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Casey Benjamin: EclectRic Expressionism

Barbara Ina Frenz By

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Casey Benjamin aka Stutzmcgee—all-through New Yorker with Caribbean roots, born in 1978—grew up in the borough of Queens in a musical household. Despite economically rough conditions that his mother, a single parent, heroically managed, he started with piano around six, added the alto saxophone around ten, and the vocoder and talk-box around fifteen. At sixteen, he performed on alto saxophone together with Grover Washington Jr. on TV, and two years later he toured Europe as a saxophonist with Betty Carter, shortly before she passed away. As an original member of the Robert Glasper Experiment he develops a maverick, expressive singing and playing style on saxophone (alto and soprano) and vocoder, that delivers a huge part of the band's signature sound and brought two Grammys (2012, 2017). Currently he is working on his solo-album, of which he dropped a single & music video entitled "Dig" in September 2018. Multi-stylistically influenced and studied musician that he is—also active as co-leader of the band HEAVy, soloist, songwriter, producer and DJ—he embodies in his original way today's expanding, genre dissolving musical flux that continues to be formed by the jazz DNA. His very own music particularly emerges on reeds playing pedals while improvising and on vocoder exploring unheard emotional tones of the human singing voice through this challenging key instrument. Casey Benjamin creates music that makes me think of flowers cracking concrete—flowers you don't find in an academic patch.

All About Jazz: Your parents are immigrants from two different Caribbean states—your mother is from Panama, your father from Grenada. Both of your parents introduced you to music, each of them in their own way. Can you share some details and thoughts on your Caribbean cultural heritage?

Casey Benjamin: My mom migrated to the United States in the late Fifties, and my father came to the States in 1970. During that time in America—particularly the coastal regions of New York—there was a big influx of Caribbean and Hispanic families moving in, particularly to Brooklyn, New York City. That had a big influence on the culture—if you think of hip-hop. The architects of hip-hop are Caribbean. And there are a lot of Caribbean people in jazz and in r&b. Born in Brooklyn, growing up in Queens, and just growing up in a West Indian household, there was always calypso music, soca music and salsa music—along with just being a kid growing up in the '80s, there was hip-hop obviously, and popular music and radio. So, I was always exposed to a melting pot of different musical styles and sounds. And my father was a musician in the '70s, he was a bassist, he played in a lot of local rock and funk bands and he was a DJ.

AAJ: So, you had a musical role model with your father?

CB: Exactly. It was really my father's albums that sparked my musical interest. The first sounds I can ever remember are these two albums that my father would play a lot: Pat Metheny, Offramp—that was like 1982, I was three or four years old, and Quincy Jones, The Dude, that album, which came out around the same time [1981]. And my father had an old 1976 Ford Gran Torino—he had it souped-up, which is very rare at the time. He had this huge sound system you can hear from two blocks away and he would play. My father loved disco music and funk and he would always be playing—everything from Quincy Jones to Teddy Pendergrass to Emerson Lake & Palmer. He had a very wide pallet of music. So, that's where the bulk of my influence came from.

AAJ: What is your mother's musical background?

CB: My mom used to sing as a teenager, but she didn't really pursue it. When she met my father and they got married and had us, she sort of pushed it aside. But I do consider my mom a huge influence in my musical career, not so much on the music side but the passion of pursuing this and the love—and that to me is just as or probably even more important.

AAJ: What was your first musical instrument?

CB: It was a piano. I started playing at the age of—I'd say six or seven. I just played what I heard—and I have perfect pitch. But during that time I started playing, I didn't know what that was. I had no idea. I didn't find out till later, maybe around age of eleven or twelve. A mentor of mine, legendary jazz musician and arranger Weldon Irvine, told me that I have perfect pitch. And even then I was like, "what's that?! I don't know."

AAJ: Learning just by ears, by intuition—I imagine this to be the best start for playing a musical instrument. Not having that academic introduction right from the beginning.

