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Brandon Coleman Quartet featuring Noah Preminger at Natalie's

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by Andrew Patton on February 29, 2016

Cincinnati’s Brandon Coleman Quartet returns to Columbus for a special show with NYC-based tenor saxophonist Noah Preminger at Natalie’s on Sunday, March 6th, at 8pm (tickets available here). This performance will be the last show of a 7-day, 5-state tour of masterclasses and concerts that starts today in Morehead, Kentucky. The wonderful timing for this new collaboration catches both entities on the upswing, as both Preminger and the BCQ have new albums on the way, and press accolades continue to accumulate for Preminger, including the cover story of the January 2016 issue of Jazziz Magazine. I had the opportunity to speak with Coleman and Preminger last week, and we had a wonderful conversation about the tour and upcoming projects. Keep reading to learn more from two rising stars in the jazz world ahead of their show:

Brandon and Noah, what can we expect for your show at Natalie’s?

Brandon Coleman (BC): I have a few new tunes that we’ll be testing out on the tour and a couple of older ones too. One of the coolest things about the Natalie’s show that people can look forward to is that it’s the last show of the tour. So the band should be pretty warmed up and have a good chemistry going by that time. We’ve got some of Noah’s music too that we’ll be playing. I think it’s going to be a pretty fiery show. And it’s a big group too, so we’ll be able to stretch out and explore.

Noah Preminger (NP): I’m bringing some newer stuff, and some older things as well. We haven’t played together, so we’re just mixing and matching to see what works and what doesn’t gel, which is awesome. We’re both pulling from newer things and older things, and we’ll see what happens.

How did this collaboration and tour come about?

NP: Keigo [Hirakawa, BCQ pianist] and I met about ten years ago in Boston [when they both attended New England Conservatory of Music]. I haven’t talked to him or seen him since. But that’s kind of how things go in music. It’s a small community, but you might not see someone for years. I didn’t know he was living out in [Brandon’s] neighborhood. But then Brandon and I started talking, and thought that it would be really great to do some playing. So I said, “I’ll pick up and I’ll come out there, that would be great.” I checked out Brandon’s music and really enjoyed it, and thought it would be a fun collaboration.

BC: I think it’s going to be a good time. We’ve been looking forward to this – we’ve had the ideas brewing for a few months now. It’s probably been almost half of a year that we’ve been working on it. It’s been a lot of work to get the tour together, to make things work financially and make everything worth it, because we’re going to be on the road for a week. So it’s been a lot of calling universities and getting people to do their paperwork.

NP: I think the non-musician doesn’t understand how much work goes into something that seems like there’s not much there, but there is. I’m booking a tour right now a year and a half in advance – for two weeks! It’s amazing. And it’s not like we’re booking the White House, Madison Square Garden, and Wrigley Field. We get paid as musicians, as everyone always says, to do all this kind of work, to show up to the gig. But once we’re at the gig, that’s not why we’re getting paid. We love that.

BC: It’s been a learning experience for me, booking this tour. I’ve booked a few smaller tours in the past, but this is probably the biggest one I’ve done, in terms of sheer amounts of things that are going down, as we have a bunch of clinics. I try to operate outside of the realm of trying to go through an agent, where they take all of your money. I’m very pleasantly surprised at how well everything has finally come together. So I’m pretty stoked.

Are there any specific challenges to integrating Noah’s saxophone voice into the framework of the Coleman quartet?

BC: I guess we’ll find out on a tune-by-tune basis. I’ve been listening to Noah’s music for a long time. I first started listening to [Noah] when I was an undergrad and I got really into Ben Monder’s music, and I found [Noah’s] music through checking out some of his stuff. I’ve always written music with an imaginary saxophone in my head, even if I’m not playing with a saxophonist. So I think it will sound good. I think all the tunes that we play without saxophone will turn out really good. Some of this new music that I was writing was when I knew that this tour was coming up, so I think it will just happen naturally. Unless the tunes really suck.

NP: Haha. Brandon writes great music. Usually the music just plays itself. You don’t have to worry about instrumentation. I think it will be cool – we’re all professionals and have been doing this forever, so it works out. If the music is good and the players can play, there’s never any reason to worry about anything.

Are there any plans for future collaborations or recording this group?

NP: Yeah, we’ll do something on the East Coast. This [could be] the beginning of a lifelong collaboration, so who knows? We’ll see how this week goes, but I’m sure it will be great. I might pick up and move out there, man! Then we’ll be playing weekly! I might be living in Brandon’s basement.

BC: Oh shoot, I’ll have to get a basement.

