Written By: Jordannah Elizabeth
I wrote about naivety in my introduction for Derek See´s mixtape, and the many facets that can be explored in life and expressed on a platform like Publik / Private. Well this time, when conducting this interview with the jazz artist, Gideon King from Gideon King & City Blog, I thought about spontaneity and inquisitiveness. Being someone who people think has a vast knowledge on subjects of art and music, I always, in my own mind, remember that I can never truly know an individual…who makes the art and music I seem to know so much about.
Therefore, I asked musician, Gideon King some questions about his music what it is about jazz that keeps him recording and creating over and over again.
What was the first moment you imagined the idea for your new record?
Well I am not generally a big drinker but Sake was an important part of the conception of Gideon King & City Blog. Some years ago I was on the island of Turks And Caicos and I started to jam at the hotel bar with a talented singer-songwriter. I started laying down some crossover chordal and line ideas over his pop/folk/soul tunes. Despite some Sake-induced cacophonous sloppiness, something worthy, at least in my mind, was born. People were intrigued by the idea of fusion or jazz phrasing over pop music. On the way back to the hotel room, my wife, who was still enjoying the benefits of lucidity, noted that I should stop prating on about how jazz was better and sit down and write some pop music. She further noted that the people at the bar related to the blend of jazz and rock. I am not much of a vocalist—or perhaps I should say that my voice kind of sucks—so in the coming months I began to triangulate around the idea that I would write crossover tunes, play lead guitar, bring in different studio musicians(including real vocalists) from a jazz bent, and generally try and create something a little different. It made sense because I always liked to write short stories and I always liked composing music. This whole preamble aside I would have to admit that the very first moment I imagined the idea for my new record was during a lengthy exercise in Sake consumption. Not very inspiring I am afraid and I swear again I don’t even really drink much.
What message are you trying to get across with the album?
Well, I suppose that having grown up in New York City I can’t really escape its influence on my way of thinking. I’m not even sure I like this town. But I am sure that there is lots to write about New York, as I can’t imagine a place with more contradictions and more countervailing forces colliding to create a certain simultaneously grating and inviting energy. A saxophone player said that he thought of the cd as a set of New York short stories. I’ll go with that, only I would say I am not so much trying to tell stories with plot lines and beginnings and endings, but rather I am attempting to paint a picture of the place, bringing together certain abstractions to create a sense of NYC as opposed to an exact understanding(which is impossible anyway). The message I am trying to get across both with the lyrics and the eclectic styles of play is that New York represents a series of hard realities, pretensions, funny images and moments, and dangers. There is no deep social commentary; that gets old something quick.
Do you think artists are going to get your message or are you open to their interpretations?
I think artists are going to get from it what they want to get. I am just happy if they like it. What I really hope is they appreciate the enormous effort that went into writing and playing these tunes. I hope they appreciate all these amazing musicians that agreed to play on the project. Basically every single one of them is better than I am(that’s not false humility….. they are better musicians although I am continuing to study and improve), and that’s what makes the project cool in my mind. So many influences coming together to bring the thing to life! Am I open to interpretation? Hell yes, because that means someone is listening! If someone is moved to interpret one of my tunes or lyrics then I am psyched because that means at least the music has penetrated enough for someone to care.
What turned you onto jazz as opposed to other genres?
Well it’s kind of funny, because when I wrote this music I intended for it to be crossover music, blending rock and jazz and soul and pop and maybe even a little classical. I think of jazz as a very different interactive experience between listeners. I think of jazz as Herbie Hancock and Ron Carter and Wayne shorter and Elvin Jones playing together without lyrics. I think of jazz as what I go to hear at night in NYC. But what I think does not matter. Things are what people call them to a large extent and many people have called this jazz, although others have called it rock/jazz and the like.
I guess for me jazz is the ultimate vehicle for expression on so many levels. I mean it is harmonically rich, accommodative of trillions of little musical ideas that can be expressed without boring repetition, and rhythmically interesting. Just take an ultimate jazz player like Chic Corea. If you just watch what this guy can do technically it is mind-blowing. He has classical chops, jazz chops, blues chops, and any other kind of chops he needs to have. The explosion of ideas that can come out of one of his solos is a freak of nature. Oh, and by the way, guys like him and Herbie do it with feel, a sense of humor, and an interactive sense of what the other musicians are doing. It’s like musical multi-tasking in the extreme.
My brother turned me on to these extraordinary characters when I was young. He was and is a great jazz pianist and I grew up listening to him figure out all the crazy things guys like Chic and Herbie and McCoy Tyner were doing. I am very taken by the mixture of beauty, complexity, and madness that is jazz. I only wish I was better at it. Maybe my fascination with it is to do with the fact that I am not great at it. We are fascinated by what we are not in many instances. I love pop music too but I it does not present the same technical challenges. One of the reasons I so admire Steely Dan is because they mixed pop and jazz to some extent. Gideon King & City Blog does this as well, although in a different way harmonically and lyrically. Anyway, what turned me on to jazz is the fact that embedded in jazz history there are so many musical superheroes, at least in my book
Do you think it is easy to be an independent jazz musician in 2015?
Frankly, I think it has never been easy to be a jazz musician. No money, no fans fainting in the hallways as you walk back to your dressing room. Just the faintly heard respect of the vanishingly-close-to -zero fans out there willing to actually sit back and appreciate the breadth of the skills. As I was saying before I think Gideon King & City Blog is crossover music more than it is jazz, which gives it more commercial appeal(hopefully anyway!) Being a straight-ahead jazz musician is brutal unless you are playing at the highest level and have had great luck as well. I would not want to try that; I am neither good enough nor inclined to suffer that much. So, in case I wasn’t clear, being an independent jazz musician, no less a labeled jazz musician, in 2015 is very very hard. On that uplifting note, I want to thank you for the interview and please buy the new Gideon King & City Blog cd…..I will be everlastingly grateful….okay that was kinda phony but I will be somewhat grateful I swear…..