Jazz en Dominicana interviews Anthony Jefferson

Anthony Jefferson, a New Orleans vocalist, calls the Dominican Republic his home

Anthony Jefferson, a native of New Orleans, began singing in his childhood, in an environment rich in: Blues, Jazz and R & B, refining it later by studying classical repertoire at the Institute of Arts in California, with Paul Vorwek and continuing at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Prior to forming his own band, Anthony shared the stage with artists such as Mark Rapp, Wille Jones 3rd, Mark Shelby, Bobby Wilson and Brent Rose, just to name a few.

The Jefferson Faculty was born in 2010, playing classical jazz and contemporary pop. The original ideas for this project were put together by Jefferson, the band’s vocalist, who searched for and selected a number of musicians who had the talent and passion for the music he wanted to perform. He found them in the city of Santiago, Dominican Republic; they are: saxophonist Jonathan Piña Duluc, pianist Smarlly Belliard, drummer Emil Garcia and bassist Euris Belliard. Since they started playing, they have worked with original material captivating enthusiasm from diverse types of audiences. As a result of their dedication and musical refinement, they have just released the album A Jazz Retrospect, with a harmonious selection of songs that delight the senses.

We sat with Ahthony at his Sosua home for this exclusive in-depth interview. Conversing with Jefferson was interesting as he is passionate about everything he does, the time flew as we discussed many a topic.

Jazz en Dominicana (JenD): In your own words – who is Anthony Jefferson? Anthony Jefferson (AJ): Anthony Jefferson is a person who is very passionate about music, people, and animals. He wants to make a difference in the world and live life to the fullest.

JenD: How do you come to be in the DR?
AJ: I sailed from New Orleans, stopping in the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, and, staying for several months in each place. Then, I found my way to the Dominican Republic, and I FELL IN LOVE WITH THE COUNTRY, the people and, the CULTURE,

JenD: How and when did you start with music?
AJ: I started at an early age, and my parents got me involved with the piano and my older brother with the violin and guitar.

JenD: How did you get into Jazz?
AJ: During my 1st year at CalArts, I became very close friends with Jazz Bassist Marcus Shelby, and Willie Jones III, 2012 Jazz Drummer of the Year - Downbeat Magazine, One day hanging at Willie's parents’ home, Willie told his dad he thought I should be doing Jazz, so, his father - the late great Willie Jones II, member of The Flamingos - introduced me to Jazz and became my instructor. He basically laid the foundation for me and I took it from there.

JenD: What were your studies like? Where?
AJ: Like any other lesson but, practice was involved, and with the fundamentals of music, was just like learning your ABC'S but with music. Then history, ethnology, theory, vocal training, etc. Classical Trainning at Cal Arts; Rand B, gospel, and, jazz, yet with classical vocal training at Berklee College of Music, and complete Jazz at University of New Orleans.

JenD: From Classical to Jazz – how was your journey?
AJ: Well, to go from a structured type of format with classical music, where one has to go directly from the book, to Jazz, for me was a welcomed treat and adventure. Jazz gave me the flexibility, being able to experiment with songs and go beyond the barriers.

JenD: Which are your favorite genres to perform?
AJ: I love all genres but, my favorites are Jazz, Rhythm and Blues, Latin Jazz, Salsa, Gospel, and Classical. But, by far, in each of these categories - I LOVE BALLADS WITH EMOTIONAL DEPTH!!!

JenD: Who were your influences?
AJ: Wow!!! So many, hmmm, The church, gospel giants Darryl and Bobby Wilson, my 7th and 8th grade teachers Sister Mary Dyer and Sister Angela Lydon were some of my greatest influences growing up. As an adult, I would say, Johnny Hartman, Al Jarreau, Nancy Wilson, Joe Williams, Juan Luis Guerra, Willie Jones III and Sarah Vaughn.

JenD: What´s it like being on stage with all those greats?
AJ: Every artist/musician I have had the pleasure of being on the stage has been great!!!

