Eric Darius: Goin' All Out
“ Before I started recording this album, I knew that I wanted to do something that I had never done before. I wanted to transcend all of the musical boundaries and push the envelope. ”
Saxophonist Eric Darius has made his Blue Note label debut with Goin' All Out (Blue Note, 2008) and, as the title suggests, he is doing just that. The project includes covers of hits by Ne-Yo and Mary J. Blige, and he successfully puts his own spin on them. There is a new maturity in his music that is audible from the get-go. He has created a sound for himself that is distinctive and fresh and his approach is unique to him alone.
All About Jazz: You have made your Blue Note label debut with Goin' All Out. What has it been like for you to make the transition to such a legendary label?
Eric Darius: It has been an incredible experience. I grew up listening to a lot of the classic jazz musicians: Miles Davis and John ColtraneBlue Note artists. I feel really blessed and fortunate to be a part of that legacy. I am having a great time; it feels like a dream come true. I also feel that it is a great responsibility for me because the Blue Note has been established on great music and integrity. It is exciting but at the same time, I see it as a responsibility to uphold that legacy.
AAJ: As a saxophonist, who has been your greatest inspiration?
ED: I would definitely say John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley and Grover Washington Jr.
AAJ: How did you decide upon this instrument?
ED: My parents exposed me to jazz at a very early age, so I had a love and appreciation for it very early on. It wasn't until I was nine, and I saw the saxophonist at our church play every single Sunday. I saw the emotion that he exuded when he played and it really sparked my interestI just fell in love with the saxophone. I listened to a lot of Grover Washington, Jr. and David Sanborn and Kirk Whalum growing up. My parents bought me a saxophone for my tenth birthday and I started playing.
AAJ: Goin' All Out is a great way to make your Blue Note debut. What was the recording process like?
ED: Before I started recording this album, I knew that I wanted to do something that I had never done before. I wanted to transcend all of the musical boundaries and push the envelope by incorporating a lot of different sounds, styles and genres. Over the past several years, I have been listening to many types of music: R&B, hip-hop, pop, reggae and gospel; I wanted to incorporate all of those elements in the CD. A major goal of mine is to reach out to the younger demographic by making music that they can listen to and appreciate. When I started working on this project, I knew that I wanted it to appeal to everyone and not just the smooth jazz audience, so I approached this CD differently and I'm really happy with the result.
AAJ: One of the great things about jazz is that it has influenced every type of genre. There seems to be a musical movement going on right now in which artists are infusing different influences and genres. A lot of artists are making music that people will enjoy rather than worrying if it transcends the parameters set up by record labels. Do you think it takes away from music when people are concerned with classifying it rather than focusing on making high-quality music?
ED: Jazz is such a diverse style of music. I'm not the type of artist that wants to be trapped in a box. I just make the kind of music that influences me. My music is very diverseI don't even consider it to be smooth jazz because it incorporates so much. I look at artists like Miles Davis and Herbie Hancockevery album that they have released has been different from all the others, and I approach my music in that same way.
AAJ: How has your music evolved?
ED: I definitely think that my playing and songwriting has matured. Through the years I have had a lot of great playing experiences and so I think they can definitely be heard on this project. I have had the opportunity over the past few years to travel all over the world, and that has given me a lot of insight and perspective, that has had a lasting affect on my music also.
AAJ: You started off playing in church and gospel music is a huge influence on your music, so is that something that you plan to pursue in the futurea gospel album?
ED: I have always dreamed about making a gospel record. Kirk Whalum has done quite a few smooth jazz records and also some gospel records and that is something that I would definitely love to do. The foundation of my music is gospel and straight-ahead jazz. So I definitely hope to do a gospel album in the future.
AAJ: Some of your fans may not know that you are currently studying business at the University of South Florida.
ED: Absolutely. I think it is important for all artists to be able to understand the business aspects of our careersa lot of them don't know what it entails; everything from finances and management to marketing. I think that it will definitely be beneficial to me as an artist, to help create longevity for my career. I plan on applying everything that I learn with my business degree.
AAJ: That is definitely a wise choice... that is something that any artist would benefit from. How do you feel about all of the illegal downloading happening over the internet? It is affecting the whole music industry.
ED: In some ways the digital thing has been good like in marketing new artists and putting their music out there, but at the same time, it is like a double-edged sword. People are downloading music for free which is hurting the artists and then affecting the record labels and it all has a domino effect. I am hoping that in the next couple of years the music industry will create an alternative for illegal downloading.
AAJ: It shows a lack of respect for the artists who work hard to give their fans music to enjoy.
ED: Yes, we work very hard to get music to the fans. Some people don't even realize that downloading a CD illegally online is the same thing as stealing a CD from a store. It is just really unfortunate that some people think it is okay to download CDs illegally. A great example though is iTunes. They have done a great job because people can download easily and legally, it is fair, rather than getting music for free.
AAJ: Are there any other collaborations coming up or are you just focusing on the moment?
ED: I always take things in stride but at the same time, I like to always look ahead. I had done a cover of Alicia Keys' "If I Ain't Got You," on my Just Getting Started (Narada, 2006), album and I think she is an incredible artist. I would love the opportunity to collaborate with her. Stevie Wonder is another favorite artist and I would love to work on a project with him.
AAJ: I'm sure your fans would love that. You have collaborated with your new label mate Jeff Lorber on his upcoming album.
ED:Yes, I have become good friends with Jeff over the past couple of years. He played on my CD: Just Getting Started. I later had an opportunity to tour with him and do a couple of shows togetherwe performed in Japan and Indonesia. When I was at rehearsal with the band at his studio we had an extra day, so he approached me about writing a song together and putting it on the CD. We were in the studio just hanging out and putting the song together and it is going to be featured on his new project and I'm really excited to hear it.
Eric Darius, Goin' All Out (Blue Note, 2008)
Eric Darius, Just Getting Started (Narada, 2006)
Brian Culbertson, It's On Tonight (GRP, 2005)
Eric Darius, Night On the Town (Higher Octave, 2004)
3rd Force, Driving Force (Higher Octave, 2002)
Top Photo: Courtesy of Eric Darius
Bottom Photo: Geoff Cole