Trumpeter Joshua Trinidad on writing music for his own funeral
While trumpeter Joshua Trinidad is a deft jazz player and performs with his own quintet and quartet, he also plays with Wheelchair Sports Camp and Poets Row. As evidenced with some of his previous efforts, Trinidad, who sometimes runs his trumpet through guitar effects, is well versed in electronic and ambient music. His brand new album, Cortege, which he'll celebrate this release of tonight at Dazzle, is a collection of eight songs he wrote for his own funeral. We spoke with Trinidad about where inspiration for the disc came from -- both from Mike Marchant and Norwegian trumpeters on the ECM label -- and collaborating with local electronic wiz Tom Metz.
How did you come up with that idea of music for your own funeral?
It seems like every funeral I go to, they either play Los Lonely Boys or Bette Midler's "Wind Beneath My Wings." I've never been to a funeral where the music's pretty decent. It's always usually the same. So one night I was sitting on the couch.... I had been listening to a lot of Mike Marchant's music when he was really sick, and his music just sounded so intense because of what he was going through with his cancer. I just thought, "Wow, Mike's music is so intense." There's a level of intensity that he has right now, maybe what he's going through. I have no idea. And it just sounded really different. I said, "Gosh, I want to have intensity like that in the next album I make." So I thought, "Why not just make my own funeral music?" I think that's pretty intense. So that's what I did.
What was going through your mind as you were writing this stuff?
It was a little weird at first, I think, because the first few songs... The songs called "Brumal" and "Reflection" were the first two songs I wrote, and it was just weird because even at times I just felt like I was going to die. I felt like my death was closer.
But at the end, though, it was pretty cool because I was reaching for something new that I hadn't really dug for as far as that experience of life. A lot of musicians like to reflect on life, and I just felt like I had never done that until this album. So yeah, the first couple tracks were a little weird.
Did you approach it differently than your previous albums?
Yeah. I really did. With this one, I wrote a lot of it on the piano first. I charted out most of it and then I tried to transfer the actual sheet music to Reason and Ableton Live. I was trying to be traditional in writing them and use modern day software to do that. It made the process easier. I did it all at home and recorded it all in my living room.
You worked with Tom Metz on a few tracks as well, right?
Yeah, Tom's on two tracks. I think the first time I ever approached him to do music with me I was nineteen or twenty. I said, "Tom I'd love to do a track with you" but he kept turning me down. I was like, "Why? I don't understand what your problem is. God, why don't you just do a track with me?" And he never wanted to until... Maybe a couple of years ago he did a track on my last album and he was more willing to collaborate on this one. So he's produced a couple of tracks. It just really fit the overall theme, and it went really well together.
Going back to the composing stage, did you ever have any visuals in head when you were writing songs?
All the trumpeters and musicians in Norway that are on ECM, or even some of the stuff on Blue Note, like the real creative guys, I've noticed that they've been merging really good electronic music with awesome horn arrangements. It's beautiful stuff. That was in my head. I wanted to use that theme. The ECM sound now for trumpeters...ambient but still really hip. So I tried to use that as my guide.
I think a lot of ECM music is so sad anyway. I've never put on an ECM album and I'm whistling it afterwards. It's just really transforming music, you know? So that was kind of the vibe.
And what I'm trying to do is shop this. This album is more a way to get work and try to network a little bit more. That's kind of the plan with it. But yeah, I was trying to mold those two worlds - modern European electronic trumpet music with that in mind. I don't know how those guys do it. Norway must be really hip. But I'll watch these videos on YouTube and they pack the place -- like a place probably as big as the Gothic. And they play this music and people dig it, and they're like the main act. How did that happen? And here, people would rather watch A. Tom Collins or something. I don't get it. Like, what's wrong with our society? This stuff's cool, I just don't know...
Maybe they appreciate it more over there...
Yeah, it's a different mentality. And that's why I've been trying to team up with the Bad Plus every time they come to town -- "Well, you guys have a draw and I think together we could do something creative." So that's been mine goal.
Do you think there's a possibility of collaborating with those guys?
They're coming to the Oriental Theater again in December. I'm pretty good friends with Dave King now that they've been here three or four times that we've played with them. He's totally cool with doing some collaborating, so hopefully I can try to get him in the studio to do something. That would be so cool.
What else has been going on? Anything else in the works?
We're going on a small East Coast tour with Wheelchair Sports Camp. I'm still playing with them. I've been playing with my own New York quartet. Last time, I played with Rudy Royston in New York. I'm trying to build a relationship with him a little bit more. Oh yeah, this happened: I was at Moe's BBQ and I was just hanging out and I looked across the room and I told Erin [Trinidad's wife], "That's Joe Lovano!" She's like, "That's not Joe Lovano. Go make a fool of yourself and ask him if he's Joe Lovano." And it was. So we got to talking and I gave him one of my discs and he was digging some of it. He said, "If you're in New York, just hit me up and we'll play." Hopefully either at the end of this year or next year, he was saying that we'll try to do some playing together.
Outside of that, I've been playing with Poet's Row and still doing folk music and such. But mostly just focusing on my own quintet and quartet stuff. It's been fun. I think Denver's getting a lot more people coming to town to play music in the last five years. There are people that I've never met who are just killing, like a guy who moved here from New Orleans. I think Denver's starting to get some players.
What's in store for your CD release show?
Jon Wirtz is going to be playing keyboards, Charlie Mertens on bass and Carl Sorensen on drums. Basically the way we're going to do it, since it's so electronic, that we're going to do tracks off my computer running Live and those will be interludes between our group songs. Then we'll fade into an actual song with the band and then we'll fade out to the songs on the album.
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