Special Hoagy Carmichael Q&A with Joe Lang (Part III)

Special Hoagy Carmichael Q&A with Joe Lang (Part III)

Happy belated birthday to the legendary composer Hoagy Carmichael, who if still alive, would’ve turned 123 this year on November 22nd!

In honor of the multitalented songwriter, we are wrapping up our chat with Joe Lang, who writes for the New Jersey Jazz Association.

JK: Tell us more about your interest in Hoagy Carmichael.

JL: He was my favorite songwriter. I became aware of him as a little kid because my dad used to sing around the house, and one of the songs he sang was “Stardust.” I was maybe four years old when I learned the words to “Stardust” and I used to go around and sing it to everyone and people thought what is this, a little kid singing about reverie?

Hoagy was the first person in the entertainment world I was aware of and over time he became a hero of mine. You know there’s an awful lot of great songwriters in American song—Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Ira Gershwin, Harlen Howard, and I love them all, but I love Hoagy more than anybody.

Somebody once asked me who my three favorite songwriters were and my answer kind of flustered a lot of people because I said Hoagy, Stephen Sondheim, and Thelonious Monk and they didn’t see the connection. But you know I’m not a musician I’m a fan, so I’m not technically able to talk about music but I’ve listened to enough that you pick a lot up. For me, though, music is a very emotional experience rather than a technical experience, so a lot of songs strike me a certain way. I always tell people my favorite female singer was June Christie, not because I think she was the best female singer but there was just something about her singing that struck me emotionally—the sound of her voice, the phrasing, the fact that she kind of sang flat some of the time, it was kind of intentional and just was the thing that I react to.

And of course, I love a lot of Hoagy’s songs and lyrics, and I sat next to Hoagy Carmichael at his 80th birthday tribute and that had to be one of the greatest thrills of my life—to meet Hoagy, well not only meet him, but there were several performers on the show that he was not familiar with that he was asking me about, so I was educating him in a way. And early in the show, I think it was the second song they played, Bob Crosby introduced one of the earliest songs that Hoagy wrote and recorded, and it was called “March of the Hoodlums,” and I knew Hoagy’s music well, but I just didn’t remember having heard that song. Then about halfway through the sang, Hoagy jabbed me in the ribs with his elbow and said, “You know I don’t remember a damn note of that thing—I’m not even sure I wrote it! And so, I go home, and I had an album with early Hoagy Carmichael material on it and sure enough that song was on it, and there was also a recoding of that same song by Duke Ellington, so it was not an unknown song in its day, although it’s not one of Hoagy’s songs that has continued on.

It was funny that one of the guys who was on the program at the birthday tribute was Dave Frishberg. Now I thought that Frishberg was a latter-day Carmichael but when Frishberg came out, Hoagy had no idea who he was. Now Frishberg is a wonderful songwriter—he has a lot of songs that are a little bit different; that don’t follow a formula, and Hoagy was the same way—I think that’s one of the things that appealed to me about him. It wasn’t like you’d hear a song by him, and you’d think oh that’s a Hoagy song. He wrote so many different styles of songs and all so well. And he continued writing into the fifties. He probably kept writing after.

JK: I’d like to switch gears a bit here to talk about your short review of Night Is Alive’s album My Ship.

You wrote that Willie Jones II is “among the premier drummers on the scene today and demonstrates on this album that he also shines as a leader who knows how to put together a superior band. You will dig sailing on My Ship.

Now I am wondering—what is your favorite son on the album?

JL: You know I’d have to look at the album again because I review 10-12 albums a month and I listen to many more that I get in the mail all the time.

JK: There was “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “God Bless the Child,” “My Ship,” “Broadway,” “Taking a Chance on Love,” “Star Eyes,” “Wave,” “I Should Care” and “Christmas Time Is Here.”

JL: Hmmm but I would say the song “My Ship” was probably the one I liked best if I had to pick one.

