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Gideon King: Street Jazz

Paul Naser By

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AAJ: You said something just now, something along the lines of "imperfection is no longer lovable." Does that play into the concept of the new record?

GK: It's all like a stew of ideas, lyrically and musically. I guess what I was saying was people smell imperfection in the recording process now, and there's very little forgiveness for that. Imperfection is no longer lovable. It makes you a bit of a sonic outcast, and you don't want to be a sonic outcast when you're making music. You've got to make sure that you're really availing yourself of all the tools that exist to make modern music.

In terms of the album thematically, which you sort of alluded to, I'm still having some fun with all the New York City stories to which I'm exposed or about which I hear and occasionally in which I'm ensnared. I guess I'm endlessly fascinated by the madness of New York City. The earnestness of the place, how full of shit it is, its energy and all the insane contrasts that make it a really funny place. I find it really funny how serious everyone takes themselves, and it's fun to just write about that and create stories around that.

I'm not trying to write deep social commentary, and I'm not really trying to change anybody's mind about anything. I leave that to all the brilliant, deep-thinking artists out there. I'm just trying to hang together abstractions and fun ideas to paint pictures that make people think and make people relate the lyrics in some weird way to their own life predicament.

AAJ: So you'd say these lyrics are more observational that autobiographical? GK: They're certainly unintentionally autobiographical sometimes, upon reflection, but often they're just painting pictures of things that struck me as funny or sad or angry or abusive or ironic or supercilious in New York society. New Yorkers are very confident but they're also very desperate, and I'm not sure why. Some of the most successful people in New York are some of the most desperate. The lyrics are set against the backdrop of New York stories, just trying to paint pictures of different human predicaments and so on.

AAJ: How would you describe this music genre-wise?

GK: Other people have made comparisons to stuff like Steely Dan or Earth, Wind & Fire or Michael Franks or Snarky Puppy. I'd classify it as pop fusion, or street jazz.

AAJ: What is street jazz?

GK: I don't know, but it just feels right. I would describe it as just ironic in the sense that sometimes I'll set really sharp edged lyrics against the backdrop of things that are really smooth, almost quasi-easy listening at times. I guess I would just call it sort of pop fusion with a lot of different inputs from folk and rock and funk and jazz and so on.

AAJ: It is definitely very unique. There isn't very much music coming out that sounds like this, which is cool.

GK: Right, right. I really want a 22 year to be able to listen to this, and I also was a 65 year old to be able to listen to it. I want a kid at Berklee School of Music to listen to it and say "That's a cool solo," or someone who just likes to read and doesn't even like music that much to listen to it and say "Those lyrics kind of make me laugh or think about something." That's what I would hope for. Mostly, I just want anybody anywhere to listen to it.
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