The final show of the JAG Presents 2017-2018 season will bring a high-flying quintet to Columbus next week. In collaboration with the King Arts Complex, Jazz Arts Group presents the Terell Stafford Quintet at the Lincoln Theatre on Thursday, April 12th at 8pm. Tickets and more details are available here. Trumpeter Terell Stafford is acclaimed as a performer, educator and bandleader and holds key positions including Director of Instrumental and Jazz Studies at Temple University and Managing and Artistic Director of the Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia (JOP), and is a member of the world famous Vanguard Jazz Orchestra. Stafford was kind enough to talk to me by phone earlier this week about the concert, the quintet, ongoing and upcoming projects, and advice for young students – Keep reading to learn more.
I was glad to hear that you and your band will be playing Columbus soon! Can you tell us what you have planned for your performance?
Terell Stafford (TS): My last record was a Lee Morgan record, so we’re going to be doing some tunes off of that. We’re probably going to throw in some [Billy] Strayhorn music, just because we’re huge fans of Strayhorn, and then some original music by myself, Bruce Barth, and Tim Warfield.
Can you tell us about the members of your quintet?
TS: Tim Warfield, on tenor saxophone, has been my best friend for a long, long time. When I was in graduate school and wanted to play jazz, he was pretty much the one that taught me and led me to some great recordings. We’ve been playing together way over twenty years. Bruce Barth, on piano, is another great friend – I’ve known him close to twenty years. Both of those guys are colleagues of mine at Temple University – Tim teaches business and music, and is going to be the new coordinator for graduate studies, and Bruce teaches arranging, composition and piano.
Peter Washington I’ve known forever as well, I’m a huge fan of his, incredible bassist. And of course everyone knows him, he’s on so many recordings. And then there’s a young guy [on drums] who’s blowing me away with his talent. He’s a sweetheart as a human being and he’s an incredible musician – his name is Billy Williams and he’s from Virginia. So it’s a group that I love to play with for more reasons than just making music – they’re great friends and great human beings to be around. And music is just a huge plus to what we all do.
You have quite a broad range of current activities! How do your roles with the Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia and Temple University affect your playing and your outlook on jazz?
TS: Well, it doesn’t affect my playing that much because I don’t get sleep. I’ve already been up since 6 this morning practicing. I’m heading to Savannah in a few hours to perform there for the week with my quintet one night, but then with Marcus Roberts one night, and with Wycliffe Gordon one night. And I’m doing some teaching there during the day. You know, they all feed one another. When I’m at Temple teaching, I teach about five trumpet students there and they’re really, really talented students. In order to teach them, I have to make sure I stay up on what I do, in my practice and in my learning. To me the hardest balance is family, because I have a one year-old, so that’s no joke at this point in my life.
The Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia, I’m not even sure how I squeeze it in, but we’re going to be doing a huge concert this year. We’re doing some of the music of Gustav Holst’s The Planets but in a jazz idiom. Pretty much as Ellington did The Nutcracker, we’re going to be doing some of The Planets and we’re going to be [accompanying] the movie. So that’s a huge endeavor, just trying to pull all the arrangers together for that and following through with that is a challenge. But you know, my wife is incredible, she helps with all of the business and keeping me together, and that’s really how I balance everything.
Wow! Are there are any plans to record the Holst work?
TS: I think we really want to do the recording of it. Right now, since it’s seven movements and we have five arrangers doing it, and the arrangements are due in May – we’re just hoping that the coordination of the arrangements and the film come together. I think we do, that’s part of the plan to get it recorded. I know that the Dallas Symphony or Houston Symphony, one of the two, did the soundtrack for the movie, so maybe there could be a jazz version for the movie as well. That’s what we’re hoping.
Great, I’d love to hear that. Do you have any plans for tours or new projects coming up?
TS: We have plenty of touring with the quintet – To St. Louis, and then we’re doing a tour here on the East Coast. We’re performing in Philly, and doing some things at the Louis Armstrong House, and out in Port Townsend, Washington. The quintet’s staying really busy. Hopefully we can record the Holst, but I just want the Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia to record its first CD outside of the Holst, and hopefully’s that going to be my next recording project. That’s where I want to put all of my energy. The group hasn’t been recorded, and I haven’t really recorded a big band recording as a leader, so that’s where my target and aim is. We have a lot of music already, and we’ve had a lot of guests like Jimmy Heath and a lot of folks from Philadelphia and I want to have them on the recording too. That’s the next big project, and that’s another huge endeavor putting that together, but it’s going to be really exciting.
Do you have any advice for young students thinking about getting into jazz?
TS: I do. The most important thing right now is if you believe in what you do and you believe in the music, then put 100% into practice and preparation. Because that’s how you create a strong future. Practice and preparation [is more important] than networking. Networking will come as a natural part of life and people hearing how incredible one sounds, but nothing can take the place of practice and being diligent and preparing for that next phase in life.
Do you have anything else to add for Columbus jazz fans thinking about checking out your show?
TS: Well, it’s going to be a night of fun. I love Columbus – I was there a bit ago with Byron Stripling’s group and I can’t wait to get back.
For more on Stafford, visit his website.