Hoagy Carmichael Q&A with Joe Lang

Special Hoagy Carmichael Q&A with Joe Lang (Part II)

We’re back this week to continue the conversation with jazz journalist and Hoagy Carmichael aficionado Joe Lang.

JK: So, for those of us who are unfamiliar with Hoagy Carmichael—would you mind giving us a brief rundown of his career? How and when did he begin composing?

JL: Well, he did so many things. I mean he’s primarily known as s songwriter, but he also did a lot of recordings, mostly of his own songs, but sometimes of other people’s songs. He did a dozen or so movies; he always seemed to play the same character—himself, but yeah, he had charm.

When he was a kid, he played piano and he was from Bloomington, Indiana and his mother played piano, and I guess when he was in college, he just started writing songs and playing music. He was basically a jazz musician, and he was just absolutely blown away by Bix Beiderbecke. He became good friends with Bix, and Bix died when he was 29 years old from drinking himself to death, but yeah, he hung around with Bix a lot when he could.

He was very special. He went to school at the University of Indiana. He got a law degree, and then he moved down to Florida, where he was working in a law office when he walked by this open window and heard this song “Washboard Blues” being played, which was one of his songs. He didn’t even know that recording had been made, so when he heard it, he said, “Gee! I think I’m going to concentrate more on songwriting.” So, he moved from Florida up to New York and became a songwriter and, you know, went on from there.

When he recorded “Washboard Blues,” it was for the Paul Whiteman Orchestra and the interesting thing about that was that when they were going to record it, Hoagy was going to sing it, but Paul Whiteman had Bing Crosby standing by in case they felt that Hoagy couldn’t do it, because it’s a very sophisticated song the way it’s written—it’s just not a normal song, it’s a wonderful song. But Hoagy nailed it, and they put the record out with Hoagy singing it. That was the record that really got him to realize that he had real potential as a professional songwriter. Interestingly enough the lyrics to that song were written by a guy who was a stonecutter somewhere in Indiana—I don’t know whether he sent the lyrics to Hoagy, if he was aa friend or if he ever wrote another lyric—but it’s a very fun lyric, it’s very kind of deep in its way.

Hoagy didn’t write many lyrics. He wrote a few lyrics but mostly he worked with other lyricists, most notably, Johnny Mercer. His most famous song is “Stardust,” which is one of the most recorded songs ever and when he wrote that, he actually wrote it as a midtempo instrumental, a bouncy little instrumental, but when Mitchell Parish added the lyrics, they made it a ballad. Most people think of “Stardust” as a romantic song but if you listen to the lyrics, it’s a very sad song. It’s about a love affair that went bad, as are many love songs.

Special Hoagy Carmichael Q&A with Joe Lang (Part I)

Special Hoagy Carmichael Q&A with Joe Lang (Part I)

Did you know that Hoagy Carmichael’s birthday is on November 22nd? That’s right, the famous Tin Pan Alley songwriter is a Sagittarius!

In honor of the multitalented entertainer, we sat down to chat with jazz journalist Joe Lang, who reviews CDs, books, and live performances for the New Jersey Jazz Society’s magazine “Jersey Jazz.”

Lang, who has been listening to jazz since his early teens, is a huge Hoagy Carmichael fan. He remembers becoming attached to “Stardust” when he was only four years old. Over the years, Lang has watched many of Carmichael’s movies, read his biographies, listened to his songs, and even gave a presentation at his local library about the accomplished composer.  

So, you can imagine that Lang was overjoyed when, at Carmichael’s 80th birthday celebration concert during the 1979 New York Jazz Festival, Lang discovered he was seated directly next to the guest of honor! How serendipitous, right?

JK: What is it about Hoagy Carmichael that you love so much?JL: I just like his songs—I never get sick of listening to them. I listened to that [1979 birthday] concert before we had the interview, and I’ve probably listened to that concert dozens of times and I never get sick of it. Of course, there’s a lot of nostalgia involved because I was there and sitting next to him. That was kind of special.

