Jazz Monthly: Yes indeed.
CH: Out of the 60s and into the 70s, and he had this sound was just so ridiculously unique that you heard him screaming out of wherever he was playing. And then two of my other strong influences, Grover Washington Jr. and David Sanborn, had very key influences in my life. And I’ll never forget there was a show on one day and there was a horn section there and David Sanborn was in the horn section and I heard his voice, like distinctly out of that horn section I heard his voice totally apart from every other voice, so I say that to say this, back to kind of the passion that drives my voice, I always wanted, even in talking to people, wanted to be the unique one that when people walked away from me that they just kind of nodded their head that Curtis was saying something a little bit extra than other people, and that has a lot to do with your personality as well.
Yeah, I love to joke, I love to laugh, I’m a bit of a comedian, and when you have that intertwined in your character, you’re gonna stand out because there are certain gifts which, again, I had to also grow into feeling comfortable in whereas when I was coming up—with the school I went to, they were very strong on big bands, horn sections, big bands, so they weren’t, say, big on soloists. So I say that to say this: me finding my voice as being a soloist, I had to kind of grow into feeling comfortable with that and that people wouldn’t think that I was better than them. I just had to feel comfortable with the fact that I didn’t feel I was doing my best in a horn section and I had to grow into feeling comfortable with that. So finding a voice for me, it came natural, again, with just my overall love for what I was doing. Before I even had a soprano saxophone, I borrowed a friend of mine’s soprano saxophone in high school and he wasn’t really serious about it and he let me hold it somewhere like in January and he didn’t come for it until like June, the end of the semester, and I ran with it. I mean, I fell in love with that horn immediately from day one.
Jazz Monthly: Wow. Well, that’s impressive because when we think about expressing ourselves, like you mentioned, we find that in entertainment there are so many voices, there are so many personalities, and I think it’s so cool to see how that is expressed through song and through music, and people gravitate to what they like, and so there’s an audience out there for every musician if they’re true to their voice and true to their heart about what they’re trying to say and what they’re trying to express to others. I think it’s very cool. So speaking of solo artists, you joined a band, you guys formed a band in the 90s, Joshua.
CH: Yes, yes. That was not the first band I’d been in, but that was the first time that I was part of a unit that really had a mission and that really was seeking to put ourselves on the public forum, on the public map, so to speak. So yeah, Joshua was a very, I mean, you can hear sound bits from my Web site if you go on the discography, but the sound was very Yellowjackets, very Yellowjackets if you want to say Spyro Gyra. That whole flavor is basically where Joshua was heading.
Jazz Monthly: Yeah, and it’s a very cool vibe. I think there are some great sound bites on your site, by the way. I really love those sound bites. So when you moved from Joshua to a solo artist, what did you take from that band that really helped you to solidify yourself as a solo artist?
CH: Well, how should I say this? I didn’t necessarily take, at least for this first album, the musical sound because my sound for this first album is very different than what Joshua was on that album. I took more of a learning experience than I did the musical sound, and I say that to say this because the funk R&B sound, you know, the King Curtis, the David Sanborn side of me, wasn’t being heard in Joshua, and it wasn’t a bad thing, that just wasn’t the strength, the flavor of the band. So in this, my first solo album, I sought to give seed to that voice, that side of me that wasn’t necessarily heard as strong coming out of that band. So it was more, to answer your question what did I take out of it, I sought to really truly establish the other side, the other voice of me, and quite honestly was more commercial, more marketable, more commercial as far as the public was concerned.
Jazz Monthly: Right. That’s a nice segue into the album because it’s a self-titled album and it’s 12 great songs, and I just wanted to ask you about one song in particular and that is “Journey” because I think that is a fantastic track. I mean, they’re all great tracks, even the covers are great, but that one, when I listened to “Journey,” I got very curious as to your voice with this one and it seemed like it was a statement that was different from any other statement of the other tracks.
CH: Yeah, “Journey” was, well, first of all, the songs do have meanings behind them in terms of a message because in life it’s not the destination where you end up that’s more important, it’s the journey. It’s, well, what did you learn on this journey to where you were ending up? Yeah, you’re a millionaire but how did you get it?
Jazz Monthly: Right.
CH: So that’s really the first thing I have to say as far as that’s concerned. Musically that song kind of grew out of the love I have for the group Fourplay. That flavor, it was pulling from them in me and I basically really, really went with it. As a matter of fact, my producer, he wasn’t exactly thrilled with it because you kind of go back and forth with your producer as far as what’s gonna sell and what’s gonna be the most commercially acceptable song, so we came to an amicable compromise as to what kind of a song should go, but yeah, and with that song I have background vocals on that song as well.
Jazz Monthly: Yeah, it’s a very nice song.
CH: Thank you.
Jazz Monthly: I was particularly interested in “Rain Song” as well because I think here’s where the beautiful voices and the great instrumentation of this track is so gripping that you could put this song on anywhere and I think people would gravitate to it instantly to ask “Who is this person and what is this song about? I want to know more about this song.” Talk to me about how you composed that song because I think it’s beautiful.
CH: There was a kind of funny joke behind this song because I initially wanted to name it “From Rain to Sun,” signifying difficult times coming through the storm, working through the storm of whatever you were going through at that time of your life, your personal life, and then my producer, he kept forgetting what I was naming it so he kept saying “What’s that rain song? Yeah, let’s get back to that rain song,” and he just kept saying—he couldn’t remember that I named it “From Rain to Sun,” so then it started to click and I was like, you know what? That’s got a nice ring to it. So I named it “Rain Song.”
Jazz Monthly: But that song has some special meaning, though, doesn’t it?
CH: Oh, absolutely. That song really, really hits home to me because what I stated about coming through the storm, working through coming out of gloomy times, that song is my personal prayer for the continent of Africa and more specifically the country of Ethiopia that’s been ravaged with famine for decade upon decades, and if you know any history about early African history, many historians can show that the origin of man has very dear takings to coming out of Ethiopia. So that’s my personal prayer that rain in a literal sense would come to that country and then in a more put your money where your mouth is, I take proceeds from the album and donate it to two organizations that brings relief efforts to Africa. One is called Self Help Africa and the other one is Feed the Children. And so that message is really, really driving that song and I have to agree with you that that song really, really captures my heart. I really poured a lot out into that song.
And then to my fans and to whoever listens, it’s also again another, for you, the individual, that wherever your life has become desolate and barren and you’ve hit a rut, whether it’s emotionally, spiritually, relationship wise, physically, wherever your life you’ve hit a stumbling block in it’s my prayer that you would be able to work through it and see sun in your life and that in a sense that would bring new seed and to bud a new seed in your life. That’s really my prayer for you and hence music is not just all about listening and having fun.
There’s a healing aspect to music that we’ve all said it transcends language, it transcends culture, race, creed and everything, and if it does do that, then you have to say then there must be a healing component because of all of the ravaging wars throughout the years between the races and the creeds and the colors. So then if this transcends that, then there must be a healing aspect to music that does that because nothing no one on earth has ever been able to transcend like music does the racial barriers, so there has to be a healing element and that’s truly what the underlying message to all of my music is saying and it brings.