Quentin Moore: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Chris M. Slawecki By

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I've been telling everybody who's been collaborating with me, that if you like every song on "Quentinized," then you are insane. Like me!
Much has been recently written about the "graying" of jazz and the audience who listens to it, young musicians seem to continually discover (and rediscover) its enduring value—and not just the value of jazz as its own standalone genre, but the benefit of incorporating aspects of jazz, such as improvisation and arrangement, into music of every type.

Quentin Moore is one such musician. Though his 2009 debut, Vintage Love, and 2011 follow-up, "Quentinized" (Mixtape), both self-produced, unapologetically present large, steaming warm slices of R&B and soul, he speaks freely of the jazz elements and influences in his music, in particular the impact of studies and friendships formed at the University of North Texas, from which Moore graduated with a Human Resources degree in 2007.

Moore grew up surrounded by the sound of the church organ, drums, and vocals from the soulful gospel music of St. Stephen's Baptist Church in his hometown of Austin, Texas. While playing drums through middle school and high school, his taste expanded into soul and R&B. But at the University of North Texas (UNT), Moore was introduced by peers and professors to jazz, while he simultaneously expanded his instrumental prowess to include electric guitar and bass. Since then, his music and life have never been the same.

By graduating from UNT, Moore joins a long line of alumni that includes Jimmy Giuffre, Bob Belden, Conrad Herwig, Lyle Mays, saxophonist Bill Evans, Bob Dorough, and Norah Jones (and, among others, Roy Orbison!). The prestigious UNT One O'Clock Lab band has received six Grammy nominations—most recently, for Best Large Jazz Ensemble and Best Instrumental Composition ("Ice Nine," by Steve Wiest) in 2009—and will perform in November 2011 with special guest Terell Stafford for the UNT 51st Annual Fall Concert.

Moore wrote his entire Vintage Love debut, which suggests a cross between a young Stevie Wonder, from his keyboards and arrangements, and a young Maxwell or Brian McKnight, from his smooth, sure vocals, and also provided all the lead vocals and much of its instrumentation. One of the top selling Urban R&B/Soul releases on CDBaby.com, Vintage Love highlights include the lushly evocative "Sex Song" a quiet storm that thunders and billows like Teddy Pendergrass on the tomcat prowl, and the energizing "Whoop Your Jazz (jam)."

All About Jazz: You were born in one of the world's best music towns—Austin, Texas. Did you hear much of the region's famous roots, blues, and blues-rock music while growing up, and do you think it had much impact on you?

Quentin Moore: Growing up in Austin influenced me a great bit. It's a cultural melting pot when it comes to music, a lot of different styles and a lot of different people. I primarily started with gospel, in church. Down in Austin, gospel is pretty big. But one thing that's different about gospel in Austin compared to other places: With Austin being so diversified and cultured, the gospel would mix over into different styles of music, from blues to rock to jazz and even rhythm and blues.

Also, part of growing up in Austin is that I grew up around the blues and zydeco. When I grew up, an independent radio station (that's still there) played everything, reggae to zydeco to smooth jazz to straight-ahead jazz. So I could literally just flip on this one radio station and listen to all these styles of music. I've never found another radio station that comes anywhere near that. With Austin being in south central Texas, we also heard a lot of reggae and Tejano music.

When I was younger, I primarily listened to what young people listen to; you know, pop and rap and popular R&B. I used to not like blues; my grandparents would play the blues all the time and say that they saw B.B. King here and there, but my position was that I couldn't stand that stuff. Tejano music, too—I'd hear my neighbors play it every day. But as I got older, I grew to appreciate those different styles of music. So Austin influenced me in several different ways.

AAJ: They're two terms that seem to be used pretty much interchangeably. What is the difference, at least in your mind, between R&B and soul?

QM: To me, soul is like this perfect mix between gospel and R&B, [with] the lyrics and worldly culture of R&B, but the soul and spirit and sincerity of gospel music. You can pretty much hear someone crying their heart out for someone, and them sincerely meaning it. But R&B is stuff that people dance to or play when they're interested in having a good time. I've always thought of soul as...not necessarily blue music, but something played from the heart, whether through the music or the lyrics. I look at soul as a little bit deeper version of R&B. A lot of soul singers—for example, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Al Green—their vocal stylings are real similar to gospel, but they're singing R&B style songs. R&B is kind of more on the surface, not to be disrespectful to it, but soul is from more deeply within.

A lot of soul, especially contemporary soul, has jazz stylings because it tends to use a lot of live instrumentation, as opposed to R&B using more electronics and samples and things like that.


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