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Sean Jones: Progress and Passion

By Published: September 5, 2011
AAJ: It has a lot of different textures to it.

SJ: Exactly. I wanted each song to stand on its own and have a different feeling. Also, with the listener nowadays, for people to listen to a record front to back you better have a lot of different things, a lot of different energies, a lot of different vibes on it. I think that keeps people's attention. So I try to take all my musical experiences and what's in my head and use those devices to portray a mood. Hopefully allowing the listener to go on a journey, with each song, into what that theme is.

AAJ: That was the focus of the album?

SJ: That was definitely the focus of the album. Eight different aspects of love. And I wanted to create a mood or energy for each one of those different viewpoints, so they stand alone while bringing together, or tying together, the overall arching theme of love.

AAJ: You feel you achieved that pretty good with this band?

SJ: Definitely. This band has been with me since Roots, with the exception of Tia Fuller
Tia Fuller
Tia Fuller

. Orrin Evans on piano, Obed Calvaire on drums, Luques Curtis on bass. I feel like I have one of the best rhythm sections in jazz music today. They're diverse. They're flexible. They listen to one another. They have created a sound that is very unique and I really dig that platform to improvise over.

The addition of Brian Hogans on saxophone, that started with Kaleidoscope. He's not only brought a certain type of dynamic to the front line which is unique, he's brought some amazing compositions in as well.

AAJ: I thought the rapport between you two was particularly good on the album.

SJ: It's amazing. If I can make a correlation, I sort of think of him as my Wayne Shorter. Of course I'm not Miles Davis. (Chuckles). No one could ever be Miles Davis. But the way that Wayne Shorter was to Miles Davis is the way Brian Hogans is to me. He brings so much to the table from a composition standpoint and a frontline standpoint that I really think the band dynamic would change drastically if he was not there.

AAJ: Orrin Evans sounds fine as ever.

SJ: Orrin's been in the band since the beginning. He's going to be there. I love Orrin as an artist. He's become, over the years, a good friend. We didn't start working together as friends. I didn't know him at all. In fact the first two albums I did we barely knew each other. But we've grown together in so many ways over the years that we just kind of know what we're thinking. If there's a certain chord I can't think of, he knows exactly what it is. In fact, sometimes I bring in tunes and I won't put in a chord and he'll just fill it. Because he knows what I mean.

AAJ: You reminded me when you were talking about your albums. It's a little unusual today. To use Miles as an example again, every album he did along the way showed a certain progression. That was intentional by the record company. Other musicians too. That's not the motivation today, but you seem to be doing that. Each one shows where you are and where you're going.

SJ: That speaks to two things. The label, number one, really believes in me. They believe in the progression of me as an artist. A lot of record labels out there are just trying to make sure the bottom line is there. They want to get the artist out there, have them do their thing, go on tour, produce revenue, sell CDs X, Y and Z so their bottom line is there. Which I understand. But at the end of the day, does it really progress the art form.

I think the progression of the art form comes with people being allowed to be themselves in their rawest form, with no compromise. If we can't be ourselves fully, then what we're putting out is a lie. Or a half-version of ourselves. Which I think ultimately people can feel. With me, I'm willing to take that risk. Risk getting a bad review. Risk not being at the forefront. Because I know in the end, my body of work is going to show a progression of who Sean Jones is in its most honest form. What I'm hearing, what I believe and what I have to say.

Some people may think that's egotistical, but I think people want to hear you be yourself. They want to hear your honesty. They want to understand what's in you. I don't think it's ego at all. I think I'm trying to be honest with the listener and say "Hey, this is me."

AAJ: Does this also mark a move in your career now? I know you left Jazz at Lincoln Center.

SJ: It's time for me to not necessarily be a sideman as much anymore. I've done a lot of sideman work in the past. I do some sideman work with Marcus Miller, but it's more in a feature format. I'm featured prominently in the band. I think it's time for me to get out there and do what I need to do to put a stamp on the music from a solo prospective, as well as what I can do for various projects I'm working on.

I have two big bands. I have the Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra and I have the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra and I believe that jazz music, being America's indigenous art form, should be celebrated in an orchestral format, which is the big band. So I'm doing those two projects, I'm still teaching, and I'm recording and touring. I like the fact that my career is diverse. I can do all of those things and make an impact.

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