Thursday, April 15, 2010

CLAY ROSS - Late Night Groove Series 4/30 Preview with Interview!

Clay Ross will be performing at the Blue Note on 4/30 for the Late Night Groove Series at 12:30am. We asked him a few questions about his upbringing, his band, and what to expect at the Blue Note. Check out his Star Wars-esque video, read the interview, and come check out this amazing musician on 4/30!

1. What was the music around you growing up in South Carolina?

My dad was really into classic rock, so I grew up listening to The Rolling Stones, Steppenwolf, Hendrix, and Led Zepplin. I would also hear country music, bluegrass and folk but I didn't always like it. I'm actually the only musician in my family, so even though I grew up in South Carolina with this rich heritage of folk music, I wasn't always aware of it. I just always loved music and as I grew out from the suburbs I would absorb whatever music I encountered along the way. Looking back I realize how much this roots music was part of my unconscious experience. It was in our food, in our accents, and in our values. Music was everywhere.

2. What came first, the interest in jazz or Brazilian music, and how did those interests come about?

I discovered jazz for the first time when I moved to Charleston, SC at 17. I heard Quentin Baxter, Kevin Hamilton, and Charlton Singleton playing at a local Coffee Shop and it just changed my life. These guys are incredible musicians and still the hub of the jazz community in Charleston. I spent the next 8 years studying to understand what I saw them doing that day. They became my mentors and we formed a band together playing standards and original modern jazz. This was a significant period of growth for me as a musician.

I brought that inspiration to NYC, where I set out to get involved with the jazz community and continued working on standards while I sought out and played gigs with heavy jazz cats like Chis Cheek, Joel Frahm, Seamus Blake, John Ellis and Bill McHenry. I also hooked up with Spanish Accordionist Victor Prieto, an incredible jazz musician, and he introduced me to authentic latin styles including Brazilian Choro. Once we started to add a couple of these tunes to our repertoire I was hooked. I started to seek out more Brazilian collaborators and was fortunately in the right place at the right time to become guitarist for master percussionist Cyro Baptista. The last 4 years with Cyro marked another significant period of growth and change. Cyro encouraged me to sing more, taught me to be a performer, helped me to explore different possibilities with my guitar, and exposed me to the huge diversity of rhythms found in Brazil.

3. How would you classify the sound of your band?

Like most new music it's difficult to classify, but my two word description is "Brazilian Bluegrass." That is most definitely an oversimplification but it's accurate. We try to balance a sophisticated refinement with a visceral abandon. We're studied, skilled, and accomplished. We're also gritty, danceable, and organic. We play international music but we don't forget where we came from. We've got a rustic quality but we're creating something new in the diverse urban environment of NYC.

4. Can you talk about the guys in your band and what they bring to the table?

Richie Barshay is one of the most in-demand drummers in NYC. He was a member of the Herbie Hancock Quartet for 4 years and has worked with an exhausting list of masters. We actually met while traveling in Brazil and he is very passionate about these rhythms. He brings a solid groove, sensitive touch, and generous spirit.

Bassist, Skip Ward, won a Grammy this year for his work on Steve Martin's bluegrass album. He's a amazing musician with years of experience playing all types of American Roots Music.

I've played with percussionist Ze Mauricio for the past 5 years in "Beat the Donkey." He is one of my favorite musicians. He also boasts a laundry list of musical accomplishments including work with Yo Yo Ma and Trey Anastasio. Ze is one of the most accomplished pandeiro players in NYC and the pandeiro is one of the most dynamic instruments in all of Brazilian percussion. You've just got to see his work!

Itai Kriss was one of the first musicians I met here in NYC, and I still consider him one of the greatest. His flute playing is second to none and he frequently collaborates with the absolute best young jazz musicians in the city. He adds a modern quality to this music and is guaranteed to deliver some of the best solos you'll hear in our show.

For this performance, we'll also be welcoming a newcomer to our scene. 19 year old Duncan Wickel is a native of Asheville, NC and currently studies violin at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. He is quickly gaining recognition for his unique sound and diverse abilities in Irish Traditional, Classical, Jazz, and World Fusion Styles.

I've also invited some guest artists to sit in on this show. It's going to be a very special night.

5. What should fans expect to hear at your Blue Note late night show?

As the group evolves, we are moving towards something less and less idiomatic. The band started with the idea of exploring the similarities between distinct North and South American styles. There are elements of jazz, bluegrass, and blues along side a range of brazilian sounds including samba, forro, and maracatu. But now, especially in our original music, we are starting to see these sounds work together more freely, in a way that, I feel, makes Matuto a unique and interesting band.

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