CB: Yes. It definitely helped me. Basically anything I can hear I can play. That's a great tool having your ears open.

AAJ: How did it come that you additionally started playing the saxophone?

CB: It was at the beginning of the school year—this is fifth grade. And as kids are, they joke around and horseplay and they are not paying attention. My mentor, she was my music teacher then and turned out to be my mentor for many years—Pamela Smith—she was like: "Who wants to play a saxophone?" I thought she said "Who wants to play the drums?" Every young boy wanted to play the drums, so I wanted to play the drums. I was like raising my hand, "me, me, me, me!" Thinking that she's gonna come to me with some drum sticks, she came over with a saxophone. And I said, "Well, Ms. Smith I want to play the drums," she was like, "Well, you weren't paying attention, so you gonna play the saxophone." But it's crazy—I kid you not—two, three weeks later I knew all of my major/minor scales. I absolutely fell in love with this instrument. It was meant to be.

AAJ: Once again on your school at fifth grade: Which sort of musical program did they have, which kind of music did you play there?

CB: It was mainly jazz and popular music. I attended PS45, a public school. This is the late '80s. Public schools in the inner city still had music. It was on its way out because of politics. I was lucky to get that education. Because in the inner cities—it started to drive quickly. It was the Reagan-Bush era. When I started playing the saxophone, Bush senior was in office.

AAJ: They cut off support for cultural matters?

CB: Yes. They started cutting off community programs, after-school programs—all types of things. It was a very rough time in New York if you lived in the inner city.

AAJ: When and how did you gravitate towards singing?

CB: I didn't really start singing like seriously until my twenties—so a little later. And that came from HEAVy.

AAJ: So, with HEAVy you discovered that singing is something you can do?

CB: Oh yes. You know what it is—I was very timid and not sure about myself. But I've always been a fervent believer in singing doesn't necessarily have to have a tremendous amount of technique. I think it just has to do with confidence and, yea, just liking your voice. Because for a long time I did not like my singing voice and it took me a while. And I think I'm just maturing and getting older and knowing more of who I am. It helped me get a stronger grasp on "Hey, I can be a vocalist!"

AAJ: Your voice has a wide range to offer—from a high, falsetto-like voice to a deep voice, all of that with many emotional facets.

CB: Well, I think that [wide range] comes from being an instrumentalist. I think it can be tougher if you just start off being a vocalist.

AAJ: When did you start using electronics for your music? How did it come to that?

CB: When you're talking about the vocoder and the talk box—that started my mid-teenage years, something around fifteen, sixteen. And I started experimenting with that. I've always been a big fan of Roger Troutman and Herbie Hancock and Peter Frampton, people like this—and I always just wanted to explore that. But there was really Herbie Hancock's Sunlight—that album. I discovered that, when I was seventeen I believe, and that album just changed my whole world. And from that point on I was dedicated to the vocoder. Now, as far as the electronics for the saxophone—I have always been an Eddie Harris fan and I've always been good friends with a lot of guitar players, so I always wanted to experiment the pedals. And during this time—this is also my teenage years—I was taken under the wing, as you can say. There was a collective of musicians in New York, called the Black Rock Coalition. They played like the Downtown scene, back when there was the old Knitting Factory on Church Street Downtown Manhattan. The first person I met who took me in was Melvin Gibbs. So, from Melvin Gibbs I met DJ Logic and then I met Vernon Reid and Brandon Ross and JT Lewis—all the pinnacle guys during that time, who were on that scene.

AAJ: In your generation one grows up with electronic toys, which don't have by all means to do with music. But electronics is sort of a normal thing in the everyday life of your generation. Does this have any connection to the music you play?

CB: To be honest, there was—because of what I do is so specialized—nobody doing what I was doing at that time, not the way I was doing it. First of all, there were no saxophone players who were doing vocoder and playing. Now you see a lot of these newer bands—all the saxophone players have a vocoder or they're doing pedals and it came from, not to toot in my own horn, but I was kind of like the first. There's obviously a lot of fans reaching out to me saying, "thank you for doing what you do, you're an inspiration to me to start doing this." But yea, at that time it was very unpopular to do what I was doing—and people made fun of me.

