Sheryl Bailey: Homecoming
AAJ: Do you think that people can accurately capture that kind of energy on a studio recording? Even an album like Miles Davis' Kind of Blue (Columbia, 1959), which is an amazingly well done studio record, was probably a lot different energy wise than seeing that band perform live. What are your thoughts on this?
SB: I think it helps to keep things as loose and as fresh as possible. I think rehearsing something to death doesn't mean it's going to be a great performance. I've gotten into the habit of doing just one or two takes and keeping things moving in the studio. That way the music doesn't sound labored and has that fresh energy to it.
AAJ: A New Promise, is a tribute album of sorts to the late, great guitarist Emily Remler. What does Emily mean to you as a guitarist and why did she inspire you to dedicate this album to her?
SB: She was such a strong melodic player, and such a strong swinging player. Obviously her early records had a big Wes Montgomery influence running through them, but her playing grew over time to become something different by the end of her life. She really came into her own as a player later on in her career.
You can hear a couple notes and know right away it's hershe really developed her own unique sound. I saw Joe Pass as a kid and that's what he was all about, developing one's own sound. I think that's what was great about her. She was always about the music feeling good, about swinging, grooving and being melodic with everything she played and nothing was sacrificed to get in the way of those musical ideals.
AAJ: Being one of the first truly successful female jazz guitarists she paved the way for people like yourself and others to enter the field without going through a lot of the same trials and tribulations that she experienced. Did that side of her, as a sort of standard bearer in the world of female jazz musicians, have an influence on you as well as her playing?
SB: It's interestingI think at the time, I didn't put any importance on it but in doing this record I went back and checked out some old interviews with her, and it really gave me a good sense of the struggle that she went through as she was coming up. She was a pioneer and she opened a lot of doors so that I didn't have to go through all of that stuff with my career. I never really realized that and looked at that side of her career before this album.
I had a lesson with her when I was at Berklee; she spent a lot of time with me and was very encouraging. I think because of her experiences, of having to fight for things and be tough all the time to be recognized and accepted, she really conveyed to me that I shouldn't stop. No matter what anybody says, don't stop pursuing the guitar and what I love. That really meant a lot to me. At the time I might not have given it that much thought, but in retrospect I can see how much of an impact that side of her really had on me and my career as a jazz guitarist.
AAJ: Do you feel that society has moved on and gotten over a lot of the issues that Emily had to deal with as far as being a female jazz guitarist, or do you have to deal with those same situations even today?
SB: I think it's still an issue on a lot of levels. I mean a lot of times in touring bands guys just want to go out and hang with the guys. I've been really lucky with my work as a sideman because the people that have hired me just love my playing and want to make music with me. It doesn't matter if I was a man or a woman to them, all that counts is the music. To me, it's about not focusing on that side of things but focusing on what's positive in those situations. It's also about focusing on making my own way; about not waiting for the phone to ring but going out there and making things happen for myself.
AAJ: The album is a tribute to Remler but all of the tunes weren't written or performed by Remler, as is the case with a number of other similar projects. Why did you decide to include some of your own tunes on the album along with the other material?
SB: I mostly perform my own music, I write a lot of my own music, and Marty wanted to present that side of me as an artist. I sent him a bunch of my material and he picked a set of tunes that resonated with him and that he felt would be good for the project. I certainly had a ton of material for him to choose from and I left it up to his discretion as to which tunes he included on the record. The standards were all tunes that I normally play with my trio, so he knew that I was comfortable and very familiar with those songs, so those were easy choices. It just kind of came together very organically, with Marty choosing tunes that reflected the different sides of my performing career.
AAJ: Since the record was made in Pittsburgh, with the Three Rivers Jazz Orchestra, and you're from Pittsburgh, did that make the project special to you, since it was a homecoming of sorts?