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As we all know there are no live gigs taking place in the immediate future. However, any links to jazz streaming that are deemed suitable - i.e. with a professional approach - will be considered for posting.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

DANIEL HERSOG Q & A

Hi Daniel, It's kind of you to take time to talk to Bebop Spoken Here.   

BSH: First of all, Daniel Hersog is a new name to Bebop Spoken Here. Tell us a little bit about your background. Where were you born (we know you were raised in Vancouver and Victoria) and was there music in the family home and at school?  

Daniel:
I was born in beautiful Vancouver British Columbia. I had the pleasure of growing up in a very musical household. My Father is an avid jazz listener and passionate recreational piano player. I am hugely fortunate to have had wonderful educators in my life. I had a phenomenal high school music instructor, Mr. Bruce Ham. I have also been mentored by Composer Fred Stride. These two people have had the biggest impact on what I do musically today. 

BSH: You are a trumpeter, composer and arranger. Why trumpet? Was it always going to be trumpet for you?

Daniel:
I played piano from a young age, but it never really stuck. When I joined my elementary school band, I first chose the clarinet. After two hours of not being able to make a sound, I returned it for a trumpet. At age 15, I saw Jon Faddis live in concert. I sat in the front row. It was like nothing I’d ever seen before, I was totally overwhelmed. I already loved the trumpet then, but after that concert, my fate was sealed. 

BSH: You are a graduate of New England Conservatory. The Boston jazz scene must have been a stimulating environment for you and your fellow students. Give us an idea of the city and is there a friendly rivalry between NEC and Berklee College of Music?   

Daniel: 
Going to New England Conservatory changed my life. My time there shaped me as a composer,   musician and as a person. I was in awe of the artistry and work ethic my fellow students possessed. It was the first time I had been somewhere where everyone loved music as much as I did. 
While living in Boston, regrettably, I didn’t take full advantage of the off-campus musical offerings. In particular, I should have gone to see Jason Palmer at Wally’s much more than I did. The NEC Berklee relationship was always positive when I was there. I would get hired alongside Berklee musicians on gigs and recording jobs, and it was always a pleasure.

BSH: At NEC you were awarded the Gunther Schuller Medal. That must have been a proud   moment. Did you get to meet Mr Schuller before he died in 2015?   

Daniel:
It was both proud and completely unexpected. The award had been created that year, and I had no idea I would be recipient until I was called on stage. I never got to meet Mr. Schuller. We had hoped he would be able to come and rehearse us when we were playing the music from “Miles Ahead” with the NEC Jazz Orchestra. Unfortunately, he was not well enough at the time.  

BSH: Your debut big band album Night Devoid of Stars takes its title from a Martin Luther King quote: Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night  already devoid of stars.  Dr King's words of half a century ago seem to be every bit as relevant today as they were then. Other than acknowledging the inspirational source for the title of the album are you happy to let the music speak for itself?

Daniel:
The title track “Night Devoid of Stars,” begins musically in a dark place and ends on a hopeful note.  Cloudbreak shares that idea as well. Light seeping through the darkness.
Obviously this past week has been unbelievably trying and difficult for many many people. A difficulty that I will never understand.
I’m writing this on the morning of June 8th, and it feels like light is starting to shine through. Long overdue progress is being made, and people with bravery and courage that exponentially surpasses my own our serving as leaders and affecting change.

BSH: I imagine you hand-picked your sixteen-piece big band. Does the Vancouver - and wider   Canadian - jazz scene present you with a large pool of top class musicians to call upon?   

Daniel:
Absolutely it does. I just put together a cross-Canada jazz orchestra for a remote big band project. Our first video will debut July 1st (Canada Day). There are musicians from all 10 provinces, all of whom play brilliantly, and there are many many others all over the country. In addition to Vancouver, I’ve led big bands in Toronto and Montreal. The level of musicianship in those cities is stunning. 

You don't play on Night Devoid of Stars. Did you set out with the intention of making it a non- playing, composer/arranger project?   

