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Take Five with Jayson Tipp / Under The Lake

Under The Lake By

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About Jayson Tipp from Under The Lake:
"Effervescent, vivacious and all-together engaging" is how one reviewer describes Under The Lake's music, an original sound that Don Dilorio of the North Jersey Herald and News says "doesn't sit easy in any category, thanks to its heavy doses of funkified bass and occasional soul references." It's an sound that Under The Lake refers to as "jazz, groove and attitude." Founded and led by keyboard player Jayson Tipp, Under The Lake's list of credits amassed over the past 25 years include three internationally distributed releases and live performances with a "who's who" list of jazz artists such as Joe Sample, Billy Cobham, Keiko Matsui, Stanley Jordan, and many others. Under The Lake has been praised in local, regional, national, and international publications including JazzTimes, Jazziz, France's Jazz Hot, Canada's Exclaim, Germany's Cascade, as well as The New York Daily News, UTNE Reader, The Music Paper and All Music Guide. In 2007 they had a Top 50 charting release "People Together." While the line-up has changed over the years, Under The Lake continues to entertain live audiences out of their home city Portland, Oregon and listeners worldwide online. You can catch them regularly at festivals, concerts, and in clubs in the Pacific Northwest.

Instrument(s):
Sax, guitar, keyboard, drums, an bass

Teachers and/or influences?
Lots of folks that hear us instantly comment on how we sounds like older Spyro Gyra, The Crusaders, and an instrumental version of Steely Dan. Those groups are definitely influences. But there are many other influences that make their way into our playing and writing including Pat Metheny, John Scofield, Medeski Martin & Wood, Eddie Harris, Traffic, and many others.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...
I can't recall the specifics, but I remember riding in the backseat of my father's car when I was very young and hearing jazz from the 40's and 50's on the radio (or it could have been an 8 track). I started memorizing and humming songs. I don't know that I could have said "I want to do that" at the time but certainly when I got a little older, I started to pursue playing. I have two older sisters. One played guitar. When she quit, I asked if I could take lessons. I was 8. That same year I took up trumpet in school band. At age 10, I inherited my grandfather's organ. I started taking lessons on that. By the time I was in high school I had played trumpet, baritone, french horn, and trombone in the school band. Over the years I've taken time off from playing and my life just isn't as complete.

Your sound and approach to music:
I started writing music very early on. I was a tinkering and would come across things that sounded good to me or would come up with my own "exercises" -something I wanted to learn to do better. A little while later I realized they could be songs. I was heavily influenced by classic rock growing up and Traffic, Todd Rundgren and Steely Dan in particular. I like rock/pop forms but I don't like how much of the pop/rock form is obvious so I always looked for a way to twist the progression or alter chords. At first I didn't know what I was doing just that I liked what I heard. It didn't take long to find a whole body of music where others were doing something similar...that's when I discovered fusion. And, I like grooves. Grooves with some interesting color over them and improvisation. That's it.

Your teaching approach:
I like to get people playing something that is interesting and engaging to them as quickly as possible and then encourage them to explore. I want them to find the areas of opportunity which are challenging and interesting to them.

Your dream band:
You could drop me into the 1970's line-up of The Crusaders. That would be pretty good. In the present day, almost any collection of players that John Scofield is performing with is pretty compelling, especially when he's with MMW.

Road story
I don't think I can pin down a worst experience. I had an interesting experience when a drummer on a gig was high and in the middle of a song kicked over his kick drum and cymbals and had to pick them up and continue to play. The band was tight so everyone else kept going. It was our last gig with that guy. I've personally had two equal best experiences. About 20 years ago when we played the Maui Music Festival one year we were on a secondary stage and played before Steve Reid and Bamboo Forest. Steve's group included bassist Kim Stone and some of the other players from The Rippingtons at the time. These guys were at the side of the stage watching us. When we wrapped up Kim came up to me and said how much he loved what we were doing. He loved that we had strong compositions and we're doing a sort of smooth jazz thing but that we were opening up and really improvising and how he'd really like to be doing something like we were. This blew me away. My response was..."what do you mean? I want to be doing what you're doing." The other experience was when we were playing a supporting stage to the main artist during a summer concert series at the Hyatt Newporter in Newport Beach, CA. Our second set started right after Spyro Gyro had wrapped up on the main stage. After a song we looked up and Jay Beckenstein and the whole group were in the room watching us. We talked with them, half their band sat in, our saxophonist at the time (Quintin Gerard W.) told Jay how much Jay influenced Quintin's playing when he started out. Jay's response was overwhelming: "I hear a lot more Coltrane than I do Beckenstein." Those memories are priceless and they were huge encouragement back in our early days.

