SHERYL BAILEY
A Meeting Of Minds
(Cellar Live)

 

On her 2014 CD, A Meeting Of Minds, NYC based guitarist Sheryl Bailey takes a cue from the classic jazz guitar / organ trios of the past and the results put forward another solid jazzy instrumental offering. Sheryl rises to the occasion on her new 12 track CD, composing a range of instrumental originals that make the most of her jazzy guitar grooves. On A Meeting Of Minds, Sheryl joins forces with a solid trio, featuring Ron Oswanski (Hammond B-3) and Ian Froman (drums). One of the finest guitarists on the 21st century jazz guitar scene, Sheryl always preferred the warm and fuzzy sound of vintage jazz, eschewing the sometimes manic side of jazz-rock, so her new album may say 2014 yet the grooves take you back the time-honored instrumental jazz sound of the 1950’s and ‘60s and the timeless sound of organ trio greats like Charles Earland, Groove Holmes and the king of the B-3, Jimmy Smith. Commenting on the album in the liner notes of the CD, Sheryl explains, ‘I named this recording A Meeting Of Minds, because it is a testament to what happens when you keep a group working, hanging and touring together. For me, this is the ultimate experience in having a band.’ Recorded in New Jersey and released by the Cellar Live record label, A Meeting Of Minds features in depth liner notes by both Sheryl and music journo Jim Carlton. www.CellarLive.com / www.SherylBailey.com

mwe3.com presents an interview with
SHERYL BAILEY


mwe3
: How did your new CD A Meeting Of Minds come together? In the liner notes you discuss working with Ron Oswanski and Ian Froman for the last five years so would you consider this your best album yet and how and when did you meet Ron and Ian?

Sheryl Bailey: I believe this is one of my best of the nine so far, and it’s a great testament of the work Ron, Ian and myself have been doing for several years, playing clubs and concerts. What you’re hearing is a real working band, a band that performs together as a unit, not just a group of superstars put together for a project. When folks come to a live show, they know the difference instantly, and that’s what I wanted to document, share, and promote.

I’ve been playing with Ian for about 14 years, in various formations of this project. We met on a gig with tenor saxophone master, George Garzone at Cornelia Street Café in NYC several years before I formed the organ trio as a band. I always loved his open way of playing and had him in mind for a project when the time was right.

I met Ron several years ago on a gig in Brooklyn. I called him initially to sub on a gig at the 55 Bar. I had sent him my book of music, and he turned up and burned it up! I was so impressed with how he learned my music, and that was an instant hire, as far as I was concerned. He is really the perfect cat in that chair, because he blends the blues tradition on the Hammond with modern harmony, which is really where my compositions and style are coming from.

mwe3: You’ve been playing guitar since you were 13 but first you wanted to play rock music. So how did you become so interested in jazz and what guitarists and albums inspired you to evolve from rock to jazz and what other guitarists do you consider to be the most versatile? I know you’re a big Cream fan too so I guess the occasional Clapton lick is inevitable!

Sheryl Bailey: It was a mixture of serendipitous events. I was playing rock, heavy metal and blues in bars as a teenager. I was really serious about the guitar and music, coming from a family of musicians. I stumbled upon a radio station, WYEP, in Pittsburgh and heard Bird, Sonny Rollins, and then Wes Montgomery. I was so intrigued by it and had to figure it out.

As I said, I was playing in bars, which meant I was out late and not attending school because I just wanted to play guitar all day, so my mother insisted that I start studying formally, in sights of going to music school, so she found a teacher from Duquesne University, John Maione. He really got me started on learning Charlie Christian, Django Reinhardt, and Joe Pass solos. He also insisted that I officially skip school one day to hear Tal Farlow in person, which was a complete life-changer!

mwe3: What was the Berklee school of music experience like for you and what were some of the other key events there that really opened your eyes and ears to being a performing and composing guitarist? Are you still affiliated with Berklee these days and where else do you teach and work on various guitar programs?

