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Will Vinson: Planted and Growing in New York

By Published: December 13, 2010
In the meantime, in addition to working with his Brooklyn peers, he hooked up with Cuban piano wizard Rubalcaba, which resulted in good exposure as well as being an important experience. "That's kind of a dream come true. I've been listening to him for millions of years. It's only just occurred to me now, he was the first jazz artist I saw in America. Before I moved to New York I was in L.A. on vacation, in '96 or something. I saw him play at Catalina's in L.A. I was completely blown away by him. I've always loved his playing on his records and Charlie Haden
Charlie Haden
Charlie Haden
bass, acoustic
's records. I was lucky enough to be called to play with him just over a year ago at Birdland [New York City]. Then we did a tour this summer in Spain. He is definitely an inspiration. ... Playing with him is a pretty amazing musical experience."

Vinson has also played with Rosenwinkel over the course of a few gigs in Europe. "That actually happened by accident, too, but I was very glad when it did. As far as my generation and perhaps people a bit younger than me goes, Kurt is one of the most important musical influences. I was in New York at the time he was playing at Small's and stuff. I'm old enough to have been around when he was making his big impact for the first time. I'm young enough to be one of the many people who are under his influence, in a way. Playing with him, and playing some of his music and some of my music that has been influenced by him, was really a treat. I hope get to do it again. I'm sure I will at some point."

"The two people I've played with the most as a sideman have been Jonathan Kreisberg and Ari Hoenig. Both of those guys have been very important for me in the development of my career for the last few years. It's very difficult in jazz to make yourself known out of the blue. You have to be seen with other people as a sideman, even if you are a leader—even if you have amazing music that's fully formed. It's very difficult to get people to hire you out of nowhere. The exposure I've gotten out of playing with those guys has been invaluable," Vinson says.

Being based in Brooklyn is also a good thing. That borough has been an emergent, fertile hotbed of music in recent years. The number of musicians living there has grown significantly. Aside from being a less expensive place to live than Manhattan, it's an important place where creative paths cross.

"I would say 85 percent of the people I know and the people I play with and work with live in Brooklyn. It's amazing. That's a change that's happened gradually over the last 10 years. There used to be quite a few people in Astoria (Queens), and I guess there still are. But I used to know a lot of people in Astoria, which I don't really anymore. And I used to know a lot of people uptown, which there still are, but so many people I know have moved to Brooklyn. It's great. Everyone's right there. ... The studios that I like are in Brooklyn. I can often be pretty busy without leaving Brooklyn."

New York City doesn't have the amount of clubs and venues that existed years ago, and it can be a struggle to get good gigs and push a career forward. It's something musicians live with. It's rarely easy. But like many musicians around his age, he didn't experience the days when venues were more plentiful. Those musicians, without that comparative experience, are left to deal with the straight realities of New York and today's music business atmosphere. It's just life.

"In a way, I'm fortunate to never have been around in that golden age when everything was wonderful," opines Vinson. "I suppose if I had been, and I felt that way, I'd be pretty depressed about it. But I think the scene, certainly in terms of the music and the musicianship that's around, is very healthy. There seems to be a constant stream of new voices emerging. There's a pretty broad range of people that I'm interested in playing with and listening to. I'm still inspired by what I hear in New York. As long as that's the case, I would say it's pretty healthy."

Vinson will keep busy in 2011 touring in support of his two latest CDs and will also hit the European festival circuit in the summer. He'll also do gigs with musicians like Kreisberg, touring in support of the guitarist's new recording, Shadowless, that comes out in January. Vinson also has ideas for more recording of his own later in 2011. He's pleased with the way things are going: "I've always felt like things are at a more advanced stage than they were, let's say, six months earlier or a year earlier. That's a good feeling." And he maintains his fondness, and even awe, for his adopted city.

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