JazzUSA.com

With all the saxophone players out there today, the number of jazz flute artists is minuscule by comparison. Beckett shows that he belongs in the mix and has both the skills and style to be a force in this underrepresented genre.

Audiophile Audition

- "FluteVibes"- here's a musician who is doing everything he can to keep jazz flute in the forefront of listeners' consciousness...he swings like mad

AllAboutJazz

FluteVibes - Gerald Beckett leads this quintet and sextet session which features his flute in a program of inspired jazz tunes. Each selection swings with a balance of hard bop and blues. Beckett's recommended second Summit album soars with magic vibrations that pique the senses.

JazzReview

Flute Vibes finds Beckett really coming into his own, both as soloist and arranger. The whole project, from the selection of the material to the execution of the arrangements, reveals Beckett's thoughtful craftsmanship.

AllMusic

- "FluteVibes" - "FOUR STARS" ...Highly Recommended...!!!!

AllAboutJazz

FluteVibes - Beckett exhibits his virtuosity and ability to reach his audience emotionally through different feelings on each track.

RadioioJazz.com

-This album (FluteVibes) has it all... for the admirers of jazz flute, this album will more than satisfy your appetite...

WECS 90.1 FM

From start to finish, FluteVibes is one of the best flute jazz recordings I've ever heard.

Jazz Review.com

Traveling West, with the help of an excellent group of friends/musicians, who round out with harmonic depth or percussive intensity the musical suggestions that the flutist makes, Gerald Beckett has produced one of those rare releases that are available too seldom of late: a jazz flute album.

All Music Guide

-Traveling West: This excellent sophomore date as a leader makes Gerald Beckett a talent worthy of wider recognition in the jazz community.

JazzReview.com

-Innovative and constructive would be two words to describe the selections on the album "Black Eyes." Flutist Gerald Beckett has a powerful way of expressing an extensive range of moods, while maintaining a genuine post-bop feel.

Senior Staff Writer, JazzReview.com

-Gerald Beckett is very, very good, and for a debut collection, BLACK EYES is superb. If you like jazz flute, please allow me to recommend BLACK EYES to you, and the magnificent sounds of Gerald Beckett on the flute.

Jazz Music Director/Host SDPB-FM

-"Flutist Gerald Beckett plays sublimely on his new CD entitled "BLACK EYES" (Wolfetones Records). The title refers to a song composed by Wayne Shorter. It seems you can count on one hand the number of jazz flute players on the scene today. "BLACK EYES" is one fine jazz release!"

KCSM Jazz 91 - Music Director

-Gerald leads a great combo full of groove and interplay. Seasoned and swinging, with tight well-delivered solos that don't mince notes, I believe this album establishes Gerald Beckett as an important new-millennium voice in jazz flute well worth hearing and appreciating.

Director of Jazz Studies San Francisco State University

- "It's rare to hear high quality flute in jazz today. Gerald Beckett offers a great musical experience. His approach to the flute is grounded in a deep understanding of the jazz flute tradition."

Jazz Radio DJ/Musician KCSM/KKSF

-"Gerald Beckett, flautist, is proof once again that San Francisco produces a great crop of talented, up and coming musicians. Well schooled and seasoned in the art of Jazz flute playing, he is certainly worthy of any Modern Jazz fan's attention

Music Journalist and critic for Sounds of Timeless Jazz

LYRICS

TRAVELING WEST: Take A Musical Voyage With Flautist Gerald Beckett By Paula Edelstein Gerald Beckett is an interesting person. He began playing the saxophone at the age of 11 and later switched to the flute as an undergraduate at NorthTexasStateUniversity. In 1985 Beckett moved to California and there he perfected his musicality while attending classes in the adult extension division at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Beckett began immersing himself in the jazz scene and started listening to flutists, Herbie Mann, Hubert Laws, Dave Valentine, and others. He studied jazz with the likes of Mel Martin, Brian Pardo, John Gove. Gerald has performed in such venues as the Fillmore Jazz Festival, Rassales Jazz Club, Club Jazz Nouveau, and others. Gerald's first self-produced CD, entitled BLACK EYES, got rave reviews for its creativeness and hit the Jazz Week Chart Top 50. After signing with Summit Records, Beckett’s laid-back demeanor and zest for playing jazz on the flute further endeared his talent to a wider audience. So it’s time to get on board and let Gerald Beckett take you on a musical journey you won’t forget because he’s TRAVELING WEST. SOTJ caught up with Gerald at the International Association of Jazz Educators conference recently and here’s what he told us about his second recording. Listen UP!

