Smitty: Well, I am totally excited to have at JazzMonthly.com two of the most exciting musicians on the planet. They have individually and collectively created some of the most fantastic music I have ever heard. Please welcome Concord Music recording artist, the incredible Mr. Taylor Eigsti, who is a two-time Grammy nominee and, in my opinion, should be a two-time Grammy winner, and Koch recording artist, Chris Brubeck, representing the Brubeck Brothers Quartet. They have two great projects out. Taylor has produced Let it Come to You and let me tell ya, there is an incredible story behind this great CD. And Chris Brubeck with the Brubeck Brothers has a great CD. It is called Classified and trust me, I understand the title but we can’t keep this classified no longer. It features special guests, the Imani Winds. (All laugh.) So please welcome these great musicians, Taylor and Chris. Hey Guys!
Taylor Eigsti (TE): Hi, I’m doing good.
Smitty: All right.
Chris Brubeck (CB): And Chris is doing good too and we’re lucky because my central air conditioning is working and it’s 95 outside right now.
Smitty: (Laughs.) Let me tell ya, you guys have got some heat. And it’s sort of an interesting thing with these hot new titles you have and these great projects, and now you’ve got the heat to go with it.
CB: Yeah, that’s true.
Smitty: Wow, now, Taylor, I first heard about you when I did an interview with Chris with the Intuition project and he told me this fantastic story that just blew me away and I thought, in fact, in some ways it was kind of comical but, man, he said in that story that he knew that you were going on to bigger and better things, and he nailed it.
Smitty: Yeah, Chris, talk to me a little bit about that. Can you reveal that story again for the fans out there?
CB: Yeah, I just hope I remember it correctly. But I think pretty much that Taylor was about 11 years old and his mother Nancy, who had come on to be a good friend of our family, brought Taylor back up a mountainside at the Paul Masson Winery. They used to do concerts up there. And Taylor, if I’m wrong, jump in and correct me because we’ll have two memories and your brain works better than mine, I think.
CB: And I think that’s where I met you, but then I also remember we got a CD—or a cassette at that time—of your playing and so we knew there was a lot of talent and amazing, you know, someone who was very far in his journey to becoming a great piano player even at a very early age. But I think it was about when you were 14 that I did the first gig with you and Dan. And I should back up a step because Taylor’s first record Dan played drums on, right?
CB: The thrust of it is when we played that gig together, when I think he was about 14, then, you know, sometimes you hear someone that plays piano really well and you think they have a lot of technique and they’ve listened to a lot of Oscar Peterson records or whatever their influence will be, and sometimes they play great but it’s sort of a set and limited amount of licks that they know, but in this case, we were rehearsing charts that I know he had never seen before because they were little tunes I’d just written and we were throwing them at him and boom! He was playing his butt off just right away, and every time we were rehearsing or whatever, every solo was completely different and I’m going “Wow, does this guy have the goods!” So that’s when I really, really knew that he was a very exceptional talent at that point, and there’s a long history of integration with promoters in the Bay Area recognizing that Taylor and one of his early idols, David Benoit, then Dave (Brubeck), they would promote concerts. There were three generations of jazz piano players: Dave, David Benoit and Taylor. And then sometimes Dan and I would be the rhythm section for all three groups, so…
CB: Taylor, you should take over from here if you have anything to add.
TE: Oh yeah, well, no, that was definitely some of the first times I got to play with you guys and, yeah, it was really fun. I guess maybe that was how it was. Maybe Dan was on the CD and then it wasn’t until after that that I did a gig with you guys and then I’ve been kind of off and on a part of the Brubeck Brothers Quartet when I can and when it works out for everyone and all that, and the new CD is really great. In fact, my mom was just calling me yesterday to ask if I had heard it yet and, of course, I had, but she was just raving about it. She says it’s the best yet. (Laughs.)
Smitty: Wow, well, hey, when you get Mom’s endorsement, man, that’s it.
CB: Well, this is especially peculiar because this is a record that Taylor’s not on.
TE: (Laughs) Oh, my mom just really loves this record and it’s the one that I’m not on. It’s like, well, they’re making some improvements here. (All laugh.) Some things are going in the right direction. But no, but Classified is such a great CD. I have to say this because I got to see this music live too and with the Imani Winds and it’s pretty incredible to see how well they lock up with everyone and just how everything is just so well arranged. I really, really enjoyed hearing that project.