Sheryl Bailey: I’m currently an Associate Professor at Berklee College of Music, and I am adjunct faculty at The Collective School of Music in NYC, in addition to traveling doing workshops and my online “Bebop Dojo” course via Truefire.com.

At the time I attended Berklee, it really opened me up to modern harmony. That’s really the thing they do best there: harmonic analysis – learning about how it all fits together! Growing up around amazing pianists in my family and hearing so much great classical and musical theater in my home, I had the melodies and harmonies inside of me, and Berklee helped my understand how they work.

mwe3: What is it like for you living in NYC and where do you live in the city these days? You’re from the Pittsburgh area right? So how do you fell living in New York influences your playing and writing and what are your favorite places to play and also hang out in the Tri-State area? I guess the city still maintains its legacy.

Sheryl Bailey: I live in the Bronx in NYC, and I love NYC! I’ve been here for 20 years and I can’t imagine living anywhere else because there is always inspiration around. On any given night I can go out and hear famous and unknown greats to feed me, and playing in an environment when folks like George Benson or Mike Stern are sitting in the audience makes you concentrate on always doing your best!

The 55 Bar has been a spiritual home to the organ trio, in particular, and my quartet with pianist, Jim Ridl, plays at the Fat Cat regularly. I also love playing Smalls and the Deer Head Inn. Those are special venues!

mwe3: Can you tell us where A Meeting Of Minds was recorded and who else was involved in the sound, production, mixing and mastering of the album? How did you decide to work with the Cellar Live record label?

Sheryl Bailey: A Meeting Of Minds was recorded at Tedesco Studios in Paramus N.J. engineered and recorded by Tom Tedesco and mixed/mastered by Paul Wycliff. We recorded on two different dates, and what you hear are almost all first takes, and no edits! “Unity” and “Cheap Jersey Gas” were new tunes that I introduced at the session, so those were the only ones we did more than two takes on, mainly just to get familiar with the tunes. That’s the beauty of recording a working band, we know the tunes so deeply that we can just go in and lay them down.

Besides the ease of the sessions, this one was probably the easiest to get to market as well. After I mixed it, I sent it to Cory Weeds, knowing that he digs the style of music I play. He loved it, we made an agreement, and here it is. The distribution on this release is phenomenal – it’s all over the US, Canada, Europe and Japan.

mwe3: What guitars are you playing on the A Meeting Of Minds album? How has your choice of guitars changed over the years? What was your first guitar and how many guitars do you currently have in your collection? I guess there can never be too many guitars in the world right?

Sheryl Bailey: The guitar I primarily play is the “Sheryl Bailey Signature Mercury Model” built by NYC luthier, Ric McCurdy. This particular one was a gift to me from the late great guitar master Jimmy Wyble. I have the prototype model that I also play on occasion, but this particular one that Jimmy gifted me is my favorite.

I’m currently awaiting a custom Strat from Ric, that will make it’s appearance with David Krakauer’s projects and my “Electric Ladyland Project.” I’m looking forward to this one!

My first guitar was a Strat from JC Penney’s that I begged my mother to buy me for Xmas.

I recently had an acoustic guitar built for me by Dana Bourgeois that is amazing! I’m working on an acoustic duo project with bassist, Harvie S that we’ll be recording very soon, and will be doing a follow up to “A New Promise” with producer Marty Ashby that will feature this amazing axe, so stay tuned!

mwe3: What are your live shows like? Do you work from a set list and what tracks and albums from your catalog do you like to feature in a live setting? Also what are some of your favorite cities to do shows both in the US and abroad? What was the most freaked out show and the most amazing show you ever played live?

