Feature Friday Q&A with Gerald Cannon

Feature Friday Q&A with Gerald Cannon

Happy Friday! You made it to the end of the week! Gosh, it sure does feel good, doesn’t it? And the cherry on top is that we have the first installment in a brand-new Feature Friday Q&A series! This time, we’re interviewing the musician, composer, and painter Gerald Cannon.

Jazz bassist Gerald Cannon has performed all over the world with Roy Hargrove’s band, made his debut in the New York City visual art world, and is currently an instructor at the Julliard School and Oberlin College and Conservatory.  

But before all of those accomplishments, he was just a boy growing up in Racine, Wisconsin. Read the interview to learn more about his formative years.

JK: I read online that your initial inspiration was your father Benjamin, who was a guitarist, and bought you your first bass. So, I’m guessing that music was a big part of your household growing up?

GC: Oh yeah, constantly. My father had a gospel quartet when I was a kid—I mean he always had one as far back as I can remember. So, there was always music in our house. We used to rehearse at our house on Wednesday evenings. There were always guitars around the house, and I was never supposed to touch his guitars, but I did every time he left the house. He called me one day, and I though, uh oh, I’m in trouble, and if I hadn’t been able to play anything, I would’ve been in trouble! But I figured out a few notes—actually a few notes that my uncle sang in my father’s gospel quartet. I just played something nice that he sang—he sang bass. So, then my father took me immediately to a music store and bought me my first electric bass. I was nine years old then.

JK: Did you play any instruments before the electric base?

GC: No. Just electric bass.

JK: So, at age 9, did you know that was what you wanted to do with the rest of your life?

GC: Yeah, I kinda did. After that I pretty much spent all my free time on it. I was just really happy to have something that I could call my own. My brother was an actor and, so when I started taking lessons—I was about 9 or 10—my brother started taking voice and acting lessons.

And my mother and father used to dance all the time. I guess that before I was born, they used to win awards for their dancing abilities. And my grandmother was a great gospel pianist in the South. So, it’s kind of always been there.

JK: Was your mother also a musician?

GC: No, she wasn’t. She was just a housewife, but she loved music and could dance. Her and my father used to dance in our living room to Nat King Cole and some records and stuff.

JK: What was your most beloved song during your childhood?

GC: Oh, that’s an interesting question cause, like I said, we listened to music a lot. Let’s see—it would be this record my dad used to play all the time. It’s a Kay Burrell record called Midnight Blue. And I remember hearing “Gee Baby Ain’t I Good To You” all the time when I was a kid. I mean we just had records—I don’t know; I don’t really have a special song. We listened to music all the time in our house. It’s kind of hard to think of just one. It was all good music too—we listened to lots of jazz; my dad played lots of gospel records.

JK: What was the first song that you learned on the electric bass?

GC: Hmm. Probably The Old Rugged Cross. If I remember correctly. That was 50 years ago.

Tune in next time to learn more about Gerald Cannon. And in the meantime, you can listen to him play in the WJ3 All-Stars’ newest album, My Ship.

Feature Friday Q&A with Steve Davis (Part III)

The conversation with trombonist Steve Davis continues! And this week, he’s giving us all the juicy, behind-the-scenes details about the recording of the new album, My Ship!

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

Stevie-D: Like I mentioned about Willie—to work with him is always great. He always puts together all-star groups, dream bands. Everybody on the date is playing on such a high level, and we all go back and have history together. There’s always such a good camaraderie and collaborative spirit working together and it’s just so inspiring to hear everybody soloing on such a high level, playing the ensemble passages. We really got together on some nice arrangements. And Willie asked me to put together some particular arrangements and I was really honored to do that. At the same time, we wanted to keep the approach somewhat streamlined—not too much over arranging and super complex writing because it just wasn’t necessary. And hopefully, it leaves some space for everyone in the band to do their thing and shine and give their full expression and contributions. Hopefully we achieve that and the record’s really wining. Anytime it’s Gerald Cannon and Willie Jones playing bass and drums it’s going to be swinging, big time. Yeah, I’d just say we had a great time doing it. And playing with Jeremy and Wayne Escoffery, they’re both just A1, top shelf tenor sax—you can’t do any better than that. And Isiah is a wonderful young pianist whose got a very strong voice already. We just had a blast—it was fun.

JK: And you did the arranging for the album, correct?

Stevie-D: Now that I’m thinking back on it, yeah, I guess I did do most of it. I guess it could’ve been anyone of us who filled that role, but I guess I did. Everyone helped a great deal to work out any kinks and make the music as smooth and hip and swinging as possible, so I really appreciate everybody’s efforts in that regard, and of course just everyone’s tremendous playing. I can’t wait to really have a good listen.   

