© Picture by Charles Ferrell




 

Bob James toured with his quartet in October in Germany. The line-up was Bob James (piano and keyboards), Damon Warmack (bass), Ken Scott (drums), and Dave McMurray (Sax and flute). I had the opportunity to talk with Dave McMurray after the rehearsal.


 

HBH: Hello David!

DM: How you doing?

HBH: Fine. Weíve seen each other a long time ago in London.

DM: Oh yeah! (Laugh)

HBH: What did you do after this?

DM: Well, the last few years Iíve been playing a lot. Iím kind of juggling between three projects. Iíve been playing with Bob and I also with R & B artist KEM. Iíve been musical director for him for a few years. For the last two years Iíve been playing in a totally different situation with Kid Rock! (laugh) So, it pretty much started out as one show and then it went into two weeks, and then it turned into two years. Iím just finishing up, while heís recording a new CD.

HBH:: Kid Rock is from Detroit?

DM: Yes, he is actually from Detroit.

HBH: How did you come in connection with him?

DM: I played on his last two albums. But not soloing, just horn sections. On his last CD he actually let me take a solo on it. He called me do his first show and then to do the David Letterman Show. Since we were in New York, He asked me to do the New York show also. He played ďRoll OnĒ the song I did the solo on. It turned out to be a great feature for me.

Very cool! After that they asked could I do the next few weeks? Heís like, well, how are we going do that song without the saxophone? None of his songs really have saxophone on it. At first I only played on three or four songs. Soon he just said ďPlay on everything.Ē He let me roam the whole stage. It turned into a full show. It was a lot of fun, it was good.

HBH: You wrote me, youíve finished a new album.

DM: Yeah, Iím actually just finishing the new album. It features my usual Detroit cohorts. It also features Marcus Miller, George Duke, and Bob James. Iím almost finished now.

HBH: A high-level album! Do you already have a label for it?

DM: No, I actually donít have a label for it yet. But I have people who are interested in it in the United States. I have to finish it first and then Iím going to go shop it. Weíll see (laugh) in which direction it goes in. Over the next three weeks weíll finish it up. Get it mixed.

HBH: What style is this new album?

DM: It will be more expanded. I tried to use more live instruments. A lot more acoustic instruments and stuff. But itís still really funky, but a little more, whatís the word, romantic (laugh). Yeah.

HBH: Much groove?

DM: Yeah, a lot of groove, but warmer, darker grooves. So, it a little different. Not a lot of machines, mostly real drums.

HBH: Can you name some of your tunes?

DM: Yeah, I have one song called ďBeautiful MemoriesĒ, which I wrote for my sister-in-law. She passed suddenly this year. I have a song with Marcus Miller, that I wrote about my first trip to Africa. Itís a kind of funky reggae song. He sounds great on it!

HBH: A funky one. What is the title?

DM: First Night In Africa. I also did a song with this French singer named Tiyi. She is singing background on it. Itís about my trip to Paris a couple of years ago, where I was there for about 12 hours. I play a lot of flute and alto sax on it.

HBH: Are flute and alto sax your main instruments?

DM: No. Actually tenor sax is my main instrument. Itís my favorite instrument to play.

HBH: What is the release date of the new album?

DM: Well, Iím looking at the beginning of the year. Itís probably more like spring. I need some time to get the artwork and everything together.

HBH: So the negotiations with labels arenít finished?

DM: No, I actually havenít started. I want to finish the record first. I have a great vehicle to sale my CD through my features on KEM and Bobís show. Iím featured a lot. KEMís CD is also coming out at the beginning of the year also.

HBH: I believe Heads Up Records would be a great label for you.

DM: Itís a great label!

HBH: Bob James has his Fourplay on there. George Duke, Marcus Miller are on that label. All of your label mates are already there.

DM: It sounds good to me. Hopefully I can talk to them. (laugh)

HBH: You must talk with Dave Love.

DM: You can talk to him too. (laugh) Iím definitely planning on doing that.

HBH: I only know Dave Love by email and Mike Wilpizeski, the publicity manager of Telarc and Concord Records. You know, Heads Up International is a daughter of Telarc.

DM: Itís a great label. Itís one of the few surviving jazz labels.

HBH: Yeah. I heard about that Detroitís smooth jazz station is also gone.

DM: Yes. We had one of the biggest smooth jazz stations. And we have a big audience for it also. The guys came to work and got the jazz pink slip. (laugh)

HBH: Yes, I read about it. Which artist are there?

DM: Flautist Alexander Zonjic was the drive time DJ there. He is on the Heads Up label also. He was a very popular DJ in Detroit. But they actually fired everyone. They changed the format completely. For now, we donít have a really fulltime jazz station in Detroit. Itís crazy! (laugh)

HBH: What do you think is the development for this genre?

DM: Well, it was a lot of reasons for that. A lot of those stations were owned by one company. And soÖ

HBH: ÖClear Channel.

DM: Right. And so the playlist across the country was pretty much the sameÖ

HBH: Ömade by Broadcast ArchitectureÖ

DM: Right. Broadcast Architecture. And that format was exactly the same across the country and eventually it became a problem because it didnít really grow. The stations really didnít support artists so much. So when a new artist came out, sometime the station wouldnít play the new record. For example, If Kirk Whalum came out with a new record, they wouldnít necessarily play it, but they would continue to play Kirkís old record. You know, like my record ďMy Brother and ME, they still play it now. (laugh), but they wouldnít play anything else.

HBH: Why did it take such a long time for new record?

