We sat down with John Raymond ahead of his one-night only concert with his group the John Raymond Project tonight 11/16/12. Check out below as he takes us through the band, his set list, and why it feels great to be playing the late set at the legendary Blue Note Jazz Club. Be sure to make it out to the show for a very special concert!
The thing I love about Gilad musically is that, I feel like just the nature of his playing and just even who he is, allows the music room to breathe in a really unique way. What that does is it lets the music transcend to this thing that’s really in the moment because he’s not forcing it. Gilad obviously has tons of chops to play anything. He’s a super skilled guitar player, but it’s not about that for him. It’s about really letting the music be what it’s going to be in the moment, which is really special. So to have him out on the front line, encourages me to open it up the same way. I feel like I’m coming from a really similar place.
I’ve known Javi for almost ten years now. We grew up together in Minneapolis. We started playing together when I was in high school and he was in middle school. There’s a funny story that we used to take trumpet lessons from the same trumpet teacher. He used to play a lot of trumpet as well. But we would hang out all the time. We started to play together and then as I went to school in Wisconsin, we would keep playing together over the summers or whenever. So I feel like there is probably no one that I’ve played with more over the last five or ten years than Javi. He just knows the music really well and he kind of functions in the same way. He lets the music breathe in a really unique way. So a lot of times when I’m hearing a band in my head, I’m hearing like his voicings and his style. We have a certain rapport where you can tell we’ve played together for a while now.
I’ve actually never done a gig with Ben before. I’m really excited to play with him. We rehearsed the other day and I’ve obviously seen him play a lot. The thing that sticks out to me first in Ben is just how solid his time is and how that really propels the music forward. There’s no dropping of energy; there’s no dropping of time obviously. It just creates this forward momentum in the music where you either have to jump on the tracks or you’re going to get left behind. It’s just really great to play with him. I think he really gives the music a lot of excitement and a lot of power and energy to it. Not to mention, his sound is just huge too. So I’m really excited to be playing with him in this band because I think he’ll fit the music really well.
It’s the first time I’m playing with Ulysses as well. It’s kind of a similar thing with Ulysses in that whenever I’ve heard him, he also has this forward momentum to the music that you have to jump on with him. You’re going along for the ride and when you ride that wave, it really gives the music a lot of excitement and energy. The thing about Ulysses too is that he is one drummer who I could listen to him solo and interact with people forever. He just always keeps it interesting. I feel like the drum chair is something where you need to have somebody who is comfortable taking over the band and really driving the band, but at the same time someone who listens really well and who is willing to let the band go different directions. He’s driving the thing, but he’s open to where it’s going to go. When I’ve seen Ulysses play, that’s what I love about it.
They are all originals. Four of them were on the album that I released called Strength & Song. Those are kind of the hits so to speak. Those are really inspired by a couple particular records. I think of Kurt Rosenwinkel’s The Remedy, definitely Aaron Parks’ Invisible Cinema, and also Terence Blanchard’s Flow. I think all of those tunes came directly after I had a season where those were like my three albums I listened to all the time. There’s a lot of rock influence, also some hip-hop influence as well. For me I guess as I’m writing originals one of my big things is that I want to write something that is really accessible and really singable. I feel like when you connect with people on a melody like that then they go home singing it. It’s a powerful thing. It makes the music easier to connect with. So when we can connect with the audience just through the tunes we’re playing, then they’re going to be with us on the journey improvising and taking all of these other directions. But if we don’t have that connection with them in the beginning, then we might lose them after a while. I don’t want that.
So there are four tunes we’re doing from the record and then two new tunes as well, which I have written in the past few months. I’ve performed them a couple times, but not with this band. It’ll be cool.
It’s not going to be really different than any other concert in the sense that like I just want us to do our thing. But sometimes when you do an earlier set or something, maybe it doesn’t have a chance to kind of cut loose. I don’t know. We’re playing at midnight, so I would say most people are going to be tired to some extent. But there’s something about when you play music when you’re tired or kind of on your weekend kick, there’s something about that is kind of a rush. So I’m looking forward to that, but like I said, I’m mainly looking forward to just cutting loose. I want to have these tunes be something that people can connect with really easily right off the bat, which will allow them to follow us wherever we go. We’ll see what happens.
John Raymond, trumpet
Gilad Hekselman, guitar
Javier Santiago, piano
Ben Williams, bass
Ulysses Owens Jr., drums
Date: Friday, Nov. 16th
Time: 12AM (Late Set)
Venue: Blue Note Jazz Club (131 W. 3rd St btw 6th Ave. & Macdougal)
Tickets: $10 HERE