JK: What was Hoagy Carmichael like in person? Was he everything you had imagined?  

Well, yeah. He was a character. His wife had passed away and he had remarried and this lady who he was married to was sitting next to him and she kept getting so embarrassed because he kept shouting things out. I remember they were playing a lot of relatively obscure songs and at one point he yelled out, when are you going to start playing my hits? He was just a character.

if you saw his movies, that pretty much captured what he was like. He had a TV show in the fifties—I wish I could find it—for a short time he was the host of a variety show, but I don’t remember watching it when it was on, and I’ve never been able to find it, but it would’ve been interesting to see that because I bet with that little bit of that recording, you’d really get a flavor of what his personality was like.  

JK: Is Stardust still your favorite Hoagy song?

You know, it’s hard to pick out one song. I like a quirky little song that he wrote that’s not that well known now—it had its popularity in its time—it’s a song called “Little Old Lady.” I just always found it charming. And he wrote a musical with Johnny Mercer called Walk with Music that didn’t get to Broadway as far as I know and the rest of the score most people haven’t heard, but the title song “Walk with Music” is one that got picked up by a lot of singers and I like that song a lot.  

Well, we hope you enjoyed this Feature Friday!

And in honor of Veteran’s Day, we have a special treat for you—a 20% off promo code! Enter VETERANS20 at checkout to receive this exclusive discount.

Feature Friday Q&A with Wayne Escoffery Part III

Feature Friday Q&A With Wayne Escoffery Part III

Last, but certainly not least, we talk to Wayne Escoffery about how the jazz industry has changed since the 80s, along with his experiences recording My Ship!

JK: Do you feel like you have accomplished the musical dreams you had as a child?

WE: I think, like most people in many careers, after you make it to a certain point, you realize that, number one, it probably wasn’t exactly what you expected it to be and, number two, these vocations, these careers, they change. When I was coming up in the 80s and 90s, when I looked at what it meant to be a successful jazz musician—that was the day of The Young Lions. And at least what I thought was that they were doing very well for themselves, doing well financially, and had a lot of resources and support. So, you’re asking if I feel like I reached that success—sure iIve reached that success, that point. I’ve succeeded in many of the goals that I had set out for myself but I’m not sure that the outcome is quite what I thought it would be because the industry has changed so much.

JK: I mean you’re still getting to play your music and get to that level of artistry you desired, right?

WE: Of course, of course and that’s ultimately one of the most important things—and being able to play with high level musicians and I’m respected in my field. Those are ultimately some of the most important things that I’ve set out to do, so I’m very proud I’ve been able to succeed in that regard but of course there are still other things that we want to make sure that we get.

JK: So how has the jazz industry changed?

WE: I think in many ways musicians are exploited more than they used to be. Granted they were exploited back then too but I think there was more money being poured into jazz specifically and into certain types of jazz and certain types of musicians. There were just more resources that were available ad there was generally more artist support and more money to support the artists. Now I think there’s still money. But it’s hard to find and unfortunately, like in our social and political environment, the “haves” try to make sure that they continue to have. And I think that they’re more willing to exploit, than to help, bring up artists and invest in artists and the industry. But that’s kind of a common thread throughout industry.

JK: Yeah definitely. So, what was it like recording the album My Ship?

WE: Well, interestingly enough, I was only asked to join the cast I think one or two nights before we went into the studio. But with that being said, I’ve known most of the musicians, except for Isaiah, for decades. I’ve played with them on a number of occasions, so of course it was like reuniting with buddies to make some music and that was fun and I’m sure you can hear bits of that in the product. Yeah, and I mean you know Willie is a great professional and knows what to do. In many ways there’s very little that needs to be said among the musicians that performed in this album because we all know what to do, we all know how to support each other, and we all know how make great music. So, it was actually pretty easy. It felt good to just play some classic songs together.