DM: Well, I started working so much. I started the record three years ago, when I got with Kid Rock. That consumed the entire two years. We actually toured for two years straight. I was never at home to finish the record.

HBH: I know some artists who take their notebook with them.

DM: So do I. Iím always recording and writing new songs on the road. But that was a time consuming situation. We came to Europe twice. Kid Rockís record was really big. It was the second biggest record that year in the United States. I was like, OK, should I continue to work or go home and finish the record? (laugh) Of course, I chose the steady work.

HBH: Comfortable.

DM: Yes. Well, now he is working on his new CD. KEM is working on his new CD. It sounds great. Hopefully timing will work out with my new CD.

HBH: Itís some promotion for you, if you are connected with such a great artist.

DM: Definitely. Obviously KEM is more in line with what I do, because itís very jazzy R & B. So, itís more in line with my music.

HBH: Itís Soul, R & B, Urban.

DM: Right! And he uses real instruments. Itís a cool situation and he is very into helping me. A good friend.

HBH: So is KEM also on your record?

DM: Yes. I actually did a cover of his song ďLove CallsĒ. He sang ďSearchingĒ on my Nu Life Stories CD. Heís been working hard on his CD. Heís on Universal/Motown.

HBH: Itís a terrible situation. Most of the jazz departments of the major labels are gone. Warner Brothers, UniversalÖ

DM: Yes. They only distribute their old catalog. They have no new jazz artists signed. I think next year, this will change. Right now itís all down now because they arenít many jazz stations.

But in the long run I think its going to be a good thing, because smooth jazz stations were very constricting. So, a lot of artists had to play a certain way, just to try to get airplay. Now, if you know you wonít get airplay, artists can be more creative. It frees the artist up to do what he wants to do. I think eventually great innovations will come out of this.

HBH: So you have to go to the roots to find the audience again.

DM: Yes, you have to connect to your audience and sell your CDís on the gig. Thatís the best way, to be in front of people. When they see you, if they like what youíve played, theyíll buy your CD. This year, weíre at the bottom, itís only room to grow.

Like in Detroit, I know itís going to open up for another jazz station to come in, but their programming has got to be more expanded. People really want to hear new music. They really do, you know.

They way the smooth jazz format was, they didnít care about the music. They just cared about making money. (laugh) Like in Detroit the smooth jazz station was actually the #3 station. So, it wasnít like they werenít generating revenue. Itís just that the demographics of jazz listeners is 30 and up. ďHitsĒ radio is 25 and under. So, of course they went after the younger listeners.

But its eventually going to work out in a better way, because there will be a lot more creativity, more innovations, and artists will do closer to what they want to do.

HBH: You mean contemporary jazz will survive?

DM: I think it will, because its got to expand. I mean, even myself. Because of the way it is, I am not really concerned about the radio, as much as making good, creative music. You know, that will hopefully connect with an audience. You just have to find more innovative ways to promote it.

HBH: What do you think about the role of the internet?

DM: Itís going to be major. I mean, itís a major part of trying to market what you do. Because itís your real connection to the world.

HBH: So will you sell your new album over your website?

DM: Iíll sell from my website, internet, CD Baby, iTunes, and every available cyber outlet. Also, In any street, and mom & pop record store, that deals with independent music.

HBH: Just to talk about CDBaby. I just saw that Marcus Johnson is selling his new album at CDBaby and I am wondering about it.

DM: Right, right, you have to really work, you have to push. You have to use all kinds of creative ways to promote it. It will make independent labels a little stronger.

HBH: But itís a problem of time. You have to make your concerts, you have to gig with Bob and KEM, and others. How do you find the time to make such a promotion for your own album?

DM: Well, the whole thing is to have them to be connected. Like the shows with KEM, he sells my CDs on his show and that helps. (laugh) You know, people have seen me on stage, and go buy my CD. Or, if they see my CDís and say, ďThatís the saxophone player I saw with KEM or Bob James. ď Now, Kid Rock is a different situationÖ

HBH: Itís a different audience.

DM: Itís a whole different audience. Itís now just starting to make a difference. His concerts do send people to my website and MySpace Page. Most of that audience really didnít know about me before Kid Rock. But, now they come to my page, they hear my musicÖ

HBH: Öand get acquainted with itÖ

DM:ÖYeah and get acquainted with it. They always comment ďWow, you sound great!Ē But because I havenít had anything new, I wasnít really trying to sell anything. I just wanted to let people know what I did. But when I have the new CD, Iíll obviously be trying to push a little more for sales, you know.

HBH: But I believe, instrumental music is not selling as well as vocal.

DM: Oh, never. It doesnít, because people like vocalsÖ

HBH: They are focused on itÖ

DM: ÖYes, they can connect with words.

HBH: So, did you put some vocals on your album?

DM: Oh, yeah. Definitely.

HBH: Just to push it?

DM: No, I always feature my singer Herschel Boone on every CD. I have a great song that we wrote together.

HBH: The title?

DM: ďAlways Say HelloĒ. Itís different kind of song, but he sings excellently on it. I play it on my new shows. It gets a great reaction, even though people havenít heard it before.

I play new music and they always say: ďHey, where do I get it.? Is that song out yet?Ē I always play ďBeautiful MemoriesĒ which also gets a great reaction. I also have a new song called ďSaxophone ConfessionsĒ. People seem to really like it.

HBH: So, We can await good things next year.

DM: Yeah, yeah, definitely!

HBH: So, I thank you for this conversation.

DM: Itís really good to see you again.