JenD: Share with your views of the influences that latin America and it´s culture and rhythms are having on Jazz today.
AJ: Jazz has straddled the world. Jazz today is so diverse and broad; there is something unique and interesting about every artist style. Culture and influence cannot be overstated. The interweaving of the music with food, drink, fashion, religion and politics. Latin American culture is as much a part of the influence as it is understanding the music; the HIGH energy of Latin America AND IT'S CULTURE has had a great impact.

JenD: How did you come up with the Jefferson Faculty?
AJ: There are so many talented musicians in the Dominican Republic, it was really difficult to do the selection process for what I was looking for. When I finally selected the members, I realized we were all authorities in our field and my last name is Jefferson so we became THE JEFFERSON FACULTY!!!

JenD: What are your present projects?
AJ: The Jefferson Faculty will be coming out with our 2nd CD in late fall of 2012. We are confident that fans old and new will be thrilled with our selections keeping with Traditional Jazz and incorporating some of our arrangements to some of these standards.

JenD: You are truly a man of many hats – which do you prefer and why?
AJ: Lol, everyone e of my hats are dear to me, My Favorite is my Panama ultrafino. Metaphorically speaking, I prefer my music hat; it has been a passion of mine since childhood, having been born in the birthplace of Jazz ''NEW ORLEANS'' it is in my blood.

JenD: Tell us of your experiences in the states and now in this country?
AJ: They are very similar. In the states and in the Dominican Republic, I have had the pleasure of working with some of the finest musicians and performing at some of the hottest clubs in both countries. My first performance in the DR was at the Cibao Lounge during a Monday Jazz jam session, I received a standing ovation, at that point I WAS HOOKED!!!

JenD: A Jazz retrospect?
AJ: A jazz retrospect is the title of The Jefferson Faculty's 1st release, it takes a look back in time with traditional Jazz.

JenD: Your style has been compared to Williams, Jarreau and a few others in delivery, strength, velvity smooth sound, wide range and expansiveness – share your thoughts on such comparissons?
AJ: I am humbled to be mentioned in the same breath of these phenomenal artists as they have influenced me on my path to vocal maturity.

JenD: If you could choose – with who would you like to sing with and why?
AJ: Well there are so many, the first two that come to mind are Eric Clapton, and Juan Luis Guerra. Eric because of his resilience, passion and drive. Juan Luis Guerra, because of his stage presence, spirituality, a fellow Berklee cat, and, I am a huge fan of his work!!!!

JenD: You will be playing in Santo Domingo this upcoming June 8th at Fiesta Sunset Jazz, how do you feel about it? What have you prepared?
AJ: I am very honored and excited!!! The band I have worked consistently to give our fans old/and new and Fiesta Sunset Jazz an evening of Quality. We have prepared a collection of standards some with the Jefferson Faculty’s spin!!

Thank You, song composed by by Mark Rapp – tell us about this grand debut
AJ: Mark, one of my buddies since college asked me to write some lyrics to Thank You, that previously peaked to no.3 on the charts. So, I added the lyrics and introduced this beautiful piece to the band. We look forward to debuting THANK YOU at Fiesta Sunset Jazz on June 8th. It's a lovely song. (Mark Rapp is a Jazz trumpeter, composer, arranger and didgeridoo player)

Please reply the first thing that comes to your mindo:
AJ - Red Carpet
Instruments - Voice
The Jefferson Faculty – Movin´ on up
JenD: What are your favorite recording by other musician?
AJ: Lush Life (Hartman and Coltrane), You Move Me (Cassandra Wilson), One Finger Snap (Herbie Hancock), Evangeline (Cocteau Twins) and La Costa (Natalie Cole).

Any particular message or words you would like to share with our readers?
AJ: Yes, See you guys June 8th at Fiesta Sunset Jazz, this will – no doubt – be one elegant, jazzy, soulful evening. See you then!!!

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Fernando Rodriguez