Christmas Music - Smooth Jazz

"Christmas, The Hymns" Interview for CJA

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Greg Vail, Instrumental Christmas Music. Deck The Halls, What Child Is This, Away In The Manger, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Joy To The World, Silent Night, Hark The Hearld Angels Sing, O Holy Night, We Three Kings, The First Noel, It Came Upon A Midnight Clear, O Come All Ye Faithful. Traditional songs of Christmas Faith and Christmas Worship that makes a GREAT Christmas Gift.

Interview for Christian Jazz Artists

Gospel Truth CD / Christmas The Hymns CD

DA - David Arviet - Christian Jazz Artists - CJA

GV - Greg Vail

DA: When did you start developing a love for Jazz music?

GV: I was raised in a musical family with my Grandfather playing all the woodwinds and loving Jazz. I had a sax as early as I can remember; 6 years-old or so; and remember sitting glued to the TV, watching the Lawrence Welk Show, just waiting for the sax players to make the shot. I loved the old jazz very early on, but it was middle school Jazz Band that really hooked me.

DA: Did you study Jazz formally and if so where?

GV: No. I was a Classical Sax Major at Long Beach State. I studied a little Jazz, but I was introduced to Classical styles, and really lost myself in them for most of my formal education.

DA: Who do you consider some of the main influences on your writing and playing jazz?

GV: That is always changing. I believe "Influence" must come from many sources and never stagnate. If you have just 1, you will become a lame clone of that guy. If you have 3 or more "Influences" that are affecting your styles and concepts, you will never sound like any of them, yet always be moving forward in your personal playing. With that said, I am really loving the new Brecker CD with winds and strings -- very artistic and fresh. I am having a serious relationship with Keith Jarrett and Jan Garbarek's music again and I do work with one of the most talented Piano Players alive, Rob Mullins. I have been stealing musical ideas from him for years now.

DA: Do you ever find opportunities for playing jazz as a Christian Jazz Artist in churches? (I have discovered recently several Christian Jazz Artists who are promoting “Sanctuary Jazz” worship services using Jazz as the predominant style. There seems to be a new trend towards using Jazz in worship and I find that exciting!)

GV: I am playing all the time in the church. Over the past few years, there has been a real shift in my work load from the Smooth Jazz World to the Church. Most of the music I play would be considered Pop, but most of what I do is considered Jazz. I can tone it down and play a nice Pop solo for the CD, but out and live; it's gonna be a little stretched and more aggressive.

All of my travel, over the past 3 years has been Church related. Most of my CD discography, as sideman, has been Gospel/Contemporary Christian. Both of my new projects recorded on my personal label are Christian Jazz Music. I would have to say, this Christian Jazz Artist is playing at Church all the time, traveling all over the world, exported to thousands of Churches worldwide thru conferences, webcasts and online Church services and known to most folks as a Christian Sax Player. They tend to be more surprised by my career outside of the Church as a Jazz Artist. It is pretty funny because years ago, people where all freaked out if I played at their Church.

DA:Tell us something about your new CD's "The Gospel Truth " and "Christmas, The Hymns"?

GV:When I finally had a little artistic control and money -- now that needs to happen for more of us - I started my own label and recorded tunes I thought were great. "Christmas, The Hymns" was my first release. I took all my favorite Christmas carols and took a list to my partners studio and we went to work. Rob Mullins and I had 2 things in common. We wanted to record songs we really loved, and we wanted to do a CD that honored the MUSIC and not the RADIO airplay folks. Artists don't make great CDs these days; they take 10-12 tracks and try to give RADIO a hit single. 12 tracks of the same basic song with the attempt of hitting the perfect combination for serious rotation. Sorry guys - Just my take on it. SO... We took 12 Christmas Favorites and arranged them to be true to the lyric content while approached as instrumental jazz. Every attempt was made to focus on the content of these classics with only the melodies and a great imagination.

"Deck The Halls" is totally festive. "Joy To The World" takes it up one more notch, 3 more times - Very full of Joy. "We Three Kings" is the Funky track, representing the 3 funky guys, with all the cash, dressed to kill and bringing gifts from afar to baby Jesus. I even used my son on this track, casting him as the third king (musically speaking).