AAJ: You grew up in the NYC borough of Queens. Can you describe a little bit the musical influences that came from there to you—for example Jamaica funk as an important part of the musical culture in Queens?

CB: Growing up in South Jamaica, Queens had a—profound—influence on my development as a musician. All through, I guess it started with Weldon Irvine, who is considered the, I don't know, the godfather of Jamaica funk. At the time, I believe, he was managing Donald Blackman and Bernard Wright, he was looking over Marcus Miller, and Lenny White, Tom Browne, all these Jamaica Queens icons, Omar Hakim, tons of guys. So, when I was eleven, twelve—I believe it was every Tuesday or Thursday—Weldon Irvine and Bill Jacobs, another Queens musician—a vibraphonist, they were really good friends—they had this jazz workshop in Hollis, Queens and all these musicians would come down and jam and he would basically give lessons. I believe it was at Bill Jacobs' house—its basement—In Hollis, Queens. And all the musicians would go there. One time, Q-Tip [of hip-hop band A Tribe Called Quest] was there. It was just all the Queens musicians would go there.

AAJ: You were still a kid then.

CB: Yea. I was the youngest there. Everybody else was like in their late teens and there were other guys who were in their fifties—just a wide range of people. So, that was my initial exposure to being around these Jamaica Queens musicians. And then over the years I worked with Bernard Wright, with Donald Blackman, and I used to play with another Queens legend, who people don't really know that well: Ozell Miller—they used to call him Ozell Broadway Miller. He used to do a lot of arrangements for players, but he was also an incredible jazz pianist—and he has written with people like Kurtis Blow. He's worked with so many, he's worked with I believe Mick Jagger. He was a big Queens guy, Queens musician. I started playing in a group with him when I was eighteen. Just being around all these Queens musicians influenced me—they were everywhere.

AAJ: I guess at that time it was the usual way to learn playing jazz music in these workshops, not in the conservatories. Conservatories only taught classical and even older music in the '80s and '90s, right?

CB: No, certain colleges taught jazz, but it was still a new thing. Well, for New York. I went to the New School University—New School started I believe in the early '90s. Juilliard did not have a jazz program at that time. So, yea, there were very few jazz programs in New York City.

AAJ: Another important musical impact in Queens is hip-hop, being surrounded by hip-hop bands like Run DMC or A Tribe Called Quest. Can you tell a little bit about this musical influence on your own musical development as a kid and teenager?

CB: It's more so than in music, it was more of a culture. So, growing up in South Jamaica Queens—it was just the neighborhood. There was a famous clothing and sneakers shop called The Colosseum, that was on 165th Street and Jamaica Avenue. Everybody would go there to get their new sneakers, their gold fronts and jewelry, all the hip-hop people would go there. So, it was very common to go there and you'd see LL Cool J walk out, or you go down this street and 50 Cent would be there. It was just the community. And radio was different—this is when radio was still a big thing. You'd hear new records, I remember when I heard Run DMC's Christmas rap for the first time [1987], when it first came on the radio. And that was like—mind blowing. It had that profound feeling. The first time, where hip-hop was becoming commercial. It was taking over.

AAJ: There is another thing about Queens as a place to live, the fact of growing up in the hood. Can you describe this a little bit?