Sheryl Bailey: If I’m playing with The Sheryl Bailey 3 or the Sheryl Bailey 4, we play my tunes exclusively. I have a very expansive book of tunes, fondly called “The Book of Bailey.” I’m writing all the time, so there are usually new pieces popping up all the time.

mwe3: Where do you see the future of guitar going both from a recording perspective and as far as live music goes? Will we all be tableted into submission? Will today's rock standards (Hendrix, Beatles, Cream etc) become tomorrow’s jazz or even classical standards? Isn’t that what usually happens anyway and what music of yesterday or today would you like to transform into something new and different? Classical, jazz, folk anything you’d like to put a new spin on?

Sheryl Bailey: Being an improviser I have no interest in trying to predict the future, for me it’s all about being in the moment now because who knows what will happen next?

As far as rock music being played in a jazz format, I have a Hendrix band with guitarist Vic Juris, bassist Lincoln Goines and drummer Tommy Campbell called “The Electric Ladyland Project.” In the case of Jimi’s music, it lends itself very easily to a jazz format because his music is dense with the main elements that make all good music good music: melody, harmony and rhythm.

My approach in arranging his music is not to be a cover band or a fusion or bebopped-out approach, but homage to the melodies and harmonies that he wrote, but presenting them in a way jazz musicians can dig into the way we do and open them up as vehicles for improvisation.

A good tune is a good tune, so if rock composers write strong melodies and harmonies, they will translate without much effort. There’s a lot of material out there ripe for exploring.

mwe3: What would a Sheryl Bailey CD compilation look like? What are some tracks from your earlier albums that would you like to collect and possibly anthologize on a Sheryl Bailey best of collection?

Sheryl Bailey: “Honk” from Little Misunderstood
“Velvet Hammer” from Reunion Of Souls
“Starbrite” from The Power of 3!
“Old and Young Blues” from Bull’s Eye!
“Elvin People” from Live @ the Fat Cat
“V-Day” from Live In NYC
“Unified Field” from A New Promise
“An Unexpected Turn” from For All Those Living
“One For VJ” from A Meeting Of Minds

mwe3: I want to ask you about working with Krakauer. That man is amazing. What’s your take on what he does and how did you meet him? Being Jewish myself, his new album The Big Picture kind of hit me with a deja-vu thing. My Romanian grandfather would cry when I played him a Dave Tarras album Are you Jewish and how do you relate or needn’t I ask being you live a stones throw from Ellis Island! I forgot, Klezmer is a world wide art form!

Sheryl Bailey: I’ve worked with David for 14 years in many of his projects: Klezmer Madness, Abraham Incorporated, The Big Picture and Ancestral Groove.

David is a monstrous musician and has been a great friend and mentor to me over the years. I am always honored to be included in his projects. They challenge me in creative ways that I don’t get to do with other folks. Because I’m not a traditional Klezmer musician, he wants me to bring my harmonic ideas to his music, and also sounds! His goal has always been to keep Klezmer a contemporary music, not a museum piece, hence adding electric guitar, so I am always in search of new sounds to sculpt the music. I’m not Jewish, but love Jewish culture and the music! That’s all that is required really. I love Dave Tarras too!

mwe3: What new vistas are planning to bring your guitar playing to next? Are there other areas you’re planning to explore next both as a guitarist and as a composer on an upcoming recording or CD release? And what other plans do you have for 2014 and into 2015?

Sheryl Bailey: As I mentioned earlier, I’m in the beginning stages of developing a project with bassist Harvie S, and will be creating a new project for MCG jazz with Marty Ashby – both of these on acoustic guitar, which is really new territory for me.

This summer I’m working on booking a tour with the organ trio to Asia in May 2015. We have an invitation to the Shanghai Conservatory as a starting point, so any folks out there from that part of the world, hit me up so we can discuss bringing the trio to your venue!

I’m also writing a new series of tunes to do a live recording with the Sheryl Bailey 4: Jim Ridl on piano, drummer Joe Strasser, and bassist Andy McKee. Once I get all the music written, I’ll book a slew of gigs then find a good venue where we can record live.

So quite a few new projects in development!



Thanks to Sheryl Bailey @ www.SherylBailey.com

 

 
   
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