Daniel:
Yes. I play trumpet in all other projects with which Im involved. Im more than happy for this one to be about the writing. I have four great trumpet players in my band, Including Brad Turner who is one of my long time musical heroes. Each one of them contributes with a unique voice, I love their contributions to my music.

BSH: It is interesting that you cite Gil Evans as an inspiration. The opening track on the album, Cloud Break reminds me, in parts, of Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew. Brad Turner and Noah Preminger make superb contributions supported by a swinging rhythm section. As a composer and arranger how hands-on were you with the musicians? Did you know exactly what you wanted from the ensemble and soloists or were you happy to see what emerged during the studio recording sessions?

Daniel:
That’s a great question! I was very hands-on in terms of how I wanted the written ensemble passages to be played, and very hands-off in terms of what the soloists contributed. Frank, Noah, and Brad are brilliant improvisers, I trusted they would elevate my compositions, and they did just that. I’m really quite in awe of them.  

BSH: We are familiar with the work of Noah Preminger having reviewed a couple of his albums in recent years. His tenor sax playing on Makeshift Memorial is restrained, wrought and, to my ears, exactly what the piece requires. It must be a pleasure to write and arrange material knowing Noah is onboard. 

Daniel:
Absolutely. This whole album was written with Frank and Noah in mind. Their versatility and range make it an absolute thrill to write music for them. They also have a great spirit, they are exceptionally well prepared, and they are two of my dear friends. I feel profoundly lucky that I get to write for their musical voices.

BSH: The title, Makeshift Memorial, is, of course, part commentary on gun violence. Did you ever imagine it would have such resonance in today's pandemic world?  

Daniel:
No. These last few months are like nothing I could have imagined. I think that speaks to my own privilege. I can watch media and be appalled at the discrimination and violence that I see, but I do not have to live it. For many people, this is their day to day reality.

BSH: Looking at Cellar Music's impressive catalogue it must give you great pleasure to find yourself working with the Vancouver based label. How did the association come about?  

Daniel:
I’ve known Cory Weeds for quite some time. He gave the DHJO our first ever gig at the Cellar jazz club. About a month before we went in to record, I got a text from him that said “let’s talk about your record.” Suffice to say, I’m thrilled to be on Cellar Music’s label, grateful for Cory’s Support, and I hope this will be the first of many collaborations. 
Cory is incredibly hard working and our Vancouver jazz scene would be unrecognizable without his contributions.

BSH: You have studied and/or worked with many established names, including Ralph Alessi, Frank Carlberg and Jason Palmer (Alessi and Palmer have played gigs on Tyneside, Bebop Spoken Here's heartland in the north east of England!). In your mid-thirties do you find it easy being the 'boss' in the company of such luminaries?  

Daniel: 
Bandleader and boss are two very different things for me. As a bandleader, I really feel like I work for my ensemble, not the other way around. Everyone in my ensemble is welcomed and encouraged to make changes and suggestions about all aspects of what we do. I’m lucky to have them. It’s really an ensemble filled with my role models. I write the music and I share my vision for it, but I’m no one’s boss.

BSH: We try to keep up to date with what's happening across the Atlantic and it seems that contemporary big bands are flourishing; Maria Schneider is a big name over here and Darcy James Argue is increasingly known. Do you know these guys personally or are they simply 'names' on the scene?  

Daniel:
I’ve attended masterclasses with both Darcy and Maria, and I have seen their bands play live. I am of course huge admirers of their work. When I was considering graduate schools, I reached out to Darcy and he kindly wrote me a hugely detailed and helpful response. We are from the same town. I think both Darcy and Maria are fabulous stewards for this music, I’m grateful they do so much.   

BSH: Talking of England (and, more widely, Europe), do you have any plans to tour over here?   

Daniel:
I would love too! My mother is Scottish, and I have family living in the UK. It definitely will happen, but at the moment it’s hard to say when.

BSH: Thanks again Daniel. Please keep us updated on gigs, tours, recording projects and anything else you're up to.

Daniel Hersog's Night Devoid of Stars will be released on Cellar Music (CM051119) on June 12.

Russell

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