JK: What’s your favorite song on the album if you have one?

WE: Well, I don’t know what my favorite rendition is, of what we’ve done, but I know that Broadway is one of those songs that I always have affection for because one of my heroes, saxophonist Dexter Gordon recorded Broadway—that was one of his classics, his recording of that song became a classic interpretation, so I always like getting a chance to play Broadway. It makes me think of Dexter. He’s really one of my idols.

If you’re looking for some more Wayne Escoffery, check out our albums My Ship and Old New Borrowed & Blue, both of which are available in our store and on all major music platforms!

Feature Friday Q&A with Wayne Escoffery Part II

Feature Friday Q&A With Wayne Escoffery Part II

The conversation with Wayne Escoffery continues this beautiful Friday! Today we talk more about the Grammy-award-winner’s early times on the sax, along with his other career aspiration—psychology. 

JK: Do you think there was anything specific that inspired you to play the tenor saxophone?

WE: I mean, again, my mother was a big influence in that regard. And it turns out that my grandfather on my father’s side. played amateur saxophone so that I guess was kind of, somewhat of an inspiration. As far as the tenor goes, really at my elementary school, they were handing out saxophones and the tenor was the biggest one and I was the biggest guy so they gave that to me.

JK: Makes sese! Do you remember any of the first songs you learned on the tenor sax?

WE: Uh, probably Hot Cross Buns.

JK: Haha of course. And then were there any songs that really resonated with you as you started to advance?

WE: Let me think about that. Because I came from the perspective of a singer and I was influenced by those Motown singers as well as the singers of the choral tradition, I would really try to play some of those melodies by ear on the horn. And even popular melodies of the time. I remember trying to play songs by New Addition, songs like Candy Girl. Whatever was popular at the time, I tried to play on saxophone. I watched a lot of black TV shows like the Jeffersons, and I used to try and play that theme song on the saxophone. I pretty much played any popular music that I was hearing. And I think that was good to do because it’s important to play what is familiar to you, so you learn how to play what you’re hearing in your head on your instrument because ultimately that’s what we try to continue to do.

 

JK: Do you miss singing at all? Do you still sing?

WE: I don’t sing anymore. I do miss it sometimes. It was a very great experience, not just the act of singing but the camaraderie. The organization was a great organization and the amount of discipline that was required to perform—there are a lot of aspects of that that I think I kept with me over time.

JK: When you were a kid, did you pretty much know that you wanted to become a musician?

WE: I kind of did. My dream was to be a pop singer. But I’m not sure that I really thought, when I was young, that that was a career. I knew that it was something that I wanted to do and that I loved to do and that I fantasized about but I don’t  know that I thought about making music as a career or a way to make money, it was just definitely something that I wanted to do. When I was older and realized that a career meant making money so that you could take care of yourself, I wanted to do other things but the music was still a passion and I decided that if I really wanted to be a successful, serious musician that I had to really dedicate my time and energy to it.  

JK: Did you have an idea of something else you wanted to do to make money?

WE: I studied psychology a little bit. Even in high school, I was fortunate enough to take some college level classes in psychology. At one point I really wanted to do that, to be some type of therapist or a psychologist.

JK: But then your music career took off?

WE: Well, it’s not that it took off but that I realized how much time and dedication it would take to reach the level of artistry that I wanted to be at and I felt like I had to make a choice—I wouldn’t be able to do both.

If you’re looking for some more Wayne Escoffery, check out our albums My Ship and Old New Borrowed & Blue, both of which are available in our store and on all major music platforms!

Feature Friday Q&A With Wayne Escoffery Part I

Ah, nothing beats the bliss of a Friday afternoon, right? And to improve your good mood even more, we have a new Q&A series with the Grammy-Award-winning tenor saxophonist Wayne Escoffery! 

