Gerald Albright Interview Page 4
GA: Who inspired me. They collaborated and wrote this particular tune together in the studio, along with Quincy Jones, who produced it. So it wasn’t a major hit for Michael but it was an “Off The Wall” project, big on selling. I just took the song as one that I really, really loved and I always wanted to record it. I finally got the chance to on this new CD.
JazzMonthly: And you mentioned your daughter Selina?
GA: She is out on the road right now with David Benoit; he is doing the “Charlie Brown Christmas Tour.” My daughter is the principle vocalist., along with thirty other children that are singing behind her. So she is getting some good experience on the road. She is very excited about it and I talk to her everyday.
JazzMonthly: I know she is on another track too, “Close To You”, by the Carpenters. Let me ask you this as a guy who is a daddy of three daughters. Did Selina take daddy’s directions as well Gerald? You know, directing her in the studio?
GA: She did. You know she’s been coming to the studio for years. She would come and hang out with me and ask questions: what am I doing? What is that? How do you make that sound? Sometimes I would just let her, just for fun, let her get on the mic and record her. So we both have found a comfort zone in the studio. When we officially started working together on some of her music and then she on some of mine, it was just a natural, cohesive, scenario for us to create. Selina listens very well and she’s very open to new ideas. Then I, in turn listened to her as a producer because she is well versed with that young sound. She is listening to the Christina Aguilera’s, the Brandy’s and all of those artists. So she will shoot you some ideas and I go, “Wow that’s fresh you know.” So between the two, the coupling between the old and newer music really makes a nice blend. You also have this across the board production of something that is really fresh. We’ve done some wonderful, incredible things. As a solo artist, Selina is going to be coming out hopefully next year. We are going to produce a record on her. It will hopefully be a blend of that real deep substance of the older music and then the fresh seasoning of the newer music. I’m really excited about that.
JazzMonthly: You know the next cut “Bobo’s Groove” is a salute to the great percussionist, Willie Bobo. You mentioned him earlier. You were a kid at that time playing bass with a Willie.
GA: I was a young kid playing bass and sometimes saxophone… depending. Willie had this revolving band and sometimes guys would show up, depending on who was available. Sometimes he needed me on bass, sometimes he needed me on saxophone but you talk about going to school. I mean he was one of those guys who, was a mentor, a teacher, a friend, a confidante, you know he kind of took me under his wing. I was so appreciative of that and at that time he knew I was not one of the greatest bass players in the world but I really loved to groove. So we concentrated on the Latin Groove, which is a whole other flavor. The Latin feel that you hear in my records today stem from my experiences I learned from Willie Bobo. So we had to pay a tribute to Bobo on this new record.
JazzMonthly: That’s so nice to hear. You know, I mentioned “Close to you” earlier. The Carpenters I guess, first hit from around 1970 and it’s interesting, tell us Gerald how you, you were in Kenya when it all happened for you mentally?
GA: Yes actually it was my first visit to Nairobi, Kenya. I did a Jazz Festival over there. It was about six o’clock in the morning, and I was in bed sleeping and all the sudden this phone woke me up singing “Close To You.” “Close To You,” a very uncommon song for me because it was not a song that I visited throughout the years. I always heard it and appreciated it, but for some reason this particular morning it hit my like a brick that I should do this on the new record and I just loved the melody. The melody is just undeniable; it’s really conducive to how I could express it on the saxophone in a positive way. Actually “Close To You” was the first tune that I recorded on the project once I got back to the States. I wanted to put a unique spin and arrangement from the original… we wanted to bring it up to date and add some different rhythms, and seasonings to it. Both my daughter and myself sang all the background to it. That was fun to stack all the vocals and make it more of a “choir effect” on top of the soprano saxophone. We think we really got a unique production out of it, that’s one of my favorite tunes that I do in my live show.
JazzMonthly: You did it great! The song is originally is like a slow shuffle on the Carpenters’ recording. Gerald, you created a definitely deep, deep pocket groove… the strings you mentioned… and the thing I really, really like is that there’s just enough background vocals to kind of carry you off in there.
GA: Well thank you, we always try to find that balance. I think music is at its optimum when it’s balanced. If you have too much ingredient over the other, than it kind of takes away from the vision. But, thank you for saying that. We were going for that balance between the vocals and the sax and all the rhythmic things that were happening around both of those elements.
JazzMonthly: Here is another one man, I love the pun, tell everybody about “I Found The Klugh”.
GA: Well it goes without saying that Earl Klugh is one of my favorite acoustic guitarists. A year ago or so we were on a cruise an annual Jazz Cruise that we do, we were just shooting the breeze and I was in the process of putting the components together for my new record and I said, “Earl, man you know, I would love for you to be on this record,” and he said, “I would be honored. Just let me know when and where.” As soon as he said that I started to develop this tune, “I Found The Klugh”. He was very, very amenable to being a part of it and he just did a stellar job. You know again, the uniqueness and the freshness. He had that fingerprint sound that only Earl could deliver to us and this could very well be the next single in the project. It’s getting a lot a buzz on radio and people are embracing it. I got a chance to play with him live in Colorado Springs, the early part of this year. It’s a very special tune for me.
