Nu Jive Perspective: New Album Spotlight

with Troy Roberts

Interview conducted by Solomon Elyaho


1. What inspired the creation of Nu Jive Perspective?

Although this is my tenth release as a leader, it’s my third album with this particular band. Nu-Jive has been my main project over the past ten years, and aside from having a blast every tour, it’s also captured the attention of many of the jazz luminaries I currently work with. Since moving to NYC, it’s been tough to find the time to write and record new material for the band, due to a busy sideman schedule, and my other leader projects. But this time away gave me a new perspective on the band’s importance in my career, and it was time to get back to it. As I finished writing new pieces over a period of about six months, we tried them out at our local NY shows before heading the studio some months later. But I must say, my band members are the main inspiration for ‘Nu-Jive Perspective’. As with our previous two records, I composed this music with these musicians specifically in mind.

2. How did this band come to be? 

 Before immigrating to the US, my main project was my Australian band, ‘VOID’ (not to be confused with the US based hardcore punk band). There’s something indescribable about having a steady working band with your best mates performing your original music. When I relocated to Miami, I honestly didn’t think I would ever find that connection again. I had known Silvano Monasterios (keys) since my first days in Miami, and have had the privilege and challenge of playing in his band for many years, learning so much about Venezuelan music. Eric England (bass) and I were at The University Of Miami at the same time, where we quickly became best friends. We ended up on a lot of local Miami gigs together, and definitely connected musically in a variety of musical situations. I got to know David Chiverton (drums) really well from playing a regular Soul/R&B gig in South Miami every Wednesday night for years. He was absolutely killin’ every night, but I was doubly blown away when I heard him play jazz. He has that very rare combination of gospel chops for days, paired with a deep jazz etiquette. And of course, my fellow Australian and co-leader of his band ‘The Grid’, Tim Jago (guitar) and I go way back to our undergraduate days at The West Australian Academy Of Performing Arts. I wrote an album worth of music, booked a couple of rehearsals, six shows, and a record date before I even knew if this band would work well together. It’s never a given that great players will always have good chemistry, but I was really blessed that this band worked perfectly both on and off the stage from day one, and we’ve all been best friends ever since. So I guess ‘Nu-Jive’ was essentially born from a void of ‘VOID’.

3. Can you tell us about your process when composing the works for the album?

When an idea comes to mind, I made a pact a long time ago to stop whatever I’m doing and sing it into my phone’s voice memo recorder. Then whenever I have time, I would sit down and transcribe and store all of these little ideas or ‘cells’ in a folder called ‘ideas’, which would later become the seeds of my composition sessions. I have fun seeing what I can do with an idea, and sometimes the mere process of transcribing a cell, would lead to hours or days of expansion, alterations, and development, resulting in a brand new composition. Sometimes it leads nowhere, but my golden rule is to document and store regardless. Occasionally revisiting a very old idea, would end up being the nucleus of a pretty good composition, by way of maybe flipping it rhythmically, melodically or harmonically, changing the role of the idea (ie; what may have been a melody, could now be a bass line, or counter-melody, etc), or changing the groove, tempo, or even time signature.

The pieces on ‘Nu-Jive Perspective’ are all titled appropriately to represent places, people and situations encountered over the past few years. For example, ‘Professor Ghetto-Rig’ is an expansion of our previous album’s little interlude (‘Ghetto-Rig Master’ – dedicated to our genius-recording engineer Dana Salminen – known for magically salvaging a logistically disastrous record date by ‘ghetto-rigging’ the whole session to his laptop). The intro to ‘Professor Ghetto-Rig’ is kind of baroque-esque, comprised of four counter-point lines – the first of which is something that could be a nursery rhyme. This simple top melody with three complex underlying melodies is intended to set the stage for what is to come – in that, the original simple interlude (from our previous album) is about to be expanded here. The first two ‘A’ sections state the original interlude, and the following ‘B’ section is based on the nursery rhyme-like intro. The ‘C’ section is a brand new melody based on the harmonic progression of the ‘A’ section, but in a new key, with chromatically descending II,V’s which lead into to the final ‘A’ section. It’s essentially a group improvisation piece, but with lots of built-in parts to play also. The core groove is based on a combination of Curtis Mayfield’s ‘Give Me Your Love’ from his 1972 ‘Super Fly’ soundtrack (which I first heard as a sample on Snoop Dog’s ‘Doggystyle’ album), and Herbie Hancock’s ‘Trust Me’ from his 1976 album ‘Feets Don’t Fail Me Now’. In conclusion, Dana Salminen is now a professor at The University Of Miami’s Recording Engineering department, hence my cheeky title of this expansion, ‘Professor Ghetto-Rig’.

