Your “Year In Revue: A Tribute to Icons We’ve Lost” at Hometeam New Year’s Rally was amazing. When you were preparing the set list, which songs did you feel were most important to showcase and why?
In August, I confirmed with the Hometeam crew that I would like to dedicate this set to the musicians who passed in 2016. It took me probably about 3-4 weeks to solidify the set list. Between all these musicians, there were extensive discographies and I also took part to read some of their memoirs and biographies to get more of a feel about some of them.
Overall, with the time slot I had just before the headliner, The Nth Power, I felt I needed to bring a high energy set and wanted to keep in it the realm of funk, soul and rock n’ roll. In doing that, I choose some of my personal favorites along with what I felt was appropriate for the slot such as “Saturday Nite” by Earth, Wind & Fire being primetime Saturday and the last of 2016. I was really pleased with the set list and hope it came off well to everyone listening.
Who all played with you during this set?
I incorporated 23 other musicians outside of myself for this set:
Jordan Garno (Leisure Chief, Serotonic) – Guitar
Matt Giancola (Future Vintage Band, Juanjamon) – Keyboards
Mark Mayea (Ajeva, JOOSE, Artist at Large) – Keyboards/Vocals
Trevor McDannel (Future Vintage Band, Juanjamon) – Bass
Yral Morris (Come Back Alice, JOOSE, Holey Miss Moley) – Drums
Tony Morales (Holey Miss Moley) – Percussion
Jimmy Rector (JOOSE, Come Back Alice) – Percussion
Robyn Alleman (Holey Miss Moley)
Caitlin Monita (Twisty Chris and the Pudding Packs)
Loe Sanz (Twisty Chris and the Pudding Packs)
Danny Clemmons (Holey Miss Moley)
Reed Skahill (Ajeva)
Joe Roma (Row Jomah)
Tony Tyler (Come Back Alice)
Dennis Stadelman (Sonic Stew)
Jamar Woods (The Fritz)
Tanisha “T” Wade (Green Sunshine)
Travis Young (Ajeva)
Chad Wade (Green Sunshine)
Rhyan Reinertsen (Green Sunshine)
Jen Peacock – Trumpet/Vocals
Sara Phillips (Artist at Large, Green Sunshine) – Trombone
The three Tribe Called Quest songs you played stood out and you definitely honored Phife Dawg to the fullest. Were you a big Tribe Called Quest fan back in the day? What did you think of their new album “We Got It From Here”?
A Tribe Called Quest was one, if not the first group, to get me into hip-hop towards the end of high school around 7 years ago. As a kid, I mostly grew up with my parents’ music. This included Motown and 70’s rock from my mom, and 80’s rock/pop from my dad’s era. When I was 17, I began getting into jazz on my own terms as a saxophonist, and from what I understood at the time, Tribe blended hip hop and jazz to the T. I discovered Tribe at the perfect time and it opened my eyes into the world of hip hop along with the Soulquarians. With my set, I tried to choose 3 tunes that included some of Phife’s most iconic verses.
“We Got It From Here” was one of my favorites of 2016. Not only did they not disappoint after bringing in an unexpected follow up, they took it to another level. It was bittersweet with Phife being able to record on that one for hip hop. Everything was on point! (pun intended)
I saw on Facebook you were recently listening to the new Common album as well. How large of a role did hip hop play on your music after discovering the genre?
The first Revue I actually put together was in tribute to the Soulquarians, which was the neo-soul/hip hop collective of the late 90’s that really brought into to hip and modern soul music. It’s some of my favorite music to this date, and it was Common’s “Like Water For Chocolate” record that got me hooked and it is one of my all-time favorite albums. D’Angelo, Erykah Badu, J Dilla, The Roots, Q-Tip, Common, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Bilal…that was the sickest crew to me at the time. There was a point in my life where all I listened to was from that era and I was glad to showcase their music and something different in my first Revue back at Little Econ Love Festival in 2015.
You pretty much played with every act during Hometeam. What were your top 5 moments of the weekend?