CB: Yea. I grew up part of South Ozone Park, South Jamaica Queens, 150th Street, Rockaway Boulevard. During this time in the '80s, crack was a big epidemic in the United States, more so in New York, Washington DC, Atlantic City, just the North East. But in Queens it was probably worst. So, there was a lot of crime, there was a lot of drugs—yea, it was a dangerous time in New York City—to live in the inner city. A lot of my friends that I grew up with—some of them dealt drugs, some of them were robbing, went out to jail, some of them went dead. I never became part of that. But there were friends that I went to school with, kids that I knew, and they always looked at me as, it was kind of a respect sort of thing, like they would say, "Oh yea, you're rocking with that music." There were a lot of kids playing music in the neighborhood, but the investment that I put into it, there was nobody really doing that. So, it kind of affords some sort of respect in the neighborhood—like "oh yea, that's Casey blowing his sax, that's the sax man." But I grew up in a single family household, my mom and my father had divorced, then I lived with my mom, and we were poor, we used food stamps, my mom worked two jobs, and it was really tough. My mom bought me my first saxophone, she worked overtime on both of her jobs just to get me this saxophone. She's always been a huge supporter, both of my parents respectively. But my mom in particular always has been a huge supporter. Hey, I would be able to practice all hours of the night, she would never complain, never, I could play four o'clock in the morning.

AAJ: Which high school did you go to?

CB: I went to La Guardia Performing Arts High School—which is a big famous high school. Marcus Miller went to it, Bob Berg, I believe Jimmy Owens, Bernard Wright, actors have gone there. So, that was a big introduction. I would say after my studies with Weldon [Irvine], La Guardia was where it became more scholastic, learning jazz in a school. That was my first encounter really. In La Guardia, it was jazz and classical what they taught. Jazz was big. I started playing in big bands and I learned how to be a lead alto saxophonist and tenor player and learned about composition, jazz studies, playing in different smaller bands. You know, that whole experience came from La Guardia. During my time at that school I was also part of a young band—we were all young kids, mainly of Caribbean parents, we used to have a band called KRE A SHAN. We started when we were all about the age of eleven and twelve. We played around New York City and opened for various reggae, ska and ska/punk bands. A few years later we started writing and performing more r&b. We got a record deal with Uptown MCA Records, which was a big r&b label at the time. So, we were working on our album. All of that was during we were all in school, La Guardia. There was a very interesting sort of situation: Even though I just started with playing jazz, I was more familiar with pop music. And towards the end of high school, the band was having problems and then we broke up. Maybe about a year after high school, I was going to continue with the band, but with the band even broken up, I was looking at a new avenue. That's when I said "I'm going to go to college." I received four different scholarships: Berklee, Manhattan School of Music, Cal Art in California and The New School. So, I decided to stay in New York and go to The New School—that's how I started in New School.

AAJ: Isn't New York the best place to study music, anyway?

CB: Yea. But everybody wants to go to Berklee. I was like it doesn't really make sense because at some point everybody comes to New York. And I'm from New York, I have connections here already. And there are great teachers and musicians here and so I chose to stay here, reinforce my connections. Because when people come from Berklee, it's like they have to meet people and have to do the whole thing. I can already have a head start—that's how I thought about it. So, yea, it was the greatest choice that I have made. That's where I met Robert Glasper, Bilal, Marcus Strickland, Kenyatta Beasely, Marcus Baylor, Keyon Harrold, all the jazz musicians on the scene right now. We were all in school together basically.

AAJ: During your time at the New School, you participated of Betty Carter's renowned Jazz Ahead program. How did it come to that?

CB: This is my second semester at the New School. The actual administration director—Ms. Ellie Howell—really took a liking to me and wanted to help me in every way as she could and she said, "Hey Casey, there is this thing called Jazz Ahead. I think you should audition for it. Betty Carter takes a handful of young musicians and does her workshop with them for about two weeks. And then we have this big concert at the Kennedy Center in DC." So, I said, "Ok cool." At that time I think I was eighteen. So, I put this band together, piano, bass and drums, and then right before we did the recording the pianist, a friend of mine—Nick Ralph—he said, "Hey man, listen, I can't make the recording because I have to get to this other class. But there is this new pianist in town. You should check him out. This guy's named Robert Glasper." I said, "Okay, cool." So, I met him then. At this time Rob was very shy. He knew about me, and said, "Oh, I heard about you, I've been to these shows and stuff, really nice to meet you." Yea, he filled in, and did the demo and I made it into the program with Betty and I did it the last year she was around. She passed—after the first time. And then the second year I did it again with other musicians. It was a wonderful experience.

