Today, we are speaking with California saxophonist Person Natalie. Can you give us a little background information about yourself? How did you get into music?
My family is very musical. My grandfather was a trumpet player and band leader. When I was very young, I used to sing duets with him; he’d play his guitar and I’d sing along. The violin was his favorite instrument. He use to collect them and he gave me one when I was around 5 or 6 and encouraged me to play. My parents got me and my sister violin lessons
and that’s how it all started. I always loved the sound of the saxophone though, and the intrigue and energy of jazz as well as the contributions of the sax to pop and rock music. So I switched to saxophone at around 12. My Dad played guitar and bass; he played professionally for a number of years. And my Aunt is a professional vocalist with an amazing voice..so I would play gigs with their bands.
You have just released a new album, Gypsy Dance; what was the writing/creative and recording process for the album like?
I had been working on Gypsy Dance off and on for a couple years – re-writes;edits; finding guest musicians etc – letting the stew marinate, so to speak, until finally I felt like the recipe was ready. Everything had been simmering on slow-cook and I didn’t want to over-cook it. Dennis, my dad, was my co-producer on most of these tracks. My Dad and I are both really strong minded and determined in our own respective ways – so that was a challenge in recording this and agreeing to disagree at times. For me a song usually starts with a bass line, then either chord structure or melody and/or lyrics if applicable. For this project, I wanted to leave plenty of space for guest improvisors and allow for their perspective. In that sense, we were all the songwriters. I do not underestimate Dennis’ help with most of these songs as well, even though he does not want credit for his work. Gypsy Dance is not something he would produce for
himself, not his thing. But he went along with the program even though he would have done things differently. He deferred to how I wanted things.
What’s your favorite track off of the album (and why?).
The title track of the album I really wanted to drive home – hence, the 3 different versions of it. It’s like Night in Tunisia by Dizzy meets “Let it whip” by the Dazz Band. I wrote a pronounced synth-bass heavy sound – like many 80’s R & B dance stuff. For the sax melody, a simple repeated motif over a dominant 7 flat6 chord and not too many changes in keeping with a modal-fusion context yet the alt. chord at turnaround for an exotic Indian quarter-tone dissonant vibe. That being said, Mill Creek Ballad is my favorite song on the album. It’s just a few tracks. I was working on this particular chord sequence on my keyboard and I really love Miles Davis “Sketches of Spain” album so it’s a blues ballad born out of love for that Miles Davis album. I also love Trane’s version of “Afro Blue on his soprano. Then last summer I went to hear Super Nova in concert. I heard a live version of Afro Blue performed by Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Marcus Miller, Carlos Santana and Cindy Blackman Santana. That concert really moved me. Soon after I recorded the melody and improvisation for Mill Creek and the first take captured the vibe, the “moment” I was feeling when I heard those guys play. Plus it reminds me of something you’d hear at a country-side renaissance faire.
How does Gypsy Dance build off of (or expand upon) your 2014 EP?
Gypsy Dance builds off of the EP Off the Grid, by expanding a little further into jazz and the art of improvisation; at the same time referencing other genres that have been crucial to my musical background. The title itself is pretty self-descriptive as far as the nomadic wanderer and freedom aspect of the definition of gypsy. We’ve got a disco-swing tune with a retro-feel
bass line in “Best in Show”, some edgier jazz-rock fusion in “Parachutes and Butterflies” and “Derailed then Track Again”, and a funky down-home feel-good song in “Billie Hill’s Bossa”. From my perspective, Gypsy Dance is a very colorful almost polarizing album. There’s nothing bland about it. It’s like extra-sharp cheddar or roquefort blue – you either love it or you hate it. And either way, that’s Ok. Crazy like a fox or just plain crazy, it sounds good to me and I’m proud of it.
Jazz is a storied genre; what do you add to jazz with your new release?
I’d like to start by saying this is not entirely jazz. But you’re right, jazz is a storied genre. I’d like to think that what I’m adding is another layer, another perspective using the beautiful art form or jazz as one of the major sources to paint a portrait that is unique and compelling.
