This week’s edition of our popular series focuses on albums and artists that influenced the renowned Interlochen jazz musician and composer. Get his back story and listen to the music at Local Spins.
EDITOR’S NOTE: All musicians can trace their inspiration to key recordings that influenced their careers. Writer Ross Boissoneau today showcases music that changed the world for Interlochen’s Josh Lawrence. Scroll down for a Spotify playlist of his picks along with two tracks from his latest album.
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Trumpeter and composer Josh Lawrence has been hailed by Downbeat magazine as “a preeminent voice among young composers,” while Jazzword calls him “a beautifully clear trumpet player and one you should have on your radar.” These days, you can typically find him not only on the bandstand but in the classroom as the Director of Jazz Studies at Interlochen Center for the Arts.
“I started playing trumpet at summer camp in the Pine Barrens in New Jersey,” says the native of the Garden State. He moved from the rural area to a town outside Princeton, where he began to take the instrument more seriously. It was then that he began to listen to trumpet players as well, as music became a bigger part of his life. “Earth, Wind and Fire was the first music I remember hearing as a kid. I could sing along with the vocals and horn lines,” he says.
Lawrence earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia on trumpet and a masters in jazz trumpet from The Juilliard School. He’s recorded several solo albums with Posi-Tone Records, with another, “And That Too,” released earlier this month, as well as two albums co-leading the Fresh Cut Orchestra.
He’s recorded with a number of other jazz and pop artists, including Boyz II Men, Erykah Badu, Jazmine Sullivan and Adam Baldych, and received two Grammy Award nominations as part of pianist Orrin Evans’s Captain Black Big Band. He’s also got another album already recorded that he believes will be released in 2024.
Lawrence, 40, of Interlochen, believes it is important to introduce the students at Interlochen to all the facets of a successful music career, from writing and composing to performing to interdisciplinary work. He is looking to performances in Ann Arbor, Detroit and Grand Rapids, as well as at Jazz at Lincoln Center and working with members of the New York Philharmonic and Interlochen alumni. “I’m only useful if I’m a working artist,” Lawrence says.
His upcoming Interlochen concerts include Jazz Combos for “The Music of Horace Silver: Annette Basler Memorial Concert” at Interlochen’s Corson Auditorium on April 13, and the Interlochen Jazz Orchestra with Orrin Evans performing new music at Dendrinos Chapel and Recital Hall on April 28. Lawrence will also perform three June shows with his band on the East Coast.
1. Clifford Brown, “Jazz Immortal” (1954) – My folks went to Sam Goody and said they had a son who was new to trumpet in jazz. They talked to the right person and got four recordings for me. This was the first I’d heard of Clifford Brown. Max Roach went to California to live, rehearse and record and while there Clifford and Max recorded, but here Clifford is paired with (saxophonist) Zoot Sims. It’s arranged in the style of the birth of cool jazz, like on “Joy Spring.” Then there’s “Blueberry Hill.” It’s beyond inspirational.
2. Wynton Marsalis, “Marsalis Standard Time Volume 1” (1987) – It’s mostly standards: “Cherokee,” “Autumn Leaves.” I was cognizant of who he was and I really got into it. It’s not just Wynton but the quartet with Marcus Roberts (piano), Tain is incredible (drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts), Robert Hurst on bass. When I was a kid growing up, I would try to identify with people. He’s kind of a dorky guy too, with glasses, hat, watch. It’s classy, beautiful music.
3. Freddie Hubbard, “The Best of Freddie Hubbard” (1990) – Tunes like “First Light,” “Theme from The Godfather,” “Red Clay.” I love his sound, what he was doing on trumpet, and it put the Fender Rhodes in front of me. It was the world of fusion. I became enamored with Mwandishi Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis’s “Bitches Brew” and “On the Corner.” It opened my eyes to the sonic possibilities. These were three different stylists with different perspectives. That’s why I sound the way I do.
Listen: “Red Clay”
Currently Loving: Horace Silver, “Horace-Scope” (1990) – Right now because of school I’m listening to a lot of Horace Silver. “The Cape Verdean Blues” (with trumpeter Woody Shaw) and “Horace-Scope” with Blue Mitchell. Him and Junior Cook – there’s a lot of r&b influence.Listen:
ALBUMS THAT CHANGED THE WORLD: Josh Lawrence’s Playlist on Spotify
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