Take Five with Erik Telford

AAJ Staff By

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Meet Erik Telford: A native of Pacific Grove (CA), Telford has performed as a sideman or leader at the Monterey, Montreux, North Sea, Melbourne, and Yokohama Honmoku jazz festivals. He's shared the stage with Bill Berry, George Bohannan, Maria Schneider, Joshua Redman, James Williams, Jon Faddis, Wynton Marsalis, and Louie Bellson, among other artists. Telford currently lives in Austin where he is an active member of the local music scene leading both the Erik Telford Collective (ETC) and Hellfire Horns, a first-call horn section in demand for both studio sessions and live performances that has worked with Bob Schneider, The Scabs, Chris Pierce, Kevin Ahart, Paolo Negri, and The Walkmen. Telford also plays keyboards with singer/songwriter Kalu James.

During his teens Telford was closely associated with the Monterey Jazz Festival and as a high school senior became the first recipient of the Festival's Jimmy Lyons Scholarship that provided full tuition for a deserving jazz music student to attend the Berklee College of Music in Boston. While at Berklee, Telford studied jazz composition and trumpet with Greg Hopkins, classical composition with Dennis Leclaire and Vuk Kulenovic, and orchestral conducting with George Monseur and David Callahan. He graduated from Berklee in 2001 with a degree in Film Scoring.

Instrument(s): Trumpet

Teachers and/or influences? When I was at Berklee, Greg Hopkins, Vuk Kulenovic and Ken Cervenka were my teachers an were big influences on me as a composer and trumpeter.

A random list of few of my musical influences are Wayne Shorter, Miles Davis, Nils Petter Molvaer, Jackie Coon, Bob Schneider, Avishai Cohen (trumpeter), Bill Berry, and Bela Bartok. There's many, many more.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when... I was 12 years old and saw my first concert. It was Wynton Marsalis' quartet at the now defunct Doc Ricketts Lab in Monterey. I knew from that moment that I wanted to be a musician. Beyond the music, I could tell Wynton was really connecting with his audience. I remember that night as much as any other night in my childhood.

Your sound and approach to music: When I'm composing I use colors to shape certain sounds and/or moods that may be present in my life and surroundings. The mood most always comes first. After I've figured out the mood, the notes can come next.

Sometimes it's not that esoteric and music just happens through the writing process. Writing every day—regardless of how good you feel the music that you're writing is—is the most important thing.

Whatever process I go through, in the end hopefully I can take those notes and make music out of them.

Your dream band: Any band I can keep together and working for an extended amount of time. The changes in my group over the last two years are steps in the right direction.

Road story: Your best or worst experience: Best road gig: Phil Wilson's Rainbow Band in Pittsburgh. I've been sworn to secrecy.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why? Kinetic. It's my debut album and was a long time coming. The compositions represent a lot of my life. It felt good to get this first album out of the way so I can focus on the next one.

The first Jazz album I bought was: Kind Of Blue. My best friend at the time told me about it in 7th grade. I couldn't understand it, but I knew I loved it.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically? My main goal is to create honest music that forces people to have a (hopefully positive) reaction. If I can be original and true to my goals, then to me I'm making "good" music.

CDs you are listening to now: Avishai Cohen - Trumpet, After the Big Rain (Anzic Records) Esperanza Spalding, Esperanza (Heads Up International) Yuja Wang, Sonatas & Etudes (Deutsche Grammophon) Stevie Wonder, Talking Book (Tamla)

Desert Island picks: Glenn Gould, Goldberg Variations (Sony Classical) Miles Davis, My Funny Valentine: Miles Davis in Concert (Columbia) Maurice Ravel,Piano Concerto Duke Ellington, Ellington At Newport 1956 (Columbia) John Adams, El Dorado (Nonesuch)

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing? I see the responsibility of audiences as supporting musicians through direct funding. It's great to recognize jazz as an important art form, but it's more important to actually directly support musicians. Go to their shows. Pay the cover. Buy albums. Really support them. With the death of major labels this is becoming even more important today. Needless to say, we have a long way to go.

The responsibility for musicians is as tough: Play YOUR music and play it YOUR way and BE ORIGINAL.

What is in the near future? Touring with my group this Summer and hopefully more gigs.

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