I’ll exclude my own set as that was a special moment for me in its own. As an Artist at Large, I always try to take full advantage of that opportunity by sitting in with as many groups as I can. If I had to list a top 5 it would be:
Roosevelt Collier’s Hometeam Getdown – I always enjoy playing with Roosevelt and it was especially fun being in a horn section with some of my favorite guys to play with in Anthony Cole (Doyle Bramhall II and Brown Note) and Clay Watson (The Legendary JC’s & Brown Bag Brass Band). It was truly a who’s who on stage and it went off! That 90 minute set flew by and it was so much fun.
JOOSE’s Coffee Sessions – We were asked by Cody to provide some morning jazz fusion vibes near the coffee area before music started officially on stage on Saturday and Sunday morning. We had a wonderful listening audience both mornings and the feedback was tremendous. Joe Marcinek sitting in and playing some of his tunes was a treat as well.
Sitting in on Come Back Alice’s “The Ride” – I’ll admit I was extremely tired before their set that began close to 2am on Saturday. I played with JOOSE starting at 10:30am and ended my set at 10:30pm, but I was glad I stuck it through for this song. From the first time I played this tune with them, it was a perfect fit with my baritone sax. It had a been minute since we’ve played it together but it was like riding a bike and I was happy with how it turned out.
Mark Mayea’s Keyboard Solo with Holey Miss Moley – There were a few moments I witnessed throughout the weekend where in music you can collectively take the music to a whole other level and it all just clicks perfectly. Mark had one of these moments in sitting with HMM on our tune “Afroshaft.” Every chorus went to a new height and anyone who watched it would say it was the musical highlight of the weekend.
Ringing in the New Year with The Nth Power – Aside from Nth Power being one of my favorite acts over the past couple years, it was cool moment when the clock struck midnight to think back on how far we’ve all come in this scene. I was at Cody’s house 5 years ago when he held a “refugee” festival in his backyard with Zach Deputy, Cope, Applebutter Express, Legacy and the Heard, and others when the Bond-Fire Music Festival collapsed last minute just before New Year’s 2011. This was the start of “Hometeam” where I met many of the key figures of this community for the first time. To go from that to a highly put together production featuring skilled bands from around the country, stellar local art and workshops, fantastic food vendors while maintaing a friendly environment from every person you encountered; their team deserves a lot of credit.
How did you get your start in music and what were some of the significant accomplishments that led you where you are today?
I started playing the saxophone in middle school band as an arts elective that was required in my area. I have no musicians in either side of my family at all, and wasn’t into drama or chorus and thought the saxophone was pretty cool. Little did I know that decision would change the entire course of my life. The bug of wanting to be a professional performer bit me towards the end of high school between my junior and senior year and there was no looking back.
I honestly can’t hone in to one specific moment in my career that has solely defined where I am. Every single gig, every musician I’ve performed with, every place I’ve been to and mistake I’ve made has shaped that. I still have much more to go and it will only continue to grow. I do my best to be as prepared as I can be and provide what the music calls for.
What was your experience like at Berklee College of Music?
I attended Berklee for one semester during the fall of 2013. Originally as a senior in high school, Berklee was my dream school and I auditioned and was put on the waiting list. Right before I graduated, I was informed I was accepted but I didn’t receive any scholarship or other financial aid and it was simply out of reach in that regard. I decided to go to Valencia College and pursue my AA with the idea of possibly re-auditioning. At Valencia, I was Bright Future scholar and through grants actually made money to receive my music degree. With the money I saved and the skills I improved, I auditioned a 2nd time and told no one. At that time, I didn’t want to get anyone’s hopes up and was doing fairly well in establishing my gigging career locally. I didn’t need Berklee, but I wanted the “what if” scenario out of my mind to see if I could do. Long story short, I was shortly accepted on scholarship the 2nd go round and packed my bags that summer.
City life in the fall/winter was a completely different experience than growing up in the Florida suburbs. I enjoyed a lot of what the city had to offer and couldn’t believe how much music came through compared to Florida. Every night, there was something to check out and I was able to see several favorite bands and idols I would not have been able to being in Florida. Wayne Shorter, Zappa Plays Zappa, Joshua Redman, José James, Kneebody, Christian Scott, etc. When it came to school, I did well and I was on the Dean’s List for what it’s worth but after a semester it simply wasn’t the right fit for me. It’s a place that is great for some depending on what you are looking for, and despite my short tenure there I learned a lot about myself and what I aspired to be. I hold no regrets through my unique college experience between Valencia and Berklee as it helped shaped who I am musically and personally.
