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TONITE: The Hornblower

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BY ZIVIT SHLANK Oh Philadelphia, you beautiful, eclectic metropolis of diverse artistic wonder. Hey, let’s not forget about the rich jazz history of this iconic music town. Philly Joe Jones, Stanley Clarke, McCoy Tyner, as well as Billie Holiday and John Coltrane among others, have all cut their teeth here.  One of Philly’s brightest young talents, trumpeter, composer, bandleader and educator Josh Lawrence has been doing his part to spread the gospel that is jazz both stateside and abroad. He and his new quartet will be hitting the stage of Chris’ Jazz Café tonight. PHAWKER recently sat down with Josh in Rittenhouse Park..

PHAWKER: Who got you hooked on jazz?

JOSH LAWRENCE: My grandparents. They grew up during WWII, so they were really into big bands. My grandmother loved trumpeter Harry James and his big band. Louis Armstrong was always around. As I got older, I got to learn a lot more. I started listening to Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Wynton Marsalis…it’s the music that spoke to me.

PHAWKER: First jazz album you ever bought?Joe_Cool_s_Blues.jpg

JOSH LAWRENCE: Joe Cool’s Blues by Wynton Marsalis and Ellis Marsalis, playing the music of Charlie Brown.

PHAWKER: How did you hook up with Erykah Badu?

JOSH LAWRENCE: My friend from U of Arts, Trombonist Stephen Tirpak,. He’s also a producer, arranger, and composer. He was doing a session with her (Erykah Badu) up in NYC, and I was living there at the time. Stephen called me and some other players up, got us in the studio to record. I’m one of the horns heard on the track “That Hump” from New Amerykah Part One (4th World War).

PHAWKER: I heard that you didn’t get properly credited on the album. Did you feel shortchanged?

JOSH LAWRENCE: No, they didn’t put our names on the record but you know, the check’s paid! I don’t really care…I was there and I got the pictures to prove it. Not to push myself up, but, that’s my favorite track on that record. It was kind of a milestone for me.  To get the chance to work with her was…unbelievable.

PHAWKER:S o From Philly to Poland…Was that move influenced by the fact that European audiences have always embraced jazz more than Americans?

JOSH LAWRENCE: No, but that was something I’ve always appreciated about Europe. While in NYC, I met my future wife Ola, who’s from Poland. She would come to my gigs where you were getting paid 20 bucks to play for 4 hours and not get fed! It was one of those things where you’re hustling all the time for these gigs! Ola said to me “this is not what it’s like in Poland. You need to come over and see”. So we took a year, moved to Posan, Poland and I got to see what the culture was like. They have a program called the Little Academy of Jazz, which brings jazz musicians over to Poland to teach kids what jazz music is.  I taught there as well.  These kids gain an appreciation and understanding of the music. As a result, jazz is so popular there, it has a built in audience.

PHAWKER: How did Josh Lawrence Jazz 3 come together?

erykah_badu_new_amerykah_cover.jpgJOSH LAWRENCE: I was playing around and recording in my South Philly apartment with a trio that included drummer Mike De Castro and bassist Ken Pendergrast. Didn’t really do much with it. It was while I was in Poland that I realized it was time for me to go out there and be a leader. I decided to make an EP to give out at shows for free, and used it as a way to market the band in Poland. I came back home; I had all these tunes I had written over the course of 8 years that I never recorded. I called up Ken and Mike, went in the studio, and in one day recorded our CD Roots, which you can sample and purchase through my website.

PHAWKER: How would you define your sound?

JOSH LAWRENCE: I just want to fill the space. That’s the biggest thing for me. Louis Armstrong and Clifford Brown were great examples of this; they just had this huge warmth, brassiness, and this core of pureness. My buddy, drummer Mike DeCastro, would always tell me that my sound was “furry.” My sound has a warm, masculine quality if that makes any sense. I want people to feel at ease, safe, but also invited to come inside and see what we’re doing. “Soul bop” was a term the band and I came up with. We got some soul from Philly, and we got bebop from Harlem. Simply put: it’s soulful bebop.

PHAWKER: What can we expect tonight at Chris’ Jazz Cafe?

JOSH LAWRENCE: Well, the new quartet consists of Mike De Castro on drums, Luke O’Reilly on piano Alex Claffy on bass and myself on trumpet. You can expect to have some corny jokes. You’re gonna see four guys having the best time of their life on stage. I want people to feel like they are at my home sitting in my living room, enjoying really good music from really good musicians.

Josh Lawrence performs at 8 PM tonight at Chris’ Jazz Cafe,  1421 Sansom Street Philadelphia

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