Escoffery has experience front lining, around the world, in Tom Harrell’s working quintet, as well as being a member of The Mingus Dynasty, Big Band and Orchestra, and teaching jazz improvisation at the Yale School of Music. 

And now we’re lucky enough at Night Is Alive to have Wayne Escoffery featured in our albums My Ship and Old New Borrowed & Blue. And with Christmas being just around the corner, be sure to be on the lookout for our upcoming album, Christmas Ain’t Like It Use To Be, featuring Wayne Escoffery!

So, without further ado, let’s get to know this remarkable musician! 

JK: Was music a big part of your household when you were growing up?

WE: Well, my mother was an avid listener of classical music and old school R&B music. But she was not a jazz listener. I basically grew up with my mother, but for the first few years of my life when my father was in the house he did listen to and play reggae music. He was an amateur reggae guitarist. So, there was exposure to that from a very early age, but for most of my childhood, it was with my mother, and she was a big fan of classical and R&B music. She would have it on casually in the house as background music. Music was always playing but it was never something that was discussed much or was a huge part of our lives. 

JK: Do you have a most beloved song from your childhood?

WE: Not in particular. But for sure, I myself was always a big fan of the young Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5. My mother played that a lot. And also, choral music, she played a lot of choral music. So, no specific song, just certain artists, like Michael Jackson—he’s definitely one that resonated with me and all the artists surrounding him. You know, Motown era music. 

JK: Yeah, definitely great music! So, I saw that at age 11 you joined the New Haven Trinity Boys Choir and began taking saxophone lessons. 

WE: Yeah, the boys’ choir was really my first formal introduction into music, so really, I consider the voice my first instrument. And yes, after that, at around 11, I started playing the tenor saxophone actually, which is somewhat unusual as a lot of older players start playing the clarinet or alto saxophone first.

JK: What inspired you to join the choir?

WE: Well, two-fold—my mother’s love for choral and classical musical and also, growing up in New Haven, Connecticut. New Haven is a very diverse place and while there are a lot of areas that are well-to-do, there is also a lot of poverty, so there were lots of areas, things ad environments that my mother wanted me to stay away from. She was definitely big on keeping me busy. When the director of the New Haven Boys’ Choir visited our elementary school looking for choir boys, he saw some talent in me and my mom right away suggested I join the boys’ choir. It was a pretty serious organization, so that pretty much kept me busy at least three days of the week. 

JK: Hmm I see. Clever of your mom! And then you started playing the saxophone.

WE: Yeah, I would basically go to choir practice with saxophone in hand and before or after choir I would have saxophone practice. Not necessarily playing jazz music, just band music. 
If you’re looking for some more Wayne Escoffery, check out our albums My Ship and Old New Borrowed & Blue, both of which are available in our store and on all major music platfor

Songs for Sweetest Day!

Even though you may think that Sweetest Day—celebrated on October 15th—is just a holiday invented by greeting card companies, you can surely agree that it’s nice to take time out of your day to share a small gift or kind gesture, right? 

Really, we shouldn’t need a designated day to do something kind, but it certainly doesn’t hurt! So, this Sweetest Day, why not do something thoughtful for another? A kind thought can really brighten someone’s day, as well as your own! 

Whether it be paying it forward in line at Starbucks, bringing cupcakes to work or giving your significant other a foot massage, there are many ways to be sweet on this lovely October day. 

And, of course, since music is our forte at Night Is Alive, we have some sweet & sparkly songs to pair with some acts of kindness!

Nancy Sinatra – Sugar Town

This 1967 tune is one of my favorites because it always seems to create the best, most relaxed, and upbeat atmosphere. It’s especially nice to listen to when you’re driving, and the sun is shining, and you have a big bouquet of flowers in the seat next to you. Maybe you’re bringing flowers to your mom, aunt, or good friend to show them how much you care! 

