How would you describe the music that you play?
Modern jazz fusion. My compositions borrow elements from Jazz, Latin, Hip-Hop, R&B, Gospel, Funk & EDM.
When were you inspired to become a musician and what does music mean to you?
I started with recorder in 4th grade. In 6th grade I signed up for Beginning Band and chose saxophone. I thought it would make my dad happy after my parents divorced. It ended up making me happy and gave me a much needed hobby. Music is social. One of my favorite activities when traveling is finding places to play. As a result, I have forged friendships around the world.
You were the recipient of the 2016 Kimmel Center Jazz Composer Residency Grant (congratulations!). Can you explain to us what that means? And what your daily work at The Kimmel Center entails?
Thank you! I’ve been enlisted by The Kimmel Center to create a work of compositions for this year’s residency. For this project, all of the compositions are inspired by tracks from my college days as a Drum & Bass (EDM genre) DJ. Mostly, I spend time writing. The best of what I come up with I’ll bring to the band to rehearse. I also have an awesome excuse to blast my favorite tracks at home in the name of “research.”
You have played with some incredible acts (including, The Roots, John Legend, Queen Latifah, Elvis Costello, Tye Tribbett, and more). How does it feel to go on stage with such acclaimed musicians? Can you share a funny, or great, memory you have from one of these performances?
It feels like a dream looking back. There’s never any guarantee I will continue to have those opportunities. The ambiguity and uncertainty of a musician’s career is part of its charm. Love it or leave it! Only one memory!? I didn’t attend my best friend’s wedding in order to perform on Tye Tribbett’s “Greater Than” album. I felt like a completely selfish jerk. This included a 24 hour trip to Miami with four horn players in one hotel room who were only able to relax in for 90 minutes before our flight back to Philly. However, the album went on to win two Grammys. Being a musician requires a lot of sacrifice. How about a funnier story!? There’s a video on YouTube of Darryl Hall performing “I Can’t Go For That” with The Roots for WaWa Welcome America 4th of July Jam on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Right around 1:00 Darryl Hall does an interesting vocal run and I’m on camera laughing and seeing if anyone else around me heard what I heard. Busted!
How does the Bandade cause, fighting for cancer research, resonate with you personally?
I was diagnosed with cancer two years ago and it is a type that will continue to haunt me for the rest of my life. Bandade addresses my passion in life and the diagnosis that threatened to end my career and my life. The second I learned about Bandade I wanted to know more and support the cause. Having to face ones own mortality is incredibly scary and inspiring.
What’s been playing on your iPod (record player, Spotify, whatever) lately?
I listened to Miguel’s Wildheart more than any album last year. At this very moment I’m listening to vibraphonist Warren Wolf live at Berklee College of Music on YouTube. A whole lot of Drum & Bass for my Kimmel Center grant. Lastly, I gotta come clean. I’ve been listening to a lot of my own group! I’ve been recording my recent gigs and rehearsals with a mobile recording setup I recently built and have been enjoying mixing the performances, making short videos for social media and sharing mp3s with my friends and family.
When is the next time we can come see you perform?
Monday, May 23rd I’m at The Kimmel Center for my residency Work In Progress concert. This is event is at 8pm and FREE but you have to RSVP (RSVP here!) to guarantee a seat. I’ll also be performing at Time Restaurant in Philly on Friday, May 27th at 10pm. Lastly, my final performance for my Jazz Composer Residency is at The Kimmel Center on Friday, June 10th at 8pm. This event is ticketed and seating is limited so don’t wait on getting your ticket!
Finally, what’s your favorite late night snack in Philly?
Oh boy! Nothing good for me! Garden of Eatin’ blue tortilla chips in front of my computer screen if I’m home. Tater tots at North Bowl. Plantains from Jose Pistola’s. I never ate chicken wings until I moved to Philly 11 years ago. Those are good for some late night regret!