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Marion Meadows

Saxophonist Marion Meadows has considered himself somewhat of a rebel in the past few years. He says, "I have been rebelling against contemporary jazz music becoming so homogenized. That was one of my biggest fears, not just for me, but for the integrity and the life of this genre of music. I felt it was in jeopardy of consuming itself in the mundane, because the fans themselves would not even feel challenged musically if we continue to offer them the same sound over and over again. Eventually, the audience will start yawning and they're going to say, 'how many times am I going to hear that same song over and over again or this kind of beat over and over again, or whatever.’"

Meadows believes that people today are changing their musical tastes. He says, "This is especially a time when today's listener is diversified in their musical choices - not unlike the way we were brought up as musicians of our generation listening to all the different styles. We listened to be-bop, jazz and smooth jazz and we also listened to R&B, and there's nothing wrong with that."

Marion Meadows says it took a long time for smooth jazz to be considered seriously. He says, "Over the years, contemporary jazz was a kind of music that, in itself, finally got its own due as being recognized as a valid art form. It's certainly not a time to water that down and to have the extreme critics on the more traditional side say, 'You see, I told you so.’ These guys are just playing the same old crap and they don't have anything new to offer.' That was the thing I was most afraid of and I think now we're starting to come up out of those ashes and to make the right moves. Now it's time for radio and the record companies to embrace that and let's all get together and move on into the next phase. Let's even become even more innovative."

Meadows also realize that the fans themselves are a lot more educated than most smooth jazz program directors give them credit for since many of them have not musically matured. He says, "They have a job they're trying to do. This is exactly why I say we have to be really aware of these scenarios, such as a young program director that comes along trying to do a job and doesn't really know the art form. All of the support vehicles that go along with it, including the record companies and the radio promotion people. If we're going to keep this music going strong and keep reinventing itself, than we really need to be aware of where we need to go with it and be careful as to where we become passives. If that were to be the case and you have people who make decisions who don't really know what they're talking about or what they're really listening to, that's dangerous."

After nine releases in his career, Marion Meadows is using his newest release Players' Club to pay tribute to his peers. He says, "some of the musicians that I know personally and some that I have been friends with for quite a while and some that I've am just meeting, realizing that we're in the trenches together trying to not only keep a style of music alive, but also I think a good time for all of us to get together as artists, creators, writers and to put an innovative twist on where we're going with this music. I've got to applaud where the musicians are kind of going today. I think that we are now starting to make some inroads into the next phase as opposed to a couple of years ago things seem to mellow out and got very homogenized in the genre. I think that's just because what the style of music was kind of dictating at the time, radio and the powers that be."

Meadows says there was another real purpose about calling the new release Player's Club. He says, "when I say Players' Club, I especially applaud the musicians who have been able to hang in there and the good time and the bad times. Not always a financially rewarding career to choose. I think that means a lot because especially the fans who now get a sense of having artists who are veterans and household names, if you will. That in itself is huge in today's fickle music market, such as the pop market, where the artists come and go left and right. It's nice to be in alumni with people who are still in the music game still creating music and making offerings to the fans. I think this is just a good time for us to reflect back and to now move on to our next innovative offerings."

Player's Club is trying to establish the kind of sound that Marion Meadows wants to be known for. He says, "My hope is people are starting to recognize a sound that I have continuously tried to expound on. I need to make a statement of my sound that I want to be distinct on my own. Different so that the people who do have choices know that each performer presents an individual contribution. That's Marion Meadows, that's Najee, that's Candy Dulfur. This is what I think is most important thing that I'm trying to say."

Is Meadows' Player's Club different and new? He says, "Hopefully they're going to feel this is a new, fresh offering from me. Is it radically different? No, not really, but I continue to strive for excellence on what I put out. I won't put my name on something that I wouldn't want to listen to myself. I'll hold the record up. If I missed a deadline for release and have to wait another three months, then so be it. I just won't put a record out that I don't like. Any one single song that I can't stand to listen to is just not going to happen."

One track on Player's Club is very special to Marion Meadows. He says, "I very much like the song we did After Six because it's a totally different approach. There are a lot of motifs in the song. A lot of twists and turns so I want to bring back composition back to the songs, not just an A-A-B-A bridge. Some real new twists and turns back into songs like in the day's past when all of a sudden you thought it was going to go somewhere and it goes somewhere else. I think that's where I want to start going. In the next recording, I'm going to become even more compositional and complex in my compositional offering at the same time maintaining the integrity of what I'm known for and what I like to record."

One thing that Meadows in noticing about Player's Club is that there is a new group of people that is catching on to the music. He says, "It's so funny. I get more and more of my fans saying, 'well you know, my kids are listening to your music.' Most recently, the guy who is designing my new website keeps mentioning that every time his son, after he put the CD's into the computer, was taking the CD's to his room and he was listening to them. Well, I'm thinking the kid's maybe was in high school or college. I never met the guy, only talking to him on the phone. The kid is eight years old. And I'm going 'what a wonderful thing to hear that kids are finding that music that we're doing. Oh, my God I couldn't be happier.' So if we're touching a nerve with the younger audience and not trying to in that approach, we'll God what a testimony."

Marion Meadows observes that when people go and see performers in concert, it is a different experience. He says, "the American music experience has been on that's always, as far as I can tell, historically speaking has been innovative, it set trends and I don't think that this is the time to be complacent, especially with a musical art form that when you go see it live, is so much more aggressive and pleasing in itself than the actual records are. There are a lot of great choices, all of which are very musical from a lot of great musicians. Player's Club is a testimony to what we're talking about."

Player's Club is bringing Marion Meadows into a new level on contemporary jazz. It not only thanks the musicians that led the way, but strives to show where contemporary jazz is going. Meadows will always have the gold key to open the Player's Club.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Marion Meadows
  • Interview Date: 9/1/2004
  • Subtitle: An Artist's Portrait
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