"I try to compose with enough substance to engage musician listeners in a way that the non-musician listener would also easily get..." - Troy Roberts

4. What do you want the listener to take away from this album?

I try to keep focused on a healthy balance of intellect and soul when writing. (if only I could keep a healthy balance away from music too). I try to compose with enough substance to engage musician listeners in a way that the non-musician listener would also easily get, by writing strong enough melodies and grooves for both camps to hopefully walk away remembering.

5. How would you describe the experience of working on this album compared to past projects?

It gets easier every album, because its almost like a coming home of sorts. We all memorize the music before performing it, so going into the studio is pretty much like another gig – all recorded live with the exception of some additional axillary keyboards. It’s an electric band, so the Fender Rhodes, Nord, electric guitar and electric bass were all in the main room together, recorded direct, while the drums and saxophone were in separate isolation booths, which makes for easy mixing. The one tricky thing about recording this album was the brief acoustic piano trio section on ‘Through The Eyes Of Psychoville’. This required reconfiguring the studio to mic the acoustic bass in the saxophone booth, and mic the acoustic piano in the main room, as to avoid bleed between the bass and piano. We had to record this section separately and stitch it to the main body of the tune later, and hope that the tempo’s aligned – which of course, due to the caliber of my musicians, was no issue at all.

6. Did you run into any challenges when working on the album?

I write from my head to paper, no instrument. I’ve always done it this way as to avoid writing things that just ‘fall under the fingers’. There’s a part of me that suspects this ‘fall under the fingers’ element in certain people’s composing, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just not how I want my compositions to sound. So because things sound easy whilst slowed down in my head during the composition process, the challenge is always just shedding and memorizing my parts after all is written because, especially for this band, the parts end up being things that often don’t ‘fall under the fingers’ easily. A challenge that helps my playing in the long run too.

“Take care of the music, and the music will take care of you.” - James Morrison

7. What advice do you have for those trying to release their own albums?

I guess an accurate answer to that would have to consider one’s reasons for doing so, the type and level of the music, and the abilities or willingness of the artist. Let’s assume the artist is at the professional level (I wouldn’t recommend releasing otherwise – your heroes and peers are going to hear it, and its out there forever). For example; if the goal is to produce a best-seller and make a bunch of money, I’m not sure I have any advice. Maybe record a demo, approach major record labels, hopefully get signed, and have a producer tell you what to play and what to record? But if, at the professional level, the goal is to make a musical mark and document a period of your artistic journey, that’s something you can’t put a price on. So whether you get a record deal, receive a grant, use your savings, approaching funding bodies, or self-generate donations, make it happen! It would be a learning curve for your playing, writing and producing. It would also be an insight to your musicianship for others to experience, should they be interested in learning more about you. Or even if you quit music altogether, nothing can stop it from being a unique documentation and reflection of a creative period in your life.

I think intention is everything. I’m certain most of my favorite historic painters, sculptors, composers and musicians did not think of making money first. For some, money came – a bonus. For others, apparently never. But their art was their focus, their legacy, and certainly what they’re remembered for. I’m sure there’s plenty of artists who may think of money above all. I’m not saying it’s wrong. Sure, money is important, and we have to take care of ourselves to avoid getting taken advantage of. But the music should always come first. The intention always becomes apparent. A mentor of mine, James Morrison once told me at a young age, “Take care of the music, and the music will take care of you”. It’s been working for me thus far. And to quote the wise words of another of my mentors, Gary Keller – “Never confuse music with the music business”. OK, rant over.

8. When’s the next time this group will be out performing?

We will be Florida for two very special shows in April – The Arts Garage, Delray Beach on April 19, and Le Chat Noir, Downtown Miami on April 20.

9. Where can I find/listen to this CD?

You can best support the artist by getting it here (or directly from CD Baby):

www.troyroberts.com/discography

It’s also on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Apple Music, orange & mango music, and the atmosphere.

Troy's setup

Saxophones:

  • Soprano: Inderbinen Hand Hammered Raw Brass.
  • Alto: Silver Plated 1932 Conn Art Deco Transitional.
  • Tenor: Sliver Plated 1932 Conn Chu Berry Transitional.

Mouthpieces:

  • Soprano: Vandoren V16 S6
  • Alto: Vandoren V16 A6 S+
  • Tenor: Vandoren V16 T7


Reeds:


Ligature:

Follow Troy:

www.TroyRoberts.com

Facebook.com/TroyRobertsMusic

Facebook.com/NuJive

Instagram: @MisterToyRobot


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