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  April 2009
"Jazz Monthly Feature Interview" Gordon James
Interview by Joe Caroselli

gordon jamesJazz Monthly: Our guest here today here at has recorded four highly acclaimed CD’s, and while the first three have received really excellent reviews by critics and the Jazz world alike, many people feel, that with his latest CD “In Joy,” love that title by the way, Gordon James has truly arrived and can take his place as one of the premier performers in the field of Funky Jazz /Jazz Funk. Based out of New Jersey, Trumpeter, Flugelhornist – Gordon James is with us right now. Welcome Gordon.

GORDON JAMES (GJ): Hey Joe how are you doing?

Jazz Monthly: OK, by the way, I said Trumpeter, Flugelhornist I don’t want to short change you my friend you’re also a composer, and producer right?

GJ: Yes. Composer, producer, arranger.

Jazz Monthly: Yes. I forgot arranger. I hope you don’t dock my pay on that one.

GJ: (Laughing) No, that’s fine. That’s good. You mentioned “Funky Jazz” I think the new title is “Groove Jazz.” now.

Jazz Monthly: I like that even better.

GJ: According to the new Media Guide chart. R&R has stop printing Smooth Jazz charts. There’s actually a new set of charts now. It’s Groove Music… Groove Jazz Music.

Jazz Monthly: Groove Jazz Music. OK. Now as far as the term, “Jazz Funk,” you say “Groove” or different variations of the word “Groove,” is that pretty accurate to describe your music or is it kind of confining, Gordon, or kind of limiting. Because I know that you play a myriad of styles.

GJ: Yeah, it is a little limiting. When I do any kind of promotions for a gig, I try to let people know that it’s not just Smooth Jazz, and not just Funk, it has like the touch of Soul and R&B and Old School and Latin. And that’s originally what Fusion Jazz was all about. Kind of mixing the different genres. That’s what I do. Hey, there’s even elements of Straight Ahead Jazz in there to.

Jazz Monthly: Yeah. You know sometimes, Gordon, we need to… myself included… we need to put a label on things. You mentioned the word “Smooth Jazz” and that’s been the word for a long time as well. And it’s been said that, not the original Smooth Jazz, like the Grover Washington Jr. and of course Funkadelic, I know they are heroes of yours, it’s been said that around ten years ago where quote “Smooth Jazz took a little bit of a turn.”

GJ: Yes. Absolutely. And I think that has to do when it kind of became more corporate. Most of the stations that are playing Smooth Jazz were corporately run stations. And what they ended up doing was hiring the company called Broadcast Architecture to basically program all these stations. So it became very formulized and you had to follow these guidelines to get played.

Jazz Monthly: I think our readers would want to know “How did Gordon James’s trumpet playing odyssey… and I think that’s a good way of saying it … odyssey begin?” I think it was in Plainfield New Jersey, right?

GJ: Yes. I grew up in Plainfield, New Jersey. I went through the Plainfield school system at least up until the tenth grade, and I kinda got good really fast. (laugh) I just took to it. Like I played it in another life (laughter) or something. I was just ahead of everybody. By the fifth grade I was up and front of the band playing solos. I went on to do that with All City Band, and All State Band. And then there was a Summer Music Camp in Roselle Park, New Jersey. I used to win a scholarship to go to that every summer. When I was in the sixth grade, they had their bands divided into: beginner, intermediate and advanced and the advanced was all high school kids, you know. And when I was in the sixth grade, I was in the first chair in the advanced band in that summer music school. So I kind of took to it pretty quickly. I also had a great private teacher. And this was all on the Classical side. It was all Concert Band and Classical Music. Then eventually I went to the high school for performing arts… the Interlochen Arts Academy.

Jazz Monthly: Yes, a prestigious place.

GJ: Yes. very prestigious. Of course I found out when I got there that I might have been the hot shot in Plainfield (laughing), the number one cat, but you know when I got to Interlochen and it was the best from all over the world! So, all of a sudden my rank dropped a little bit.

Jazz Monthly: That’s all right. You were on your way! Then you went to the Hartt College of Music didn’t you?

GJ: Yeah I went to the Hartt College of Music and… not a great experience, it was a little bit too classical for me, so I can’t really say that I got what I wanted to out of that experience.

Jazz Monthly: But I’m sure it helped with your reading chops didn’t it?

GJ: Ah yeah, although by then, I was pretty much there by then in that department. But after I got out of there I went on to do some other things that were totally not related to classical music at all.

Jazz Monthly: So when did you take the turn into Jazz?

GJ: Well actually when I got out of college, I didn’t start Jazz right away. I got into a group shortly after college called “Blue Aquarius” and this band was kind of more Gospel oriented. I actually toured with that group. This would have been… like the early seventies actually.

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