JK: Kathy said that a couple of the tracks were beloved songs from her childhood. It all seems very serendipitous—like the album is about accomplishing one’s childhood dreams.

Stevie-D: I’ve been privileged to be on a few of these projects with Kathy and Willie now and it’s always such a pleasure. I really appreciate her spirit for the music and musicians. It’s just really easy and fun to work with her. I would say that when she gives us a theme like this, it does provide us with some really nice inspiration and it’s very genuine. It’s not some kind of manufactured thing; she’s really speaking from her heart when she talks about these songs and gives us an idea of what she’s trying to get to, in an emotional way, through the music. Sometimes when you’ve been playing—just showing up and making records, you can forget about that a little bit. You just kinda play the part, and that’s it. My Ship, though, is personal and I love that. Actually, at this point in my career, I always wanted to be involved in projects that are meaningful like that. I’m happy that this one is what it is and to be on it and be a part of it and that it’s doing well—that people are hearing it and digging it. Kathy’s collaborations with Willie—there’s a solid reputation there now, people know oh man, this record’s going to be swinging! So, it’s a real honor to be a part of that.

JK: So, could you tell me more about the arranging process?

Stevie-D: You get a list of songs. I don’t know that I suggested any of the tunes but they’re all such good pieces that I just, uh, embraced the assignment if you will. And then when you know who’s on the date and who you’re writing for—the instrumentation obviously, but the personality—you have history with the musicians and you can picture everyone’s musical voices, so I kinda start there—who’s going to take the lead on this? What would be a nice way to voice the horns, and then of course Gerald is a good writer and Willie is too, so I always defer to musicians of their caliber and those two in particular, and I ask, what do you hear on this? Do you hear something a little different they might say no that’s cool, or they might say nah this is cool let’s do it like this or they might say, that’s cool but how about right here what about this. I love that—when we collaborate. I never want to overwrite so that everything is so precise that everyone is locked in—it kinda takes the fun and collaborative spirit out of the music, which is the essence of what jazz music is all about. Art Blakey used to say—he’d point to the jazz band and say ladies and gentlemen, “This here is democracy at work,” and that was pretty profound to me, so that’s a good lesson to remember and try to adhere here. So yeah, that’s kinda maybe the bset way to describe it—I try to offer an interpretation on some specific things but always with room for everyone to add their two cents in there or twenty bucks and make the music that much better and that much more personal so that it’s a group sound and I think we achieve that.

JK: What is your favorite song on the album?

Stevie-D: Oh man that’s hard. That’s really hard. I can honestly say there’s something about every one of these tunes that with the arrangement and the way they came together that I was so proud of and really felt great about. It’s hard for me to choose, I mean it. I think “Wave” was not my suggestion, but I wound up playing a little on it and thinking, I don’t know about this—it was toward the end of the session—so that was a pleasant surprise, or moment. But that “Taking a Chance on Love” is pretty swinging—I like that. And “Can’t Buy Me Love”—I’m a Beatles fan, so I love that song, we all do. But “Taking a Chance on Love” might be a sentimental favorite for me.

Night Is Alive Featured in Downbeat – February 2020

Night is Alive featured in February 2020 Issue of Downbeat

Kathy Salem, managing director of Night is Alive, opens up about her journey from a small, boutique Jazz agent, to becoming a nation-wide Jazz Powerhouse.

“We started off very small: I was only doing management for jazz musicians,” said Kathy Moses Salem, managing director of Akron, Ohio-based Night Is Alive Productions. “But musicians come to me all the time, asking Can you ‘do this, can you do that?’ We realized that there were bigger needs, and we ought to be 360-degrees.”

That’s how Salem’s five-person company expanded from focusing on artist management to a mind-boggling list of services. Night Is Alive’s purview includes audience research, social media curation, digital and physical media design, advertising and promotion, and recording and production for the company’s new eponymous record label.

But Salem, at 75, is a newcomer to most of these aspects of the music business. And at first, she didn’t even plan on working as an artist manager. Salem’s background includes advertising at the Cleveland Plain-Dealer and lobbying in Washington, D.C. But after her husband passed away in 2004, she decided to channel her energy into a lifelong love of music.

You can read the full article here!

Marketing Insights: Night is Alive and Lovers and Love Songs

There is no right answer when it comes to marketing, whether you are a small business or large corporation. Though numerous studies have attempted to solve the riddle behind effective marketing tactics, users generally report that roughly 70% of all marketing is either ignored or disliked – and that leaves only ¼ of all marketing to be considered effective.

