Having performed worldwide and released ten CDs, Joe Gransden is a veteran of his craft. Renowned first for the hard bop approach of his trumpet, Gransden’s singing voice has been compared to that of Chet Baker and Frank Sinatra, and his latest holiday show demonstrates his keen ability to interpret the classics.
Joe Gransden will be playing two shows at Eddie’s Attic this Sunday, December 22nd, and Alex May spoke with him about the show and his musical endeavors.
What initially drew you to the trumpet as an instrument?
I was originally drawn to the Horn by my grandfather who played trumpet with many of the big bands from the 1930s and 40s. He was a great musician and taught me a lot. Every time he would visit he would bring his horn and give me a lesson. Early on I also fell in love with the sound of Chet Baker and Miles Davis! They both had the most gorgeous tone on the horn.
Is there much difference in the preparation involved in putting together a Christmas show?
Not really, my main goal is to put together a concert that is extremely entertaining and highly musical! With my big band that’s fairly easy to do. The musicians in the band are so good and they work together so well that it makes my job very easy! I’m very lucky!
As a band leader and arranger, what would you say are the most important factors of playing as part of a larger group?
There is a lot more involved when playing with a big band as opposed to playing with a small group. The main thing is that there is far less solo space and much more ensemble playing with the big band. You really have to focus on blending with the section, listening to all the very tight harmonies and making sure you fit in properly! When a big band is really swingin’ there’s nothing like it! You feel like you’re being lifted off the ground. It’s an amazing experience but takes a lot of self-discipline and teamwork!
How do you approach arranging classics into a modern band setting?
My arrangers name is Wes Funderburk. He and I worked together all the time on trying to create the sound for the band that I’m looking for. We can take an old song and put a fresh new arrangement to it that’s exciting and valid! Wes knows how to write for the band in a way that gives me lots of confidence when I’m on stage! The way he composes the horn lines and all the hits behind my singing is fantastic. He also knows when to leave space and let the music breath! It’s a thrill to work together with him on creating a sound for the band.
You grew up a little north of Manhattan, how does the jazz scene in Atlanta compare to that of New York?
Jazz musicians are the same wherever you go. You can meet a jazz musician from the other side of the world and instantly play a tune together. We all grew up basically listening and studying the same cats. Charlie Parker, Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Chet Baker, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Duke Ellington etc. We know the music and can communicate to each other through it! There are more opportunities to play in New York City than most places on the planet. The level of musicianship is extremely high in there as well. However, Atlanta is quickly becoming a strong very large jazz scene. We have musicians from all over the world here that play on the highest level. It’s such a thrill to live in Atlanta and be a part of the jazz scene. The club owners treat us fair, the audiences continue to support us and the competition among the musicians keeps growing and growing which is extremely healthy!
You’ve played countless live shows, do you still find yourself learning new lessons and techniques?
I’m always learning. I’m always trying to get better. I’m very fortunate to be able to work on a regular basis. It allows me to continuously try to grow & find out what works as well as what doesn’t! It’s harder these days to sit in the practice room for hours on end. Thank God I did a lot of that when I was younger! Now days most of my time is spent running the business of being a musician. I’m constantly booking gigs, sending contracts & taking care of all the business aspects of being a professional. One of my goals in 2014 is to redistribute some of that responsibility to others and focus on practicing the trumpet again. After all, that’s what it’s all about for me!
Thank you to Joe Gransden for speaking with us, and make sure to see his Holiday Show at Eddie’s Attic on December 22nd!