How long have you been teaching music? Tell us about some of your students.
I have always taught on and off privately to aspiring saxophonists of all ages out of high school. I taught briefly at a friend’s music school during my time at Valencia College circa 2012 involving was middle school students of the area. In addition to that, my last year at Valencia I worked the music tutor on campus that focused on music theory, sight singing, ear training and beginning piano. I enjoy one-on-one instruction of any kind and the chance to show someone another way of looking a subject to help them grasp the concept. I’m proud to say during my tutoring year, I had many who began confused and felt hopeless, to finishing with a ‘A’ in their course.
A positive note I recently had was the mother of a former student of mine tagged me in a video on Facebook with her daughter playing a saxophone solo in her jazz band. A year ago I was teaching her adjustments on going from clarinet into saxophone and the fundamentals of jazz style. It was exciting to see her progress.
How long did you manage Red Lion Pub in Orlando? What were some of your favorite shows at the venue?
My mom was a part of Red Lion Pub originally as a bartender and after a few years became the owner that spanned for 27 years. In 2015, Red Lion expanded into more of music venue adding an adjacent stage room known as “The Lion’s Den”. Shortly before that in the middle of 2014, I began booking the entertainment there to help my parents. When the Den was added it became much more of full-time task in addition to all the gigs I was doing, and I was able to learn a lot through the experience despite the difficulty of balancing it all at times. This continued until my parents retired and closed shop at the end of September 2016.
Two of my favorite moments included hosting two Grammy-Winning legends: Victor Wooten and Charles Neville (of the Neville Brothers). I had booked the Roosevelt Collier Trio in October of 2015 and Victor Wooten had a bass clinic at the Sam Ash in town that same night. Little did I know, Roosevelt was good friends with Victor and invited him to the show. I let Victor in through the back of the venue, so he wasn’t bombarded and shortly was called on stage along with some Orlando heavy hitters by Roosevelt. After a couple jams, he invited Victor on stage and I will never forget it for the rest of my life.
That same month I had booked Charles Neville along with the band Gent Treadly. When I first got an email from his manager and read the subject line in my inbox, I laughed and I thought it was joke. Being hugely influenced by New Orleans funk music, there was no way he was looking to play at Red Lion Pub. They definitely were and it was a special intimate night. I was invited on stage during the first set and then Charles welcomed up for the majority of the 2nd set. It was unreal to say the least.
Would you ever consider owning or running another music venue?
Owning and/or running a business is a very demanding venture My parents dedicated every single day of their life to Red Lion from its inception until it closed. There are no real breaks as much happens behind the scenes in keeping the ship running. Unless hiring some sort of a general overseer one can trust, it would require undivided attention. I wouldn’t rule out the possibility and also wouldn’t mind having something under my own terms but it’s not an immediate or wanted goal. Through the connections I’ve built, I still try to help other bands local or touring play shows in town and around Florida as that’s the key building our own market.
What are your goals for the New Year?
My main focus for the New Year is going to take a step back from as many working commitments and focus on my own music in addition to touring more often. The past three years out of Berklee, I’ve played roughly 700 gigs and had over 200 rehearsals. I’ve hit a point where it’s time to hone in on my own creative endeavors and perhaps create an ensemble of my own. I’ve been able to learn so much from countless groups since I’ve been gigging out of high school and look forward to applying it in my own way.
Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
I also host a radio show at Rollins College in Winter Park, FL called “The Secret Stash” on 91.5FM WPRK every Tuesday from 12-2pm. I’ve been doing this show since September and have featured many friends throughout the state and heroes of mine like Karl Denson, Chris Bullock of Snarky Puppy, Martin Perna of Antibalas. I’ll be uploading my interviews to a podcast on my website soon and folks outside of Orlando can tune in online at wprk.org.