Concord Records’ NEXT Collective brings together what many are calling the supergroup of this generation of musicians. Combining the talents of Ben Williams, Christian Scott, Matt Stevens, Jamire Williams, Kris Bowers, Walter Smith III, Logan Richardson and Gerald Clayton, these musicians give some credence to the term “supergroup.” Originally conceived by Chris Dunn, Senior A&R at Concord, the record moves past the outdated “jazz” labeling and delves into the more pop-oriented influences of these incredible musicians.

Leading up to the February 26th release of ‘Cover Art,’ we will be bringing you interviews with the musicians and previews of the songs each one arranged for the record, so check back with us often! Today we’ve got an interview with saxophonist Logan Richardson who arranged “Come Smoke My Herb” by Meshell Ndegeocello and “Twice” by Little Dragon for ‘Cover Art.”

Photo by Bill Douthart

Photo by Bill Douthart

Grab Your Copy of the NEXT Collective’s Cover Art Now!

What were some of your first thoughts upon hearing about the NEXT Collective from Chris Dunn and Concord?

I initially met Chris in Orange County, California when I was out there playing with Stefon Harris several years ago. That’s what began our relationship specifically. After that we stayed in contact through the years and fortunately I was able to capitalize a great opportunity with some new artists getting signed to the label, so I signed with Concord in January of 2012. This project was something that was brewing in the mind of Chris Dunn as a collective of musicians that would be coming together and presenting on a community-based level. Obviously I was very excited about it for many reasons — to be on a major label, specifically Concord, as well as being a part of this collective where we were already friends and colleagues well before we ended up on this label together. So there was no choice other than to be a part of it in my opinion.

In the process of becoming a part of the NEXT Collective, Chris asked you to arrange a song or two for the group. Which ones did you arrange?

I did two songs and both of the songs I did, fortunate for me, made the final cut. I did the opening track, which is “Twice” by Little Dragon and I also did “Come Smoke My Herb” by Meshell Ndegeocello.

What went into your decision to pick the songs by Little Dragon and Meshell Ndegeocello?

I chose the songs that I did because if I was going to cover pop tunes and specifically put myself into them, these would be them. I knew I had to pick songs that penetrated inside of myself to where I would know that if I was putting it back out in any form, that it was going to be something that is meaningful. Regardless of who was coming to it — whether it was musicians playing it and realizing it to it’s fullest or the public that was going to be listening — there was something for me that I honestly respected.

With “Twice” it seemed super obvious to me. When you listen to it, it’s a very hypnotic kind of song. It’s the type of song that I would put it on and by the end I’d be rushing to put it back to the beginning. I’m mesmerized by the lead vocalist, the beats of the band, the groove of the band, and just the character that they created.

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It’s really a similar vibe with Meshell’s “Come Smoke My Herb,” which is on the album Comfort Woman. Obviously she is such a killing artist and I felt that Meshell should be a main, main, main-stream vocalist. You’ve got all of these ragtag vocalists out here and I’m just listening to such a high quality that this woman is putting out. How are these albums not classic albums? That album is such a bad album. That song specifically resonated with me for many reasons. I love it.

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Tell me about your experience actually putting these songs together in the studio.

The studio experience was amazing I think because of the synergy between all of the fellas and the music. It was such a natural experience. Cats came in with arrangements so we all just kind of brought out our songs tune by tune. We’d read it down probably once and then we’d just hit it — almost how you hear about these folkloric Blue Note sessions where they just read it down in one take and did it. It was pretty much exactly like that. We came in, put down the tunes, read it down one time, and then we took it. You’re probably hearing the first or second take on the album. So it was a very natural and organic process.

In terms of actually dealing with the musicians, we weren’t worried about anything technically or interpretation-wise or anything like that. It was a very fortunate set of circumstances that allowed the music to breathe.

Within the jazz scene there is this elitist view that jazz music is high art as opposed to music in the pop realm that doesn’t fit that aesthetic for some. In this format, how do you see pop charts stand up to jazz charts?

The biggest misconception that I think many have in terms of this jazz-versus-this-versus-that is that they are forgetting we all have a basic source and we’re all basically coming from the same place. Most of the music is just reflecting the place and society that it is found in. The interesting thing is that most of these jazz standards — for someone who likes to call themself a “traditionalist” — is that tradition has always been based off of the music of the day. Generally it’s not considered tradition until hindsight is in effect. Meaning that when John Coltrane did “My Favorite Things,” was that a jazz tune? I don’t think so. It was a popular tune of the day. We can scroll down the list of how many other tunes were exactly like that to where there is a jazz artist who played an instrumental version of this popular tune and surprisingly, by doing that, it brought them into popularity with the general public around the world. People knew the tune.

I think there has always been a teeter-totter of popular music feeding off of jazz influences and jazz feeding off of popular music. So for me, I have never really seen these lines. It’s all the same thing for me. When I was going through and transcribing the songs for the melody, the harmony, and the rhythm before even putting any arrangement to it, it was clear that we’re dealing with the same elements. Maybe there is a bit less improvisation in terms of the recorded elements. No one is soloing for four minutes, but there is still like an eight-bar guitar solo or four bars of some space with just chords. So it’s still happening, the format is just a bit different for presentation’s sake. I can’t speak on the composers and why they chose to do what they did, but for me I’m still drawing on so many more similarities than I’m finding differences.

A lot of times when cats go off on this jazz music thing, I think they choose to be closed off because if they had to be open to pop or hip-hop or any other idiom that they would consider to be so far different from what they’re doing, then that would mean that they would have to be able to do it. If you talk shit about it, then you should be able to emulate it at the minimum, right? But most of the people talking shit wouldn’t be able to step foot in it. So because it’s challenging, they say it’s not up to the same standard as their highly intellectual music. It’s bullshit more or less. Simply said, for me, it’s all music.

You’re a very distinguished member of this generation of musicians. Going forward, what do you foresee the legacy of this NEXT Collective record will be?

That’s a deep question. I suppose if I had to pull myself out of the group and move ahead maybe twenty years, I would have to say that I think this album will definitely be a bit of a classic for some folks simply because you can put it on from beginning to end and listen intently if you like to or if you don’t want to listen all that hard, you can just have it on. I’ve done it myself. I’m home and I just put it on while I’m doing other things around the house. It’s just one of these vibes that whatever you’re catching, whoever you’re catching, is incredible. It’s happening. I think the project kind of masterfully found a way to, I don’t want to say bridge gaps, but there is definitely something here for everybody. I think this is going to be an album that penetrates simply because it doesn’t alienate anybody.

Grab Your Copy of the NEXT Collective’s Cover Art Now!

Interview by Eric Sandler (@ericsandler)

Also check out: 

NEXT Collective: Ben Williams (Bass)

NEXT Collective: Kris Bowers (Piano)

NEXT Collective: Jamire Williams (Drums)

NEXT Collective: Walter Smith III (Tenor Sax)

NEXT Collective: Gerald Clayton (Piano)

NEXT Collective: Matt Stevens (Guitar)

NEXT Collective: Christian “aTunde Adjuah” Scott (Trumpet)

NEXT Collective: Chris Dunn (Producer)

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NEXT Collective’s Cover Art Album Release Show (2/26/13)

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