14th Annual Concept Album Nominee
12th Annual Jazz Song Nominee
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Record Label: Origin Records
Home Base: Princeton, New Jersey
Categories Entered: Jazz Song
Work Submitted: “Let’s Conversate!”
Artists Featured: Anthony Branker & Word Play with Ralph Bowen (tenor saxophone), Andy Hunter (trombone), Eli Asher (trumpet), Jim Ridl (Fender Rhodes), Kenny Davis (electric bass), Donald Edwards (drums), and Anthony Branker (composer & musical director)
Label: Origin Records
Who are your influences?: As a composer, I would have to say that Wayne Shorter, Charles Mingus, Ron Miller, Maria Schneider, John Coltrane, Pat Metheny, Woody Shaw, and Stevie Wonder, to name just a few!
Describe your nominated work: The composition “Let’s Conversate!” is influenced by the infectious spirit of funk music, which was so much a part of my life as a listener and young musician when coming up. Musically speaking, it is definitely conversational in nature and uses repetitive motives or loops within different instrument voices that all interact with each other. I tried to be playful with the use of meter and change things up so that the groove is a little unpredictable for the listener, but still sounds familiar and danceable.
Did you use any unusual effects or instruments in this recording?: No, not really. I use the sound of Fender Rhodes piano and electric bass, which is fairly commonplace.
Were there any happy accidents while in the studio, or did everything go as planned?: Any time you work with the kind of creative and inspiring musicians, such as those found on this recording, you know right from the very beginning not to be too prescriptive with what you want to hear and not to micromanage the process. If you give them the freedom to do so, artists like these will take the music to places you never imagined and, as a result, many profoundly beautiful things will happen along the way…never by accident, but always because of how they hear the music evolving and how they interact with each other in any given moment.
How did you raise the funds for this project? How long do you expect it will take to recoup your out-of-pocket recording expenses?: Basically through grants and my own savings. I probably won’t recoup those expenses due to the nature of this business.
Why did you choose to submit this work to The 12th IMAs?: I received an invitation to submit through ReverbNation. Thanks so much, ReverbNation!!
What’s your definition of success and how will you know when you’ve achieved it?: Success, to me, is arriving at that place where you have the chance to do what you love and are passionate about, everyday of your life!! It has nothing to do with financial reward, but has everything to do with that sense of fulfillment that comes with accomplishing your goals, sharing what you enjoy with others, and hopefully touching their lives in some small way.
How will you leverage your IMA honors to achieve your career goals?: I hope to receive more exposure for my work as a writer and have many more opportunities to share my music with audiences throughout the U.S. and all over the world!!
Who’s sitting in your audience and what makes your fans unique?: Hopefully, they are listeners who are open to creative music, enjoy rhythm & groove, and who want to travel along with the musicians on the bandstand in search of some beautiful and fascinating musical places.
What is your guilty pleasure on the road? Any close calls or mishaps while on tour?: I would have to say desserts!! Wherever I go, that’s one of the first things I ask about!! Then I politely say, “please take me to your pastry shops, now”!!
Who are your musical heroes & influences?: Miles Davis, Woody Shaw, Earth, Wind & Fire, Herbie Hancock, Maria Schneider, Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers, John Coltrane, Freddie Hubbard, The Art Ensemble of Chicago, Ornette Coleman, Duke Ellington, Parliament Funkadelic, Terence Blanchard, Thad Jones, to name just several out of so many!
Are there any songs you wish you wrote and why?: There is an elegant composition known as “Don Quixote” written by Brazilian singer-songwriter and guitarist Milton Nascimento. It is so incredibly lyrical, has rich harmonies and an infectious groove, and has these sections or musical episodes that unfold throughout like a captivating storyline found in a book. Besides that, I would say “Flight of the Newborn” by Al DiMeola that was recorded by Chick Corea & Return to Forever on NO MYSTERY. Simply as funky as you want to be with great musical conversations throughout the band (with Chick, Stanley Clarke, Lenny White and Al DiMeola)
What artists are you listening to that would surprise your fans?: Free improvising artists Anne-Liis Poll (vocalist) and Anto Pett (pianist) from Estonia; Bela Bartók’s String Quartets; and the music of bassist Dave Holland (maybe not that much of a surprise!)
How do you discover new music? Do you buy music or are you content with streaming?: I try to check out what other people are listening to or ask for recommendations for things they dig that move them that I might not be familiar with. I always buy music for my own music library (I am so in debt!!). Streaming is cool to search for new things, but when it comes to including the music in one’s library, you have to make the purchase…we’ve got to support the artists and their creative work!!
How will musicians make a living if fans continue to expect music to be free?: They simply won’t be able to, especially if they are depending on revenue from recordings or royalties. Musicians will have to rely upon live performances, publishing, and other pursuits (maybe even outside of the music field) in order to make a living.
What don’t fans/audiences understand about the music industry today?: The complexity of this business model and how difficult it is to be known and come to the attention of a particular genre audience, even if you have an amazing musical product. There are countless artists who are phenomenal and very special in their own right that we don’t even know exist, and may never know. This is tragic, but an inevitable consequence of the industry and how it functions.
Are digital singles/EPs vs. full albums the future?: Not for the area of music I am involved with, which is jazz. It almost isn’t even relevant for an art form whose artists have traditionally shared their work through LPs or full-length CDs recordings. Each composition on a full album sort of represents a separate chapter of a novel or book created by the performing artist for their listeners.
Finish this sentence: The music industry is…can be a challenging world in which to find your place and share your voice.
What do you have in the works for the upcoming year?: I hope to record another project of new compositions later in the year for Origin Records with Anthony Branker & Word Play in a sextet format that will hopefully be released early in 2014.
Anthony Branker’s Music at Amazon.com: