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Sean Jones: Trumpeter with a Purpose

By Published: June 2, 2004
"Derrick Gardner, a great trumpet player—he was out with Harry Connick Jr., who I also played with a few times—called me up and asked me why I was still in Ohio. I said, "˜I'm teaching in this elementary school' He said, "˜You need to be in New York. Like, today.' I said, "˜Well, how do I get there.' He said, "˜Call this guy up, Bill Fielder.' I really didn't know too much about Bill Fielder, except for the fact that he taught Wynton Marsalis when Wynton was very young. So I called up Professor Fieldler and talked to him a little. He said, "˜We have this thing called a fellowship at Rutgers University.' I sent him all my stuff and to make a long story short, he got me the fellowship. I moved out to New Jersey and I began to study with him, and he changed my life.

"Before him, I kind of thought that the trumpet was a difficulty I had to master. But when I got with him, I realized that the trumpet was piece of metal. It was pretty much a microphone. And if you overcome the metal, you can do anything you want on the trumpet. That changed my life."

In New York, he met Fambrough and performed on his Live at Zanzibar Blue album. Gigs and assignments trickled in, including the Mack Avenue call with Wilson that resulted in his own record contract. Now, he's touring with the Mack Avenue All Stars, doing some work with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, working with trombonist Steve Turre, and will be teaching at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. It's busy and challenging. But the challenge of jazz is something that s attractive to Jones.

"Freedom of expression. I definitely love that," he says. "In jazz, there's no right or wrong. No rules. There's definitely ways to play and different styles. You have as much expression as you want. You can play a flat third on a major chord. You can do all of those things that inhibit you in certain other music. You can bend a note, you can growl. I really appreciate that."

There are problems with the current music scene and the state of the industry, he acknowledges. But it isn't just the fault of record companies, and it is up to artists to work toward making things better. That includes educating people about jazz and its wonderful qualities and possibilities.

"As young artists, it's our responsibility to look to the past and learn from it. Learn from Pops and learn from Charlie Parker and all of those people who are now legends and were able to keep the music at such a high level and still relate to people. If we capture that, then I think that we can get it back to where it once was.

"We need to educate people as well. A lot of times musicians tend to perform... I don't know, there's this trend of people performing and not talking to the audience. Kind of having this elitist thing: 'I'm a jazz musician.' I don't think that's good. Look at Cannonball Adderley. He educated his audience at every performance. He would tell them what the blues was. He would tell them what he was playing. He was such a great performer, as well as instrumentalist and educator. The audience appreciated that he educated them. We need to start doing a little bit of that."

Expect to hear more from young Mr. Jones and expect his stories to be mature and expressive and enlightening as his journey continues.

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