Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Catching Up With Aug. Artist of the Month Natalie Cressman The Unfolding Interview!

One of the shining new stars of modern jazz, I caught up with Natalie Cressman who fielded a few questions for us! 

Twenty years old and dropping a debut release. Describe the feeling for us. Anticipation? Excitement? Does having a strong musical resume from working with people like Wycliffe Gord etc. make this an easy process? How did the release come about?

N.C. - "I am definitely excited, but nerves come into it in some small part. I’ve been working on this project for the last year and like anything you spend a lot of time and energy on, I have a lot personally invested in this. I am proud of the way it has turned out, and I guess the nerves come from me wanting people to respond positively to the project too. Having the support of mentors and older musician friends like Wycliffe definitely help calm that because their positive feedback to what I’m doing is reassuring.  
In regards to the way the project came about, I got very caught up in composing during my second year in NYC. I was beginning to lead a band, and we played a few shows that went over really well and this band was not only an outlet for me to play my own music, but also for me to sing. At the time I was playing as a sideman in a lot of projects that required different skills and different styles, which I really enjoyed, but I felt like I was constantly taking on different musical identities to serve each specific group. I thought it was really important for me as an artist to record something that was un-guardedly me, so I could really put a finger on my identity on the trombone, with my voice, as a composer."

Allow me to take off the "critic hat" and put on the "listener/fan" hat...You draw from a myriad of influences. Straight ahead, contemporary, some r&b...Is this the future for modern jazz and did you try and do a riff on all these influences as sort of a personal artistic statement of where you are now?

N.C. - "I think the future of all music lies in incorporating varied influences in order to create something that sounds different than what came before. There are two schools of thought in jazz today: one that seeks to preserve the tradition of the music by treating the music almost like classical repertoire, and the other that seeks to expand the term jazz to include all of its hybrids with other styles. While understanding the roots of the music is crucial, I’m of the opinion that its important to build upon these to create something not only unique, but socially relevant to what is happening today. Seeking merely to recreate what jazz masters have already accomplished isn’t as fulfilling to me as following my own musical intuition and in the process creating my own distinct voice. I am inspired by the jazz artists today who try to bring the music we love to a larger audience by allowing the influence of modern music to seep through their work, rather than shutting them out by constructing rules and boundaries to what jazz should and shouldn’t be. The album isn’t necessarily a deliberate riff on these outside influences, but really a frank reflection of all the varied styles I play and how I don’t try to shut them out of what I write."

There is a natural swing with the band, an organic base of what almost sounds like a live studio recording. You produced this release so does that make the pressure greater and do you think a lot of young talent is playing too much from their head and too little from their heart in some cases. 

N.C. - "Well, the way we set up the recording was pretty live: we had baffling and some sound isolation, but we recorded each track altogether in one room, which gave us the liberty of really playing with each other much like we do live. The live set-up also made note fixes, fixes, edits, and punches pretty near impossible in most situations, which required a level of focus and precision from us as musicians too. My dad, Jeff Cressman, flew out from San Francisco to record us, but he also mixed the album and served as co-producer. I didn’t feel much pressure about self-producing the album because the music took a certain shape pretty naturally, and both my dad and I were in agreement in our opinions of how things should sound. After the band came into the studio, I did a day or two of just vocals, adding pads and extra textures to some of the instrumental songs and re-recording the vocals for better isolation and sound.
 The band is composed of some of my best friends and colleagues in New York, a decision I consciously made because I thought hiring jazz veterans as “ringers” would again pull me away from the nucleus of the world I had been creating with my music and my band over the past year. And the musicians who joined me on the project also shared my love of bringing other contemporary music into the jazz idiom and letting different genres cross-pollinate in the music we play. In the case of all the musicians involved, it is easy to tell that what they do most certainly comes from the heart. It is common, especially in the music conservatory environment, to hear people write complex music just for complexity’s sake. For experimenting and exercising different techniques it seems completely valid as a study, but when thinking about music as an art form, I am more drawn towards music that is first and foremost expressive and evocative. Just as much skill and complexity goes into that musical process too."
Part 2  http://www.criticaljazz.com/2012/07/catching-up-with-aug-artist-of-month.html