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Russell Gunn

Soft spoken, innovative-even a little ahead of his time, trumpeter Russell Gunn is making headlines across the country with his fourth album in the series: Ethnomusicology

Nominated twice for the Grammy, this series winds up with Volume Four, a live collection blending jazz, hip-hop, R&B and slipping in an Ira & George Gershwin tune, Summertime. If that isn’t broad enough, Gunn includes a Miles Davis number, Blue In Green.

Mega talented Gunn, a true visionary, doesn’t stop there. In fact, that’s just the beginning. Gunn composed tunes on this album, and added depth to others.

With so much superb talent from Gunn and his band, Ethnomusicology gives the listener plenty of room for enjoyment.

The interview:

JazzReview: Your new album, Ethnomusicology, is wonderful. Who chose the name for this album?

Russell Gunn: The word itself is a basic college course. It’s basically the study of an indigenous music of a culture. But in our case it refers to the Afro-American Diaspora of music.

JazzReview: I like this album. The different types of sound are wonderful. But, I’ll need your help defining some of the sounds. I think it’s track #3 where it starts off with a low down, slinky, I think-guitar sound. Then you come in. You’ve done something different with your horn. It doesn’t sound like a typical trumpet.

Russell Gunn: What I do right now is use various effects, experiment with different sounds, adding to the sound scape, giving me a lot more options of what I’m going for as opposed to just playing acoustically.

JazzReview: On this album, you took on a broad range of tunes: from a Bill Evans-Miles Davis number, Blue in Green, to a George & Ira Gershwin tune, Summertime. Then you even worked in some ultra-modern tunes. How did you choose those tunes?

Russell Gunn: The record, Ethnomusicology is a summation of the first threeEthnomusicology records. And, just like the other three records in this group, I tried to encompass as many different forms of music as I could-going from one extreme to the next. Basically, how I choose a song is whether or not I like it. I do try to bring a wide range. But, it boils down to whether I like the tune. I just add a different concept to it.

JazzReview: It takes a lot of bravery going to all those different steps. It takes courage to get into such different extremes and to carry it off as well as you did. But, you do more-you write songs as well.

Russell Gunn: The composing has always been my main thing. Any recording I’ve done, I’ve either written it or I’ve arranged it. That’s probably more of who I am than even being a player. The composition and arranging is really who I am.

JazzReview: Where do you find your creativity? Do you go off by yourself? Or do you find yourself getting ideas while you’re in a group?

Russell Gunn: I wish I did have the luxury of going off to myself. There’s always been a lot of stuff going on around me when I was creating. It’s something that always just came natural to me. I have three children, so it seems whenever I was creating, one of them would be sitting next to me at the piano or wherever I was.

JazzReview: When did you realize you were a writer? When did you find out you had the ability to sit down and write a song?

Russell Gunn: I don’t know. I’ve just always done it. Even when I was young, when I was in church, I would hear a song and sit down and add to it or re-arrange it. It just comes naturally. Ever since I can remember. That’s all I’ve ever done.

JazzReview: Did your parents realize what a talent you are?

Russell Gunn: Probably not. They had so many other children to deal with. They were pretty busy tending to their needs, also. I mean my grandmother really encouraged me.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Russell Gunn
  • Interview Date: 2/1/2005
  • Subtitle: Ethnomusicology
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