We recently reviewed City Blog, a record combining elements of jazz, pop, rock and funk inspired by New York-based guitarist, composer and producer Gideon King. King spoke to us about his thoughts on modern music, collaborating with a group of top quality musicians and vocalists, and his motivation for making the album.
King’s work seeks to blend a number of musical styles which are often kept apart. For him, this is a weakness of modern music. “I feel that genres are a little too tightly defined in the sense that jazz is jazz, and rock is rock,” he explains. “I really feel that in the marketplace there’s a void for an attractive blend of pop music and jazz. I guess that void used to be filled by people like Steely Dan and Wayne Shorter. It doesn’t seem like anyone is doing that now.”
One of King’s goals was to bring together quality jazz musicians and vocalists with a pop background. He hopes this can improve creativity and overcome the blandness of current pop music. “I think what’s really missing is interesting solos and chord changes,” he says. “Like the Eagles or Jimi Hendrix. It’s been replaced by computers and pre-existing beats.”
As a native New Yorker and life-long resident, the city plays an important role in King’s music. He aims to convey the contradictions of city life in the songs he writes. “There are so many tensions and countervailing forces here. Sometimes people are honest, straightforward and to the point. On the other hand you’re always being sold something, someone else’s image or an idea. There’s not a lot of moderation in this place.” But he’s quick to emphasize that his goal is not social commentary. “Every artist tries to write loves songs and do social commentary, I find that boring. I’m trying to bring to light some of the madness in this town………you know have fun with it.”
I mentioned that Down had been one of my favorite tracks on the record. “That song typifies the whole album in some ways,” King replied. “There’s lots of really cool delicate symbol work. It has a funk groove and a distorted guitar solo. Kevin Hayes plays a great solo. Then you have Marc Broussard, who fills venues every night, with a deep soulful bluesy voice. In a sense that tune fills the void I see in today’s music. I really enjoy doing through- composition. I like when tunes start in one place and end in another. Down goes on that journey.”
The positive reaction to the album has pleased him. “It’s better than I would have expected, people really like it, and the reviews have been really great. A lot of people have said they miss the rock-jazz blend.” He went on to recall the impact on him of each new Steely Dan album, and finding out who was performing on it. The reaction City Blog has received has strengthened King’s belief that there are still “music nerds” out there who want to know which cats are playing on each tune.”
A new album is already in the works, involving many of the same musicians who appear on City Blog along with some new additions. “The current working title is Broken and Beautiful,” King says. “It still talks about New York City, but it also moves into other parts of the world.” Although he adds the new record is half done, he jokes that it could take another 5,000 years to finish it. “I would say one of the great things about Steely Dan is they were going for sonic perfection.. They laboured to the bone to get things sounding right, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”