'The Search Continues ...'
During the course of Sean Jones' burgeoning career beginning with his Mack Avenue Records debut in 2004, Eternal Journey, the trumpeter/bandleader has embarked on a series of quests, passionately plumbing the depths of different wellsprings of his life as a musician.
His first album, recorded when he was 24, was his awakening, "my first step out into the recording world," Jones says. That was followed by more steps as well as leaps, with the theme of personal navigation at the center of his vision.
In the process, Jones has developed into one of jazz's top young trumpeters, known for both his lyrical fluidity and high-tier technical facility. "The idea of being on a journey has been in line with all my albums," he says. "My second album, Gemini, explored both sides of my musical loves, r&b and jazz. I expanded that with Roots, where I revisited my youth and paid tribute to gospel. And then on Kaleidoscope, I created a collage of sounds, exploring different timbres by enlisting vocalists to be collaborators."
On Jones' fifth album, The Search Within, the venture continues, but this time the focus turns inward. "This is a journey inside my soul that's taken place over the past 10 years," Jones says. "It's an assessment of where I am in the present as well as how I've learned from my mistakes and triumphs as a way of looking into the future. This album goes very deep for me. It's a spiritual and sonic journey for me."
Taking some time out recently with Sean Jones, I first wondered what had been his musical influences growing up and how many still factored into his music today? "My first musical influences were rooted in the Gospel tradition. I grew up singing gospel music in the church choir, later picked up the trumpet and tried to sing what I played."
"Later on in grade school, I was given a Miles Davis CD , "Kind of Blue". It was then that I began my path to becoming a jazz musician. However, I continued to play in church. I remember learning how to play the Db pentatonic scale before learning anything else. I played i t in school for my teacher and she said "where did you learn that?'. I smiled and said "On the front bench at church." I believe those experiences molded me into the type of player that I am today."
For the Average Joe who may not have heard of you and was thinking of buying your upcoming new CD, how would you yourself describe your sound? "I would describe my sound as a mixture of the virtuosity that's celebrated in jazz and the soulfulness of the Gospel tradition. These are two elements that I've worked on throughout my career. I have tried my best to play and write music that combines the complexities of jazz with the feeling of Gospel music."
"I'll explain further by saying that emphasizing the feeling of gospel music by means of melodic interpretation, harmonic concepts and phrasing, not emphasis on form or rhythmic concepts. So, in essence, I'm using the rhythmic and form concepts from jazz while superimposing a gospel melodic concept on top of it. Hope this makes sense. I'm still trying to figure it out."
The CD title is quite a personal sounding one ... if so, when did this 'search' begin within you and is it now finally over? "The search began around my 30th birthday. This was a, and I guess it is for many folks, an important transitional moment for me. I began to look back on my successes and failures and celebrate the success while vowing to either eliminate the habits in my life that cause me to fail or refine certain behaviors that were ok but needed work. Needless to see, it was a humbling moment."
"As for the search being over, I believe that anyone that wants to grow has to assess themselves with intense honesty. After you assess yourself, you then come up with a game plan that will help you become a better version of yourself. Without growth, you become stagnant and ultimately regress. This is, nor will ever be, an option for me. Onward and upward!"
Indeed, your press has you having embarked on a series of quests, plumbing from the depths of different wellsprings of life along its musical highway. All very poetic for sure, but has it always been this way for you re: how you became to be a musician? I mean, could you have easily had another profession at this stage of life, perhaps? "Music is the gift that my creator placed inside me and with that gift, I have found my place in the world. There are other things that I enjoy and may even be good at. But ultimately, I exist to tell the human story, it's struggles and triumphs, thru music."
Please tell us more about the 'unsung heroes' that make up the superb backing band here on 'The Search Within.' "The first "unsung hero" is Orrin Evans. Orrin has been a part of my band from the beginning, recording with me on all five albums. He is a vital part of the sound that I hear in my head. Orrin is a fantastic musician and wonderful leader in his own right."
"The two saxophonists featured on the album are Walter Smith III on tenor and Brian Hogans on alto. I believe they are two of the most exciting musicians on the scene today. Both are incredible musicians and amazing writers and have contributed compositions to the band. Luques Curtis on bass and Obed Calvaire, drums, round of the rhythm section. I am fortunate enough to have found my dream rhythm section. These guys would follow me into the pits of hell and have gone there with me from time to time."
"Gregoire Maret, harmonica and Erika Von Kleist, flute add a very special seasoning to the album. They are both amazing instrumentalists as well as great melodic craftsmen. A good friend and soulful percussionist, Kahlil Kwame Bell adds great textures on a few tunes."
I know that it must be like choosing a favorite child from a family of 11, but which track turned out to be your go-to favorite, when all was said and done? "My favorite track of all is the Ambitious Violet. I love it because I believed that I captured the essence of the Kahlil Gibran piece that inspired it's title, without abandoning my writing concept. I'm very happy with it. And you're right, that like choosing a favorite family member. Actually, choosing a favorite family member isn't that hard at times (smiling)."
Indeed, how easy (or hard) is it to create a new, vibrant, wanted-by-the-public sound that both builds on and surpasses the musical wonderment's/accomplishments that preceded it wit hin the industry? I mean, just how does one create a 'new-sounding' jazz trumpet recording? "I used to think that it was hard. With this album, I realized that it's not. The best thing to do is celebrate who you are. I am the only me that there is in the world. Therefore, if I dig inside myself and pour that which I find within, into the music that I write and play, then I am giving the world the rawest sense of my creativity. I think this is difficult for some due to the pressures that the industry places on you. But, at what cost?"
"I've decided that I will do my best to be the best me that I can and will accept those sacrifices that come with that decision. So, this is how you come up with something new. You be yourself. You are that something new that people need to hear. I guess being yourself is a lot more difficult than being someone else."
'Sunday Reflections' was written whilst you were traveling from New York to Pittsburgh, but are all your songs so easy to come by as that seemingly was? "I try not to write music that is contrived. I do my best to allow my circumstances and feelings to dictate a melody to me. After all, I am a musician and musicians are constantly hearing things. I try to stay open and receptive to what I hear. I think this is the most honest approach. But, writing more has definitely allowed me to hear more."
If asked to record one for charity, what '80s (and possibly cheesy!) pop/rock song would you love to cover today (in your own jazz trumpet style, of course) ... and why?! "Wow. Interesting question. I love Michael Jackson's "PYT". There's something about that tune that gets me going. So, I'd cover that whether there was a charity involved or not. I could give you so long drawn out answer about the harmony, melody and rhythm but I won't. It simply makes me feel good."
Lastly, and throwing you a journalistic curve ball, Exclusive Magazine love Penguins ... do you?! "LOL. To be honest, I didn't start following them until this year. They are exciting and enjoy watching them. Pittsburgh is a great sports town and I love the energy and excitement thats in the air. Go Penguins and of course STEELERS!!! Oops, I better not say that too loud. I'm from Ohio. Sorry Browns fans."
Thanx again for doing this for us today, and we wish you all the best for the future. "My pleasure!"
Interviewed by: Russell A. Trunk
Sean Jones on MySpace
If you would like to win a copy of this brand new CD ... AUTOGRAPHED ... and you think you know all there is to know about the man, just answer this easy question: The balladic beauty, "The Ambitious Violet," is one of two (2) songs Jones composed inspired by poet/philosopher Khalil Gibran. What is the name of the other one?!
Send me your answers and if you're correct you'll be in the running to win one of these great new AUTOGRAPHED CDs! Just send us an e:mail here before September 1st with your answer and the subject title WIN SEAN JONES SIGNED CDs to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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