 

SOTJ: Hello again and thank you for the interview. I’d like to discuss the making of TRAVELING WEST, your recording on the Summit label. Let’s start with your inspiration to become a flautist. Who or what caused you to take up the flute as your main axe?

GERALD: Hi Paula. I actually started out as a alto saxophonist at age 11 and played it until my second year in college. It wasn't until I was a freshman in college that my interest started. A fellow student heard me doodling in my dorm room on flute one day and gave me a Hubert Laws album. I hadn't heard anyone playing flute like that before. It moved me so much that I started buying every album I could find with him on it. I was a doubler for a while but then went to flute exclusively by my junior year. When I made the switch many people told me that you won't get many gigs as a flutist you need to stay a doubler. But I was bound and determine to switch. After listening to so many other flutists leading bands such as, Hubert Laws, Herbie Mann, Dave Valentin, and others I knew it could be done.

SOTJ: Well you couldn’t have had better inspiration because those musicians are masters! Did you study professionally or are you self-taught?

GERALD: I taught myself to play the flute in the beginning, but later started with private lessons. Finally, I went to the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and took flute lessons for 8 years in the adult extension division. For me, it was what I need to get the technique and sound I was seeking. Plus, I also had a strong interest in classical music.

SOTJ: When did you begin playing professionally?

GERALD: I started in college playing professional, but mostly as a side musician. I didn't lead my own group until much later. In college, I got a degree in Business Administrative Management and spent my years afterwards working in my field while doing music on the side. I guess I would consider myself somewhat of a late bloomer who never gave up wanting to be a solo flute artist. I really didn't start leading my own band until about 4 years ago.

SOTJ: Please describe some of the technical difficulties associated with playing the flute night after night?

GERALD: Like any wind player, it's the embouchure that takes the beating from playing a lot. But when you enjoy playing that just comes with the territory. You learn to pace yourself and not over do it.

SOTJ: Do you experience any problems with playing outdoors or in cold climates?

GERALD: The wind is the enemy of playing the flute outdoors. I found myself playing at one outdoor event and moving into any position I could to avoid the wind. Once the wind blows your air stream you can forget about producing a sound. I normally use a mic clipped to my head joint but I find when it's windy to play into a mic on a stand. The cold presents a totally different problem for me. The pitch is more in tune when your instrument is "warmed up." Keeping your flute warm when it's cold is tough. I put my flute inside my coat to keep it warm if I'm not playing. My fingers seem to get sluggish when it's too cold. Since you can't play the open hole flute with gloves it gets tricky trying to keep your hands warm. Only solution I have is to stick them in my pockets until I have to play again.

SOTJ: What do you do to get warmed up for a performance?

GERALD: I like to play scales and long tones to warm up before I perform. Sometimes I will play a classical piece or an etude as part of my warm up.

SOTJ: What do you enjoy most about playing the flute?

GERALD: Paula, I really love playing the flute. I enjoy it for so many reasons. Sometimes it's like therapy that totally puts you on a different plane. Sorta of like reading a good book you get lost in it. Other times if you are learning a very challenging piece you can spend hours trying to get all the nuances just right so that it sounds just like you want it too. The gratification is like scoring a touchdown or finding that one piece you've been looking for as you put a puzzle together. You just wanna say "Yes"!! It can be such a great adventure. There are days when it seems like you can't get the flute to do anything like you want. When that happens I just give us both a time out and come back later.

SOTJ: Please explain what a trill is for our non-musician readers.

GERALD: The trill is an ornamentation going from one note to the next note either alphabetically above or below it in a rapid progression. There are trill keys on the flute for some notes to help make the trill even. Trills create tension that want to resolve. Trills are one of many ornaments used by musician to dress up a piece of music.

SOTJ: Did you ever think about the fact that the flute is not often heard on the jazz scene? Except for a few great players such as Jean-Luc Ponty, Hubert Laws, Bobbie Humphrey, Dave Valentin, Nestor Torres and Herbie Mann, the flute always took a back seat to the saxophone or trumpet as the sound of the jazz solo. What are your thoughts on that?