Smitty: Wow, hey, you got an endorsement from Taylor, Chris. How good does it get?
TE: I don’t even have to lose all my super delegates to endorse that record. (All laugh.) So I give it my full stamp.
CB: No, that feels great and I should reciprocate because, Smitty, back to your original question, one of the things I probably told you is one of the reasons that the last record that we did do with Taylor is called Intuition is because Dan and I had this intuition, which you don’t have to be a genius to figure out that Taylor has so many talents that he was gonna have a really big career and he already showed so much ability as a composer that I knew that that was gonna drive him and take him into places and that he really had to have his own band, have his own career and all that kind of stuff, so we really wanted to have him on Intuition as sort of a documentation of the kind of fun and energy we had and then I knew he was gonna go on and get attention of really bigtime managers and they’re gonna wanna pair him up with this guy and that guy, and all these things that I knew was gonna happen happened, like on the new record is Joshua Redman and Taylor plays with all these guys and just sounds great. So it’s a cool thing and we’re both very happy for each other’s successes and I think his record is spectacular.
Smitty: Yes, it is. Man, let me tell ya, both of these projects are the type that you can’t put down. In fact, I put them both in the changer and just kind of flipping back and forth through both of them, it’s like “This is overload!” (Laughs.)
CB: Well, there’s a lot of musical thought in both of them, you know?
Smitty: Yeah, and I can feel that. I mean, I felt the discipline of the compositions and just the love and the fun, and there are a lot of emotions and elements in there that are so clearly defined that the listener can gravitate to very easily and get really just caught up in it and just immersed in it. It’s very cool.
CB: Well, good. I’m glad it’s working out that way.
TE: Well, I think one of the things that I learned by getting a chance to play with a bunch of great musicians, especially getting a chance to travel and play with the Brubeck Brothers too, their music is music that’s complicated and complex but yet it doesn’t abandon the listener. It brings the listener along with them where there’s a melodic statement where people attach themselves to and then they can kind of see where people go on their journeys and that sort of thing. Because sometimes, as we all know, I think sometimes jazz music can get a little brainy occasionally.
Smitty: Yeah, that’s so true.
TE: And occasionally it leaves even musician listeners a little puzzled or left behind, that kind of thing, but what I’ve really tried to take myself from situations like the Brubeck Brothers or just other people that I really respect musically is just kind of a concept of trying to put the melody first and just….if you’re telling a story to someone, you would set up what kind of a story you’re telling and just shape it the right way and everything instead of just kind of launching into something you were working out at home along, that kind of thing. I mean, I think there’s a lot of really, really great music being put out nowadays, but occasionally I’ll go to a concert when I’m just very confused.—I think what you were saying was the emotional thing, I think that’s always an important thing to focus on. That’s what I really enjoy because it can be a great reflection of those kind of things, emotions in general.
Smitty: Yeah. Taylor, take us back to….you’re 16 years old and Marion McPartland couldn’t make it and you stand in as an emergency backup at a concert. Do you remember that?
TE: Mm-hmm. Yeah, that was at Filoli Gardens in the Bay Area. Woodside, I believe, Woodside or Portola Valley, one of those cities. But it was a really great situation. It was recorded for this radio show that they had and everything, and I can’t remember if I met Marion before that or after it or something, but that was the start of a great friendship with Bud Spangler, kind of an epic Bay Area radio host and drummer and jazz promoter. So that was a really fun opportunity and also led to a really nice friendship with Marion.
Smitty: Had you ever done any kind of emergency backup last minute thing? Especially in this kind of setting?
TE: Well, maybe not in that kind of setting, but I guess it’s possible that it happened before, a lot of random different, you know, so and so can’t make it and do the gig. A lot of times, too, when you’re just coming up, that’s how you get a lot of gigs too, you know, so and so can’t make it, so hey, I’ll take it. I just want to get an opportunity to go out there and perform and that kind of thing.
Smitty: Yeah, and it was a live recording, right?
TE: Yeah, yeah, it turned out that there was such great energy with the audience there that we were able to actually get a really nice full recording out of it.