HOW DID THIS ALBUM AND OVERALL CONCEPT COME ABOUT, AND WHAT ARE YOUR ULTIMATE GOALS FOR IT?
I am a fan of smooth jazz radio, and wanted to create an album that would have some variety within the album itself. What I mean by that is... All albums by sax players have 8-10 tunes with a sax playing the leads... All albums by guitar players have 8-10 tunes with a guitar playing the lead... All albums by keyboard players have 8-10 tunes with keyboards playing the lead, etc. etc. (and rightfully so). A solo artist's album features that artist on each tune.
I am an arranger/composer/orchestrator by trade. I wanted to do an "arranger's album", which would be an album where, as the arranger, I can choose different instruments for different tunes and have a variety of sound from one tune to the next. There are even different instruments taking the lead within the same tune at times. I played in bands for a number of years, but when I moved out to Los Angeles from Boston, Mass., I devoted myself to arranging and producing which is my favorite thing in the world to do.
I got the idea to do an album of my own as an arranger. I used a group name intentionally because it puts the attention of the listener on "the whole", as opposed to the single instrument out in front, as with solo artists on those types of albums. In addition to 3 tunes which I formatted specifically for the smooth jazz stations, "Valdez In The Country", "Rosalinda" and "Low Rider", I included other arrangements that are a little more vivacious, hopefully making the album experience somewhat different, and as interesting as the single's experience. My goal is to be in a position to do other Astrometric Star albums in the future, using a variety of great musicians.
WHAT ARE YOUR CURRENT FAVORITE ARTISTS?
My favorite artists are (in no particular order) Chuck Mangione, Pat Matheny, Richard Elliott, Marc Antoine, Peter White, and David Sanborn, among others instrumentally speaking...And other's are Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, James Taylor, Steely Dan, Tower Of Power, Blood Sweat And Tears.
WHAT ARE YOUR TOP "DESERT ISLAND" ALBUMS?
"Days Of Future Past" by the Moody Blues
"M.F. Horn 1 and 2" by Maynard Ferguson
The opera "Carmen" by George Bizet
"Blood Sweat and Tears Greatest Hits"
"Hill Where The Lord Lies" and "Land Of Make Believe" by Chuck Mangione
Any album by Pat Matheny and Greatest Hits albums by Steely Dan, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Blood Sweat And Tears, James Taylor and Tower Of Power. (These are assuming I'm on that desert island for about a year.)
WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE FOR THE SMOOTH JAZZ FORMAT GOING FORWARD?
The smooth jazz format attracted and appealed to people of a certain age, and demographic, which I believe had tired of being patronized with Oldies stations of various types such as Oldie Adult Contemporary, Oldie Classic Rock, Oldie 60's and 70's, as well as Oldie Heavy Metal.
Stations and networks knew that it was the people that grew up during a certain era, that are now adults who have been in careers for many years, and therefore, have disposable income with which to support the advertisers, that in turn support the stations. With a certain number of exceptions, newer music really did not resonate with this adult crowd, used to strong melodic Pop / Rock/ R&B radio, and an overall sound provided by legitimate musical instruments and less of the more processed sounds of Rap, Hip Hop, and Modern Pop, which utilizes a lot of sampled and synthesized effects.
Smooth jazz, provided a musicality within the melodic compositions performed, whether they be an original tune, or an arrangement of a great Luther Vandross tune. It was something nice to listen to. Some may say however, that a decline in listenership can be attributed to too much of this good thing.
By that I mean a couple of things...
1. Programmers, especially those who program for a network of stations, have to expand their playlists to include newer tunes. It is well known that some major station groups were working off of some very small playlists for a time. The tunes played were in fact great radio entertainment and among the more popular pieces in this format, but things also started sounding the same as new artists who aspired to have recordings added to radio playlists were, in my opinion, duplicating the sound of these other singles. When we did in fact hear a new artist played, it was hard to tell if it was actually a new artist, or simply a new tune for one of the old artists we were always hearing.
The best foot forward, is to encourage smooth jazz artists to find a sound of their own, and for programmers to realize that the same audience that was listening at the format's peak, is just dying to hear some new things if they would have the courage to play tunes that may not fit the smooth jazz audio definition as we have come to know it, but to know that smooth jazz doesn't have to be 100% mellow, it can actually be a little loud.
I think that the "smooth" in smooth jazz should stand for the strong melodic content of the tune, and not necessarily a piece that is what one would call delicate. Shake up the format with some vivacious instrumentals. The Summer Horns album released this past year had the right idea in my opinion. Would love to hear more collaborations such as that, and more smooth jazz albums with larger ensembles. That's what I tried to do with Astrometric Star.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE CHARITIES?
My favorite charities are organizations that help Homeless People, and Homeless Pets. There is nothing worse than not having a home, or having to live out on the streets. I am an animal lover and want to support animal shelters that don't put the animals down but yet find homes for them and I have a list of a number of such organizations that I will share in any good fortune that comes my way. I do it now on a smaller scale, and hope to do more in the future.
WHAT GOALS DO YOU HAVE FOR THE NEXT 5 YEARS?
I am originally a songwriter/arranger, and over the next 5 years, I hope to produce an album for a talented singer I've discovered....a female R& B singer from my hometown of Boston, Mass. The album is actually all picked out, and we're trying to put together funds for the production. It will have a smooth jazz / R&B crossover type sound, which is my favorite, and I also want to do future Astrometric Star albums of instrumentals, with a different twist to the sound each time.