AAJ: In a recent interview you told that you've learned from her how to write music, to put something from life into writing. Did you also learn something from her for your own playing?

CB: I always wanted to be the first alto player in Betty's band. That was my dream. I felt like that, because she was inviting me to shows—I sat in with her at the Blue Note. She was always like wanting me around, I felt she's kind of grooming me to be in a band, and she passed away shortly after that. My first time in Europe was with Betty Carter—I was eighteen years old, when she took me on the road.

AAJ: Once again, on the musical influences in New York City. Is there any connection between punk or free jazz and your music?

CB: Yea—huge connections. During my latter part of my high school years—it's funny you brought that up—is when I started mingling with the Black Rock Coalition and Melvin Gibbs. And also, my instructor in high school was Bob Stewart. Bob Stewart is a jazz tuba player. So, during that time—it was so awesome—he would bring in bands that he was working with and rehearse during class, so we'd have a first-hand look of how it'd be to rehearse a band. He'd bring in Lester Bowie's Brass Fantasy, John Stubblefield, Arthur Blythe, he'd have just all these random incredible musicians come in and he would expose us to all this music. And that was my first time hearing David Murray, it was a big band. I remember they did this one song at the Knitting Factory, it was a one hour and a half long song, it was just absolutely amazing. So, yea, I was already exposed to free jazz and those sorts of tones. Also just hanging out in the city and hanging out in the Lower East Side—I played in a couple of rock punk sort of sounding bands. This one band I can remember was called Soul Source. Yea, I was always exposed to that sort of scene as well.

AAJ: One can hear that in your saxophone playing—this free playing is very pronounced sometimes and gives your saxophone style this personal edge and esthetic.—I'd now like to talk about your musical approach as an independent artist today. During a musical workshop in Atlanta from 2013 (which can be found on YouTube) someone asked the entire RGX about the starting point of their musical development. Let me quote parts of your answer here: "All I really had was the music, was the records. I always put music with shapes and sounds. Everything in my life I associated to emotions, feelings, and shapes and colors. When I was a kid I used to come home from school and my mother would watch—she used to love soap operas—she used to watch General Hospital, a very melodramatic show—women always crying, she loves this guy or someone dies, very dramatic. And I would always come home and turn the volume down and just play to what I saw on the TV." In that same statement you also said that thinking of notes and certain musical concepts while playing can disconnect from that emotional source. To me this whole statement sounds fundamental and seems to reflect the personal place your music is coming from. With quite a lot of well known jazz musicians from today I hear an academic thing in their playing, which makes it a bit generic. Not in your playing. I don't hear an academic approach in your playing.

CB: [laughs]: Thank you.

AAJ: Could you share some thoughts on your emotional approach as a musician—on your ability to keep yourself musically free and independent? Maybe one cannot answer this question, but maybe you have some associations, experiences or whatever you can tell about?

CB: That's a great question. I hope this answers it—it sounds a bit generic, but it's really just life. I play off of a lot of experiences that I had in my life, ever since I was a kid until now, so it's very unique. Everything from not having much as a kid to having my heart broken for the first time to my love of cars and sounds, my travels around the world and meeting people and people dying and losing. All these things. And I tend to not congregate as much in musical circles in terms of people always chatting together and practicing together, doing all these different things together. When it comes to music, I tend to be a loner. There's so many musicians that just sound like each other. I believe in getting knowledge and wealth, the wealth is in the knowledge, and learning and asking questions. I always wanted to stay to myself in some sort of way, because I felt that it would be the most organic way to play music.

AAJ: Once again back to your singing, the vocoder in particular. You've been described as "a modern master of the vocoder." One could add, that you deliver a huge part of the RGX signature sound with your robot voice—and of course with your saxophone style that is shaped not least by doing pedals. Could you explain how it came to using the vocoder as a vocalist?

