Catching Up With Eric Frazier
This week I had the pleasure of interviewing jazz artist Eric Frazier. Eric has released eight albums, all of which show his appreciation of several genres including Latin jazz, blues, R&B, swing, calypso, and salsa. His music has quite a following, as his sixth album, In Your Own Time, was ranked number one on the CMJ Jazz radio charts in Fall 2006. Eric shared a little about what inspires his music, how he started with the conga, and his latest album release, The Eric Frazier Quintet Live @ Cecil’s Jazz Club.
Mimi Soul: What are some of the things that inspire and influence your music?
Eric: Things that inspire and influence my music are first and foremost a love of people and the feeling that I have the power to impact someone’s frame of mind, mood or perspective about life in a given moment or place in time. The impact of my music can serve to inspire others or put a positive spin on their thoughts and actions. It encourages laughter, smiles, finger snapping, head bobbing, foot stomping and bodies in motion whether someone listens at home, work, outdoors or at one of my shows. It projects positive thinking and forward movement. You, the people, influence my music.
Second, events influence my music. When I see people doing great things to help or inspire others it motivates me to do everything within my power in my music and in my shows to reach the spirit, souls and minds of the audience.
Third, music and lyrics of songs of the past never cease to catch my interest because there is such a wealth of great work. I like to study music compositions and their arrangements, vocal styles and their presentations, and audiences and their reactions. It serves to influence what I think about when I’m composing, arranging and writing lyrics to songs. These relationships influence how I make music.
Mimi Soul: As an independent artist, how do you maintain your creative integrity?
Eric: I feel it is quite easy because the creativity comes from within. The great theologian and philosopher, St Augustine, said that people develop ideas and knowledge from an inner light that is affected by the senses. As an independent artist, I am of my own free will. Creative integrity does not become an issue because I set the standards, parameters and criteria for the music I want to produce. This stands true for original music. When I do the music of others (as in my latest release, The Eric Frazier Quintet Live @ Cecil’s Jazz Club), there is another standard.
Mimi Soul: It’s not every day that you find a jazz musician who both sings and plays the conga. How did that happen?
Eric: I began as a conga player, African drummer and percussionist. When I became a band leader, I started researching bands and bandleaders of the past. One thing that was consistent in all of the successful band leaders was that they had character that translated into rapport and high entertainment value for audiences. They either transferred their talents from instrumentalists to vocalists (Louie Armstrong, Cab Calloway) or developed vocalists (Duke Ellington, Tommy Dorsey) to round out the full measure of the band. As I began to develop prominence as a bandleader, the older veterans in the business told me that to be really successful you have to sing. I looked at instrumentalists who switched to vocals and there was guitarist George Benson, pianist Nat King Cole, drummer Grady Tate (who inspired me tremendously) and so many more. My latest release is an outgrowth of the aforementioned statements.
Mimi Soul: Could you tell us a little about your new album?
Eric: It’s a two volume set and it’s the first time I’ve recorded music other than my own original music. The album includes some of my songs (Knowbody Knows Me & Like a Lion in the Serengeti) as well as covers of songs by Dizzy Gillespie (Night in Tunisia), John Coltrane (Impressions), Bob Troup (Route 66), Herbie Hancock (Canteloupe Island) and a few other artists.
Mimi Soul: What do you want people to say about your music 20 years from now?
Eric: I would want people first to still be playing my music and second to say that this was a man who helped us to value and inspire one another through his music.
Thanks for the interview Eric! I urge those of you in the New York City area to check out one of Eric Frazier’s shows sometime soon. Those of you who are a little farther away can pick up his latest release from Amazon and CD Baby.