Take Five With JC Stylles
JC Stylles ("Jason Campbell"), guitarist, specializes in working within the organ combo format. Originally from Australia, he lives on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and works the Harlem organ rooms, keeping alive the tradition of the guitar's importance in the role popularized by Wes Montgomery, Grant Green, Kenny Burrell, George Benson and others.
Teachers and/or influences?
Primary guitar influences: George Benson, Wes Montgomery, Dennis Budimer.
Other instrumental influences include Bobby Hutcherson, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Wayne Shorter, Kenny Kirkland, Oscar Peterson, Herbie Hancock, Woody Shaw, Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard, Johnny Griffin and Jimmy Smith.
Best early instruction received visually from George Benson, and one-on-one with Rodney Jones.
I knew I wanted to be a musician when...
I heard Charlie Parker playing the ballads with Miles Davis off the Dial sessions.
Your sound and approach to music:
I view music like making great food. First, determine the recipe you are aiming for. Determine the exact ingredients and the quantities. Use a mixture of fresh ingredients alongside proven spices, and pay attention to the detail and simmering or searing required, so that the end result is so tasty, the plates are licked clean.
Musical ingredients also require careful balance. If salt is a powerful taste enhancer, perhaps like a whole tone scale in music, you have to determine the right amount, or it becomes inedible.
The best music I grew up loving always had the tastiest ingredients balanced just right, and that is what I enjoy aiming for.
Your teaching approach:
Stop thinking so much and start feeling!
Your dream band:
I would love to experience working with Bobby Hutcherson because he so completely enters a zone of focus and joy that one can't help but want to share it with him.
Anecdote from the road:
I once called the tune "Moanin'" with the trio I was working with at the time. The organ player started playing it too fast for the drummer's liking, who was a stickler when it came to correct tempos that certain tunes should be played at.
The drummer said, "It's not a barn dance, you know. Art Blakey didn't record it at that tempo!" to which the organist replied, "Art Blakey? F*%$ Art Blakey, I'm F^#@*&% [organist's name] and I'll play it where I want to!" and then proceeded to move extremely angrily toward the direction of the drummer, at which point I quickly started playing "St. Thomas" very bright and the other two had to join in. It was the brightest, loudest, angriest version of "St. Thomas" you would have ever heard!
I always have a great time at The Lenox Lounge because it is very welcoming on organ night and swinging like crazy!
Your favorite recording in your discography and why?
My live release due out after September 2007 because of the rendition of "Old Folks." It's spooky.
What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?
Giving the audience something to hang onto by us having fun again on the bandstand, and working on connecting with them by providing tunes they want or are surprised to hear, as opposed to being so boringly serious trying to be a "creative musical genius" all the time, as I see some fellow musicians striving for. Let's lighten up again and make music fun and energetic and feel good, and maybe the audiences might turn up againnow there's a thought! You can always slip something extra heavy into the mix once you meet them where they are, and get them on-side.
Did you know...
My best friend since five years of age is an Aboriginal from the Tjapukai tribe of Far North Queensland in the tropical rainforest area of Australia.
How do you use the internet to help your career?
I am finding it more and more a daily part of life and the requirements of being an artist. Finding out about different fans and players internationally via MySpace happens quickly these days. Being able to access great publications like All About Jazz via the internet makes everything easier. Sending press kits via the net and receiving enquiries for gigs is a realistic option than can only get better, and it can all take place from your PC at home now, in this age when, finally, maybe the smaller independent can get their presence felt.
CDs you are listening to now:
Art Tatum, The Tatum Group Masterpiece, Vol. 8 (Pablo, 1956);
Jimmy McGriff, The Big Band: A Tribute To Basie (Blue Note, 2006);
Kenny Barron, Images (Sunnyside, 2004);
Grant Green, Live at Club Mozambique (Blue Note, 2006);
Harold Land, West Coast Blues! (Jazzland/OJC, 1960).
Desert Island picks:
Charlie Parker, The Very Best Of The Dial Years (Master Classics, 2005);
George Benson, Weekend in L.A. (Warner Brothers, 1977);
Wes Montgomery, Further Adventures Of Jimmy Smith And Wes Montgomery (Verve, 1966);
Miles Davis, Sorcerer (Columbia/Legacy, 1966);
Bobby Hutherson, Cruisin' The Bird (Landmark, 1988).
How would you describe the state of jazz today?
Struggling between those that can swing and express emotion that can be felt by playing from the heart, and those that are thinking too much and playing from the head from over-schooling, without allowing their knowledge to settle and mature.
What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?
Firstly, that jazz musicians take on some responsibility of presenting a music that makes people feel better for having heard it, and leave wanting to go back and hear it again, rather than the "I want to be recognized as a creative musical genius" selfish image I encounter a lot of the time, and exclude the very richness in the history of this music that made it appeal to people in the first place. Give them a melody they can hang on to, a rhythm they can feel, firstly, and you can get as creative as you want after that because you have earned their trust now.
We live in an age now where there are more distractions than ever before, with TV, cable, games, sports, reality shows, etc., and then we get mad when we go play whole tone scales all night thinking that is being so creativewhile people walk out the door. I seem to recall that a couple geniuses way before jazz, like Mozart and Beethoven, could write incredible works of art and themes and variations on four or five notes of the Ionian scale! There comes a time when one has to determine that if you stretch something too much, whether it be music or a rubber band, it gets to the point of weakness, not strength, and it is worse, not better, and it is no longer useful in the way it was.
We have had some great advances in this music giving us the powerful primary musical colors. If you like, you can mix those colors anyway you want to be "creative," but if you keep mixing so many together, pretty soon the murky shade you have made might appeal to you only, and maybe your fellow musician who thinks it's pretty cool. Hope you two can pay your bills and feed your family with that!
It would also be helpful if "jazz" radio stations who ask listeners to contribute to their membership drives, perhaps give independent jazz musicians who have a quality product to present a fair hearing and play them on the air, too. That way they might get more gigs due to awareness, make some more money, and be able to contribute more back to their radio station on top of the membership fees they have already paid, for a win-win.
What is in the near future?
Looking at doing some work with organist Tony Monaco later in the year and we are presently looking at appropriate venues in New York to do some cookin.' Any venues that want to be considered, holla back!
JC and the JazzHoppersLive Vibe is due out for release after September this year, and I am heading back into the studio with this current generation of JazzHoppers featuring Akiko Tsuruga and Sir Earl Grice Jr.
I work on playing jazz and everything involved with that to try and pay the rent and feed my family.