Composer/arranger/violinist Noel Webb is like a human sponge, able to absorb a multitude of influences from different sources of art found in the works of musicians, filmmakers and literary writers. He asserts, "Artists should dive into any and every form of creative art and literature that they can get their hands on. Then, they should explore every aspect of those areas that time and money will allows. All art and literature, yes literature." He emphasizes will explode your creative skills. Regarding your commercial viability, I will admit that industry people are suspicious of artists who tackle many fields. Industry people need to categorize you and all art or they go crazy."
Webb developed his talent for absorbing influences bent with an artistic inclination at a young age, right around the time he began taking music lessons. He tells, "I began playing the violin at 10 years old. My mother is a graduate of Juilliard. I began piano at 5." He beams, "I ran home at 10, completely sure that the violin was full of hope and color and fun."
His early musical experiences gave him the opportunity to spread his wings and fly alongside his peers. He notes, "I was in the Boston Youths Symphony Orchestra at 14. There were very few classical players allowed in this group from all the New England States, quite an honor," he punctuates. "We toured the world."
He reflects, "The first moment I fell in love with non-classical music was when someone put headphones on my head with Black Sabbath playing. It wasn’t a standard rock tune of theirs. It was full of textures and movement, the power and sex. WOW!! He exclaims.
He cites that his big break came with, "Marion Brown, who was in Coltrane’s band, took me on and we played a-tonal music, jazz, and blues for a few years. I loved it."
But before venturing off as a solo artist, Webb spent several years as an actor and a music supervisor, which exposed him to composing scores for feature films. He describes those experiences as being valuable to him as an artist. "Writing and producing for films requires putting yourself in the scene with the actors." He assesses, "All film music is about actors in moments of life. It’s a gift to have those experiences as I write and play jazz and rock."
This is when the past converges with the present having his past experiences in the film industry make a positive impact on his solo material, namely the compositions that he recorded for his latest record, Give It All. He expresses, "Acting and playing the violin seem one in the same to me. They are both a struggle. Learning the technical skills is a joy. Searching for something to say with my violin and my personality as an actor requires deep digging. Of course, there are many, many light moments of fun and obvious expression. I’m thankful for those."
He relates, "The scenes I’m writing for in, lets say. [the song] ‘She’s A Tease’ require that I imagine myself sitting at a small, intimate, romantic table dining with my beautiful lover. We’re smiling, flirting, etc. I put my hand out, which she takes and we’re swaying back and forth, and so it goes."
He comments about the track "She’s A Tease" from Give It All, "’She’s A Tease’ is the sexiest, soulful track on the album. I love silence and the quiet between and around the notes. It is that."
Another track on Give It All that simmers with a romantic glint is "Where Is The Love," which Webb plays the violin with deep sensual strokes. He extols, "I love Roberta Flack’s expression. It makes me crazy. She sang it with Donny Hathaway. I wanted to tackle that with two great singers who could do it justice and they did Joel Gaines and Trena Steward."
He poses, "If you’re a lead instrumentalist with the audience wanting to hear that instrument rather than just the vocals, it is a challenge that not many players are will to take on. My instructions to Joel and Trena were to ignore me and sing like it is their tune and their album. They did so."
He projects, "Art is about hearing the possibilities very quickly with great confidence, and then to have the unending willingness to change and to listen again. I did just that before they sang, as they sang, and after they finished. The colors flowed freely. My job was to stay out of their way and yet to say something meaningful on the violin."
Making music that feels meaningful is the point of the title track of the album, Give It All as Webb furnishes, "Give It All is my celebration of my band. I love to play with these guys, and I wanted to record something that would let them shine. I hope I did that."
Webb outlines, "The band is: Joel Gaines (keyboards, vocals), P. Bass Jones (bass), Brian Price (guitar), Scooter Powell (drums), Eric McKain (percussion), and Trena Steward (vocals). I also use Rhona Bennett on vocals. Joel and Brian, particularly, made creative suggestions as we recorded, and they did so with total commitment to the album and band as a unit, not for themselves. Dennis Moody engineered and did so with great care. The pieces were written before we entered the studio, though I really did want to write one with the whole band while recording." He proposes, "I’ll do so next time."
Webb explains how the recording of Give It All was done differently from his previous solo albums, Satin Sheets, Like A Dream, and The Soul Of Noel Webb. "The previous albums were collaborations with Tony Scott Zubia, Alzie Ramsey, and various other individuals. Give It All came directly from having played with this band leading up to my choices. I also decided to let other moods into the album besides just smooth sexiness and cool hip-hop beats. I opened up the possibilities and there was Give It All."
Speaking about keeping your options open, Noel Webb has emerged as a prolific artist by sticking to this philosophy. He absorbs his surroundings like a sponge, and parlays these external influences into his repertoire while staying true to the music that stirs his emotions. His choices for Give It All gravitate to creating an upbeat ambience, which is precisely where his emotions take him, and he, in turn, takes you.