GERALD: I once read a reviewer's comment about a fellow flute player's CD. He felt that the flute was a novelty instrument in jazz. Like all perceptions, they are only there until someone proves it to be untrue. There have been and are some great flute players on the scene. Many have started out playing straight ahead and recorded some very noteworthy jazz standards such as Hubert Laws, Herbie Mann and others, but have abandoned doing straight ahead and have turned to Latin, smooth jazz, or funk. By doing so, there aren't a lot of flutists getting heard on a straight ahead CD. There is no doubt that the sax and trumpet rule the jazz idiom but there is always room for good music from flute players. Due to the lack of straight ahead flute players I listen to lots of sax and trumpet players for phrasing and material. Maybe because I started out on saxophone, I think the flute can be just as strong in jazz music. Luckily there are other flute players that are making in roads in the straight ahead jazz world that are getting air play such as like Jamie Baum, Ali Ryerson, and Holly Hofmann. We just need more. I do buy lots of CD's lead by flute leaders, just because I enjoy hearing what other flutists are doing. Whenever I go to another city I'm always searching the bins to find any flutist from that area who might have a CD. So, if any of your readers know of a flutist that has a CD available in their local area let me know, I love to get it.

SOTJ: How has the new technology, i.e., the Internet, Pro tools, and other musical software helped you to extend your audience and composing options?

GERALD: As a fairly new artist to the jazz scene it is still important to get with a distribution company. But the Internet is great. It allows people to purchase your product online from anywhere in the world. If you get nationwide airplay and someone can't find your CD in their local record store, they can still get your music online from various sites, which is wonderful. My first CD entitled, BLACK EYES was done on tape because I wanted to have the warm sound of analog. TRAVELING WEST was recorded onto Pro tools. I must say that this new technology makes it faster and easier to clean up things from the recording session compared to analog. The sound quality isn't noticeably different. The time and money you save using Pro tools in the studio can be spent in other areas. I wouldn't discourage anyone from using Pro tools.

SOTJ: I hear you on that! On TRAVELING WEST, you cover some great composer’s songs especially Lee Morgan, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter, Jimmy Rowles, etc. Have you ever had the opportunity to play with any of them?

GERALD: No, I haven't. I would love to play with Ron Carter or Wayne Shorter. I love Ron Carter's style and his sound on bass. I was a big fan of CTI Records and Ron Carter was the in house bassist. That was how I first heard of him. I now have lots of his music. I first heard of Wayne Shorter from listening to Weather Report and loved his playing. It wasn't until much later that I got exposed to his compositions. As everyone knows he has many compositions that are part of the jazz standard repertoire. I have recorded some of his material in the past and probably will in the future.

SOTJ: Ron and Wayne are definitely jazz masters anyone would want to perform with. You wrote Cool Breeze and 2020 Groove Street with Graham Bruce and Clifford Lamb respectively. What are the stories and or inspiration behind both of those songs?

GERALD: On TRAVELING WEST I wanted some of my own compositions mixed in with jazz standards. I am a big fan of Quincy Jones. WALKING IN SPACE is one my favorite CD's by him, which inspired me to write "Cool Breeze." Something that was lush with a nice feel. For "2020 Groove Street," I really wanted something with a bit of a groove to it, but not too far away from a jazzy feel. The drummer actually helped by changing up the feel during parts of song which made it go from a groovy feel to a jazzy swing and back to the groove.

SOTJ: The records always sound great and then sometimes when you hear a group perform live they may have a different band and maybe even a different chemistry than the sound you wanted to hear as an audience member. Are the musicians on the record the same ones that you perform with?

GERALD: Yes, the rhythm section is the same, except for the piano player. The other players on the CD are in other bands but came to play with me on this recording session.

SOTJ: Where can your fans find information about Summit Records, your upcoming projects and personal appearances?

GERALD BECKETT: I have a web page set up while my site is under construction. The webpage address is HTTP://www.geraldbeckett.com. If anyone wants to get on my mailing list they can email me at GeraldBeckett@aol.com and I'll be happy to keep them updated.

SOTJ: Gerald, thanks so much. We look forward to hearing more great music from you in 2005 and beyond! Keep in touch with Gerald Beckett at www.geraldbeckett.com or www.summitrecords.com