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.

Serene Songs for Painting Parties

Serene Songs for Painting Parties

Are you looking for something to do outside with friends this summer? Maybe you’re not the outdoorsy type and you’re more interested in artistic stuff. Well, no problem. If hiking and kayaking sound exhausting to you, and drinking and dining outside have gotten a bit boring, how about hosting an afternoon of painting en plein air? I’m sure that you and your friends will love being able to explore and challenge yourselves creatively, while also getting to chit chat and enjoy the beautiful weather!

And with all the new painting products and techniques out there, you’re sure to find something that fits your interests. Whether it be hiring an instructor to teach watercolor for beginners, using watercolor pencils, Winsor & Newton watercolor pallets, or painting landscapes or portraits, there is a plethora of fun options out there!

By now, you’re probably wondering, what songs should you listen to during your painting party? Don’t worry—since music is our game at Night is Alive, we’ve got you covered!

Louis Armstrong – What a Wonderful World

Kick off your watercolor painting party with this classic song from 1967 that everyone is sure to know and love. Be like Vincent Van Gogh and capture the feelings of nature around you. Like Armstrong sings, paint pictures of the trees of green, red roses too and the skies of blue and clouds of white.

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

With the hot weather we’ve been having lately, there’s nothing like a nice river wind to cool the sweat on the back of our necks, and that is the exact sensation that this beautiful song portrays. Let the saxophone refresh and revitalize your energy and creativity as you splash colors onto your canvas!

Nat King Cole – Nature Boy

This 1948 tune is one of the lesser-known ones from the great Nat King Cole, but by no means is it less enthralling. The lyrics tell the story of a “very strange, enchanted boy” who wandered “very far over land and sea” and told the speaker that “the greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return,” which I think is a wonderful message to keep in mind as you paint the enchanting world around you. Maybe your finished painting can be given to a loved one as a gift!

The WJ3 All-Stars – Wave

This beautiful lowkey jazz instrumental provides the perfect backdrop for a peaceful day of watercolor painting. Let the soft melody of the trombone and the rhythm of the drums carry your imagination away into a dreamy, blissful landscape.

Lorca Hart Trio – Blues Alliance

There’s nothing more enjoyable to paint than the sky and the setting sun, and this song will inspire you to capture all those stunning shades of blue in your painting.

If you’re hosting a watercolor painting party and you’re looking for some more relaxing instrumentals to set the mood, I would definitely recommend our new albums, Old New Borrowed & Blue and My Ship, both of which merge the musical artistry of new songs with jazz classics. Colors of Jazz would also be a great one since each song represents a different color and emotion. These albums are available in our store and on all major music platforms today. Also, if you’d like to book one of our lovely musicians, please contact us today.

Songs That Are Full Of Hope

Songs That Are Full of Hope 

You know the myth: Pandora opened that infamous box, from which sprung all the misery and evil to plague humankind for eternity. However, not all was lost. She did manage to shut the box before one vital entity escaped: Hope. This is why humans are able to persevere and carry on, despite tantamount struggle.    

To feel hope is to expect a positive outcome and to trust that things will turn out for the best. Hope is important because it can ameliorate a difficult situation and motivate us to build a better future for ourselves. 

With the global pandemic, we have all become very familiar with the role of hope in our lives and world. But did you know that in 2018, a non-profit organization, Mothers in Crisis, designated April as the National Month of Hope? 

To help you celebrate the power of hope and inspire you to plant seeds of hope in your life, community, and world, we put together a playlist of exemplary songs that are full of hope. Enjoy! 

Nat King Cole – Smile

While listening to Nat King Cole’s 1954 hit, I can’t help but think of the well-known fact that it takes more muscles to frown than it does to smile. With his pure, buttery baritone, Cole reminds us to smile even if our hearts our aching and breaking. When there are clouds in the sky, you’ll get by if you smile through your fear and sorrow.  

Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell – Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

There’s just no way you can a list of hopeful songs without include this 1967 classic! And the production of this song actually also involved a certain level of hope on the part of Tammi Terrell. Apparently, she was a bit nervous and overwhelmed during the recording sessions because she hadn’t rehearsed the lyrics, but hope must’ve carried her through, because her vocals were excellent! 

Curtis Mayfield – Move On Up

Like most of his songs, this 1970 tune was created with firm roots in the black gospel tradition, which originated from the uplifting work songs of enslaved people. Much of Mayfield’s work also inspired the Black community to persevere, and maintain hope, on their quest toward freedom and equality. With just a little faith / if you put your mind to it / You can surely do it. 

Dinah Washington – Trouble in Mind

This vaudeville blues-style song was written by a jazz pianist, and first recorded, in the early 1920s. Since then, it has become a blues standard and been recorded by many artists in an array of styles. With its beautiful lyrics that instill a deep sense of hope, even in the very darkest of times, it’s no wonder that Dinah Washington’s 1952 rendition reached number four on the Billboard Rhythm & Blues chart.  

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

With the recent unpredictable and sporadic spring weather, this is the perfect jazz song to listen to and help you gain hope for a brighter, sunnier tomorrow! This brand-new tune reminds us that no matter how hard the harsh winds may be blowing, the river of life will persist and continue flowing. 

To hear more jazz songs that merge the musical artistry of the new with the traditions of the old, check out our album, Old New Borrowed & Blue, which is available in our store and on all major music platforms.   

This post was written by Blog Editor, Jacqueline Knirnschild.