Sorry ... just a quick example of what I mean when saying true to the Music. "The Gospel Truth" CD was birthed in much personal pain and the music that helped me thru it. My Church exposure was touching me thru the music I was playing. I took some of my favorite worship choruses and allowed my passion and connection to these songs to be produced by Mullins and myself, creating some Instrumental Jazz Worship tracks that have touched many that are not Christians at all. Ahh, the power of Music with Purpose...

DA: What was it like working and recording with Rob Mullins on some of your CD’s? (He is an incredible Jazz pianist and composer as well!!)

GV: Rob and I work great together. We have been doing this for a long time and it is pretty, second nature, recording with him. He is a real talent and a total joy to work with. I am really blessed to have him in my life!

DA: Many people have a misconception about smooth jazz, that it is all Kenny G, laid back and romantic, ect. Kudos to you for your Smooth Jazz CD, “Emotion”, which has been described as “Smooth Jazz with some funk on it!” Personally I love jazz that gets funky as well! What are your comments concerning this?

GV: Music has to be real or it is just wasting everyone's time. I have a lot of musical styles I love and keeping it real is the only issue to me. Who I am as an artist will always encompass taking it out a bit and stretching out while still playing pretty Pop and Jazz styles at the same time. Jazz is a huge category of different music styles. There is a time for introspection and a time to celebrate. I love them both.

DA: Tell us more about the Blues CD you recently recorded with Bobby Cruz for Mike Moreno at New Life Christian? Is it “Christian Blues” or what?

GV: It was really fun. Mike wrote a book on depression and wanted to record some songs about having the blues in a blues style. I don't get to do much blues recording so it was extra fun for me to take this job and add some real classic rock playing to it. The topics cover having the blues, but focus on getting out of the funk and participating in life again. Kinda... Christian Blues with some answers on top?

DA: Do you find a spiritual connection in playing and writing music? Some writers consider the creative process to be a gift from the Creator and feel the spiritual connection very strong while writing music. What are your thoughts concerning this?

GV: If you have God in your life, everything has spiritual merit. It does not have to be just a Sunday morning thing. Our lives are supposed to be a living sacrifice and we are told to give everything back to God. Writing is no exception. Since all good things come from our Father above, there can be nothing really good without that spiritual connection, including the actual material.

DA: How do you feel about the new worship music being produced today?

GV: Some of it is great. A lot of it is just copies of the music in the world. There is good and bad theology in the music. I think the most significant thing is the heart of many of the new artists for God. I think the sad part is the business of making music, even in the Church. If it's real, if it is from the heart, it is amazing!

DA: Are you still doing projects with Maranatha and Vineyard playing Sax? If so tell us a little about your work with them.

GV: Vineyard recordings have become a thing of the past since my buddy that ran the Record label passed away a few years ago. I am not really sure what they are doing now. Maranatha has a new studio not far from me and I did just finish an instrumental CD for them of the classic Maranatha stuff this summer. Really pretty Soprano stuff and songs I already knew and loved, so it was great fun.

DA:What is your favorite church hymn and why?

GV: Amazing Grace because of the blues approach you can take with it and because of the overwhelming truth that it is both amazing and grace that allows us to participate and relate to the Creator of the Universe at all.

DA: What has been your most challenging project that you have ever worked on?

GV: I would have to say my own CDs. The reason being, I took everything I am to the table; every instrument, all my abilities, and then allowed Rob to push me as hard as he could to really make an artistic yet intensely spiritual statement with each track. It was very involved and really amazing to take the responsibility of presenting these songs with artistry and passion.

DA: You have played and produced for many top names in Jazz...what future goals do you have planned for yourself as an artist and a person?

GV:You know that one is impossible to answer. We are not supposed to say, "Tomorrow I will go out and buy this or that, because we don't know if we will even be here tomorrow." Greg's revised, sub standard version. I hope to record more music. I plan on playing where God wants me and what God wants me play. I pray He allows me the time and resources to do any one of 4 CDs I have been thinking about. I want to record an old-school Christmas CD, totally traditional approach. I want to do another Rob Mullins Band CD, a Greg Vail CD with Pop feel and more real Jazz blowing on it, and have a hymns and praise CD planned with harp and the small, pretty little instruments I play. We will see how that works with some time, but these are the projects spinning around in my head this month.

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