CB: After hearing this album from Herbie Hancock, Sunlight, I did more research. Now, if you know the album cover, the back of the album, there is a picture of him and there is like tons of keyboards around him, all different types of keyboards, and the vocoder that he uses is called the Sennheiser VSM 201. They are extremely rare. There is only a handful that were ever made—and if you ever find one, it's extremely expensive. I believe there was some sort of an endorsement deal with Sennheiser that Herbie had that time back in the '70s. He was the one who really revolutionized that sound and was making it that instrument. That vocoder is 64 band, so the legability is amazing. You can hear him breathe and it sounds like a breath. The vocoder that I can afford costs so much less, I believe my vocoder was 16 band, so it wasn't as legible, it wasn't as sexy as Herbie Hancock's vocoder. But I just studied this album, I studied Feets, Don't Fail Me Now, I studied Monster, Magic Windows, I studied all of Herbie's albums where he used the vocoder and I tweaked it and I did speech test and I did all these mikes and it took me years—years, years, years—and slowly but surely I made my own sound, my own vocoder, and it became my signature sound.

AAJ: Herbie Hancock sounds different from you. In your vocodering there is this uncompromising clash of emotion and electronics. To exaggerate it a bit: Herbie Hancock makes the human sound like a machine, whereas you make the machine sound like a human. In a recent interview you said, "I think it's beautiful to have a robot being romantic." This makes your vocodering readily distinguishable. How do jazz critics react on your robot approach to the human voice as a vehicle of emotions?

CB: It's funny, because when Herbie Hancock did a lot of those albums he was slammed by the critics, they hated all, saying "this is really cheesy, he is making these disco albums," bla bla, this and that, which is crazy, because those albums are absolutely brilliant, they are works of art. But during that time they shunned upon it. So, when I started doing the vocoder, a lot of people embraced it, but there were people who absolutely hated it—there were people like, "Oh, I can't stand it, it's annoying," "Oh it's that corny auto-tune"—they just say all different types of things. But that's fine—any time you do anything innovative, there are gonna be people that are going to say terrible things about it. I really believed in what I was doing and loved it and it didn't bother me. I just get along with it and here you are now. Now everybody is doing it, now it's the norm, back then it wasn't such a norm.

AAJ: You also work as a DJ. Can you share some thoughts on what DJing means to you as a musician. Is there any connection?

CB: Yea. I think there is a very close connection. I started DJing actually relatively late in the game—in 2012. And I've always had a huge vinyl collection. A lot of it is from my father, from the '70s. And I have always known a lot of music and a lot of records and stuff. But working with Q-Tip and being good friends with DJ Spinna really influenced me into becoming a DJ. I've worked with Spinna for years, even when HEAVy—when we were performing a lot. And more so with Tip—I was working with him, I was touring with him, I was his keyboard player. And we write in the studio together, we would always talk about albums. A lot of DJs make really great producers, because of their knowledge of albums and different sounds and different approaches, because you listen to the music, you listen to the albums, you hear so many of these influences that people are doing. I think that's what makes Q-Tip and Spinna great DJs. So, for me it was just getting around the technical part, learning how to scratch and all the technical things, you know, being a DJ. But the music, that was a no-brainer. Now, when I first started DJing, the first thing that I noticed—it's part of the learning, because you get to suck in the beginning, so that you know what not to do next time. First time I started DJing, my set worked not that great, I think the music was great, but the way I did it, how I figured it was not great, I needed to work, I just started. So, the thing that I take away from DJing as supposed to being a performing musician on stage with an instrument is, that when you're in a band and you are on stage performing and you have a setlist and you have this song and going to this song and this song, and maybe going to a slow song and then sometimes you perform the slow song and the crowd is not that really into it, not ready to go there, maybe I should play this and that, whatever—a big deal, you can make it, you know. And when you DJ, and particularly DJing a party, and you play this one record that nobody likes, is like everybody just turns around and looks at you, like you just fucked up the party, like it's so instantaneous, you feel like you just committed murder. It's as far as putting on a show and getting the story, you try to be as seamless as possible. So, that's how I connect the DJing to being a musician.