Favorite venue:
We opened for Stanley Jordan at the House of Blues on Sunset in the early 90's. They treated us like we were another headliner—soundcheck, green room, food, etc. That was really cool to a bunch of guys who were just happy to be there.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why?
My favorite CD is our most recent, People Together, that was recorded in 2007. I think it's the most mature writing, very strong playing, but also demonstrates more patience and focus on the groove. I think it's the closest to the sound we had in our heads and how we perform live. I'm not sure that I have a favorite track but I think we'll also include the song "The Slider" in our sets. This just always feels like our tightest playing.

The first Jazz album I bought was:
The first jazz album I received was given to me by a neighbor... it was Norman Granz' Jazz at the Philharmonic. The first jazz album I probably bought was Pat Metheny Group When I was in college in St. Louis I went to visit friends at University of Illinois. I had to get back home for work early on a Sunday morning so I drove all night. As I was driving it was raining and I was listening to a college radio station playing jazz. All of a sudden this long, haunting tune came on that fit perfectly with the mood. It was "Are You Going With Me?." It's a long song and stuck with me. I had to turn the radio off when the next song started so I could play it over and over in my head. I didn't know the name of the song or the artist until a couple of month later when I heard it playing in our fraternity house. A frat brother had the album. I went out and bought it the same day.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?
Personally, I'm not the strongest technician on my instrument in whatever group of players I'm working with. I like to work with players I learn something from and who can quickly do what the arrangements ask of them. My particular skill is in the writing, arranging, and organizing. I contribute the vibe and the chord colors. I generally like my compositions—if not, why write them -but I continue to be pleased by the response I receive from other musicians who like my writing.

Did you know...
I went to high school at the same high school (Francis Howell) as Dave Weckl. In addition, my first job in high school was at K-Mart and Dave's mom worked there too. Dave graduated the year before I moved up from junior high.

CDs you are listening to now:
Soul Jazz Unit: Old School Recipes (Records)
Lee Ritenour: A Twist of Rit (Universal)
Medeski, Scofield, Martin, and Wood: Juice (Indirecto Records)
The Crusaders: Southern Comfort (GRP)

Desert Island picks:
Pat Metheny Group: Pat Metheny Group (ECM)
Steely Dan: Aja (MCA Records)
Traffic: The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys (Island)
John Scofield: Goovelation (Blue Note)
John Scofield: A Go Go (Verve)

How would you describe the state of jazz today?
I think there are some really strong established artists who keep putting out interesting material and working in interesting situations. I especially like how John Scofield and Pat Metheny have done this recently. I also see a lot of young, talented players from all over doing interesting things musically. I get a little bored with the folks who are technically skilled but stick to playing covers in conventional ways and in conventional settings. I also think there was a miss for the industry in not being able to really capitalize on the mainstream appeal of "smooth jazz" during the 90's and 2000's. There was lots of opportunity to critique much of what was going on but there were some true jazz artists that benefited from the audience. I don't think much momentum was gained as it's still difficult to find venues that book jazz and radio stations that play jazz.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?
We need venues that are willing to invest in the genre and help build the audience. We need more concert producers to make room for great instrumental music. We need artists who are more than just technically-skilled performers but also business people willing to invest time and effort to reach an audience.

What is in the near future?
We've written and are performing more than enough new, unrecorded material to record at least one new CD. We just haven't found the time to get into the studio. We continue to perform around the Pacific Northwest and look for opportunities to travel a bit more.

What's your greatest fear when you perform?
Forgetting one of my own songs.

What song would you like played at your funeral?
One of my own songs... doesn't matter which. One that means something to my wife or my kids.

What is your favorite song to whistle or sing in the shower?
Tough one... probably a Scofield tune with a strong groove like "Let The Cat Out."

By Day:
I'm a senior executive at a retail chain: Papa Murphy's, International.

If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a:
A senior executive at a retail chain: Papa Murphy's, International.

What do you appreciate most about your career in jazz?
I've been blessed and honored over the years to have worked with some wonderful people who were willing to put their effort behind my music. At times it meant sacrifice for them. I really appreciate that. In particular, there are four guys during the early days who I owe a lot to: guitarist David Harris, bassist Nathan Brown (currently touring with Coco Montoya), drummer Richard Sellers (someone go offer him a major gig), and Quintin Gerard W. Those guys were the members of the group at a pivotal time and were always there for me. They're fantastic players and deserve all the success they can get.
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