What does your recording set up look like (what do you use to record, what are your favorite tools)?
We worked with an older model Mac DAWS and then an upgraded version on many of the tracks. I enjoy working on a budget and seeing how creative I can get using just the basic tools too. I like my trusty workhorse mic the SM57, adjusting the positioning of the mic after
acoustically treating my work space. I tend to favor a “hot” recording of my horn so I’ll mess around with that til I get the signal I want. For some of the tracking, I love my little Tascam 8-track pocket studio recorder and an old Yamaha keyboard I play. I’ve been laughed at “that’s
ludicrous you use that” or “get yourself a Danish Pro Audio mic” or some other fancy pants recording equipment which is all fine as the sky is the limit when it comes to sophisticated gear, software and recording equipment. But for this project, I use what works for me and I’m making
some interesting and imaginative stuff with my set-up so different strokes for different folks is how I view it. I’m really independent and not keen on consumerism just for the sake of it. Plus I don’t like micro-management especially when it comes to the subjectivity of art. It’s stifling.
Gypsy Dance has a number of guest performers, including Aisha Ewell, Kye Palmer, and Ron Sanchez. Who did what and how did everyone contribute to the overall sound of the release?
Every single one of my guest musicians was invaluable in completing the project. Ms. Aiisha Ewell is a talented, soulful singer with a powerful captivating voice and can be heard on the vocal version of Gypsy Dance. Kye Palmer is an extremely talented studio musician/trumpet
player who can be heard on “Best in Show” and “Parachutes and Butterflies” with his improvisational and arrangement skills, really lending to a dramatic take on the latter song. Mr. Palmer being referred to me by my former Jazz Studies Director, Joey Sellers, who is an incredible improvisor himself so I definitely trusted his referral. And last but not least, is Ron Sanchez. Ron is a seasoned jazz musician/keyboardist and family friend who I’ve known for many years and played with in the past. His contributions and improv can be heard on Gypsy Dance Instrumental and Derailed then Track Again. Ron is an amazing musician and I really enjoy his energy and perspective, he’s great to work with.
Which artists are the greatest influences for you and your music? Is there a dream lineup of performers that you would like to perform with if given the chance?
There are many rock, R&B and a couple country artists that have influenced me over the years but with this particular album I was moved by Miles Davis in particular “Sketches of Spain” and also Freddie Hubbard’s “Sky Dive”. Stylistically not even in the same ball park, but both these albums I can’t get enough of. As far as performing with who is out there nowadays – I love Norah Jones, Alison Krauss and Christian Scott is incredible too.
Which sort of social media website have you had the best successes with? What about these online services are different from the traditional face to face meeting and performances that musicians utilize?
I like Facebook the best. It’s been established the longest and has I think 2 billion users so the most widely known and used by a wide range of age groups too. Navigating around all the social media outlets that are available can be very distracting and time consuming, but I do my
best. I’m vintage era Generation X. That being said, no amount of social media will ever replace a face-to-face meeting or real-voice phone conversation. At least not for me anyways.
What should listeners expect from your music in the future? How can interested NeuFutur readers locate samples of your music and purchase their own copy of Gypsy Dance? What does the rest of 2017 hold for you (what live dates do you have)?
I have a couple country-jazz tunes that I’ve written, and some other stuff. I need to write a horn arrangement for one so we’ll see how that goes. I am on the major outlets like amazon or i-tunes. I also have my stuff on videos on youtube and have a website
I’ve played a couple of live shows so far in 2017, and currently working on getting out there more. Nothing set in stone yet, but getting out there more is the goal.
Thank you so much for your time. Finally, do you have any additional thoughts about life and the universe for our readers?
Thank-you so much for your interest and for listening to my music. As far as any thoughts on life and the universe in general…Take the time to appreciate every moment and be grateful for everything, little or big. I am very grateful to everyone who has helped me in any way for this album, but I am most grateful to the Creator for giving me the wonderful gift of music. And finally a closing thought from my first video “Moonlighting at JPL” …”Please enjoy…”