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Take Five With...

Take Five With LaGrand

By Published: September 20, 2010
Meet LaGrand:

LaGrand has been involved in either playing music or music production since he was six years old. He has a degree in Recording Engineering, and has been engineering and producing professionally since 1992.

Having built a solid reputation of professionalism, knowledge, integrity, calmness and more, LaGrand has had many opportunities to work with many national and international dignitaries, companies and artists. His drive towards excellence in all he does is unsurpassed. Listen to LaGrand work and you will hear the difference.

Instrument(s):

Vocals, keys, drums, programming, engineering.

Teachers and/or influences? The Hawkins, Andre Crouch, The Clark Sisters, Earth, Wind and Fire, The Whispers, The Gap Band, Frankie Beverley and Maze, Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder
b.1950
keyboard
, The Commodores, Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson
1958 - 2009
vocalist
and The Jackson 5, Prince, Luther Vandross, Duran Duran, Anita Baker, Run DMC, Madonna, New Edition, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Janet Jackson, Roger Troutman, Phil Collins, George Benson
George Benson
George Benson
b.1943
guitar
, Quincy Jones
Quincy Jones
Quincy Jones
b.1933
producer
, George Duke
George Duke
George Duke
1946 - 2013
piano
and PJ Morgan.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when... I was six years old, playing on the back of tambourines in church every Sunday. I also truly knew, ever since I was eight, that I would be doing what I am doing. Many people thought I was stubborn along the way, but I've always had a plan. If someone's advise was contrary to my vision for my life then I just said "Thank you" and kept it moving.

Your sound and approach to music: My sound is a sophisticated jazz infused sound with gospel, R&B, and drum 'n' bass influences. My approach to music is to actually create what I am given. My approach to producing is to get to know the artist thoroughly, emphasize their strengths while minimizing their weaknesses. I still pull on the weaknesses just enough to force the artist to improve in those areas, but not too much to create anxiety.

I truly believe that, as a producer, it is my job to show case the artist and not the producer. Do this and you will keep a fresh sound because everyone is different in their own way.

Your teaching approach: My teaching philosophy is that all you learn during the course of life or your studies is there for you to express who you are as a person. Respect what you learn and those who have taught you, but don't let it enslave you. Make it you!! Be original.

Your dream band:

Artist I would love to work with include some of my influences like the Winans, Vanessa Bell Armstrong, Michael Jackson (no longer to be), George Duke, Kim Burrell, Stevie Wonder and Rance Allen, to name a few.

Road story: Your best or worst experience: When I graduated from Full Sail with my engineering degree in '92 I was offered a position to work for Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. Even though I loved their work and had respect for them, I turned down the position and my school thought I was crazy. I was told that out of the four that were submitted I would most likely be the one chosen. I replied,"Thanks. You can submit my name, but I am not feeling lead in that direction."

Fast forward to Sept 6, 2006. I was hired to do the house sound for The Grammys, with Jimmy Jam, Kelly Clarkson, many other artists, and a room full of senators including Barack Obama. I was tickled how things came around full circle that day on Capitol Hill. Normally, when I am on a show, I remain totally professional and never ask for a photo, but I did on that day for personal reasons. Of course, I didn't mention that I had turned him down 14 years prior.

I have only done that one other time, and that was when I was doing front-of-house for Aretha Franklin
Aretha Franklin
Aretha Franklin

vocalist
, Mary J Blige, Britney Spears and New Charlotte. At the end of the show I walked by all of the artists and said, "Ms. Franklin, I was your engineer for the day. Would you mind giving me your autograph, ma'am?" She hugged my neck, said "Thanks," signed a picture for me, and gave me her unreleased CD that was about to drop.

Two very special moments in my career where I had to go against my own rules and personalize the moment.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why? My favorite recording in my discography would have to be on my project entitled My Best Friend. Even though this isn't my favorite of all the work I've done, my favorite isn't yet listed in my discography because it hasn't been released by the artist I produced. My Best Friend is my best because it showcases my creativity in writing and mixing. I am generally requested a lot for my vocal editing and the tight smooth sound I create with them. This song show cases the quality and level of singers I have access to and require. It was also a Top 5 Finalist in the Singer Universe's Best Vocalist Of The Month, for June 2010. The lead singer is James Lanier. He and Steve White perform the background vocals as well.

The first Jazz album I bought was: A Jeff Lorber album, but I cannot remember which one it was.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically? That would be a uncompromising standard of Excellence, along with my willingness to teach those I encounter.

Did you know...

I lost an opportunity at an investor for $18 Million back in 1992?

CDs you are listening to now: Kenny DeShields, You Changed Me (Unreleased);

Coko, The Winner In Me (Light Records);

Doobie Powell, The Time Is Now (Chip Off The Block).

Desert Island picks: Dawkins & Dawkins—Focus St. Germaine—Tourist LaGrand—Creative Moments Vol. 2—LaGrand Records

How would you describe the state of jazz today? I believe the state of jazz is suffering in a couple of ways. One is that the marketing and advertisement budgets are all but nonexistent, leaving us with thousands of great projects no one knows about. Since no one knows that they even exist or was just released, no demand is generated in stores or on radio.

We are losing so many jazz stations across this country for the same reason. We must demand more to get more. Educate ourselves and step up our marketing game to that of other genres.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing? More emphasiz on marketing and advertising, more sales, greater demand for the genre and a willingness to infuse with technology as both an artist and genre.

What is in the near future? I am working on a couple of potential production contracts, will be overseeing a live New Year's concert, and releasing another artist's project at the beginning of 2011. I am also editing the vocals and mixing for an artist's project from California as we speak. I am about to pick up the ball on my next project, Creative Moments Vol. 1. This will be a vocal project..

By Day:

I am the owner of LaGrand Enterprises, TruReign Recording Studio and LaGrand Records. I have been self-employed since 1996. The services I offer range from sound reinforcement and recording engineering to music production, sound maintenance and consultation, to name just a few.

If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a: actually I would have been a doctor.

Photo Credit

Courtesy of LaGrand


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