Kelvin Roy is a North America émigré who lives in New Zealand. He has released three compact discs to date and his latest is Around the World of Music Live at The Loaded Hog with the BlueStars. Aside from singing, composing and arranging his own material, he also plays the bass trumpet. Herein a conversation concerning his latest project and other related matters to his career and music in New Zealand:
AAJ: Would you please describe your relationship with this recording’s venue, i.e., The Loaded Hog? How important has it been for your career?
KR: I played there with my BlueStars band for three and a half years –mostly Sunday afternoons, plus some nights and special events. Considering the growing diversity in entertainment for some years now –and resulting competition for that dollar– performing at The Loaded Hog was very important for my career. Good quality jobs have been harder and harder to come by over the years and to have a regular gig at a higher caliber venue is hard to underestimate. Therefore, this was a place where the band was able to play together regularly in a positive environment. In addition, it contributed to the recording in a substantial way.
AAJ: What kind of audience is one liable to find there during your gigs? Are they mostly young? Old? Is it an ethnically diverse one?
KR: Having done many wine and music festivals and private functions, we’re certainly aimed at a diverse cross-section of people. Moreover, you’d have to say the audience reflects the mutual appeal of us performing at the Loaded Hog. There is a wide range of people young to old, singles, couples, families and tourists from many places in the world. Therefore, you would have to say cosmopolitan.
AAJ: What is their social status?
KR: Being an up-market pub and restaurant, on a grand scale usually only seen in America –with a capacity of about 1200– most people would be reasonably well to do, I guess. Being, however, on the waterfront in Auckland, where they held the America's Cup Races, you get all kinds of people from all places and occupations.
AAJ: Is there ever any dancing during the gigs? How loaded can one get at the Loaded Hog?
KR: My feeling has always been that if people dance, then we’re connecting with them and doing our job well. We got people dancing there, mostly of an impromptu nature, which is really, what music is all about –getting emotional reactions from people. If you want to talk about jazz, one of my greatest joys has been observing people in the audience who are not into it get up and start jumping around! That is fulfilling. Many people get loaded at the Loaded Hog. There must be something in a name! The good thing is the vibe is positive and I never witnessed any ill will or aggressive behavior. It’s a pleasant environment there on the waterfront, surrounded by boats.
AAJ: What was the atmosphere during the recording?
KR: The atmosphere was relaxed. Jazz is performance music and, having played together quite a lot over the years, we were at ease. There was some exuberance too and I’m pretty pleased with the result.
AAJ: What are Kelvin Roy & BlueStars all about?
KR: I believe in entertaining to enlighten and have always been interested in making people happy. We’re about art. In addition, I guess through practice of the art and the craft of music you distill your life down to its essence. If this essence appeals to enough people then it becomes entertainment as well.
AAJ: How do you guys relate to each other on stage?
KR: One great thing about New Zealand is the extraordinary musicians I’ve been able to work with. Some are expatriate Americans, many are Kiwis, and others are from England or beyond. The BlueStars band has always been made up of competent musicians, whatever the configuration at the time. Moreover, the rapport is good and often well humored. I know that often comes out in the music, too. Therefore, the relationship on stage is one of good communication and humor.
AAJ: What are some of the respective strengths of the BlueStars?
KR: As a leader, you need to give clear cues and directions to people about what is to come. It is crucial to have people who can follow a lead and know how to end a song for example. Dave Lines, my keyboardist, is one such person. Guitarist Nigel Gavin, who appears on many of the studio recordings, is another. These are first class musicians. Song endings are my strength in this group. I know, after all, that the ending of a song is what people remember the most. These musicians all know their art and craft very well. Many people have remarked to me that the Latin beats on the Live album are very authentic and true to form. Therefore, the drummer Trevor Thwaites takes the credit here.
AAJ: Is there any rhyme or reason to the recording’s repertoire?
KR: One critic said, “the title is a mouthful, but that’s what it is.” I wanted to capture my travels around the world of music. While there are other tunes I would have liked to include, I think this is a good representation. We start in New York à la Sinatra, then go to Chicago for some blues, down the Mississippi for some more, into the Caribbean for reggae flavors and Cuba for the Afro-Cuban thing, then down-under for some South Pacific jazz, and back up to America for some foot stompin’ blues. Horace Greeley said, “Go west, young man...” I’m still going. I just took a circuitous route and went farther than he perhaps ever imagined!