JazzMonthly: You know not only is it a very catchy title but it’s a very catchy melody man.
GA: Thank you, Earl had some wonderful things to say about the tune too. I was trying to get a melody that is like a comfort zone for him, I wanted him to come in and feel like he could just spread his wings on the track and just do the ultimate Earl Klugh on it. He really gave me a two hundred percent and I’m so appreciative. We are long time friends… hopefully I’ll get to play on one of his records some time soon.
JazzMonthly: Both on his comping… just beautiful, tasteful comping while you were playing and then his solos…his intonation… his tone. Just beautiful!
GA: Unbelievable perfect. The closest thing to perfection that I heard. He takes his instruments seriously. You could here all the history in his playing. You know the passion in his playing and that is what I really appreciate about him.
JazzMonthly: You know I was reviewing one of your CDs maybe five, six years ago and I said that “very good” is not good enough for Gerald Albright and I really believed that!
GA: Wow, that’s special man, that’s actually special Joe.
JazzMonthly: One of the ten saxophonists picked to play at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration ceremony, in early I guess 1993 was Gerald Albright. When you were there… and you were a young man… well you are still young, you are still young, let me get that out…
GA: Still a baby… (Both Laughing)
JazzMonthly: When you were there thinking about being one of ten saxophonists picked for President Clinton’s Inauguration, when you were on stage did you think to yourself, “Wow, from a kid in South Central to this?”
GA: Yeah, a lot of that I was saying to myself, and the biggest part was that it was just a blessing to be amongst my contemporaries. A lot of my mentors you’re talking about: Gerry Mulligan, Grover Washington, Dave Koz, Michael Brecker was there, David Sanborn was there, Kenny G was there, Kirk Whalum was there… it was just an array of who’s who of saxophonists that I truly appreciate through the years. Then to be asked to do it, it could have been a whole set of other ten saxophonists up there that could’ve been chosen but Quincy Jones and Tom Scott – who were given the duty to put all of us together – they chose this ten for President Clinton. It was an honor and something that I would cherish for the rest of my life. It was definitely the place to be. You know, whenever you get to perform for an inauguration, I mean that’s historical. This was President Clinton you know one of my favorite Presidents in history and it was just a place to be, you know. I get kind of emotional thinking about it now.
JazzMonthly: You should be and it was richly deserved. You certainly deserved to be on that stage with all those great legends. I understand President Clinton, after the performance gave you a thumbs up right?
GA: Yes, he gave me a thumbs up and later on, I got a chance to meet him and actually on a couple of occasions I was at Kenny “Babyface” Edmond’s house and they were doing a democratic fund raising and President Clinton was there and he sat at the front row and was sitting next to a lady and I kind of noticed he said, “You know that is Gerald Albright one of my favorite horn players.” I could here him in a distance. I was on stage just putting my horn up. After the show he comes straight up to me, and President Clinton was known for doing things against the plans of the secret service. After the show he was suppose to go straight to the limo and go to another affair but he came straight over to me because I was playing these saxophones with the gold keys, they were unique looking at that time, they were Selmer saxophones. He inquired he said, “Gerald what kind of saxophone is this ?” I said it was a Selmer, and it had white enamel paint on it and as I’m describing the horn he picks it up and kind of looks at it and I said, “Wow the President is actually holding my horn. ( JazzMonthly Laughing)
Then seconds later he grabs the neck strap and puts the strap over his head and positions the horn to play it. Now the secret service is freaking out because he’s suppose to be in the car and they are on their microphones saying, “The President is not ready to leave yet... the President is not ready to leave yet.” So now he is playing some old Jazz standard on my horn…and mind you I just had finished playing this horn! It’s not like my mouth piece was sterilized or anything. I just finished playing a show. So he’s basically playing a horn that I finished playing and he sounded good on it too! He picked up the tenor and I in turn picked up the soprano and as we’re playing together all the musicians that just finished the show are coming back on stage to play with the two of us. It was such a wonderful, wonderful experience. I have pictures of it in my recording studio at home. But that shows you how personable President Clinton was and continues to be.
JazzMonthly: Wow, I hear it in your voice…the passion. Even now as you are speaking you are a kid again. I love hearing that.
GA: Oh man, yeah that is something I will never forget. Consequently after that He and the first Lady would send me and the family Christmas cards every year. We got them for several years after that. He invited me, along with my wife to the White House for a big White House dinner… it really became kind of a thing. When my wife got sick, he sent a personal message. If you hear the excitement in my voice it’s because it was a high point in my life.
JazzMonthly: Well, President Clinton gave you a thumbs up, we are giving you a double thumbs up for your latest release, “Pushing The Envelope”and it’s on Heads Up International. We advise everyone to go out and get it and again truth in advertising, Gerald Albright really “Pushed The Envelope.” Thank you for visiting with us Gerald.
GA: It was a pleasure. Nice to talk with you.
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