Thinking monetarily, when only $.25 of every dollar is spent “productively”, you would think that those working in the marketing field would spend a majority of their time and energy trying to resolve the issue and win back consumers. However, fear begins to play a large role in methodology. Businesses tend to rely heavily on “what works” with little positive growth rather than risk new methods that could yield worse results. That said, there are a couple of general marketing tactics that stand out when attempting to reach a wide audience.

Targeting

The safest approach to cultivate and grow interest is targeting. This is a game of attention, the end goal to maximize audience engagement. Simply put, you make changes to who receives your ads and finesse your audience to maximize engagement. Using metrics, or measurable values that demonstrate the effectiveness of campaigns, to track marketing goals is effective here. Targeting is a tried and true formula that has immediate feedback, especially in today’s internet age where nearly all ad platforms provide analytics to the marketer.

MailChimp is one example of an email marketing service that does a wonderful job of targeting. After sending an email campaign, the marketer receives data on how many clicks, opens, bouncebacks, etc. their email yielded. It provides instantaneous feedback for future, similar campaigns.

Personalization

The trickier, but much more rewarding, process is innovating and personalizing the style of content you are delivering to your audience. A compelling ad campaign can cross demographics and bring in audiences you might not reach using standard targeting. Night is Alive is taking an alternative reality marketing approach for the upcoming release of Lovers and Love Songs. Without giving too many details away, the idea is to create an environment that encourages interaction between the audience and the promotion. This interactive experience will allow people to feel more directly involved and connected to the campaign itself. Creating a storyline within a scavenger hunt environment is one method: the audience can find clues, solve puzzles, and, ultimately, reach the finish line. This could set the stage for a rewarding exchange of information.

Crafting a positive community around your brand is a lofty goal for any business or agency. This “holy grail” focuses on building lasting relationships, not solely on the number of clicks their ads receive (not to discount the importance of targeting, which has a time and place!). While cultivating a community comes with many potential benefits for both the business and the audience, it also runs the risk of consumer exploitation. Users are much savvier than they used to be, and they will be quick to call out any marketing behavior that attempts to hijack their emotions or intelligence. Therefore, if you want to make the marketing experience exciting and rewarding, it is always best to respect your audience from the start.

For more information about Lovers and Love Songs and the musicians with Night is Alive, please visit our web page (http://nightisalive.com/) or contact directly via phone.

Article by Benjamin Lehman and Elizabeth Carney, Content Editor, Night is Alive

Press Release: Lovers and Love Songs

Night is Alive Album Release September, 2019: Lovers and Love Songs

Night is Alive, under the leadership of Managing Director/Producer Kathy Moses Salem, is thrilled to announce the release of Lovers and Love Songs on September 9th, 2019.

After selling out two concerts in Fort Lauderdale and Fort Myers, FL, Ms. Salem suggested bandleader Willie Jones III and his All-Stars take their performances to the next level and create a studio recording. The group, made of big-name bandleaders in their own right, so thoroughly enjoyed playing together that they agreed, thus leading to the birth of Lovers and Love Songs.

Along with Willie Jones III (drums), the album features Terell Stafford (trumpet), Ralph Moore (tenor saxophone), Donald Vega (piano), Steve Davis (trombone), and Gerald Cannon (bass). It should also be noted that Eric Reed (piano) and Robin Eubanks (trombone) were involved with the two live concerts but were unable to record.

The excitement felt by the musicians was almost tangible in the studio, revealed by the following first-hand comments Ms. Salem documented during the recording process:

“One of the best recordings I have made in the past ten years.” – Ralph Moore

“So relaxed and smooth.” – Terell Stafford

“This is my first time to play with the band…what fun!” – Donald Vega

Gerald Canon, showing his commitment to the album’s success, hosted a rehearsal at his apartment, while other musicians insisted on recording extra takes to “fix two wrong notes”.

The album features the following:

1.) I’ve Never Been In Love Before
Terell Stafford, melody
solos by Terell Stafford, Ralph Moore, Steve Davis, and Donald Vega

2.) First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
Donald Vega and Ralph Moore, melody
solos by Ralph Moore and Donald Vega

3.) I’m An Old Cow Hand
Ralph Moore, melody
solos by all members

4.) From This Moment On
Terell Stafford, Steve Davis, and Ralph Moore, melody
drum solo by Willie Jones III

5.) Gee Baby Ain’t I Good To You
Ralph Moore, melody
solos by Ralph Moore and Donald Vega

6.) Here’s That Rainy Day
Donald Vega and Terell Stafford, melody and solos

7.) Cry Me A River
Steve Davis, melody
solos by Steve Davis and Donald Vega

8.) Jitterbug Waltz
features trio Donald Vega, Gerald Cannon, and Willie Jones III