that I was starting to lose at the end of high school was the access to playing a drum set all the time because, you know, 18 years of your son playing drums in the house is a lot to put up with, so by the end it was like, “Why don’t you go do homework?” I played a lot of sessions with people at New School, and I was pretty nervous about it all, honestly, because I was pretty aware that the people I was playing with were some of the best people at school.

When I first got here, there were things I had to get used to in terms of how your environment affects the way you play. To go through such a dramatic change in environment, from being able to see my family everyday to being in New York when I’m on my own every day—it changed my mind a little bit.

There was a period of time when I was trying to gain my footing mentally, and that’s something that I’m always working with and focused on: the mental aspect of playing music. I think that’s a part that goes unchecked a lot of times, and for me it’s been crucial to understanding how to play at a high level. It’s an elusive thing because the situations change so much and there’s no one solution, but generally what I’d say is just relaxing and trying to get away from judgment—getting out of your head, assigning value judgments and all that. It detracts from your focus on the music.

The way I always think of it in my mind is that there’s a door, and I know that once I open the door and go through it, I don’t have to think about anything anymore; I’m just there. The trick is that sometimes the door’s closed, so you have to figure out the way to open it, and it’s almost like you’re figuring out how to open your mind up to different things. It’s just the way life is where you’re dealing with a million other things: your rent’s due, or the homework’s not done, or the song needs to be finished by tomorrow.

Sometimes, all that stress can bring you way closer to the music because you sit down to play and you don’t have time to think about that, but other times you can get to the music and you feel like your thoughts are still somewhere else, which is a hard thing to get over. (more…)

Taylor Eigsti (l), photo by Bill Douthart; Jeremy Dutton (r), photo via www.onemustwonder.com

Taylor Eigsti (l), photo by Bill Douthart; Jeremy Dutton (r), photo via www.onemustwonder.com

NB: Thursday’s Mentoring Series performance will take place at SEEDS::Brooklyn Arts, located at 617 Vanderbilt Ave. in Brooklyn. There will be one set only at 9 p.m.

This month, we feature four performances with pianist Taylor Eigsti and up-and-coming drummer Jeremy Dutton as part of our Mentoring Series. We’ll be publishing a series of blog posts about these two artists and their ongoing musical friendship. Read the first post of the series here.

Although Jeremy Dutton had met Taylor Eigsti at the Stanford Jazz Workshop while still in high school, they didn’t start making music together immediately.

“I didn’t really talk to Taylor that much there,” Jeremy recalls. “I was always stepping on eggshells around him because just me as a person, I don’t ever talk out of obligation. I just can’t do it, so I just say what flows, and if I don’t feel anything, I don’t say anything.”

Already at the time, however, Taylor had picked up on Jeremy’s musical potential.

“I first heard Jeremy years ago when he was a student at Stanford Jazz Workshop,” Taylor says. “He really stood out to me as someone who not only had great talent on the instrument, but also possessed a natural quality as a bandleader. I remember watching a combo in a student performance where he was introducing the songs, and I thought, ‘This guy a born bandleader!”

Once Jeremy arrived in New York in fall of 2012 to attend The New School, he followed up with Taylor and played some more with him. Then, a serendipitous turn of events came about in the fall of 2013. The student housing that Jeremy sought at The New School wasn’t available for the first month, but Taylor fortunately needed a subletter for the month.

“We hung out a lot that month, and every now and then he’d treat me to dinner or something and he’s a real personable, warm, funny kind of dude, and I really appreciated that,” Jeremy recalls. “From then on we were pretty much friends.”

When vocalist Sachal Vasandani was putting a band together for an extended tour across Africa and Europe in early 2014, Taylor recommended Jeremy, and the music continued to develop from there. According to Taylor, it wasn’t just Jeremy’s outstanding musicianship that made him a great choice for the gig; it was also his attitude. Many of Taylor’s mentors—he cites Dave Brubeck, David Benoit, Red Holloway, Ernestine Anderson, and Shelly Berg as a few—taught him not only about music, but also the bigger picture.

“[They] taught me to be good to other people and not to take yourself too seriously and remain grounded in everything else, which is why I’m drawn to Jeremy in particular,” he says. “He’s a gentle guy and a humble guy, a person of really high character, which comes out in his music. He’s never playing music to impress people; he’s playing to bring out a beautiful moment in life, to express emotions. … I feel like music reflects life, so if you can get along with someone socially and personally, then the music really falls into place.”

In the case of Taylor and Jeremy, a friendship outside of music helped strengthen a music relationship that continues to evolve.

“Having that tour was really when we got to develop the way we play together and get used to the way we interpret music—basically bringing the friendship we already had outside of music into the music, which didn’t take long,” Jeremy says.

“I had a feeling on the first tour we ever did together with Sachal,” Taylor says. “I thought, ‘I’m going to be friends with this guy for a long time.'”

The Cycle of Learning

For Taylor, the Mentoring Series is both an opportunity to introduce Jeremy’s formidable musical talents to a larger audience and a chance to shift the conversation in jazz toward the future, rather than the past. (more…)

Photo via www.onemustwonder.com

Photo via www.onemustwonder.com

This month, we feature four performances with pianist Taylor Eigsti and up-and-coming drummer Jeremy Dutton as part of our Mentoring Series. We’ll be publishing a series of blog posts about these two artists and their ongoing musical friendship. Here’s the first:

“I had no idea the legacy of what had happened through HSPVA [Houston School of Performing and Visual Arts], but I auditioned and got in,” says Jeremy Dutton. “We learned about Robert Glasper and Jason Moran, and there were these plaques on the wall about people going to All-State, YoungArts Awards, the Jason Moran Award, and all this other stuff. We saw these names on the wall and then we learned as we were there, ‘Oh my goodness, this could be done.’ So the goal became to go to New York.”

Now 20 years old and enrolled at The New School, Jeremy has been diligently pursuing (and succeeding in) his dream to make music with some of the best musicians on the scene. In February of 2014, he embarked on his first tour with vocalist Sachal Vasandani, performing across Africa and Europe with pianist Taylor Eigsti and bassist Buster Hemphill.

Before this tour, Jeremy had already released his début album in 2013, I Am, with his band Wayfarer, and had been actively performing and recording with iiii, a collaborative jazz-R&B-singer-songwriter-hip-hop project with vocalist Laila Smith, pianist Paul Bloom, and bassist Connor Schultze, each an enterprising young musician still enrolled in university (Harvard, Columbia, and Manhattan School of Music, respectively).

A native of Houston, Texas, Jeremy started on the drums early:

“When I was two, my mom bought me a plastic drum set for my birthday. Apparently, I really liked that drum set because when I was four, my mom and my uncle bought me a real, wooden drum set to play. I used to watch the drummer in my church player and music was just something that I was attracted to. It seems random because nobody else in my family is a musician, but I stuck with it. My mom was always really encouraging—my family in general was really encouraging—and my mom let me practice in the house and stuff like that.”

There is an emergent modern lineage of jazz drumming that can be traced directly to Houston: drummers Eric Harland, Kendrick Scott, Chris Dave, and Jamire Williams are some of the influential figures associated with the city. In the summer after fifth grade, Jeremy unknowingly became part of that lineage: (more…)