IMPROVIJAZZATION NATION Magazine interviews Jeff Lofton


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After reviewing Jeff's fantastic JAZZ TO THE PEOPLE CD in issue # 105, I decided that we (all) would enjoy getting a bit more insight into this way-cool player... thanks for doing the interview, Jeff—I've no doubt that folks all over the world will love reading about you here! (Ed: You can listen to streams of many of the tunes on this great CD at reverbnation.com/jefflofton.)

Zzaj: Your online bio shows that you came from South Carolina to Austin, Texas... without going into a “trip log," tell us about your journey... in other words, give us a bio sketch of your growing years and what made you (musically, anyway) decide to move away?

JL: The primary reason for coming to Austin was to be closer to my daughter, Shana. who's nine and is with me 5 days every week is the reason. The music scene was a big bonus. Zzaj: I hear a lot of Miles in your work, & that would be obvious for a horn player (I think); was he a prime inspiration, or is there another jazz player who first got you started?

JL: I count Miles as one of many players that influenced me. The first were Howard McGee. and some early Chuck Mangione when I was about 10 or 11. I didn't really hear Miles until I was 18.

Zzaj: Give us a little “insider scoop" into the making of your CD “Jazz To The People..." how many folks (players, engineers, the whole kit & caboodle) it took to make this such a success (Ed: & it IS a success, folks... just check out my review of it in issue # 105)

JL: It was recorded here in Austin, at Premium studios. they had two engineers recording the quartet. The players were Red Young, Chris Jones and Masumi Jones, and Alex Cokes on a few tracks. Danielle Howle was recorded later in South Carolina at the Jam Room studios. So the vocals were recorded after the music on “Crazy." We spent about four hours in the studio in Austin, and the recording in S.C. was about four hours long, not including mixing and mastering time. However, the quartet had been working together for about a year so it was easy to get every thing together fast.

Zzaj: Do you “pick" folks who you're going to play with, or is more like “drifting together" that results in a gig?

JL: I spend a lot of time thinking of the combination of players for my groups. And it took about two years of playing in Austin to find the right players for this CD.

Zzaj: It appears, from my read of you bio, like you've played with a lot of folks... “drop some names" for my readers, please... tell us who you've played with & which ones stood out for you...

JL: I have played with:

Fred Wesley Ron Westrey Butch Miles Dr.James Polk Alex Coke Fred Anderson John Blackwell Akiko Tsuruga

Skip Pearson

Tony Campise

I think Fred Wesley was a lot of fun to play with, just sitting in. Ron and I are both from S.C. so I played with him before Wynton discovered him. Butch Miles was amazing to perform with—I got to play “Satin Doll" with one of Duke's drummers. Dr. James Polk (musical director for Ray Charles) is one of my all time favorite pianist, and playing “Georgia on My Mind" with him was truly magical. And sitting in with Curtis Fuller and David “Fathead" Newman was one high points of 2009. Being on the cover of the Austin Chronicle with Hannibal Lokumbe was amazing. We played “Straight No Chaser" while we were getting our pictures taken.

Zzaj: I haven't heard your new project (The Jeff Lofton Thang) yet (though am hoping to get a review copy)... tell us what that's all about, please? You know, the 5W's (who, what, why, when, where)...

JL: This is our take on the Miles 1970/80 fusion sound. Also, I have originals and covers of popular tunes I like that we do—like" Use me" by Bill Withers. I want to connect with a wider audience and bring more jazz to more people.

Zzaj: I also noticed in my reading that Austin has dedicated a day as “Jeff Lofton Day..." how did that come about? Purely from your high talent, or was there some significant social networking involved (on your part, or that of others)?

JL: Austin honors musicians from time to time, and I was blessed to be selected as one. In connection, one of my songs, “Shana's Song," was chosen for the Austin Convention Center's compilation Vol. 8.

Zzaj: Seeing that you're involved with a non-profit called “Crime Victims First" indicates that you believe community involvement to be an important part of life... tell us some more about your involvement in that, how it came about and anything else you may have to say on using talent to help others, please.

JL: I got connected with CV1 when the founder, Jim Currier, asked me to perform at the first Jam for Justice in Austin in 2009. I have always been interested in the law and how it effects us. And CV1 is all about educating people about their rights, and how to use the law to serve us, the people. So when I was asked to help out with the Jazz Happy Hour and join the organization as a board member, I gladly accepted.

Zzaj: Where (musically and personally) are you going next? New groups? New places? Kick back for awhile? In fact, now that I think of it—are you still in Austin?

JL: Yes, for now, still in Austin. I would like to play Europe and Asia and play more U.S. cities as well, like New Orleans, Vegas, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Fran... places that have a vibrate jazz scene and rich jazz culture.

Zzaj: When fans talk with you about music as a career, what (if anything) do you tell them? We have a lot of players in our readership, and they would be interested in your thoughts on how to go about being a “success" (whatever that means—you tell us, please).

JL: Hire a great publicist. You also have to have the talent and drive because it's not easy. Remember that people want most to hear what you want to play (if it's good). They want to know you and what makes you create— what they see as beyond themselves So don't just give them the same cover tunes that you think that want to hear. Don't be afraid to take risks musically. This is how musicians discover greatness.

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