Promoting recording artists of power and distinction since 2003.
JC Stylles’ Motema debut, Exhilaration And Other States, is out today! Featuring B3 maestro Pat Bianchi and dazzling drummer Laurence Leathers, Exhilaration pushes the guitar/organ trio legacy into new territories. JC Stylles delivers exciting, red-blooded jazz guitar originals and surprising covers including Michael Jackson’s “I Can’t Help It,” R. Kelly’s “It Seems Likely You’re Ready,” as well as other tunes never before recorded in an organ trio setting.
Stylles talks the inspiration for his latest release and his most most memorable performance.
What was the inspiration behind the album?
The album was inspired after the trio had played a weekly residency for nearly 2 years in a Harlem Club, and I knew the communication level had reached a high enough point to be ready to capture.
We played a very late gig the night before going into the studio, so when we got there the next day, we were actually a little flat and tired. As the sun started to set, we had recorded several tunes, but I didn’t feel we had really captured the essence of what we are able to deliver live in terms of energy or communication. The producer told me to take a break and grab a coffee which I did, and then in a last ditch effort to try and find some inspiration, I went outside and did about 50 jumping jacks which left me with a certain sense of exhilaration. We immediately went back in the studio and recorded track after track of mostly first takes, and the end result was mostly energetic, hence the inspiration for the title Exhilaration And Other States – I suppose in jest I could have also called it “Jumping jacks and other tricks”
What was the biggest challenge in making the record?
There were several challenges to overcome to get the end result. Firstly for some reason the amplifier I usually use and wanted to use wasn’t being very compatible with the recording equipment, and was coming out a little noisy. So I had to use an amplifier I had never played through before, and try and find a setting that I was somewhat comfortable with in terms of the sound. When you have a sound in your head you are expecting to capture, and then that changes at the last moment, little things like that can be enough to distract you from getting into the zone completely. Also, as I mentioned before, we had worked late the night before, so we were all a little tired and probably a little tight also after playing hard just a few hours prior to the recording, with no chance to be fully fresh as I would have preferred. Having to put these negatives aside was a conscious decision I know I had to make in order to get the end result.
What’s your favorite song to perform live?
It is hard for me to pick just one favorite tune off the album that I love to perform live. I really enjoy playing the Michael Jackson/Stevie Wonder tune “I Can’t Help It” because I know it hasn’t been treated like that before, and today’s audiences recognize it. On the other hand, I love playing the chestnut “Love for Sale” the way we do it, because I love trading with Pat Bianchi and setting up some back and forth dialogue.
If I am in a really good mood I love to do “Samba Steps” because it makes me want to dance, and if it’s midnight and I’m playing a club in Harlem, I love to play “Seems Like You’re Ready” just to see the reaction of younger patrons (who might not be familiar with the complete jazz Repertoire), and they can’t believe we are actually playing an R. Kelly song. It’s usually at that point the girls in the audience start singing too!
Who would you love to collaborate with?
I have always been a big Bobby Hutcherson fan, because he gets into such a special musical and spiritual space when he performs both live and in the studio. I remember when I first saw him live in about 1992 at Fat Tuesdays, that he seemed to leave the stage during his solo’s, and when he finished, he would open his eyes, and you could see in his eyes like he had actually been away visiting another galaxy for that brief time. There was no mathematics on display in his playing, or trying to show how much harmony he had studied, just pure unadulterated musical spirit flowing through him in every possible way like a conduit. To be able for myself or anyone to collaborate with a performer of such incredible mastery would be a very rare opportunity I would think.
From an organ point of view, I would love to collaborate more with Dr Lonnie Smith or Joey Defrancesco, because they are both so amazing in what they do with their instruments in their own ways.
What’s the best gig you’ve ever played?
The best gig I have ever played was probably not what you might expect. It was playing for two weeks for the International Olympic Committee (or The “IOC” as it’s known) at the Sydney 2000 Olympics. We were in the private headquarters overlooking Sydney Harbour (and fireworks) nightly. They flew in several chefs from around the world, so we ate the best food and drank the best wine for two weeks while having fun playing to a quality crowd of officials who seemed intent on really enjoying themselves. As I was standing on the balcony at the headquarters on the closing ceremony on the last night, there was a gentleman standing next to me with a glass of wine in his hand just shaking his head. I asked him what was wrong and didn’t he like what he was experiencing? He said no that wasn’t it, he said he was with the Greek committee who is responsible for putting on the next Olympics in 2004, and he just didn’t know how they were going to be able to do it, because Sydney had raised the bar so high, and was just announced as putting on the greatest games ever. I told him to have another glass of wine and enjoy it anyway, and I’m sure it will be fine. That was one of the last of the great perfect moments in time, before 9/11 changed the tempo of social corporate situations from being relaxed pleasurable experiences, to ones of over-the-top security.
The check from that gig was enough for a deposit on a house I bought, that doubled in price in two years, which I was able to sell at the height of the market and return to New York City, which enabled me to eventually bring you my current recording Exhilaration And Other States. So all things considered, yes it was the best gig so far – I’d like another one like that!
For more on JC Stylles and his latest release visit www.motema.com