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Gerald Veasley's Moves

Bassist Gerald Veasely has been making strategic moves throughout his career. His newest CD is called Your Move, referring to the game of chess. He says, jazz is known for the fact that it has a lot of improvisation and a lot of thinking on your feet in the moment. There's a multiplicity of moves you can make within a chess game. Certainly on stage or in the studio or rehearsing your music if it's jazz related, they're so many options that you have. That's part of the fun, just figuring out from song to song or from night to night where you might want to take a piece of music. Of course there's one thing that's a little different than a chess game. In a chess game, you never want your emotions to get in the way, but in at least the music I make, it's all about emotion.

Veasley says the emotions in smooth jazz are one way that people get to know what jazz is all about. He says, in this particular genre of music, it's very accessible to an audience who may not know some of the intricacies of jazz. They can follow along with the moods. I try to incorporate improvisation and some of the many decisions I make in terms of a player, the twists and turns in my music. But I'm also very concerned about having a direct emotional line with my audience and not lose them, but instead connect us emotionally through the music. I think "Your Move" represents my best attempt at doing that.

It has been a while that Gerald Veasley recorded a studio album and he says that each release shows a different portrait of himself. He says, often a record is a snapshot of where you might be as a player or as an artist or a snapshot of where you might be in terms of the music that you're listening to and hearing in your heart. But it's often a snapshot of where you are as a human being, some of the thing that you maybe going through in your life. That's certainly is the case in this record. Had a very challenging, yet triumphant year. Challenging in that I lost my best friend who passed away last year just before I started making this record. When you lose someone that close to you, that certainly has an impact. You can't sort of put those things aside and just make a record. In the abstract, it's based on what's going on in your life. I'm kind of grateful to have the opportunity to maybe express feelings through music. Even though it's very personal, including some of the others that are documented on the record, like finding love and "Roxanne's Dance" about the night my wife and I met, those kinds of human experiences are not only personal, but they're very universal. They're things that everybody can relate to.

Another move that Veasley has made is to open up a nightclub in the town that hosts the Berks Jazz Fest. He says, Berks County, Pennsylvania is home to one of the largest jazz festivals in the world. We have over 130 artists that come into town for a ten day festival. I've been a part of that festival for about 13 years and through that involvement, I developed some close relationships with many of the organizers of the festival. That festival, which happens during a ten day period once a year, is so successful and so popular that the thought came to the community to have a club the rest of the year. I was approached by the Sheraton hotel about opening up a jazz club inside the Sheraton called Gerald Veasley's Jazz Bass and it's really gratifying. That club presents national and locally home grown talent 50 weeks out of the year. It's just been awesome for that reason.

Gerald Veasley says having the nightclub also gives him a chance to present different kinds of musical influences to Berks County. He says, For instance, I brought in an evening with Kurt Elling, the great jazz vocalist to be a guest with my band. Or a tribute to Ray Charles featuring the Heads Up Superband or the music of Charles Mingus. So in addition to my smooth jazz music, I have a chance to use the Jazz Bass as a way to spread my wings and do some of the other music that I love. Jazz is not just one dimensional at all. There's smooth jazz, there's avant garde, there's Brazilian music, there's Latin jazz. Jazz is one of the most inclusive of the musical art forms. Jazz musicians and jazz composers borrowed freely from just about every other genre. That's one of the things I do, too in composing and producing my music to kind of bring in some of the other elements of great music and great artists that I enjoyed through the years.

Veasley says since he has been living close to Philadelphia, that kind of influence has made him the kind of musician he is. He says, if you're from the Midwest, it's going to have a influence. If you walk outside your house and you see mountains and blue sky or if you walk out your house and see els and trolley cars and trains, it's going to make a difference. I think everything matters and certainly your personal story definitely matters. The kind of music you grew up listening to, the kind of relationships that you may have had through the years. Those kind of things all play a part in who you are as a musician.

Gerald Veasley says they're are also other things that are mysterious about a musician's life. He says, that's why we can talk so much about what's in an artist biography. We can talk about even the food they ate, but there's still something inexplicable about why one artist sounds like himself or herself and not like someone else. There's something very, very personal and the music ends up becoming like a fingerprint that can really identify an artist. I was very fortunate for a number of years to work with Grover Washington Jr., who certainly had a musical fingerprint or an identity. When you heard one note of Grover Washington on the radio, you know it was Grover Washington Jr. That, in one sense, is one of the ultimate goals and aspirations of a musician to have that instantly identifiable sound and character to his or her music.

Throughout his career, Veasley has tried to make the right moves to make his music distinctive. He says, it's better to be identifiable than it is to have something that is universally accepted and universally liked because music is personal and universal at the same time. Not everyone is going to be compelled by what you do, but if people can hear your sound and start to recognize the sound, even if they don't like it, there's something special about that. If you're telling a story through your music, that story is yours and yours alone. In some sense, as long as you're telling the truth, as long as you're true in terms of your emotions and not compromising, then it's really beyond criticism. It's like somebody criticizing the sound of your voice or the fact that you grew up in Des Moines or the fact that you grew up in San Francisco. They are just who you are and part of your DNA. If you're true to your music, I think that's how it is, too.

Gerald Veasley has made the right moves and been true to his music. He has made his fingerprint known throughout the jazz world as one who shares what's inside him.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Gerald Veasley
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