NP: Recording these days is a funny thing, because it’s not like you’re putting it out on a record label, in most cases. We’re not talking as much about worldwide distribution, it’s more like documenting what you’re doing. For example, I was signed to a record label, I did a couple [albums] for them, and then they went under, basically. Now I just try to make a recording every six months to a year. I just redid my website, so I put [a new album] on the website to sell, absolutely not on any streaming sites, and people know where to buy my music. So I think it would be a great thing for Brandon and I to do together, to make a collaborative record and sell it online and whenever we play together again.

BC: Yeah, I think that would be really cool. I agree, I like that model of doing it yourself.

NP: Yeah, that’s kind of the direction that everything has gone, where you own everything yourself, so you make all the money back. I think that’s the way it is right now. There are only one or two labels that even pay you to make an album.

BC: There’s a lot of doom and gloom stuff on the internet, saying that there’s only a certain percentage of people in the world who enjoy jazz to an extent. But I’ve always felt like that percentage of people is really hungry for good music to listen to. So, even if 1% of the population [is interested in jazz], that’s still a good amount of people that are wanting to listen to good quality recordings. Like Noah said, the most primary recordings are documenting what’s going on in that timeframe of your musical upbringing, instead of just a collection of “stuff” to fill a record that you have to contractually make on a label’s dime, under their watch. Once we see what tunes work on this, maybe we’ll record some of it, and in the future we’ll lay something down and have something up that people can check out and get a taste of it if they like.

NP: We can even record this stuff live over this first week of March.

BC: We’ve got the gear, so might as well bring it along and document some of these shows. If there’s some particularly great stuff, we’ll check it out and maybe put it up.

Noah, I see you have a new album coming out: Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground. As we’ve been discussing, that will be self-released?

NP: Yeah, I did a live record called Pivot at a club in Manhattan – I self-released that. [For the new album,] it will be the same band, similar material, but different concepts. We took a bunch of music from Delta Mississippi blues musicians and arranged it for the band, and I think it sounds really really good. That will be out in May. I did a photoshoot for that [last] Sunday, which was fun. I sat in the middle of the woods with my saxophone, and we took a bunch of cool photos late at night. It was about 12 degrees.

I’m very excited about that record. Again, when you’re making recordings for yourself, to document what you’re doing and put it out into the world, you find that more often you’re doing things you want to do and are incredibly passionate about. [As opposed to] what I’ve experienced on occasion, either with my own projects or with other people’s projects, at recording sessions that are heavily overproduced, a lot of times the end result is not exactly what you feel as an artist. So [self-releasing] is a way to avoid that. And I love the Delta Mississippi blues, that’s the sort of music I’ve been exclusively listening to for a number of years. So to record some of my favorite artists from 80-90 years ago is a treat.

Brandon, congrats on your successful crowdfunding campaign for the quartet’s upcoming Infinite Loop album! Can you update us on the album’s progress?

BC: We finished up the Indiegogo campaign, which was really cool. That itself was kind of an experiment, just to see how many people are potential consumers or fans of the music in general, because I’m not really concerned with selling a million records, by any means. [The album] is documentation of a bunch of music that this group has been playing for the past two years, while we go out and play in our own little circuit. There’s a lot of it – it’s a two disc set. There’s so many tunes on this, it’s ridiculous.

I’m doing most everything by myself. After listening to the tunes on repeat forever, I’m done mixing finally. This dude in Connecticut offered to master it for free, which is dope. I checked his stuff out and it sounded good, so I couldn’t turn it down. Mastering is usually an expensive process, so that’s a pretty dang good deal. I’m going to send that off to him pretty soon. I will have it available digitally on my website and I’ll also use Bandcamp to distribute CDs. I like it, because people can listen to the whole song before they buy it. I am going to avoid Spotify this time around. I made that mistake with the first one. Nothing stings worse than after a gig when someone asks, “Do you have an album? Is it on Spotify?”

We’re hoping to have this album out by May or June, depending on how long the mastering process takes, because it is a pretty lengthy album – three hours worth of music. It was a chance to collaborate with some different people too, besides the band. I’m having Dru Longhofer (from Louisville), a really remarkable graphic artist, do all the album art. Usually for my stuff I do all my own graphic design, but I really wanted to bring in someone else and see how they would interpret the idea of “Infinite Loop” in art. He’s doing a great job on that. It will be a great document of this era of the band, and I’m ready to write some more music and record some more stuff.

Anything else you’d like to share for people thinking about coming to your show?

BC: We’re hoping people come out and check it out. It’s a Sunday, so a lot of the musicians will be hanging out because not a lot of people gig on Sundays. So that means a bunch of our Columbus friends can come hang out with us and chill and check out the tunes. If [local music] students want to come hang out, that would be sweet.

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