John Coltrane & Thelonious Monk – Sweet and Lovely

From the start, you can hear the tenderheartedness in this 2005 song. The piano notes float peacefully through your mind like you’re on a cloud. The sweet melody might just inspire you to write a thoughtful letter to an estranged loved one, or a loved one that lives far away. It’s never too late to rekindle an overlooked relationship. 

James Taylor – How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)

Everyone knows this 1975 classic! Just like everyone knows how good it feels to be loved. But don’t forget how sweet it can also be to express love to another. Make your sweetheart want to belt out these lyrics by surprising them with a crisp box of chocolates, or a pint of their favorite ice cream! 

The Beatles – Ain’t She Sweet

Who doesn’t love the Beatles? Add a dose of sugar to your day by blasting this 1964 hit while you and your family clean up after dinner. Dust off those vocal pipes, bust out those air guitar skills and have a goofy ole time singing and dancing along!  

John Di Martino, Joe Magnarelli & Wayne Escoffery – Please Don’t Go

Maybe you were reluctant to celebrate Sweetest Day at first, but I bet by the end of the day, and after listening to all these sweet tunes, you are now reluctant for the day to end! Let this fun 2022 jazz tune play while you watch the sun set over the fall foliage and allow the gratitude to wash over you. 
If you’re looking for some more sweet jazz tunes, check out our albums My Ship and Old New Borrowed & Blue, both of which are available in our store and on all major music platforms!

Feature Friday Q&A With Gerald Cannon Part III

Time for our final installment in the Q&A series with jazz bassist, composer and painter, Gerald Cannon. Today we discuss his experiences recording the album My Ship and get to know a bit more about his visual art.  

JK: What was it like recording the album My Ship?

GC: Oh it was great! You know it was with my longtime musical companion Willie Jones and everybody. The band are all seasoned musicians who I know very well. The album is very beautiful; it’s like a ballad record if I remember correctly. I love ballads. It was very mature. A very mature record. I remember thinking like, it’s a definite grown-up record and the musicians were seasoned and we’re all friends. It was fun!

JK:I’m glad y’all had fun! I talked to Steve Davis the other day and he had so many great things to say about it. 

GC: Yeah, I think pretty much all of us have been on the road together in one situation or another. Those are the kind of record days that are very special. Cause they’re not always like that. It was very easy and, like I said, very seasoned. Very mature. And musical. Cause we all know each other’s playing. It wasn’t hard at all. It was great!  I can’t wait to hear it, I don’t think I’ve heard it yet. 

JK: Well, all the songs are on YouTube!

GC: Oh okay, I’ll check it out. 

JK: So, do you have a favorite song on the album?

GC: I mean My Ship is definitely one of my favorite songs. That’s a beautiful, beautiful melody. But they’re really all my favorites! I’m an Old Beatles fan. I remember when I bought my first Beatles record. Those are the greatest bass lies. The bass lines are classic. I play them all the time on upright during solos and stuff. 

JK: I saw that you had an art show recently. Congratulations!

GC: Thank you! Yeah, I have another one coming up in October in New York. The gallery is in Greenwich Village. I’m really looking forward to that show.

JK: Do you think your music inspires your painting or vice versa?

GC: Yeah, they inspire each other. I think the way I play is definitely connected to the way I paint. Kind of loose and abstract but within the form. 

JK: That’s great that you’re able to do both!

GC: Yeah, I’m blessed.  

If you’re still eager for more Gerald Cannon, you can listen to him play in the album My Ship, which is available in our store and on all major music platforms today.  

Songs to Listen to While You Carve Pumpkins

Ah, the bliss of waking up, pulling on a cozy old wool sweater, and drinking a mug of hot tea. Like most Americans, fall is my favorite season. The cooler, autumnal weather is such a relief after the sweaty, hazy days of summer. And even though it may be “basic,” the pumpkin spice lattes, hay bale mazes, knit scarves and warm apple cider are pretty hard to beat! 

But the most treasured fall pastime is hands-down pumpkin carving. There’s nothing like getting your family together on a chilly fall night to craft spooky faces while a full moon looms in the sky.  