AAJ: Going from life and not from a plan or a routine. You have to be attentive.

CB: Exactly. Every time I spin, every time I DJ, I never have a set playlist of anything, everything is totally random. You go there, you read the party—and Q-Tip always tells me you never spin for yourself, you spin for the party, you spin for the people, meet the people, that's what that takes a party. Of course you gonna have your taste of things you might want to hear and stuff, but you make it in the preambles of the party.

AAJ: So, you have to have this ability, this intuition.

CB: Exactly. You know, there is different parties—parties where you play more popular music. The more abstract and obscure stuff you play, the better. Spinning in London is like a totally different experience than spinning anywhere else, I believe, because of their knowledge of music and plain obscure things that they'd never heard before, they value that sort of thing.

AAJ: Where does your multi-instrumentalistic approach come from?

CB: I think it comes from just personal taste, the type of instruments I like to hear. I have a great passion for keyboards and piano, saxophone, flute—they are just different vehicles of expression. And there's musicians that I really admire, multi-instrumentalists. One in particular is Wilton Felder, who people don't really know. He was a saxophonist from the Jazz Crusaders. So, a lot of people know him from the Crusaders, the records he has made with them. But he is also a phenomenal bassist. Wilton Felder played on a lot of classic albums. He has played with everybody, from the Jackson Five to Joni Mitchell to Michael Franks to, I believe he played with Barry White, he's on countless other recordings as a bassist. So, like that sort of thing always made me say, "Wow, he did this and he also did that." And there is another saxophonist—Larry Williams, he's not that obscure. He is on a lot of sessions from the LA scene, he did a lot of stuff with like Al Jarreau, '70s stuff, but he's also a keyboard player, he did a whole lot of different things.

AAJ: Your musical style is influenced by music particularly from the '70s and '80s, and as a DJ you also relate to that era—and—you own and drive cars from the late '80s and earlier. What would you say is this stylistic phenomenon called retro culture? Is there a certain longing for the past, using the music, the sociopolitical energy from these times? Following the late culture scientist and writer Mark Fisher (Ghosts of my Life, 2014), retro culture is not just plain nostalgia, it rather seems to fill a contemporary vacuum. Do you have some thoughts on your close relationship to retro esthetic?

CB: Yea. There is a certain sort of class that that kind of art had. We talk about cinema. I mean—one of my favorite, well my favorite movie is Saturday Night Fever. Maybe because I am from New York I appreciate it more than an average person. There is just this organic thing of just pop culture of New York. Because there is so many different cultures, and with so many different cultures everybody's culture is blending together and makes this beautifully work. So, everything from the clothing to the music to the way people talk, the way people walk, it's fascinating to me. As far as cars, I have always been into the cars ever since I can remember and in particular cars from the '60s and '70s, I love. Because—I don't know, today a lot of cars look the same. I can't tell the difference between a Ford and a Honda. They all look the same. Back then—a Chevy looked like a Chevy, a Chrysler looked like a Chrysler, a Honda looked like a Honda. It's like everybody just forgot about style. It's very cold to me. So, when I look into the '70s and a part of the '80s, it's like the last frontier of—this might be controversial, that saying—ingenuity, maybe that's the word I'm looking for. Just something, that's so organic and fresh and a class by itself. So, you know, pop culture, fashion obviously, the late '70s, early '80s in New York City—you had the disco scene, you had the hip-hop scene, you had the punk scene, you had all these different things happening, it was just so organic and beautiful, I love that. And taking that and putting—not necessarily putting, I don't like to really say putting a modern spin on it—but it is modern, I mean I'm living now, so, it's my take of that with what I'm living now.

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All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, shelter in place and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary effort that will help musicians now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the bottom right video ad). Thank you.

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