Did you know that the tradition of the jack-o’-lantern comes from an old Irish legend about a drunkard who makes a bargain with Satan that curses him to wander the Earth with just a hollowed turnip to illuminate his way? The tradition was brought to the United States by Irish immigrants in the early 19th century and has become an American staple ever since. 

Now, what music should you listen to while carving pumpkins? Don’t fear—we have some eerie tunes just for you!

Bing Crosby – The Headless Horseman 

This 1949 song comes from the Disney movie adaptation of Washington Irving’s short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” which tells about a horseman who carries his head in his lap, and who, late one night, frightens a teacher so bad that the teacher disappears. Some say he fled the village, while others say that the horseman took his body and soul. All that they know for certain is that the teacher’s hat was found in the morning next to a smashed pumpkin. 

Written in 1820, this story helped to create the cannon of American literature, and it also contributed to the spookiness of the carved-out pumpkin in the American imagination. With a hip-hip and a clippity-clop, he’s out lookin’ for a top to chop … 

Jackie McClean – Demon’s Dance

The angular and varied textures in this 1967 tune will inspire you to make crisp and creative cuts in your pumpkin, turnip, gourd, or other root vegetable. Maybe you’ll even carve out an image of demons dancing around a fire—who knows? See where your inner ghoul takes you!

Ella Fitzgerald – Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead

From the classic 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, this is a beloved song that’ll definitely captivate you and your family. If you don’t remember, the song celebrates when Dorothy’s house falls on the Wicked Witch of the East, and when the Wicked Witch of the West is splashed with water. 

John DiMartino, Joe Magnarelli & Wayne Escoffery – Hudson River Wind

Although this is technically not a spooky song, it really captures the spirit of fall. When you think of autumn, don’t you think of a gust of wind blowing leaves into a rushing river?

If you’re looking for more jazz songs to listen to while you carve pumpkins, check out our albums My Ship and Old New Borrowed and Blue, which are both available in our store and on all major music platforms now. 

Feature Friday Q&A With Gerald Cannon Part II

If you missed our last chat with the remarkable renaissance man Gerald Cannon, be sure to read it here. And today, the conversation continues as we learn more about his early stages as a musician!

JK: I saw online that your first college major was physical education, which makes me wonder, when you were a child, what did you dream of becoming when you grew up?

GC: Well, I played basketball and football in high school and junior high school and I was pretty good at it, I guess, so I had a partial scholarship to the University of Wisconsin LA Crosse. I played basketball and my mother played basketball and my father played basketball. We all play basketball. One of my cousins retired from the Cleveland Cavaliers—who Kathy knows very well—James Jones. He used to babysit me and my brother, so we were a very athletic family. 

JK: Yeah, sounds like it. So, did you want to become an athlete originally?

GC: Originally I was going to be a gym teacher—physical education. And during my time at the University of Wisconsin La Crosse, I started taking upright bass as an elective and I just fell in love with it. I was therr for 1 year then I transferred to the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music. 

JK: So, would you say then that your childhood dream came true?

GC: Yes, definitely. You know, from 9 to 18, I was only allowed to play in church with my father and I could practice with all the local bands but my dad wouldn’t let me join any of them until I was 18. So, I did my first gig when I was 18. We were one of the local bands in Racine, WI.

JK: Was that with a jazz band?

GC: No, that was a R&B funk band.  

JK: And then what brought you to jazz?

GC: I’ve been listening to it my whole life. My parents listened to gospel and jazz. My bother was really the one who—when we were of age to start buying our own records—he was totally into jazz and always buying jazz records. My mother gave me my first jazz record when I was 12 or 13 and it was a John Coltrane record called Africa/Brass and that just blew me away. 

If you’re still eager for more Gerald Cannon, you can listen to him play in the album My Ship, which is available in our store and on all major music platforms today!